Every NFL Draft season NFL scouts and anyone that works in the league gets the benefit of the doubt. If someone has a unique perspective on a player and you disagree, all you need to do is reference a scout, and your opinion doesn’t matter. At least to the national media, anyway. I spent Saturday afternoon watching and talking football with someone that has been working in the NFL for over 15 years as a scout. He has zero ego and willingly admitted scouts are just as wrong as the general public.
The point is a scouts word, like anything else, is simply another piece of the puzzle. I’m going to reference him as “Phoenix,” so he remains anonymous. Phoenix’s experience gives him a unique perspective as he factors in the emotional side that we don’t have access to. Scouts spend time with these kids and get all the background information they can on a prospect, sometimes dating back to high school.
We talked about everyone from Jerry Jeudy to small school prospects we should keep an eye on. Most San Francisco 49ers fans believe it’s a failure if the team doesn’t draft a wide receiver in the first round. Phoenix said, “if you don’t need a receiver in this draft, you should take one anyway. If you do need a receiver, you should draft one early and one late.” Phoenix also mentioned that, in his opinion, only Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb are the true “No. 1 receivers” in this class. The team he works for has those two as their top wideouts, then a gap, then Henry Ruggs— who Phoenix said he wouldn’t draft before pick 26—Laviska Shenault, and Justin Jefferson as their top receivers. I’d imagine we would get five different answers from five different teams.
In today’s article, we’ll talk about a player that will outperform where he’s drafted, and let a team down due to being selected so high.
Last week we asked if the 49ers should draft a quarterback. Phoenix said Utah State’s Jordan Love is overrated and can’t imagine taking him in the top-50 picks. He cited five specific plays where Love threw into traffic or made bad decisions. Phoenix’s argument was you’re not going to teach someone to all of a sudden become more accurate or a better decision-maker, despite his surroundings. “This is who he is, and he’s trying to tell you.”
On the flip side, Phoenix believes Washington’s Jacob Eason will have a better career if he goes to the right team. Everyone is enamored with Eason’s rocket arm, and if patient with Eason, Phoenix believes he can develop into a solid starter.
Phoenix named two running backs that will outperform where they’re drafted. One is LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire from LSU. He raved about CEH’s feet and how he rarely goes down in the open field or falls forward for more yards.
The other running back is Salvon Ahmed out of Washington, a player the Niners met with. Ahmed ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, but Phoenix believes he plays faster than that and will consistently give you more yards than what the offensive line has blocked. Add in he’s comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield and knows where to go in pass protection, and Ahmed will be a steal for some team.
This one hurt. He is not a fan of Denzel Mims at all:
Mims will disappoint whoever drafts him high. He’s a long-legged guy, and you don’t see him run that fast on tape. It’s always a guy every year that moves up in the draft. All of a sudden, he’s a tier 1? You don’t hear about him all year. I scouted him, I was shocked to hear his name early. He’s not mentally physical.
Phoenix likened Mims to Seattle’s rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf’s situation. “D.K. ran fast. It took him eight games to learn how to play. He’s still not a great route runner, and he still drops balls. People always ignore the situation. Russ made him look better than he is. Mims needs a veteran quarterback like Wilson if he wants to have a rookie season like Metcalf.”
Dk ran fast. Took him eight games to learn how to play. Still not route runner. Still drops balls. Made him better—needs vet QB.
The blow softened as Phoenix was higher on Penn State’s K.J. Hamler: “Hamler can go. That kid can play now. All you saw from him was getting open. He’s a slot only guy, so if you draft him, you have to have a plan on how to use him, but his value is going to be a lot better than some of the earlier receivers that are taken ahead of him.”
Hamler has an outrageously high drop rate (16%), but if you can get past that and see he’s a walking explosive play, it’s easy to see him being a threat in the NFL.
Phoenix is higher on Devis Asiasi out of UCLA than anyone you’ll talk to. Asiasi, who also met with the 49ers, is the best tight end in the draft according to Phoenix:
He’s the best tight end in the draft. Huge sleeper. He can block. He’s good after the catch, but he’s better than Washington’s Jordan Reed because he’s more complete. There’s some Heath Miller (long-time Steelers tight end) to his game. He’s a better athlete than Heath, though. He may not end up that good, but he’s in that category. Asiasi has some off the field he needs to take care of (he wouldn’t go into detail), but he’s that caliber of player. This is one of those situations where stats aren’t reflective of a player. He didn’t have that many opportunities so he’s not highly thought of. As a football player, Asiasi is 100% legit.
Okay then, draft Asiasi? When you watch the former Bruin, there aren’t many flaws in his game.
Phoenix didn’t have a player on the offensive line but had an answer. He talked about how the fit is more important along the line than nearly any position and referenced continuity a few times. So it’s not just about fitting on the field from a physical standpoint, since most of these athletes are physically gifted, but are you bringing in the right guy that fits your locker room culture? That was a nice spin.
This is part one of three. The next piece will talk about a player at each position on defense, and then we’ll have one dedicated to the wide receivers at the top of the draft.