Quickly

  • All the secrecy will be outed Thursday night as Round 1 finally unfolds. Here’s one last look at what each of the teams is thinking heading into the event in Dallas
  • Other sections include: how Baker Mayfield bounced back; what changed for Gronk and Odell; a psychological assessment of the draft quarterbacks; and more
By Albert Breer
April 26, 2018

Something probably is going to happen Thursday night that no one saw coming. And really, that is the idea of the NFL draft.

Four years ago this month, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell was driving home from work and swapping draft info with a buddy over the phone. A few minutes into the conversation, the topic of UCF quarterback Blake Bortles came up. “Hey, uh, I gotta take this,” Caldwell said. “I’ll call you back.”

There was no incoming call. Rather than lie, Caldwell did everything he could over those few weeks in April 2014 to skirt the topic of the guy he really wanted. And there were functional reasons for it.

First, he heard rumblings the Texans—with then-first-year coach Bill O’Brien, a protégé of UCF coach George O’Leary—were considering trading out of the No. 1 spot with an eye on taking Bortles later. Caldwell didn’t want to prevent that from happening. Second, he knew Rams GM Les Snead, who Caldwell worked with in Atlanta, thought highly of Bortles. Caldwell wanted Snead to look at Bortles with the 13th pick rather than at 2.

So again, Caldwell and the handful of others who knew (owner Shad Khan, analytics chief Tony Khan, coach Gus Bradley among them) weren’t being dishonest. They just weren’t telling the whole truth. It worked out as the Jags got their man at No. 3 after the Texans took Jadeveon Clowney and the Rams tabbed Greg Robinson.

Two years later, the Chargers were able to run the same kind of interference around their affection—buzz was they’d take an offensive tackle—for Ohio State pass rusher Joey Bosa. Similarly, last year, few believed the Bears would take a quarterback, before they traded up a spot to land the guy that GM Ryan Pace quietly wanted all along—North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky.

THE MMQB DRAFT PREVIEW SHOW WITH PFF: The crew at PFF rank the top prospects at every position and break down the tape. You can now watch anytime, anywhere on SI.TV.

The point is that it doesn’t matter how many phone calls reporters make ahead of Thursday night. There probably will be a couple of those coming that no one is forecasting.

Could UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen slide through the Top 10? Will Louisville’s Lamar Jackson go 16 or 46? Will Denver be faced with a decision on taking Baker Mayfield or listening to Chris Harris to try and give an aging core another piece right now? Will the Giants play it safe and take Saquon Barkley, roll the dice on a quarterback, or trade out?

There’s a ton of storylines to watch going into tonight’s festivities. But what I can’t wait for is to see if someone pulls the kind of rabbit out of his hat that Caldwell did in 2014, Chargers GM Tom Telesco did in 2016 or Pace did in 2017.

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In this week’s Game Plan, we’ll take another good look at the quarterbacks, with help from a mental conditioning coach who’s worked with each of the Big 4 and a Pac-12 defensive coordinator who’s coached against three of them; we’ll also check on two of this offseason’s more polarizing figures, Rob Gronkowski and Odell Beckham; and we’ll get an assessment on a deep running back class.

But we’re starting with what I think you want, and that’s an idea of where your team is looking in Round 1. (Houston, Kansas City and the Rams don’t have picks, so we’re skipping them. I’ll take you through what I’ve gathered and also share what a pro scouting exec told me about each team’s needs; those will be in parentheses to start each paragraph. Let’s go...

1. Cleveland Browns (and 4)

(QB, OT, CB) The strongest link I have to any quarterback here? Word is that owner Jimmy Haslam has been asking his peers about Josh Allen, and offensive coordinator Todd Haley is said to like the Wyoming quarterback. Other than that? I can say definitively that Mayfield has been part of the conversation, as we hinted he would be on April 12. And other teams can’t believe it’s not USC’s Sam Darnold. 

As for the fourth pick, there’s increasing buzz that the Browns really like N.C. State rusher Bradley Chubb to pair with Myles Garrett. And if you want a dark horse, Cleveland loves Ohio State CB Denzel Ward too. Or they could deal out, with a pick that could explode in value if the Giants pivot and take a quarterback after all. If Cleveland does deal down, keep an eye on Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey.

2. New York Giants

(QB, RB, OT) The draft will turn here. GM Dave Gettleman has kept a small, tight circle over the last month. Those who know him have pointed out a few things to me. One, he has zero history of trading down. Two, the “gold jacket” comment he made should be heeded. And three, this is a fork in the road: Double down on Eli Manning and create a short window, or put him on the clock by taking a QB.

Most people I’ve talked to believe we’ll get the former, with Saquon Barkley as the safe bet as a player who could help give the 37-year-old franchise QB new life.

3. New York Jets

(QB, OT, OLB) The affection for Mayfield didn’t just pop up. The Jets see a star, but Rosen’s got advocates in the building and there’s a belief the staff can handle his personality. Darnold dropping into New York’s lap would add another layer to the discussion. I’ll just say that Allen going 1 and Barkley 2 would create the best kind of problem for the team that sold out early to come and get its quarterback.

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5. Denver Broncos

(QB, OG, RB) Word is, Denver has one quarterback it’d consider here. I believe Mayfield is that quarterback, with Gary Kubiak and personnel chief Matt Russell as his believers. That said, this is John Elway’s call, and he’s very open to dealing down, with Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson and Ward also in play if he sticks.

6. Indianapolis Colts

(LB, DE, OL) Chubb isn’t getting here, in my opinion. So my educated guess is that it’ll be one of the linebackers, either Georgia’s Roquan Smith or Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds. And how about this for GM Chris Ballard: I’ve heard Smith compared to Ray Lewis. And who was the most common comp for last year’s first-rounder, Malik Hooker? Ed Reed. Middle of the defense = Set for a long time.

7. Tampa Bay Bucs

(S, CB, RB) There’s a loud drumbeat that Tampa GM Jason Licht likes Florida State S Derwin James, despite what the scene at FSU’s pro day might’ve led some to believe. The safe play, if it’s not James, would be Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick.

8. Chicago Bears

(OL, OLB, CB) I can’t find anyone who doesn’t think the Bears are taking Nelson if he gets here, a product of the hire of his position coach from college. But I also know that guys going back to last year’s staff were aware that Pace likes Ward a lot. And Smith and Edmunds would be dark horses here.

9. San Francisco 49ers

(LB, S, WR) As often as you hear Nelson-to-the-Bears, you’ll hear Edmunds-to-the-Niners, where the 19-year-old would fit into a K.J. Wright-like role. They’re also looking for corners, but Ward may be a shaky fit. One interesting thought that was passed along to me: Fitzpatrick as a corner for the Niners.

10. Oakland Raiders

(LB, CB, WR) Smith isn’t getting here, I don’t think. So this is another team that’s looking at defensive backs, and I think they’d be pleased to see Ward available. Also, they’ve been linked in scouting circles to Texas-San Antonio DE Marcus Davenport.

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11. Miami Dolphins

(QB, DT, LB) The perceived floor for Rosen, with fleeting hope of getting Mayfield. I don’t think they’d deal up for a QB, and I believe Washington DT Vita Vea is one player that they’d look at closely.

12. Buffalo Bills (and 22)

(QB, LB, OL) There’s pressure on the Bills brass to get a quarterback, and there’s been buzz on Buffalo moving way up for Allen (maybe dealing up twice to do it) or more conservatively for Rosen. But I don’t think GM Brandon Beane is going to allow another team to hold him at gunpoint. If they strike out on the big four, a linebacker like Alabama’s Rashaan Evans could be in the mix. And at 22, if they hang on to that pick, the center/guards (Iowa’s James Daniels, Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow) make sense.

13. Washington Redskins

(DL, OG, RB) Both Vea and Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne have consistently been linked to Washington by teams I’ve talked to. But the Redskins could use help on all three levels of their defense.

14. Green Bay Packers

(WR, CB, OLB) The Kyle Fuller offer sheet telegraphed their desire for a man-cover corner—and so I’ve heard Lousville’s Jaire Alexander and UCF’s Mike Hughes here. (I actually regret mocking Hughes to Green Bay, more on that in a bit.) A pass rusher like Davenport or Boston College’s Harold Landry could be in play, too.

15. Arizona Cardinals

(CB, WR, QB) Another trade-up candidate, and if a quarterback slips into the bottom of the top 10, I think they’d get aggressive. Just like Buffalo, there’s some pressure on GM Steve Keim to solidify the position going forward. Offensive line is another area they’d like to address, and McGlinchey’s a name they’ve been connected to.

16. Baltimore Ravens

(WR, RB, OT) The Ravens have done extensive tire-kicking on Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, and I believe he’d be a consideration at 16. But moreso, I think the Ravens like the defensive talent at the top of this year’s class, and sure wouldn’t mind if a Vea, Davenport or James fell into their laps, even with their offensive needs.

17. Los Angeles Chargers

(LB, DT, OT) Telesco has done a good job cloaking his intentions over the years, but there’s significant noise about a tackle here, McGlinchey or UCLA’s Kolton Miller, or potentially a back-seven defensive star like James or Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans.

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18. Seattle Seahawks

(CB, DE, QB) My sense is Seattle would love to drop back and pick up some more capital as GM John Schneider overhauls his roster. James would be an absolute gift if he slid here. Scouts I’ve talked to consider the FSU product a souped-up Kam Chancellor. Davenport’s another name I’d watch.

19. Dallas Cowboys

(WR, S, LB) Three names to watch: Vea, Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch and Maryland WR D.J. Moore. My sense is that Dallas would view Moore and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, the consensus No. 1 receiver for months, similarly.

20. Detroit Lions

(DT, RB, DE) Defensive line and running back are two areas where names have been linked to the Lions. It’s been pointed out that new coach Matt Patricia might want a player who embodies what his program will be—like the versatile, hard-playing Payne.

21. Cincinnati Bengals

(OL, DT, QB) Barring one of the defensive studs falling here, two interior linemen have been mentioned to me as strong possibilities, and both are center/guard types. One is Iowa’s James Daniels. The other is Arkansas’ Frank Ragnow.

23. New England Patriots (and 31)

(OT, LB, QB) I’ve heard it both ways on their interest in Miller at either 23 or 31, and Evans and Vander Esch are absolutely players to watch. Two wild cards passed along to me the last couple days for one of their two picks: Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn, who may be able to play tackle in Foxboro, and LSU RB Derrius Guice. And one GM said, on Ragnow, “New England’s smitten with him.”

24. Carolina Panthers

(CB, DE, OG/C) So much of the buzz on the Panthers has centered on the interior offensive linemen, and perhaps a player who can replace Andrew Norwell now and Ryan Kalil later. So Daniels and Ragnow would seem to fit.

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25. Tennessee Titans

(ILB, OLB, TE) My feeling is the Titans will go digging for a linebacker here, and Evans would be a perfect fit as Mike Vrabel’s first pick. If the top four linebackers are gone, and the edge rushers are too, this one could go in any direction.

26. Atlanta Falcons

(DT, WR, TE) There’s been outward evidence of Atlanta’s affection for Florida DT Taven Bryan, who’s a little raw, but a Dan Quinn type who’d fill a need for the Falcons. Another position to watch? The Falcons could grab a corner—Iowa’s Josh Jackson and Colorado’s Isaiah Oliver are scheme fits—to get a year ahead of what could be a need in 2019.

27. New Orleans Saints

(CB, QB) New Orleans’ confidence in its roster legitimately opens up options here, so it could be someone like Ragnow or Daniels or Ohio State’s Billy Price on the interior of the offensive line, or a Jaire Alexander at corner. Here’s a sleeper, courtesy of an AFC exec: “Knowing what they had with Jimmy Graham, I could see them loving (Penn State TE Mike) Gesicki.”

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

(ILB, OLB, TE) Vander Esch’s name has been bandied about here, despite his neck issue (it sounds like Pittsburgh’s OK with it). He could fill the hole left by Ryan Shazier that calls for a play-making linebacker who can cover.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

(QB, WR, LB) Like the Saints, they’re balanced across their roster and freed up to pick their spot here. One personnel director: “They’re the toughest team in identifying where they’ll go.” If Ridley slides, he’d make some sense. And over the last couple days, there have been some whispers on Lamar Jackson.

30. Minnesota Vikings

(OG/C, CB, DE) The consensus I’ve gotten back is that it’s most likely to be a corner or an offensive lineman. You get 30 picks in, it’s hard to project.

32. Philadelphia Eagles

(RB, OG/C) One GM I spoke with Wednesday called Philly “desperate” to move out of 32, with an eye on getting Saturday picks. (Right now, they have none.) Corner is a possibility if Howie Roseman sticks, as is running back.



FIRST AND 10

1. We’ve talked a lot in this space about there being a drop-off in the 15-20 area, where most teams feel like first-round picks turn into second-rounders. So I tried to identify the group that’s above that cliff, and here are the non-quarterbacks I came up with (in no particular order): Barkley, Nelson, Chubb, R. Smith, Fitzpatrick, Davenport, Vea, Edmunds, Ward, McGlinchey, James, with Evans and Payne right there on the fringe with them. I’d note that McGlinchey isn’t seen as quite the prospect as the others, but the dearth of tackles in the NFL in general pushed him into the upper tier.

2. To further the point on the shakiness of the bottom of the first round, one NFC exec said, “The guys in the last third of the first round, you’re paying a first-round premium on someone who’s no different than the guy at 35 or 40. And they’re the same not only in ability but value of their role in the game.”

3. The problem with filing my Sports Illustrated magazine mock 11 days before the draft is that I knew I hear stuff that would make me regret some picks afterwards. And that brings us to Hughes to the Packers at 14. While most teams seem OK with him, there is some concern that stems from a sexual assault allegation when he was enrolled at North Carolina. And I’m guessing that might push first-year GM Brian Gutekunst towards a safer, similar prospect like, maybe, Alexander.

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4. Other picks I’d probably take back now … I’m not sure Josh Jackson is quite fast enough to be the Seahawks’ pick at 17; I’d probably have Moore over Ridley to Dallas at 19; and I’d give the Bengals either Daniels or Ragnow over Landry at 21. Which means those are probably three that’ll come true.

5. Peter King gave you Ragnow as the surprise first-round pick Monday, and I’d wholeheartedly concur. And if there is a run on interior linemen, as I think there could be in the early 20s, another surprise name to watch there could be Nevada G Austin Corbett, who’s a bit of a different guy but really helped himself his last year in college.

6. One other potential surprise first-round pick: Georgia edge defender Lorenzo Carter. The former blue-chip recruit put up ridiculous testing numbers, and it’s hard to find pass rushers this year after Chubb, Davenport and Landry.

7. The depth of the running back class could wind up making it so Barkley is the only one to go in the first round. Teams believe they can find good ones on Friday and into Saturday. “I don’t think it’s as good as last year,” said one AFC running backs coach. “Last year had a group at the beginning that was really high end. This year, you have one guy, then Guice (who’s been knocked by teams for his immaturity) who gets put in that late first/early second category, then it drops, and there’s a really strong group from the third round to the fifth round. There’s a lot of them.” USC’s Ronald Jones, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny are among those who could be starters early in their careers.

8. Fantasy alert! There won’t be much for those who love the rotisserie game to analyze outside the quarterbacks Thursday night. After Barkley goes, it very well could be 20 picks before another offensive skill player is taken.

9. If Lamar Jackson falls—and again, I think there’s a wide range for where he could land—expect to hear that how he did on the board in private meetings with teams cited as a reason why.

10. The draft really is the end of the fiscal year for those on the scouting side, so next week is when you’ll see changes to those departments. In that regard, keep an eye on Oakland, where Jon Gruden could add some evaluators he’s familiar with.


FOUR DOWNS

1. The story behind Baker Mayfield’s big bounce-back. The Heisman Trophy turned off a lot of people at the Senior Bowl. The feeling was that Mayfield went to Mobile resolved to be himself, and overdid it. He has since bounced back by being incredibly impressive in his visits and workouts with teams, even those that still have some misgivings about him.

“I think he’s got some con-man in him, but he can throw the football,” said one AFC offensive coordinator. “And where he’s absolutely amazing is with his recall. Absolutely amazing. You’re calling up plays on his tape, he had a photographic memory: This and this and this is about to happen, and I went over here. You’re like, ‘Wow.’ It’s impressive. As good as I’ve ever seen.”

As for the workouts, we mentioned a quarterbacks coach told us last month that Mayfield is the most accurate quarterback he’s ever evaluated. While other scouts and coaches wouldn’t go that far, Mayfield did put his dead-eye shot on display for teams who worked him out.

“He’s the most accurate quarterback to come out since Sam Bradford,” said an AFC personnel director. “And he’s the best competitor I’ve seen at the position coming since Philip Rivers. … I don’t think everything else is that big a deal—I’m not that worried about him off the field at all. He’s small, that’s what I’m a little worried about. It’s difficult to throw from the pocket like that at our level. (Drew) Brees is special, and Russell Wilson isn’t throwing from the pocket all the time, he escapes it. So that’s where it’s a little more difficult.”

In putting all this together I couldn’t help but think what Pete Carroll told me about Wilson back when he named him the starter in 2012: “(If he was 6'4"), he’d have been vying to be the first pick. He has everything you look for—the numbers, the records, he did everything. He’d be right up there with Andrew (Luck), and you’d be trying to figure it out.”

This year, it feels like we can take the next step. If Mayfield was 6'4", I’m not sure we’d even be debating who the top pick would be.

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2. A coach’s view of the quarterbacks. As for the other three, I figure it’d be fun to enlist the help of a college coach who worked against them. Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt fit the bill. Leavitt coached against Darnold as Colorado’s defensive coordinator in 2016 (the Buffs played UCLA that year, but Rosen was hurt), and then Rosen and Allen at Oregon last year. Rosen went 21-of-36 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and no picks against Oregon in a UCLA win last year, while Allen was 9-of-24 for 64 yards, no touchdowns and a pick in a Wyoming loss to the Ducks. The year before, Darnold was 25-of-37 for 358 yards, three touchdowns and a pick as the Trojans dealt Colorado its only conference loss of the year.

“With Darnold, he was such a gamer, kind of reminds me of (Brett) Favre, he’s just gonna let it go, he doesn’t care,” Leavitt said over the phone, on a recruiting trip in Hawaii. “He’s gonna roll out there and go, very carefree, he moves around and it feels he can make any throw he wants. … I thought going in, he moved his feet very, very well, he could move around the pocket, set his feet and throw, and keep his eyes downfield. You always had that threat of running, he’s probably a little more mobile than the other two, although the Wyoming quarterback could run. He was very loose, and maybe a little careless with the ball, so we thought we might get a pick, get the ball out of his hands, we were able to do that.”

With Rosen, as Leavitt explains, the plan was different: Get to him and rattle him, and it didn’t work. “I did everything in my power to try and sack him, could never do it,” Leavitt said. “I mean, I brought everybody from all over, couldn’t do it. He anticipates pressure, he sees coverages, he has a tremendous release, he moves in the pocket very, very well, he’s very confident in what he does. … I thought he was so impressive at getting rid of the ball before you could hit him. I mean, I had some free runners. And he did such a good job of that, getting rid of the ball.”

As for Allen, the numbers aren’t close. He had the worst game against Leavitt of the three, by far. But Leavitt says there was reason for that. “I thought he had one of the strongest arms I’ve ever seen, unbelievable arm, I was really, really, really worried going in,” he said. “The guy moved in the pocket well, his delivery was great, he could make all the throws, he’s big, he’s strong, he seemed to be a very good leader. The reason we were able to play really well—and we did play a good game—the receivers, we were able to clamp those guys down, and have some success with that. And because of that, I was able to bring some people, and get him off his spot. But before the game, I thought he was one of the best quarterbacks I’d seen, he was so big, so strong. I studied him a lot and he was really good. I was proud of our guys.”

I did ask Leavitt, who was Jim Harbaugh’s linebackers coach for four years with the Niners, who he’d take. He wouldn’t go there. But he did offer, “They’ve all got good size, they’ve all got good releases. The biggest, strongest guy would be the Wyoming kid, he’s like Roethlisberger.” And then there was this advice for NFL teams: “Shoot, the guy with the most courage, that’s who I’d take. Whoever’s got the courage of the three, that’s who I’d go get. That’s a big thing for me. When I was a head coach, that’s all I looked for in quarterbacks, I want a guy who’s a friggin’ warrior, who’s going to fight. That’s why I’d have to sit down with them before I could say.”

Hold on to that thought for later in the column. We’ll come back to it.

3. Odell Beckham’s making his way. We mentioned a few weeks ago that April 9 was the key date for the Giants and Odell Beckham. It was, and his attendance for the start of the offseason program in East Rutherford has done more than open the door for the mercurial receiver to turn the page on 2017 and start a new record with GM Dave Gettleman and coach Pat Shurmur. It left the Giants’ overhauled braintrust impressed with the attitude that Beckham has brought to work, which one staffer called “phenomenal” the other day.

Beckham was at everything the first week of Shurmur’s program, missed the second week, with notice, to get rehab work done, and then reported for minicamp and was on the field Tuesday. The key there? The “with notice” part of it. “It’s like any relationship, we constantly communicate,” Shurmur told reporters after the first day of the minicamp. “We had a great talk (Monday) as we’re getting ready for this minicamp, so we could talk about what we were trying to get accomplished. We’ve spoken on the phone, we text. It’s like any relationship, we’re very honest and open with one another and we communicate frequently.”

The bottom line is that considering all the water under the bridge there was no way the Giants could do a new contract with Beckham without having the new guys build a relationship with him, or without Beckham putting some skins on the wall for them first. It would, in essence, be signing off on all that went wrong last year. And what’s happened over the past three weeks changes that significantly.

4. What changed with Gronkowski? The boss, Peter King, wrote on the Rob Gronkowski situation Wednesday, making the point that Bill Belichick would naturally want to know his intentions before the draft. I agree with that. But here’s the other factor I believe would’ve been in play: The over-the-top press conference that Gronkowski held Saturday at Gillette Stadium, where he effectively turned the Patriots offseason program into a punchline as part of his comedy routine, as he stood a curl route away from the weight room he avoided all week at the podium Belichick addresses the media.

Gronkowski had been pushing buttons all offseason on social media, something other Patriots have done to some degree too. And it seemed to me that Gronk’s weekend show was where the team decided something had to give, after months of seeing their second best player levering his otherworldly ability to do whatever the hell he wanted. Gronkowski told people a few weeks back that he wanted the team to come to him on his contract, and maybe this is what it took.

The good news, for now, is that the Patriots have cleared the air. The next step might be doing a new contract, and I wouldn’t be stunned if work’s already underway on that. Remember, because Gronkowski’s deal was renegotiated last year, he can’t get a raise without jumping through some significant salary-cap hoops until May 24. So it could be that the team and the player get something done and keep it quiet until then.


LESSON OF THE WEEK

That thing Leavitt said above, about having to sit down with the quarterbacks to know who he’d take? It’s legit.

For Browns GM John Dorsey and Jets GM Mike Maccagnan, and potentially others like Bills GM Brandon Beane, the call they make Thursday night, in essence, will be to tie their job security and livelihood to a guy in his early 20s. If they hit, it could give the franchises they lead stability into the 2030s. If they miss, they’ll be out of work.

That’s where the lesson is this week: Who Mayfield, Rosen, Darnold and Allen are as people is a very important piece to the process that’ll conclude in North Texas. It’s why one team has been rumored to be tailing Mayfield around the past few months. It’s why Rosen’s personality has been picked apart, why Allen’s confidence has been questioned, and where Darnold has an edge.

So in order to try and climb into what teams have found, I enlisted Trevor Moawad, a mental conditioning coach who runs Moawad Consulting Group, and has run programs at Alabama, Georgia and Florida State. He’s worked with all the top guys, and a few others, through ESPN’s Draft Academy, and client Russell Wilson’s QB2QB show.

I asked Moawad to give me a psychological assessment of each of the top four guys, and two others he’s worked with. He obliged, in no particular order.

• Darnold: “Initially reminded me of my pre-draft recollections of Ryan Tannehill.  Very humble, not looking for the spotlight, but carries himself with both a quiet confidence and competitive tenacity. He and Jordan Palmer have a great synergy, and he clearly is a player who is going to work 12 months a year. That is critical.  The CBA exposes NFL players’ ignorance relative to what they really need to do to sustain the expectations their organizations have for them.”

• Allen: “Great personality. Lights up a room. Not afraid to acknowledge that he is coming from a smaller conference, but happy to shoulder elite expectations. Did everything and more you'd expect of a player who recognizes the opportunity in front of him. He knows what's essential for him right now to take the next step in his career and is committed to following that process. He won't fear the challenges facing him when he enters the NFL.”

• Rosen: “He will make it. He will be very good. He will adapt to whatever environment he enters. I've enjoyed every conversation I've ever had with him when consulting with UCLA and after, and I always felt like he was looking for the right things in the right places. Like all competitive personalities, the organization must set the parameters and expectations and I expect him to work to get that done.”

• Mayfield: “I watched him on the other sideline as a consultant for UGA, and enjoyed the opportunity to connect in QB2QB with Russell Wilson. He was a tremendous college football player and organizational leader and front man. He has the confidence of an elite MLB athlete. Which means, his belief will precede his great performances. That matters if/when you have to play right away on a team that is looking for an identity. There are a lot of comparisons to Brees and Wilson, but many forget that those two are 11 years apart. What does that mean? In the 11 years between Drew and Russell there were a lot of very good, smaller players who didn't make it. I wouldn't bet against him (and I wouldn't want to end up on one of his lists If I did!)”

• J.T. Barrett: “For as much as coaches, draft pundits, and fans in the NFL claim to crave leaders who can impact an organization, it doesn't seem like enough of that is being valued when it comes to J.T. J.T. is a winner. He is incredibly impressive. He's an exceptional athlete. He was a three-time captain at Ohio State. He comes from an exceptional family, and is going to give an organization every ounce he has relative to his potential. He's dependable. In QB2QB, it was fun watching his interactions with Russell and their unique empathy for each other. If he ends up in the right organization that respects his assets, then expect him to find a way to build relevance and eventually playing time in this league.”

• Mason Rudolph: “He looks exactly like an NFL quarterback. He was very impressive. We had a fairly intense scene in QB2QB where he and Russell discussed Super Bowl 49 and the concept of adversity and your response to it as the defining characteristic of an NFL quarterback. He has very strong presence and is an exceptional listener. Mason gives you the sense that whatever areas might be missing from his game at present will not stay missing for long.  He seems absolutely prepared to attack those obstacles and move past them. He has the tools required to play the position, but also carries the mindset needed to transition from the Big XII to the NFL.”

So there you have it. Buckle up. Thursday night could get pretty wild.

 

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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