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MTS notebook: Free-agent buyers could double down in draft

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

But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's look at why teams who made a big splash in free agency could double down in the draft.

Free agency is a great opportunity for NFL teams to eliminate glaring needs before the NFL draft, freeing them up to take the best player available. When studying the free-agent movement as well as the current draft order, it became apparent that there are some teams positioned to add a high quality player at the same position that was addressed in free agency. Here are a few examples:


Free-agent addition: Calais Campbell
Potential draft pick:Jonathan Allen
The Jaguars were very aggressive in free agency for the second year in a row. Their biggest addition (literally and figuratively) was former Arizona defensive lineman Calais Campbell. They could use the fourth overall pick to add even more talent to their defensive front. Jonathan Allen is one of the most dominant defenders in the entire draft class and he would fit nicely in the Jaguars' scheme. Having a deep, talented defensive front could really help this organization turn the corner and finally escape its annual tradition of picking in the top 10.


Free-agent addition: Alshon Jeffrey
Potential draft pick:Mike Williams
The Eagles have several needs on the defensive side of the ball, including the need for a couple cornerbacks. However, it might be tempting to add more firepower for their young quarterback, Carson Wentz. They added Alshon Jeffrey in free agency and they could draft his clone in Clemson wideout Mike Williams. This would give the Eagles two big, physical pass-catchers on the outside to go along with speedster Torrey Smith and two quality tight ends.


Free-agent addition: Lawrence Timmons
Potential draft pick:Haason Reddick
The Dolphins needed to upgrade two of their starting linebackers and they accomplished half of their mission in free agency, signing long time Pittsburgh Steeler stalwart Lawrence Timmons. They could land a premier linebacker prospect in the first round to team up with Timmons and Kiko Alonso. Haason Reddick would be a perfect addition to this position group. He can run, cover, blitz and he's very instinctive. This would instantly become one of the most athletic linebacker groups in the entire league.

Don't be surprised if these clubs elect to "double up" on draft day in April. -- Daniel Jeremiah

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What will Browns do at No. 12? There seems to be very little suspense when it comes to the Browns' choice with the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Everyone in and around the NFL expects them to select Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett. However, there is some real intrigue around what they'll do with their second first-round selection, the 12th overall pick. Here are some of the rumors floating around:

Option 1: They include this pick in a package of picks to send to New England for Jimmy Garoppolo.

Option 2: They use this pick to select a quarterback, either Mitchell Trubisky or Deshaun Watson.

Option 3: They use this pick to select O.J. Howard, a player they coached in the Reese's Senior Bowl.

Option 4: They trade down and collect more draft picks, potentially adding a fourth second-round pick in next year's draft.

Obviously, there are several other options available but these are the four scenarios that come up the most in discussions with those in NFL circles. Personally, I'd choose option 3. I believe Howard is one of the safest players in this class and I wouldn't reach for a quarterback at this spot. Let us know in the comment section which option you think is best. -- Daniel Jeremiah

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Will teams overestimate Trojans star? USC's Adoree' Jackson has flown up the charts following a strong series of workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and USC's pro day that confirmed his status as one of the most electric athletes in the class.

Teams were already intrigued with the 5-foot-10, 186-pound junior after he claimed the Jim Thorpe award as the nation's top defensive back and won a pair of Pac-12 titles in the long jump. Scouts couldn't stop talking about his scintillating talents as a returner and occasional offensive specialist during his three years with the Trojans. Jackson had plenty of evaluators salivating over his potential contributions as a three-way playmaker at the next level.

While most envisioned the USC standout playing a role as a sub-package defender and return specialist early in his career, injuries to some top cover corners in the 2017 class have led some teams to view Jackson as a potential CB1 on draft day. As the buzz builds around his prospects as a potential Day 1 starter on the outside, I had a former NFL defensive coordinator tell me that he would advise teams to proceed with caution if they are attempting to make Jackson a No. 1 corner as a pro.

"Be careful! He's too little to play on the outside," said the longtime defensive coach. "It's hard on the outside for small guys to deal with the 'monsters' that teams feature in the passing game. Guys like Mike Evans, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant and Julio Jones eat little guys up on the outside. How is he going to play against those guys? I've seen him give up plays to a bunch of big receivers during his time at USC. He had a tough time with the big receiver from Penn State (Chris Godwin) at the Rose Bowl. ... I'm fine with him coming off the board in the first round as an athlete/returner or nickel corner, but if you're expecting him to come in and develop into a lockdown corner, I don't know if he can hold up on the outside."

Now, I certainly understand the coach's concerns with Jackson based on the basketball-like athletes that are dominating the game at wide receiver. The 6-foot-3 and taller crowd poses a tremendous challenge to most corners on the perimeter, particularly those measuring in the 5-foot-9 to 5-foot-11 range. The 'alley-oop' game is nearly impossible to defend in the red zone and teams will also attack smaller corners with various 'box out' routes to big receivers on the outside.

While Jackson has the leaping ability (36-inch vertical jump) to contest jump balls, he might lack the size and strength to hold his position against the big-bodies (220-plus pound pass-catchers) that bully cornerbacks on the outside. Thus, teams considering him will need to have a "big" corner (6-foot or taller) on the opposite side and have "match" tactics in their game plan to prevent opponents from targeting Jackson with a barrage of "alley oops" to the boundary. Without a plan or a diverse set of defensive backs on the roster, the selection of Jackson as a CB1 could have some consequences for a defense. -- Bucky Brooks

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Clubs coveting Gators LB: Whenever you ask scouts and coaches about the requisite traits desired in a linebacker, they frequently cite smart, tough, physical and fast as the characteristics needed to thrive at the position. With that in mind, I'm not surprised to hear Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis frequently mentioned as one of the favorites in draft rooms across the league.

"He's my kind of player," said an NFC pro personnel director. "He is a hard-nosed player who has a nasty streak that you need to excel at the position. Plus, he makes plays from numbers to numbers and has a bit of thump to him. Someone's going to get a good football player when they get him."

I think the scout hit the nail on the head when he basically described Davis as a blue-collar worker with a bit of an attitude. He plays with the kind of temperament and disposition that you expect from an inside linebacker. Although Davis can move around and slip blocks like a finesse defender, he's at his best when he's able to unleash blockers and runners in the hole. He stones offensive players when he makes contact with his flipper and shoulder. Davis' old-school game makes him ideally suited to play in a scheme that appreciates a tough, war daddy between the tackles.

Teams running a 3-4 defense, in particular, will love his rugged game and aggressive mentality at the point of attack. They'll also love his production and impact as a tackling machine. While he certainly can clean up his hand usage and his disengagement technique, Davis is the type of menacing defender that most teams love on the inside. In fact, he reminds me a little of NaVorro Bowman when I watch the tape. From his nastiness to his tackling ability and toughness, Davis has a game that's reminiscent of the perennial Pro Bowler prior to his injury.

If the Florida standout lives up to that comparison, there will be a defensive coordinator happy to see the rugged defender walk into the building shortly after draft day. -- Bucky Brooks

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On the rise: Youngstown State edge rusher Derek Rivers is gaining some momentum in personnel circles. He is a very smooth, athletic pass rusher with the ability to bend and close at the top of his pass rush. He plays with a good motor and he had an excellent NFL Scouting Combine workout. I projected him as a third- or fourth-round pick heading into the postseason, but I think there's a good chance he lands in Round 2 following his impressive all-star performance and combine workout. Teams that run a 3-4 defense believe he is an ideal fit at outside linebacker. -- Daniel Jeremiah

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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