NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein is constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, Zierlein will share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles.
The scoop: "The thing I took away from the (Clemson-Louisville) game is that Lamar Jackson has the look of a first (overall) pick, but I don't think (Deshaun) Watson has the same look." -- NFC executive on Louisville QB Lamar Jackson and Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
The skinny: "Look" is a very subjective scouting term, but this executive clearly sees things in Jackson that he doesn't see in Watson. Watson was expected to build on his strong 2015 campaign with the return of wide receiver Mike Williams. Instead, NFL personnel men have been underwhelmed by Watson's 2016 season. Watson has 14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and has seen his completion percentage drop from 67 to 60 while his yards per attempt are down over a full yard. On the flip side, Jackson has taken a massive step forward as a playmaker and gamebreaker. He has NFL scouts paying attention to him despite the fact he's only a true sophomore and won't be eligible for the draft until 2018 at the earliest. Watson threw for five touchdowns and three interceptions in the matchup against Louisville, but it was the strong second-half performance by Jackson that grabbed scouts' attention.
* * *
The scoop: "I came into the season thinking one way on Tim Williams and now I'm thinking another way. He isn't a factor on first downs and then off the field he's getting in trouble, too. It's starting to feel like he's too high maintenance for me." -- NFC scout on the Alabama DE/OLB
The skinny: Williams was suspended for the first half of Alabama's 34-6 win over Kentucky on Saturday after he was arrested last week on a gun charge. Williams dominated in the second half with three tackles for loss, including a sack and a forced fumble. Williams is enormously talented. Alabama tends to deploy him as a pass-rush specialist while allowing others to handle the work on early downs. If scouts don't believe Williams can handle every-down work, it could have an impact on his draft stock. His charge of carrying a pistol without a permit might be viewed as a minor indiscretion by some teams, but this scout obviously believes it could be indicative of a bigger headache that might come along with Williams once he gets into the pros.
* * *
The scoop: "For those of us who scout the West, it might be smart to rent a place in Seattle because we are going to be spending a lot of time there in the future." -- AFC scout on the talent at Washington
The skinny: By the looks of Washington's blowout win over Stanford last Friday evening, this scout might be right. Safety Budda Baker and cornerback Sidney Jones, both talented juniors, are squarely on the radar of NFL scouts. However, sophomore quarterback Jake Browning could be the prospect that scouts end up doing the most homework on in the next year or two. Browning (6-foot-2, 209 pounds, per school measurements) has average size, at best, and has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game this season, but he's building on a strong freshman season and looked like he was in complete command in the demolition of Stanford.