Move The Sticks  


2018 NFL Draft: Sam Darnold a playmaker in mold of Tony Romo


Editor's note: analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah of the Move The Sticks Podcast shares some of his scouting notes, including:

» A peek at the QB prospects that could be the talk of the NFL a year from now
» Five prospects whose stock could skyrocket at the Senior Bowl

But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's player comps for some of the nation's top prospects, including USC QB Sam Darnold.

While there's no such thing as a perfect player comparison, choosing comps is an important part of the evaluation process each year leading up to the NFL draft.

I've worked for three different NFL scouting departments and all of them required their scouts to provide a player comp for each prospect we evaluated. This helps paint the picture for the other scouts/executives in the draft room when we are discussing the prospects.

I usually like to look at the best-case scenario for each player when partaking in this exercise. I try to jot down a couple names while studying the tape and when I finish, I do my best to select the best comp.

There are times when it's hard to find a comp that makes sense, but in other cases, the comp comes to you within the first 10 plays of studying a prospect and feels right.

Here are some player comps that felt like good fits to me very quickly as I've studied top prospects during the evaluation process.

USC QB Sam Darnold
Player comp: Tony Romo
Darnold's a little bit taller than Romo, but they have a similar build. Like Romo during his playing career, Darnold is a really good athlete and is outstanding with his creativity when the play breaks down. Every now and then, both of them press their luck and make an ill-advised throw, but they each have rare playmaking ability.

Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds
Player comp: Anthony Barr
Edmunds is an elite athlete and he has unique height/length for an off-the-ball linebacker. He reminds me so much of Barr coming out of UCLA. Both guys fit in any system and can play inside or outside. I think Edmunds will be a superstar at the next level.

Georgia RB Sony Michel
Player comp: Kareem Hunt
I was a big fan of Michel during the fall and he took his game to another level in the postseason. His balance, power and pass-catching skills remind me a lot of Hunt when he was coming out of Toledo last year. Hunt was a bargain for the Chiefs in Round 3, and due to the running back depth in this class, Michel could end up being an incredible value pick as well.

Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson
Player comp: Kelechi Osemele
Nelson is the easiest player to evaluate in this draft class. He is a nasty, mauling run blocker. His size and temperament remind me a lot of Osemele. Once they get their hands on the defender, it's over. Both guys produce highlight-reel knockdowns and both guys are feared by opposing players.

Washington DT Vita Vea
Player comp: Haloti Ngata
I was scouting the West Coast for the Ravens when we drafted Ngata. He had rare size and agility. I think Vea is a more explosive version of Ngata. That's a scary thought.

Ohio State CB Denzel Ward
Player comp: Adam Jones
Ward is one of my favorite prospects. He's undersized, but he plays bigger than his size and he's extremely explosive. I put a huge grade on Adam Jones (he was known as PacMan back then) and I did the same with Ward. Special player.


College Football 24/7 Hot Topics:

We've been excited about the 2018 draft's QB class for a while now, but what about the players still in college? Which QB prospects will everyone be talking about a year from now?

There were three QBs that were on the fence about whether to enter the draft this year before ultimately electing to stay in school, and all three had generated interest in NFL circles.

The three QBs: N.C. State's Ryan Finley, Missouri's Drew Lock and Auburn's Jarrett Stidham.

I think those are the three QBs sitting at the front of the line heading into next season.

Lock gets the most buzz around the league of these three. He might have the highest ceiling of the group. Everyone loves his size and arm strength. He led the FBS with 43 TD passes this season.

Stidham, after having been off for a year following his transfer from Baylor, led Auburn to wins against the two best teams in the country -- Alabama and Georgia -- and played his best ball in big moments late in the regular season. I think he needs to work on cleaning up his footwork to take his game to another level.

Finley has a good but not great arm. He's very polished in the pocket, though, and can extend plays with his legs. He has good touch and accuracy. He needs to get stronger this offseason.


All the attention will be on the QBs -- Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, in particular -- during the week of practice leading up to the Reese's Senior Bowl (Jan. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network), but every year we see a position player's stock skyrocket with his performance in the annual all-star game. Aaron Donald, Lane Johnson and Haason Reddick are a few of the players that come to mind that have dominated in recent years and given their stock a huge boost during the week in Mobile, Ala.

Who's next? I'm anxious to find out. These are the five non-QBs who have accepted Senior Bowl invites that I'm most intrigued by. Each of them will head into the week as top-50 prospects.

South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert/Penn State TE Mike Gesicki: I've paired these two players since they're both tight ends. There's a good competition to be the top tight end in this draft class. I have South Carolina's Hayden Hurst as my No. 1 TE right now. He won't be at the Senior Bowl, though, so it will be interesting to see who emerges between Gesicki and Goedert. I think Goedert's the better all-around player right now. Gesicki's athleticism and ball skills are his greatest strengths.

Michigan DT Maurice Hurst: It seems I'm higher on Hurst than a lot of my friends in the scouting community based on recent conversations. Hurst doesn't have the ideal build for his position (listed at 6-foot-2, 282 pounds), but he has outstanding quickness. I expect him to put on a show in 1-on-1 drills. We heard similar concerns about Aaron Donald coming out of Pitt, and he wrecked shop at the Senior Bowl.

USC OLB Uchenna Nwosu: Nwosu's a little bit underappreciated. I think you could make the case that he's the most improved player in the country. We saw what he can do as a pass rusher on tape, and I can't wait to see what he does in coverage during Senior Bowl week. He came to USC as a safety and has bulked up over the years to emerge as an OLB, but I think we'll see some of those safety skills emerge in the 1-on-1 pass drills against TEs and RBs.

Texas-San Antonio DE Marcus Davenport: There are always guys from outside the Power Five conferences that everyone's waiting to see against better competition at the Senior Bowl. Davenport is that guy this year. He has some freakish qualities -- he's tall, long and explosive -- and dominated for UTSA. I'm anxious to see how he fares against some of the top tackles in the country. I have him as a mid-to-late first-round prospect at the moment and he could help himself at the Senior Bowl.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.



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