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 college-scouting notes, including:
But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's look at two under-the-radar prospects that could begin their ascent up draft boards next week.
There are a lot of talented players scheduled to participate in next week's Reese's Senior Bowl, the all-star event in Mobile, Ala., that draws all 32 NFL teams and more than 100 prospects. NFL Network will have exclusive coverage of the event (Jan. 28, 2:30 p.m. ET). The two guys I'm most looking forward to studying up close: Western Kentucky offensive tackle Forrest Lamp and South Alabama tight end Gerald Everett.
Lamp has been one of my favorite players to study on tape in this draft class. He lacks ideal size, but he plays with excellent leverage, strong hands and awareness. His performance against Alabama's talented edge rushers was phenomenal and it generated a lot of buzz in the scouting community. I'm anxious to see him battle some of the top edge rushers in the Senior Bowl. I have a feeling he's going to hold up just fine.
Everett doesn't get the same attention as big-name tight ends like O.J. Howard and Jake Butt, but he belongs in the discussion as the top player at his position. He's extremely athletic and he makes some special plays on tape. He has an interesting background that includes multiple school transfers and I'm looking forward to learning more about his story in the upcoming week. He has a chance to vault up the board with a big week of practice. -- Daniel Jeremiah
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Draft buzz legit for TE prospect: When my podcast partner released his initial Top 50 list this week, there were plenty of surprises within the rankings but the insertion of Miami TE David Njoku among the top 15 prospects caught many by surprise. I must admit that I even gazed at the list with a raised eyebrow when I noticed the Hurricanes pass-catcher ranked ahead of some of the more notable names at the position, particularly Alabama's O.J. Howard. However, there are several scouts in the Southeast region who believe DJ nailed his assessment on the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder.
"He's a more athletic Bubba Franks," said an AFC scout. "He's big and athletic. He can run routes and block at the point of attack. Plus, he has some dog (nastiness/aggressiveness) in him. ... I would take him high. I love the kid!"
When I sat down and looked a Njoku's tape while compiling my positional top-5 list, I was impressed with his size, athleticism and movement skills. You rarely see a big tight end move with that kind of suddenness, which makes him a rare find at the position.
As a pass-catcher, Njoku displayed strong hands and outstanding tracking ability. He easily adjusted to off-target tosses and expanded the strike zone for quarterbacks with his length and leaping ability. Njoku excelled as a blocker at the point of attack. He effectively seals the edge and finishes blocks with his relentless effort. Overall, I thought Njoku was a quality prospect with the potential to blossom into a Martellus Bennett-like playmaker as a "Y" tight end.
Considering how valuable tight ends are in today's passing game, the thought of nabbing a big, athletic "Y" with legitimate blocking skills could help the Hurricanes standout go from relative anonymity to household name by draft day. -- Bucky Brooks
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Spread's impact on WR prospects: For years, we've heard NFL scouts and coaches cite the proliferation of the spread offense as a detriment to the development of prospects. While we've normally heard the critique lobbed at offensive linemen, I recently had a scout tell me that the spread is killing the development of wide receivers entering the league.
"There are few receivers coming into the league with tools needed to excel right away," said an NFC scout. "These guys don't know how to run routes or execute sight adjustments (blitz reads) and they don't understand when to sit or run against zone or man coverage. ... They also haven't been asked to run the entire route tree since most of their routes are quicks or verticals. With most 'tempo' spread teams also bypassing instruction on the field, these guys enter the league with a lot of bad habits, as well."
I can't argue with the evaluator's assessment of pass-catchers coming out of spread systems. Some of the routes run in some "tempo" offenses don't match the staple routes in traditional NFL offenses. Naturally, that is a concern for NFL coaches due to the lack of practice time available during the offseason and regular season due to the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Coaches simply don't get enough time to teach young guys the nuances of the position and that lack of attention leads some prospects, including first-round picks, to sit on the sidelines during their early years. In fact, I had a high-ranking personnel man tell me that's why we are seeing some undrafted receivers outplay top picks because the learning curve is exactly the same regardless of draft status.
"Sometimes it's a crapshoot dealing with receivers coming out of spread schemes," said an NFC personnel executive. "You really don't know how much offense they know until you get them. You also don't know how long it will take them to master the techniques like route running and stemming when they've never been asked to do certain things."
With that in mind, I wonder if teams in need of an immediate impact receiver will look to pass-catchers from traditional schemes instead of spread-offense disciples. As coaches and scouts feel the pressure to win now from ownership, it will be interesting to see how it affects grades and rankings leading up to the draft. -- Bucky Brooks
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Marlon Humphrey dilemma: Humphrey, an Alabama CB, is one player I've really struggled with during the early evaluation period. I've looked at three of his games and I see plenty I like about him -- size, speed, toughness. However, his struggles to locate the football down the field showed up in every game. We have more than 90 days before the 2017 NFL Draft, and I'm going to use some of that time to dig a lot deeper on Humphrey. I think he's a player who will be quite polarizing in draft rooms around the league. -- Daniel Jeremiah
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Ohio State is a football factory: Last year, Ohio State produced a ridiculous amount of NFL talent. In fact, 11 of the first 102 picks were Buckeyes. That's ridiculous! This year, they won't approach those numbers, but they will be well represented. I have four Buckeyes in my initial top 50 list, including 2 of my top 3 players overall. I think there's definitely a chance that all four of the players on my list (Malik Hooker, Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley and Curtis Samuel) hear their names called in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. -- Daniel Jeremiah