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. This week, he shares what he's hearing about Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara and USC CB Adoree' Jackson -- three underclassmen who intend to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
The scoop: "I really wish Deshaun (Watson) had played at the Senior Bowl. He's not an early (first-round) pick, but he might have kept that momentum rolling with a big week over there. Alabama game, Senior Bowl and (NFL Scouting) Combine would have been a big momentum roll into the draft for him." -- NFL pro personnel director on the Clemson QB
The skinny: Watson decided to decline the Senior Bowl invitation earlier this week and will instead focus on preparing for the combine (quarterbacks arrive on March 1). While this personnel man makes a very good point about building momentum for his draft slotting, it's hard to blame Watson for the decision given the grind he went through in playing 15 games last season on the way to a national title. Watson will have a chance to show off his arm at the combine, but he won't be able to do it against live competition like he could have at the Senior Bowl. I currently have him rated as my No. 16 prospect.
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The scoop: "His game against Texas A&M is as good as anything (Florida State RB) Dalvin Cook did all year and that's not a knock on Cook at all. But here is the problem. He (left) Alabama and he never established himself as the man at Tennessee. Why is that? That's what we have to figure out. Can he stay healthy and is he mature enough to handle what comes with being in the league? The tape speaks for itself, but these other questions are what you have to answer." -- AFC director of college scouting on Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
The skinny: Kamara's performance against Texas A&M (312 all-purpose yards, 3 TDs) from this past season is indeed one of the most impressive games I've studied up to this point in my draft preparation. He has outstanding balance, runs with burst and power, can elude tacklers and is a very good third-down option. However, Kamara has never had 20 carries in any single game, which makes it challenging to project him as an every-down running back at the next level. While Kamara left Alabama, he became a team captain at Tennessee by his second year in the program, so character might be overblown as a concern in his evaluation.
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The scoop: "I didn't expect him to have the year he did in coverage. I saw ball skills and coverage ability that I didn't see last year. Those interceptions and return touchdowns will push him into the early second round. That's my guess." -- AFC South area scout on USC CB Adoree' Jackson
The skinny: Jackson waited until right up to the Monday deadline to declare for early entry into the draft, but most expected he would come out after a very good junior season. Jackson is an outstanding athlete who has relied on his natural ability over technique in the past. He played with improved technique this season, which improved his coverage and his ability to make plays on the ball. Jackson's ball skills are outstanding, and if he's in position to make plays, he's going to make them. His elite kick- and punt-return talent enhances his draft value even more.