NFL scouts assess Caleb Williams, Dorian Thompson-Robinson

The NFL scouts will arrive at the Rose Bowl on Saturday with their binoculars and notepads ready. They’ll be watching from the press box with keen interest, not because they’re representing USC or UCLA, but because millions of dollars could be at stake.

Both rosters are filled with Saturday players who dream of playing Sundays, and many of those prospects will end up at NFL camps next summer.

The quarterbacks are of particular interest in this year’s crosstown rivalry, with UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson on one side and USC’s Caleb Williams on the other.

As they have for the past 16 years, two NFL team scouts opened up their notebooks to the Los Angeles Times to provide honest, unvarnished appraisals of the talent on the field. The participating scouts have changed over the years, but the concept remains the same. They spoke on condition of anonymity — identified as Scouts 1 and 2 — because of the competitiveness of their jobs and the sensitivity of the information. They represent NFL teams in both conferences.

First the quarterbacks. Both evaluators favor Williams when it comes to playing at the next level, though the USC star isn’t eligible for the draft until Spring 2024, so scouts haven’t studied him closely.

In her opinion, there is a real chance that Williams could be No. 1 overall.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) dodges a sack attempt by California linebacker Henry Ikahihifo (16).

USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) dodges a sack attempt by California linebacker Henry Ikahihifo (16). Williams’ ability to pass and run makes him a prime NFL draft candidate.

(Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s hard not to notice him,” Scout 1 said. “He probably would have been the top quarterback prospect last year, and he could be the top quarterback this year as well. So he could be there next year. He’s got a big arm, he’s athletic, he’s pretty accurate. He can throw on the move. I look forward to studying it when it actually comes out.”

Scout 2 happened to be in Oklahoma, where then-rookie Williams, then playing for the Sooners, made his starting debut against Texas Christian.

“They announced who the quarterback was going to be before the national anthem and the crowd just freaked out,” said Scout 2. “[Williams] just has that it factor, the moxie, the confidence, the athletic ability, the arm talent. He has the timing and the accuracy, but he also has many of the things you’re looking for that are instinctive values ​​that you can’t teach.

Thompson-Robinson will leave UCLA after this season with multiple school records, including touchdown passes and possibly yards-passing. His NFL stock is on the rise.

“He’s playing his ass off this year,” said Scout 1. “He’s a guy who’s been improving every season. If we had talked about him this time last year, I wouldn’t have the same thing to say about him. But he is a good athlete, throws well on the move. I think he’s struggling a bit to see the field. I can imagine him being late in the draft as the #3 development type.”

The UCLA quarterback’s mobility numbers are helping him with the pros.

“Especially now that the league is on, anytime you’ve got a guy who can move and he’s athletic and he, you know, he can move and he can give you a little bit of a runner, that obviously adds to your offense and allows you to be more dynamic,” Scout 1 said. “You need to have the ability to escape and improvise, and this league can move from where you’re going to fight, and he can, he certainly can do that.

“I think the transition, not just for him, but for a lot of these young quarterbacks that’s coming out, is going to hear the game that’s coming in on your headset and regurgitate the whole game in the group — these guys aren’t even huddled together.” — and then do the pre-snap reads yourself instead of being signaled from the sidelines. It just takes a little longer with these guys.”

Scout 2 said he’s written several reports on Thompson-Robinson over the years in case the quarterback decides to drop out of school early.

“I’ve never been a huge fan, but I’ll say this: He’s played so much better this year than he has in the past,” Scout 2 said. “It shows on the field with the level of performance he has on game day . He actually distributes the ball, he sits in the pocket, he uses his athletic abilities in the offensive scheme. And he’s doing well.

“In the past I’ve always felt like he’s playing football out there like you would in a park – just you, me and a bunch of our friends. Now he makes a quick decision, gets the ball wide in time and throws a good, accurate and catchable ball.”

USC receiver Jordan Addison will also have many binoculars trained on him. He has 10 touchdowns from 20+ yards in his Trojans career.

Scout 1 said it’s possible Addison could be drafted in the back half of the first round, noting, “He can play outside because he’s fast and he’s a damn good route runner. I think you only play into it for the routerunner, the twitch, the ability to separate. He’s savvy, loose hips. He can attack the guys’ leverage. He has good speed to threaten downfield. His hands have been a bit of a problem for me in the past. But they are more consistent this year. It’s got pretty much everything you’d expect from your launch receiver, except for size and strength. He’s not a big guy at all. But if he has speed, you know you can make it up somehow.”

Scout 2 called Addison an “elite route runner” but said his relatively slight build – 6ft, 175lbs – could be a problem.

USC receiver Jordan Addison (3) passes the ball against Utah.

Some scouts believe speedy USC wide receiver Jordan Addison may be able to sneak into the first round of the NFL draft.

(Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

“You’re worried about the size,” Scout 2 said. “You’re worried if he’s that tough? Can he shoot over the middle? How will the durability be? He has to work on trying not to take those big hits and slip through and stuff like that. But he’s a really good route runner. He can break up. You love his ball skills. He goes up and makes some spectacular catches, highlight reel catches.”

Raw power isn’t an issue for 220-pound UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet, the Pac-12’s lead rusher averaging 143.1 yards per game.

Scout 1 envisages Charbonnet being selected early in Day 2 (second or third round) and said he could regularly contribute to first and second place finishes, although he may not have the speed and versatility that teams in a third place finish Looking for.

“He’s not going to be your dynamic Christian McCaffrey from the backfield as a receiver,” Scout 1 said. “He’s more like a swing-and-check-down-hands guy. Not negative, I just don’t think it’s his forte.”

UCLA's Zach Charbonnet runs for a big win against Arizona.

UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet runs for a big win against Arizona. Scouts say he should be able to contribute in the NFL.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

But Scout 2 sees Charbonnet as surprisingly elusive, saying, “He’s really very sneaky in the open field. You don’t feel like he’s going to be kidding you, but he’s kidding people all the time. It’s almost comical.”

Many other players from both schools are considered either late-round picks or undrafted free agents, including UCLA receivers Jake Bobo and Kazmeir Allen; offensive linemen Raiqwon O’Neal, Antonio Mafi, Jon Gaines and Duke Clemens; Edge rusher Laiatu Latu and safety Mo Osling III.

The scouts like USC Guard Andrew Vorhees, who is particularly strong, and Scout 1 said “has some evil going on the exit.”

Said Scout 2: “He will be schema dependent. If I had to describe him, he’s a big, strong lineman with a gap scheme and downblocking who uses his raw power to move defensive linemen rather than trying to outpace them with speed and agility. He would work best in the programs they run in places like Pittsburgh and Baltimore.”

USC defenseman Tuli Tuipulotu is considered a “tweener” who may be too small to play in the NFL but not fast enough to be an edge rusher. Still, Scout 2 said, “You love the engine on him. That’s the first thing that falls off the line. He’s disruptive. And its engine is relentless. He doesn’t stop playing.”

Trojans running back Travis Dye is solid across the board, Scout 1 said, and could find his way onto an NFL practice team.

“Travis is a guy who runs bigger than him,” Scout 2 said of the 5-10, 200-pound Dye. “He’s not afraid to mix it up internally. He always falls forward and has a knack for just pushing his legs.”

Scout 2 also mentioned USC wide receiver Terrell Bynum, saying, “He’s going to be a good free agent. He’ll test really well on Pro Day. We’re all waiting for him to come out and blow up a day and he’ll be signed. If he made a roster, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-11-17/nfl-scouts-choice-opinions-on-uclas-dorian-thompson-robinson-uscs-caleb-williams NFL scouts assess Caleb Williams, Dorian Thompson-Robinson

Emma Bowman

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