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:
But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Brooks' take on why a club could be rewarded heavily for taking a chance on a Tennessee QB in this year's draft.
Teams looking for the next Dak Prescott should spend more time checking out Tennessee's Joshua Dobbs. The SEC Offensive Player of the Year, whose pro day is Friday, has been overlooked for most of the pre-draft process, but a quick study of his game and career resume suggest that he has all of the tools to be a solid starter in the NFL. Now, I know that statement will be met with a few raised eyebrows and snickers, but skeptics also overlooked the former Mississippi State star when he was available on draft day.
"Dobbs definitely has the tools to be a solid player in the league," said an AFC college scouting director. "He's smart, tough and athletic. Plus, he showed at the Senior Bowl that he could adapt to a pro-style offense. ... I'm not saying he is a Day 1 guy, but I would certainly take a chance on him as a developmental player. He's a much better player than people think."
After studying the tape, I agree with the scout's assessment of Dobbs' game and his long-term potential.
He's a dynamic playmaker at the position, capable of creating big plays with his arm or legs on the perimeter or inside the pocket. As a runner, he is silky smooth with the ball in his hands and flashes outstanding body control on the edge. He has some sneaky "make-you-miss" ability in space that makes him a dangerous threat whenever he flees the pocket or keeps the ball on various zone-read/quarterback runs on the edges. In addition, Dobbs' crafty running style makes him a legitimate red-zone weapon, as evidenced by his 32 career rushing scores.
As a passer, Dobbs is a quick-rhythm thrower capable of attacking the defense with big-boy tosses or catch-and-fire throws from the pocket. He excels at throwing the quick game (hitches, slants and sticks) but is also adept at pushing the ball down the field on vertical routes. In fact, he might be one of the better deep-ball passers in football based on his 47.7 percent completion rate and 14 touchdowns on passes of 21 yards or more.
He flashes outstanding touch and timing on vertical throws, particularly on go routes and posts following subtle play-action fakes. On intermediate throws, Dobbs needs to become more consistent with his ball placement and timing. He misses too many receivers in the range of 10-15 yards, which is troubling for teams featuring more five-step (under center) passing concepts in the playbook. Although Dobbs' issues with accuracy are fixable (clean up his footwork and mechanics to throw from a more balanced platform), he has to improve in this area to become a viable starter at the next level.
From a leadership standpoint, Dobbs has all of the qualities coaches covet in a QB1. He has outstanding intelligence and a personality that leads players to gravitate to him. He also has a track record of delivering in key moments (see Florida and Georgia games) that inspires the confidence of the group. With Dobbs also logging 35 starts as a collegian, he has played a lot and that experience allows him to play with the poise and confidence of a veteran quarterback.
Prescott made the quick jump to the big stage, and it's not a coincidence that he had plenty of experience and confidence from his extensive workload as a collegian. This is an underrated part of the quarterback evaluation, but it's one that leads me to believe Dobbs could make a surprising impression as a pro. -- Bucky Brooks
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The NFL draft's forgotten man: Remember Eddie Jackson? The Alabama safety had a phenomenal 2015 campaign, picking off 6 passes and helping the Tide capture the 2015 national championship. He was off to a fast start in 2016 before suffering a fractured leg and missing the rest of his senior season. Jackson is still recovering from his injury and, unfortunately, he was unable to participate in the Reese's Senior Bowl or work out at the NFL Scouting Combine. As a result, I rarely hear his name pop up in my discussions with NFL executives and scouts.
While this safety class is incredibly talented and deep, Jackson is still a player worthy of a selection in the first 3 rounds. He should be 100 percent healthy in the very near future and his combination of instincts, range and ball skills is outstanding. He has played cornerback in the past and he has the ability to play in the slot if needed. He's also a very accomplished punt returner. He isn't an overly physical force defender, but he is an effective tackler. Overall, I'm a little shocked we aren't hearing more about him. He deserves some attention and I have a feeling he's going to get it over the next few weeks. -- Daniel Jeremiah
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Prospect on the rise: I mentioned above that Alabama safety Eddie Jackson wasn't getting enough attention. One safety who is generating plenty of attention in scouting circles -- Utah's Marcus Williams. In terms of pure, centerfield safeties, Williams ranks right behind Malik Hooker in this draft class. He has outstanding range and he tracks the ball naturally. He has 11 career interceptions. He has average size for the position (6-foot 5/8, 202 pounds), but he plays much bigger when the ball is in the air. Like Hooker, he has a basketball background (he was nicknamed "Little Magic" in high school) and it shows up on the football field. He is all but a lock to go in the top 40 picks and I believe he could sneak into the bottom of Round 1. -- Daniel Jeremiah
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Two teams positioned perfectly in middle rounds: In a deep draft class like this year's, middle-round picks are pure gold. With that in mind, I looked up to see which teams had the most picks in the third and fourth rounds. Turns out, there are 14 teams with 3 picks in those rounds, but there are 2 teams with 4 selections in that range: the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts.
Both of these teams can help themselves by nailing those four picks. This is a very doable task in a draft this loaded. The Vikings need to upgrade the offensive line and could also stand to add some firepower at tight end and running back. They could very easily come away with this type of package: Temple OG Dion Dawkins, Troy OT Antonio Garcia, Boise State RB Jeremy McNichols and Clemson TE Jordan Leggett. Those are four really good football players.
The Colts need to continue to address their defense as well as add a running back and another offensive lineman. They could very easily come away with this type of package: Ohio OLB Tarell Basham, Pitt OG Dorian Johnson, Tennessee CB Cam Sutton and BYU RB Jamaal Williams. Each of those players would have a chance to make an immediate impact. -- Daniel Jeremiah
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Sleeper to remember: Texas A&M safety Justin Evans was expected to be a Round 1 prospect prior to the season, but an inconsistent senior campaign sent his stock tumbling a bit. Despite grading out as a borderline Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) prospect at this time, I believe he could be a middle-round sleeper who outplays his draft status at the next level.
Part of my reasoning stems from his combination of skills as a thumper and ballhawk in the middle of the field. He terrorizes receivers with his penchant for big hits between the hashes, yet also discourages quarterbacks from throwing down the seams with his knack for playmaking. He snagged four interceptions in 2016 while displaying strong hands and solid instincts as a deep-middle defender. Most importantly, Evans showed outstanding timing and anticipation making plays on the ball. In a league that is skewing more toward the pass, safeties have to flash playmaking skills and Evans has shown enough to warrant some consideration as a probable starter.
While Evans will need to clean up his tackling issues at the next level to truly carve out a role in the starting lineup, I love his aggressiveness and toughness in the backend. If he can become a dependable tackler, Evans could be one of the biggest on-field surprises of the 2017 campaign. -- Bucky Brooks