NFL Draft Notebook: Caleb Williams leads USC’s draft prospects

SALT LAKE CITY UT- OCTOBER 15: Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans throws a pass during the second half of their game against the Utah Utes October 15, 2022 Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY UT- OCTOBER 15: Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans throws a pass during the second half of their game against the Utah Utes October 15, 2022 Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/ Getty Images) /
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NFL quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Dorian Thompson-Robinson. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images) /

Scouting notes

— While Dallas Turner is my top edge pass rusher in the 2024 NFL Draft, the best pure outside linebacker is Barrett Carter of Clemson. How well he holds up in coverage sticks out on his film. He shows the smooth hips and speed to match up against tight ends and even slot receivers in coverage. His speed also allows him to make plenty of plays against the run and he should have no problem be a three-down starting linebacker in the NFL.

— A Group of Five outside linebacker to watch is Temple’s Layton Jordan. The trait that will capture the NFL’s interest is his ability to get to the passer. Last season, he recorded an impressive nine sacks including 2.5 sacks against both Cincinnati and Lafayette. In this area, he shows a quick burst off the ball and the flexibility to get around the corner. He also shows a relentless motor which helps vs. both the run and the pass. He currently carries a fifth-round grade on my board which makes him one of the higher Group of Five defenders in the 2024 NFL Draft.

— One of the top players in this year’s transfer portal was former Oregon State linebacker Omar Speights who ended up at LSU. Speights was a four-year starter at Oregon State and finished his career with 308 tackles, 25.0 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks. At LSU this season he will be one of the team’s top defensive players and will help the Tigers compete for a National Championship. When looking at how his game translates to the NFL he shows the instincts, speed, and cover skills to develop into an NFL starter.

— The best rookie performance from last week’s Hall of Fame game belongs to Cleveland Browns quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. In this game, he showed that he can make plays from the pocket or by taking off and picking yards with his feet. Overall on the night he completed eight of eleven passes for 82 yards and also rushed for 36 yards. The most impressive thing about his night might have been the 93 and 78-yard drives he took the Brown’s offense on. Look for Thompson-Robinson to be the Brown’s third string quarterback this year, and to be someone the team looks at as their possibile starting quarterback down the road.

— The Minnesota Vikings have been getting mixed reviews so far on their draft class. On one end cornerback Mekhi Blackmon has looked impressive and the third round pick has seen plenty of time with the first string defense. On the other end though is fifth-round pick Jaren Hall who has missed on several passes so far in camp and has also had trouble reading defenses at times. These were both concerns with him coming out of college which is why he carried a seventh round grade on my draft board.

— A member of the 2023 All-Underrated team who has looked impressive is Jacksonville Jaguars running back Tank Bigsby. He has impressed the team with his physical running style which should allow him to get plenty of carries in the red zone this season. He has shown impressive hands hauling in several tough catches already in training camp.

— For all the latest NFL Draft news make sure to check out The Notebook.

Quotes of the Week

“The great thing about this guy is he’s still extremely hungry and he’s still very young in terms of himself the player and his quarterback career. He’s got a long ways to go and a lot of ways to improve, which is exciting.”
USC Head Coach Lincoln Riley on quarterback Caleb Williams

“He won us over fast with his production, his heart, his football IQ and instincts and his attention to detail. He also had an off-the-meter infectious motor and will to win.”
Former Dolphins General Manager Randy Mueller via The Athletic, on what sold him on Hall of Fame linebacker Zach Thomas

“He’s doing a tremendous job, he’s making plays. He definitely has the size and intangibles of being a physical corner.”
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill on rookie cornerback Cam Smith

“I see it as fun. I like hitting people”
Michigan linebacker Junior Colson to on playing defense

“The kid has a unique skill set and a high, high playmaking ability. I tell people all the time that the best is yet to come from that kid.”

Tennessee linebacker coach Brian Jean-Mary on linebacker Aaron Beasley

“I need to be more explosive. Make more of those long explosive plays and hitches. Try to take them to the house, turn slants into six. Try to take them to the house. And that’s really it. Just be more explosive after the catch. That’s what my coaches pointed out when we went over my film, the things that they told me that I needed to work on. I’m paying attention.”

LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers on what he needs to work on this year via Tiger Rag

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“I am my own self. The man [Mahomes] has two Super Bowls under his belt, and I have not even [won] one national championship.”
USC quarterback Caleb Williams on The Slow News Podcast, in response to being compared to Patrick Mahomes