Your guide to the NFL Draft


We welcome Matthew Phillips from 40 Yards Scouting to our writing team.

40 Yards Scouting is Europe’s only scouting guide to the NFL Draft.

Matthew will be telling you everything you need to know about this year’s draft class in the weeks building up to the NFL Draft.

Here’s his introduction to what it’s all about:

While the inevitable curtain is drawn upon the 2016/17 NFL season, there are hundreds of young, amateur football talents across the US whose futures hang in the balance. Ahead of the 1st day of the NFL Draft on Thursday April 27th, these young men are now entering the final and most important chapter of their fledgling careers.

Football fans across the world would be forgiven for experiencing the familiar post-SuperBowl withdrawal symptoms, but there is more than enough intrigue and drama in store for the coming weeks and months. The firework smoke may be clearing in Houston, but identifying the next generation of talent to bring the the entertainment we all know and love on Sundays, is about to take on a greater intensity.

Events such as the East West Shrine, the Senior Bowl, and the NFLPA weeks, where NFL scouts are able to view, dissect, and evaluate draft-eligible talent on the practice field in one-on-one and team oriented drills, are now in the in the rear-view mirror. Most of the college leavers will now headed back to their team facilities, but a fortunate few will be investing their time (and accumulating significant debt) by attending specialist training centres such as IMG in Florida, Wellness of Georgia, and Tom Shaw in Orlando. Training centres like these are skilled in preparing athletes for the next hurdle in the road; the NFL Scouting Combine.

This week-long event, held within the confines of the Lucas Oil Stadium in the midwestern city of Indianapolis, is a 4-day interview for the 335 invitees. They will be prodded, poked, and tested in the minutest detail; all representing a significantly vital element in the NFL teams’ fact-finding before they can decide upon which talent get the ultimate investment.

The “Underwear Olympics”, as it has been affectionately regarded in recent years, opens its doors on the 28th February, and runs throughout the week to its conclusion on the 6th March. While “on-stage measurements” and “scale tipping”, all performed in less-than-modest attire before a predominantly male clipboard-clutching audience, may seem ridiculous, it remains a vitally important ingredient in the overall decision. As each franchise evaluates and specifies their next steps, this data could just represent a confirmation exercise, whereas data on some athletes could force scouts and General Managers back to their film rooms to question the hundreds of hours they’ve invested in their evaluations, looking to find what they have missed or watch game tape on someone for the very first time.

Clemson QB, Deshaun Watson, is expected to be drafted high after his outstanding performance in the National Championship

Those blessed with an invitation to the capital of Indiana will be taken through diagnostic x-rays, medical exams, and psychological tests before they even get the opportunity to be put through a gamut of timed on-field examinations, stations and skill drills. Back at the 2013 combine, a previously underrated nose tackle out of Memphis called Dontari Poe put his name on the lips of the scouts with athleticism never before seen of a 350lb powerhouse; Poe ended up being taken high in the first round shortly after. Just two years ago, Byron Jones was a newly graduated free safety, and a mid-round prospect; he emerged from the combine having broken the standing broad jump world record (12’ 3”), and recording an impressively quick 4.43 second forty-yard dash. That impressive day vaulted Jones into the 1st round of the ensuing draft, where he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 27th pick.

A fundamental and highly valued opportunity to meet and interview prospects at the combine is a hugely important, and in some cases is the first opportunity for a franchise to look behind the curtain, and discover the human being behind the athlete. Inevitably, there will be prospects who will revolutionise their final grade by demonstrating leadership, maturity, drive, and commitment. As you would imagine, each of the thirty-two teams are looking to identify wholly different character traits to fit their distinct locker room identities. While some will shine as athletes, and others as people, there will also be some who disappoint or rule themselves out due to their character. As we currently stand, you cannot fail to be excited as to what the week long event will bring and the young men who will be thrust towards the pinnacle of their trade.

However, it is only a fraction of the college talent that gets accommodated in Indianapolis, so it is a variety of ‘regional’ combines that also provide data for the evaluation of players. These are held at designated NFL facilities across the country, from Houston in the South, to Minnesota in the North, and these come hot on the heels of the national televised event. These smaller events are not to be ignored – currently there are 76 former attendees of regional combines residing on NFL rosters.

Once the teams across the NFL begin to cement their draft boards, they will then fine-tune their process by inviting key players for private visits at their own team facilities. By rules set by the league, these can only last a single day, and commonly consist of both written tests, interviews and on-field workout & drills, with each franchise allotted a maximum of thirty. In addition to this though, teams can invite local college leavers from within their ‘contiguous suburbs’ to workout at their facilities; an avenue in which player evaluation does not count towards the thirty-visit limit. Many franchises will hold a local ‘Pro Day’, which represents another, well travelled, and successful route for talent to enter the league. Interestingly, this route also includes prospects who were born and raised locally, but who might not have attended an in-state seat of learning. In most cases, such visits come from college programs most local to the NFL team’s location.

On the other side of things, Colleges throughout the country will also be holding their very own, annual ‘Pro Days’. These events usually include on-field drills and player meetings, directed and run by the institutions themselves on school facilities. For quarterbacks, these events are not particularly important as they are so heavily scripted that they often fail to move the player out of his comfort zone, but for the remainder of positional groups, on-field workouts can be a key resource for scouts, and yet another valuable opportunity to meet and get to know the prospects. As much as anything, they are vitally important to the colleges themselves, representing an ‘open-day’ opportunity to celebrate their success, and to illustrate the end-product of their program; every draft prospect, irrespective of their draft grade, is vital in recruiting future stars from high schools into the process, and impressing parents alike.

At the beginning of April, NFL organisations will recall and bring together their vast network of area scouts from all corners of the country, and spend up to two weeks in the ‘war room’, headed by the General Manager and Director of Player Personnel. The goal is to arrive at a consensus draft board, and enact the myriad of draft day scenarios that may unfold during the draft itself and scheme accordingly, while marrying up their various grades. A well run and successful scouting operation will see the GM allow the area scouts to ‘present’ their favourite prospects, and in those best-run scouting networks and organisations, call upon on their first-hand experience to go ahead and select them from the middle rounds onwards. Where this takes place, there is no accident in witnessing the results play out, ensuring the continued, successful evolution of the franchise (identities of said teams will remain secret)!

For recently departed college football players, the mountain to climb has only just begun. However, this is the NFL and it is no longer seen as a six month league. Fascinated television audiences will be tuning in to the combine later this month, and the attention will intensify towards the three-day NFL Draft, where just 253 young athletes will hear their name announced in Philadelphia.

Don’t look away now, the 2017/18 NFL season is only just beginning. Take a breath and embrace the excitement that’s within touching distance….. which of these prospects will emerge in 2017?

For news and updates ahead of the NFL Draft head over to 

April 1st sees our 4th edition of Europe’s only scouting guide to the 2017 NFL Draft; every eligible draft prospect individually scouted. All proceeds go to our chosen charity, Muscular Dystrophy UK. For a look inside our books head to


Matthew Phillips

Founder & Lead Scout

40 Yards Scouting

The last time politics engulfed the Super Bowl

Joe Staysniak played on the Offensive Line for Buffalo in Super Bowl XXV & XXVI

Super Bowl XXV lives in football folklore for the Buffalo Bills’ kicker, Scott Norwood’s infamous field goal miss in the dying seconds of the game.

It was Buffalo’s first-ever Super Bowl appearance and Hall of Famer, Thurman Thomas, was set to become the game’s MVP. The score was 19-20 to the Giants when Norwood was given the seemingly simple task of kicking the ball between the sticks.

He missed and the rest, as they say, is history.

There’s a political buzz around the present Super Bowl (LI). President Trump, now two weeks in office, took the shine away from Media Night on Monday.

The last time politics dominated football’s biggest game was January 27, 1991. It was Super Bowl XXV; the Buffalo Bills vs New York Giants. It was the height of the Gulf War and the USA stood united in patriotism.

Joe Staysniak was a rookie offensive lineman playing for the Bills. In a recent interview with the 5thDownUK podcast he shared his memories of that game, “In Super Bowl XXV Desert Storm had (just) started up, so there was an enormous feeling of patriotism with the Bills wearing red, white and blue uniforms and the Giants had red, white and blue uniforms,” Staysniak recalled.

You can hear Joe Staysniak’s Super Bowl memories here:

“Whitney Houston singing the national anthem, it was the greatest rendition that people had ever seen and it was such an awesome game” he added.

Staysniak played in Super Bowl XXVI the following year, a game that the Bills lost to the Washington Redskins 37-24.

He acknowledged that the players felt that the game versus the Giants was more than just football, “you know, everything that was going on we were doing our own little part just as football players, because we knew the world was watching, to help the military folks that were overseas to bring them a little bit of something from back home.”

“I don’t think I will duplicate anything that feeling we had for that game. That and, in addition, the way we lost it was extremely painful.”


What makes a franchise?

Jim Steeg was the Executive Vice President of the San Diego Chargers from 2004 – 2010

Following the San Diego Chargers’ decision to leave the city and move to LA the 5thDownUK podcast’s Anthony Wootton and Dave Oliver spoke to the team’s former Executive Vice President, Jim Steeg.

Jim stepped down from his role in 2010, but holds San Diego close to his heart. In an open and honest interview he confirmed that he will never attend Chargers game again, whilst they’re in LA.

The man known as Mr Super Bowl revolutionised football’s biggest game and turned it into the massive global event it is today. He shares some interesting stories, including the booking of Michael Jackson for the half-time show in 1993.

You can hear the full interview here:

Subscribe to the 5thDownUK podcast on iTunes, Acast and Stitcher.

2017 London games announcement expected around Thanksgiving

75,00 fans filled Twickenham Stadium for its first-ever NFL game on Oct 23

This weekend sees the 2016 London NFL International Series draw to a close.

Despite a couple of dreary games the demand for regular season football remains high on this side of The Pond.

Alistair Kirkwood said he’s hopeful of unveiling the 2017 London schedule at around Thanksgiving

The last Wembley showdown between the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars saw the third-highest gate in the 2016 NFL season, so far. That for a game between two teams that had one win between them by the time their Week 4 showdown came to town.

Colts vs Jags attracted one of the highest NFL crowds of the season 

A game between two poor teams attracted 84,000 fans. 75,000 turned up at Twickenham to cheer on two mediocre sides with 3&3 records. It doesn’t matter which teams turn up, the fans will come. Music to the Commissioner’s, Roger Goodell, ears with news of decreased prime time viewing figures making headlines back in the States.

For UK fans, our attentions now turns to who will come in 2017 and how many games will we get? We were hoping for four games this year, but didn’t. Could next year be the year that we get a quarter of a season’s worth of games in London?

Before fans started flocking towards Twickenham for that historical game on Sunday, 5thDownUK spent some time with NFL UK’s Managing Director, Alistair Kirkwood.

In an honest and open chat he talked about the difficulties in getting teams to come over and to confirm the stadia for the weeks those teams are available.

Will we get four games in 2017? “We’re currently talking about three or four games internally,” said Kirkwood. “Some of it will be based on stadium availability at both Twickenham and Wembley.”

“We looked at the Olympic Stadium 2/3 years ago, but it was a stadium built for specific things around the Olympics. The stadium wasn’t brilliant.”

He explained, “if you think that you get three or four teams who put their hands up and say they’re willing to put up a game, but then they say their conditions are they want a late bye week or an early bye week, or something else. Then you look at stadium availability amongst other things and then you go back to the teams to actually work out what works.”

So what Alistair is saying is that it’s a lot more difficult than people think. It’s like a complex algorithm, “then you’ve got a situation where you’re asking teams based on the opponents you desire”, he continued. “You will notice that we’ve had a couple of division games recently. They take up a heck of a lot to determine because until we played them there was a lot of nervousness.”

“So basically I don’t know.” It’s not quite the answer fans would be hoping for, but does he have a date for an announcement in mind? “The best guess is the end of November. I hope that I will know by the end of October for sure.”

With two stadia to play with the NFL now have options in London. There would be no way we’d be having four games at Wembley in 2017; it might even struggle to host three because of the venue’s commitments to soccer.

Alistair explained, “you have seen this year that Spurs are playing Champions League games at Wembley. Next year all their games will be there. Chelsea are being rumoured to be there as well. We don’t own our own stadium, we’re tenants and we go where there’s availability.”

“We looked at the Olympic Stadium 2/3 years ago, but it was a stadium built for specific things around the Olympics. The stadium wasn’t brilliant. There would have been considerable more work for us to get it ready. I can’t see a situation in the near future when we’ll have to play there.”

England has two World Cup qualifiers at Wembley during the 2017 NFL season on October 5 and November 11. That might rule out a Week 4 game there and will definitely prevent a Week 10 game from taking place at the home of English football.

The autumn internationals for England’s rugby union side take place throughout November, thus limiting access to Twickenham from Week 10 onwards.

The latest an NFL fixture has taken place in London is Week 10, so there’s every possibility of a game happening late in the season. But, that is the business end of the campaign which could make it more difficult to convince a team to give up a home game. The last bye weeks are in Week 11.

Options will increase in 2018 when Tottenham open their new stadium, designed to cater for the NFL. NFL UK will have three options with a commitment to at least two games at Wembley, two at Tottenham and one at Twickenham.

Fans wanting more than three games in 2017 might have to wait a year, but as Alistair Kirkwood said, “basically I don’t know.”

“Hardly anyone knows how complex it is,” said the NFL UK MD, “and how difficult it is to move things to get these games going.”

“If I was a betting man, and if I was allowed to bet as a league employee I would probably say that around Thanksgiving would be the most likely time (for an announcement).”

As the saying goes, everything comes to those who wait.

Victor Cruz: The Long Road to Recovery

The NFL hasn’t seen Victor Cruz for a long time.

It was Oct 12 2014 in fact when we last saw him in a Giants jersey. He went down with a knee injury in Philly; a patellar tendon tear to be precise. It was a game his team lost 27-0.

If reports are to be believed, then this wideout who was once considered to be the best slot receiver in the league, is coming back. Cruz took part in practice this week, and he’s looking good.

“[Eli] understands that his year the Giants staff has offensively done some great things to put some players around him to make things happen”

– Victor Cruz on the 5thDownUK pod last month

A groin injury hampered the start of training camp this summer, but you’d be forgiven if you thought it was deja-vu, because we were being told about his imminent return all last summer. This time though it’s for real, and there’s a good chance we’ll see him line up against the Jets this weekend.

Last month, KB & Dubs caught up with Cruz in London when recording the 5thDownUK podcast. He said “It’s been too long, I’ve missed me”.

When asked if he’s being overly optimistic, like last year, he boldly replied, “I’ll definitely be out there playing, I’m excited to get back out there. It’s been a long time coming (to get to 100%) but I’m feeling good, I’m back, I’m running around. This year is going to be a special one.”

Giants fans will be hoping it’s as special as his breakout year in 2011, when Cruz burst onto the scene as an undrafted free agent to make 82 receptions for over 1,500 yards, and an impressive nine touchdowns (not to mention grabbing a Super Bowl ring in the process).

The 2016 Victor Cruz is looking sharp. It’s been a long road to recovery for #80 and he’s grown off the field. The 29 year old told us about his philosophical approach to rehab: “most people think that playing games and making routes is the biggest thing, but the biggest thing for me is being in the locker room, on the bus on the way to the game, being in the hotel the day before. Those are the things that you miss and those are the things that I want to get back”

When asked about what kept him motivated to get fit, he said: “Seeing my daughter grow, and seeing my mom. Everyone that’s a part of my fan base and a part of my family. I just want them to see me back out there, so that they can cheer me on and gloat to their friends, which I know they love to do. Allowing my friends and family to be a part of something special with me is all that matters”

He admitted that if it wasn’t for his family, and the Giants staff pushing him, he wouldn’t be back at 100%. Things have changed on and off the field since he last played; gone is the head coach who selected him. There’s also a new superstar in the team, and Cruz has nothing but praise for his fellow receiver Odell Beckham Jr: “he’s great, he’s full of energy and always trying to put a smile on people’s faces, joking and making us laugh. He’s a good dude”

Expectations are high amongst Giants fans for this coming season. Eli Manning certainly has some weapons to work with in 2016 and Cruz knows that; “it’s indicative of how good we can be this year. If it’s all on him (Beckham) then I can do some great things, likewise if it’s on me he can do some great things. And then if it’s all on both of us then Sterling Shepard can do some great things too”

For all the changes since his injury, Cruz knows there is still one constant in his offense – his QB: “Eli should be ready for us, which I know he is. He understands that his year the Giants staff has offensively done some great things to put some players around him to make things happen”

It’s a new season, and a new start in New York. Tom Coughlin was fired in January after the Giants finished a disappointing third in the NFC East, with Ben McAdoo ascending to the top role from Offensive Coordinator. We asked Cruz whether much had changed? “It’s definitely a fresh start and new philosophies with the new coach. He’s been with us the past two years, so from a philosophy standpoint there’s nothing new offensively although the defense has to get to know a new person, a new guy telling them what he expects from us” 

It’ll be a welcome sight for football fans if Victor Cruz takes to the field this weekend. It’s been a long road to recovery for the once-explosive receiver. We’re yet to see what he and a more experienced Beckham can do together on a football field; we can just imagine the damage they can cause if everything clicks with Eli.

Cruz believes they can go all the way; “our expectations every year is to win the Super Bowl. To do that we have to win the division. We’re in a division that anyone can win so we have to make sure that we’re in a position to take it.” 

Interview with Bengals’ Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons

Darrin Simmons is in his 14th season leading the coaching of Cincinnati’s special teams, he became Special Teams Coordinator in 2013

It could have been so different for the Cincinnati Bengals last season if their players had just kept their composure in that infamous wild card game at home to Pittsburgh.

Shall we recap? Sorry Bengals fans, but in case you need reminding:

The game was seemingly sealed with the Bengals 16-15 up. The Steelers backup quarterback Landry Jones threw a bad interception, but the Bengals fumbled the ball right back as they were trying to run out the clock.

Ben Roethlisberger came back in the game and, though his arm appeared to be hindered, led the Steelers down to the Bengals’ 47-yard line with 22 seconds remaining after a 12-yard completion on fourth-and-3 to Antonio Brown. That’s when the Bengals committed two penalties that will live in infamy.

Vontaze Burfict laid a malicious, head-hunting hit on Brown, thus handing the Steelers a free 15 yards. Then cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones gave the Steelers another 15 with a personal foul. Now at the 17-yard line, Chris Boswell easily booted a chip-shot game-winning field goal to advance the Steelers.

It’s been a long offseason for the Bengals and the players will be desperate to get their first preseason game under their belts when they host the Minnesota Vikings tonight.

Cincy drafted well in spring. William Jackson III, the athletic CB from the University of Houston, has been highly praised by Bengals coaching staff this summer. Expect to see Jackson line up on special teams at some point, but he’s going to have to earn that spot, “it’s almost like becoming a freshman again, he’s (Will) got to work his way up” said Special Teams Coordinator Darrin Simmons in an interview with KB & Dubs on the 5thDownUK podcast.

“We’ve got some veteran guys here who aren’t going to let him just come in here and take their jobs,” added Simmons, “he’s going to have to earn that spot and we’ve been very successful.”

Simmons is aware that his rookie CB didn’t play much special teams in college but he told us that he’s going to be ready for it now.

The Bengals’ coach is in his 14th season leading special teams, and for the fourth straight season in 2016, he carries the title of Special Teams Coordinator.


Simmons is a farmer’s son from south west Kansas and, despite the riches of professional football, that’s his favourite place to unwind. “I go back home to my parents’ farm and I help my dad with the wheat harvest,” said Simmons.

We spoke to him before OTAs finished and asked him how he spends his vacation before the intensity of training camp and the new season kicks in. “I view being a coach in the NFL as a gift. It’s not something that’s continuously given, I have to earn that so I always feel that I have to outwork the other coaches that I go against.”

Darrin Simmons has built one of the strongest special teams in the league, but he remains humble, “I can never sit back and enjoy the position I’m in because I always feel that there’s someone after that position.” It’s that winning mentality that makes him successful. He aspires to one day become a head coach himself, but for now he’s committed to bringing success to Cincinnati, “It keeps me going (success), it fuels me, it makes me feel like I have to keep ahead of everyone else.”

But for five weeks of the year he goes home to Elkhart in Kansas and does the things he did as a child, harvesting wheat. “It’s really neat. It’s fun; it’s what I grew up doing so it’s what I know.”

“I can go back there, it’s a vacation for us and I never think about football. I just think about getting that wheat cut before there’s any kind of storm,” added Simmons.

Now fully rested he’ll be hoping the Bengals will hit the ground running in a tough AFC North to prevent the storm clouds from circling over the Paul Brown Stadium.



5thDown Podcast: Episode 2 – Jubilant Jags

KB & Dubs chat to Hamish Shilliday, the competition winner who announced the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 6th round pick in front of the backdrop of Tower Bridge.

We talk Jags, our hopes for their 2016 season, and there’s some home-truths for Sam Bradford. And it’s not just the NFL on this show, we love all things gridiron and bring you news from the CFL which is now just 7 weeks away.


Stephen Tulloch praises his friend, Calvin Johnson

Johnson in practice during the Lions’ visit to London in 2014

He was the fastest player in the NFL to reach 10,000 receiving yards and he owns the record for most receiving yards in a season.

Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, hung up his cleats this week. The 2007 second-overall pick called time on his career at the age of 30. He spent all of his nine years in the NFL with the Detroit Lions.

What makes Johnson’s achievements even more remarkable is that the Lions only reached the play-offs twice during his time in Detroit (2011 & 2014).

Former Lions LB Stephen Tulloch spoke exclusively to 5thDownUK

We’ve been in touch with Johnson’s former team mate, LB Stephen Tulloch. Tulloch, who is currently a free agent, exclusively gave us this tribute for the wide receiver:

Over the past 5 years since I joined the Detroit Lions I gained a friendship with Calvin Johnson. Not only was he a great player but he was a great team mate as well. I’ve always been in awe of his constant professionalism on and off the field. He is the true definition of a humble superstar a superstar the game of football will miss.

UK fans missed out on seeing the star receiver in 2014’s last-gasp victory over the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley because of injury, but he featured in 2015’s 45-10 drubbing by the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson had five receptions for 85 yards in that International Series game.

Some sceptics aren’t convinced that Megatron has retired for good. Whatever happens he will be a strong contender to be a first ballot hall of famer.