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MTS notebook: Jamal Adams is top prospect in 2017 NFL Draft

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  • By Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks NFL.com
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Editor's note: NFL.com analysts and former NFL scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of the Move The Sticks Podcast share some of their scouting notes, including:

» Why a position change could make sense for Christian McCaffrey
» Brooks' look at how teams should determine which RBs fit their needs
» A linebacker who's rising into Round 1 range

But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Brooks' take on who deserves the title of top player in this year's draft.

It's a foregone conclusion that Texas A&M's Myles Garrett is poised to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, but LSU's Jamal Adams is the best prospect in the draft.

It's easier to hold that belief following Adams' spectacular pro day workout where he clocked times reportedly in the 4.38 range, but I've long believed the charismatic safety is poised to make the biggest impact of any prospect in the draft.

Checking in at 6-foot, 214 pounds with exceptional instincts, awareness and tackling skills, Adams is a new-school safety with a classic game that's plucked straight from the 1980s when Ronnie Lott, Kenny Easley and others lurked between the hashes as menacing enforcers for their respective squads. The LSU standout is a dynamic playmaker capable of roaming the deep middle as a centerfielder or attacking from the box as a "seek-and-destroy" defender. Adams' versatility, toughness, and instincts pop off the screen when studying his game film. He is a Tasmanian Devil on the field, exhibiting a non-stop motor and relentless mentality when pursuing runners and receivers all over the field.

As a run defender, Adams flashes outstanding instincts and awareness when slipping around blocks to put big hits on runners in the hole. He is a rare big hitter who is also a secure wrap-up tackler. Adams' physicality, toughness and "thump" sets the tone for the defense, which is an expectation for a top-five defender.

Against the pass, Adams is an underrated cover man with the capacity to thrive in man or zone coverage as a box defender. He plays with outstanding leverage and cushion in coverage while funneling receivers to his help defenders. In zone coverage, Adams has the athleticism and movement skills to play as a "post" defender or near the line of scrimmage as a curl/flat player. He shows terrific instincts and diagnostic skills reading route concepts and breaking early on throws. Although he has just five career interceptions on his resume, Adams' ball skills and hands rate at a B-plus level.

From a critical standpoint, Adams' athleticism and explosiveness don't consistently pop off the screen. Although he doesn't have issues matching tight ends or receivers in space, he posted average numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine and those marks certainly raise concerns about his explosive movement skills.

In the end, Adams' production, skills and intangibles make him worthy of being a top-five selection in the draft. Moreover, his combination of traits leads me to believe he will be a superstar at the next level. When I spoke to several coaches about Adams at the combine, I repeatedly heard them rave about his enthusiastic personality and natural leadership skills.

An AFC secondary coach called him a "culture changer" based on the way that he holds his teammates accountable for their preparation and performance. The coach went on to tell me that Adams has the "it factor" that every coach covets in a leader and top player. I know firsthand of Adams' leadership skills based on my interactions with him when he was a high school player (Adams participated in The Opening regional camps where I assist as a camp counselor). With LSU's coaches also touting Adams as one of the best leaders to ever come through the program, I'm willing to bet on his intangibles pushing him toward greatness.

When looking at the top prospects in the 2017 class, there are plenty of players with the skills to be dominant players, but few can rival Adams' combination of skills, intangibles, and production. That's why I believe he is the best player in the draft and is poised to make an impact that rivals Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins as a stat stuffer at the position. -- Bucky Brooks

* * *

Every year there seems to be a handful of defensive players that end up switching positions once they arrive at the NFL level. Players like Deone Buchanon and Tyrann Mathieu made successful transitions to new positions at the next level, and I expect a similar outcome for Haason Reddick and Jabrill Peppers in this year's draft class. The potential position changes for those players has been a topic for quite some time during this draft season. However, we haven't discussed the possibility of a couple offensive players making the move to a new positional home at the next level. Here are two candidates:

Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey: After watching McCaffrey on tape, studying his combine workout and his pro day, I really believe he could be a full-time wide receiver in the NFL. He is a precise route runner and he's very sudden at the top of his routes. He has outstanding hands (gene pool doesn't hurt) and he tracks the ball naturally. We've been debating how many carries he can handle at the professional level, but there has to be at least a few teams considering making him a full-time receiver. He could be a dominant slot receiver, and I think he could eventually hold his own outside on the perimeter as well.

Ole Miss TE Evan Engram: I believe Engram is one of the most explosive players in the draft class. He primarily lines up flexed out in the Ole Miss offense, basically functioning as a slot receiver. While he shows some competitiveness as a blocker, I don't think he'll ever be a dominant in-line player in the run game. Why not just convert him to receiver? He ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash while weighing 234 pounds! If he dropped to 225 pounds, you're probably looking at a player with mid-4.3 speed on a 6-foot-3 frame. He already runs pristine routes from the slot. He could start out there before eventually kicking outside. This is something teams should consider. -- Daniel Jeremiah

* * *

At a time when the running back position is seemingly devalued, coaches and scouts must make a decision whether they prefer "diesels" or "beetles" in the backfield. When categorizing backs as "diesels" and "beetles", I'm breaking down running backs into big backs ("diesels": backs weighing more than 225 pounds) and scat backs ("beetles": backs weighing less 215 pounds).

With big backs prone to exhibiting a downhill running style that's ideally suited for power-based blocking schemes, there are plenty of run-heavy offenses that prefer a workhorse runner to occupy the RB1 role. In NFL terms, these players would include rugged runners like Ezekiel Elliott, Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Jordan Howard who landed among the top 10 rushers in 2017. Each runner checks in weighing 225-plus pounds and they display a hard-hitting running style that's conducive to playing in a downhill scheme that features an assortment of runs directed between the tackles.

Considering their size, strength and running skills, a powerful, downhill runner wears down even the league's best defenses. That's why some teams could find Leonard Fournette, D'Onta Foreman, James Conner and Samaje Perine intriguing as "diesels" carrying the offenses. Each possesses the size and strength to hammer defenses with their rugged running styles, yet they also display enough balance to make a defender miss in the hole. With each runner also flashing violent finishing moves, it's easy to envision them playing key roles on offenses intent on slamming the ball between the tackles, particularly down the stretch when cold weather dictates a more run-oriented approach.

On the other hand, the league has also seen a number of "beetles" shoot to the top of the charts as productive RB1s. Although their running styles feature a little more shake and bake, runners like LeSean McCoy, Devonta Freeman and Lamar Miller have posted big numbers as lead backs in the NFL.

Each of the aforementioned trio ranked among the top 10 rushing leaders last season and showed the football world that they could effectively handle a workload that consisted of about 15-17 carries per game. While that certainly isn't enough to completely anchor an attack without assistance from an effective RB2, the "beetles" add to their total production with receptions and receiving yards. Their ability to factor into the passing game enhances their value to the team, particularly in a league governed by quarterbacks. Thus, playmakers like Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook and Matt Dayes are valuable to teams looking to use a committee approach with various running backs occupying roles in the game plan.

Considering how the league is trending at the quarterback position, I would expect more teams to look for "diesels" in the draft to alleviate some of the pressure on the quarterback. As more field generals enter the league ill-equipped to run the show as the driving force of the offense, teams would be wise to lean on a big runner to anchor the running game and create one-on-one matchups on the perimeter in the passing game. By forcing opponents to use more eight-man fronts, offensive coaches can make life easier on the quarterback, leading to a more efficient effort from young passers (see Marcus Mariota, Derek Carr, Dak Prescott and others).

Now, there's certainly a place for "beetles" in a league governed by quarterbacks. Veteran field generals understand how to take advantage of the talents of an electric weapon out of the backfield. Experienced quarterbacks will manipulate the defense with a variety of motions, shifts and formations that place the RB1 on the flanks to create mismatches against linebackers or safeties in space.

2017 NFL DRAFT

Considering how each of the previous mentioned "beetles" runs routes from the slot, the thought of pairing a veteran quarterback with a versatile backfield weapon makes sense, particularly for veterans operating "tempo" offenses or changing plays at the line (See Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees).

In the end, teams must identify what kind of running back works best for their system but the quarterback could determine whether a "diesel" or "beetle" is the ideal fit for the team. -- Bucky Brooks

* * *

I've spent much of the last week studying the linebackers in this year's draft class. One player that jumped off the tape (one of my favorite scouting phrases): Houston's Tyus Bowser.

He's used in a variety of ways in the Cougars' defensive scheme and his versatility is one of his greatest assets. While he has some promise as a pass rusher, I was most impressed with his fluidity and speed while in coverage. He will line up over the slot at times and can smoothly mirror wide receivers. He also showed the ability to match up with tight ends and running backs (he covered Dalvin Cook about 40 yards down the field in the 2015 Peach Bowl.

I believe he has the skill set to do a lot of the same things Jamie Collins has been able to do in his young career. He should come off the board in the late first or early second round. -- Daniel Jeremiah

* * *

One of the fun storylines to follow in this draft are the positional runs that will take place. I believe we'll see a run on cornerbacks in the middle-to-late first round. We should also see a run on running backs in the third round. Here's another one to keep an eye on: early second-round tight ends. There are a handful of teams picking at the top of the second round that are in need of an upgrade or addition at tight end. I think we could see three tight ends (Evan Engram, Adam Shaheen and Gerald Everett) come off the board in rapid order at the top of Round 2. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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