This week the schedule was such that I was able to watch three of the top QB prospects – so let’s start with them and build in other positions.
First up was South Florida’s Quinton Flowers in a Friday night drubbing of Illinois. Size is going to be a problem for him when we get into that portion of the process – if he’s under his listed 6’0″ (likely), then alarm bells might start to ring with scouts. Flowers is an elusive runner, but he also shows patience – but the next QB to make it mostly as a runner will be the first, so it’s as a passer he’ll need to do the business. Unfortunately, despite a lop sided win, he didn’t look great, particularly in terms of ball placement/accuracy. Much of that stems from lack of foot movement, increasingly an issue from spread QB’s. His deep ball tended to be touched in – and his receivers had to stop and wait for some balls. I put a 4th/5th round grade on him from that first watch as I thought he lacked sophistication as a passer. I will watch again, of course, but that’s just my first impression.
I watched the UCLA/Memphis game straight after the USF game and it was clear from the first couple of passes that UCLA’s Josh Rosen was a much better passer. He looked crisp, showing an ability to throw with timing and anticipation. He’s a good ball handler and mobile enough to extend plays – but looking to pass first before taking off. His arm looks good – he threw a deep post effortlessly and hit his receiver in stride. His problems came when he had pressure (still a problem for UCLA – it was when Brett Hundley was QB). Sometimes a sack is a good play – and Rosen must learn to throw away earlier or eat it. When he looked bad, it was because he was throwing it up for grabs off his back foot. He’ll need to get this out of his game quickly – although I will say with a defense that would struggle to stop a high school team – he had to make plays (plus his receivers dropped a few). The thing that is going to determine his stock are the intangibles. Word is out from numerous sites, that he’s not a “plus” off the field – so like a Connor Cook, he’ll need to show teams he’s got the necessary ability to lead an NFL franchise. If he does declare for the Draft and graduates – playing in the Senior Bowl would be a very good move. On the field, from what I could see, get the stupid back foot throws out of his game and speed up his eyes slightly – and he’s a top 10 pick.
Finally for the QBs, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is not just a “plus” athlete – he’s an elite one. However, as I noted with Flowers that won’t enable him to succeed in the NFL. His arm is good, he’s one of those QBs who can just flick his wrist and the ball gets there in a hurry. However, his accuracy against Clemson was all over the place. Granted, it is a fantastic Clemson defense – but even when he had open receivers, he was off. He’s going to be one who scouts will have to really think about. As a zone-read runner, he’s brilliant – he accelerates quickly and can make you miss, plus he pulls the ball so late – but he’ll have to be a lot better as a passer to find success in the league.
Away from the top QB’s – but worth a mention as a developmental prospect – Memphis’ Riley Ferguson beat Rosen in a no-defense game, which unusually I really enjoyed! Ferguson needs refinement, but he has a nice arm – he can throw with touch, but needs to develop consistency on such throws. His WR Anthony Miller was highly impressive. The swing pass game takes away from his speed – but Memphis wisely use him deep and he gave UCLA major problems. I loved his deep post catch, where he extended and held on when hitting the ground. I have Memphis on the schedule down the road, so he’ll get a long second look – and if he impresses, I might be willing to start thinking top 100 potential.
While I enjoyed the UCLA/Memphis game, the Tennessee/Florida game was poorly played – error after error – hardly befitting the illustrious SEC. While I don’t think Tennessee C Jashon Robertson is a top 100 talent, I do think he’ll be drafted. I liked his combo blocks in the running game and he has quick feet to work square. He’s a little upright in pass pro, but I thought he looked like a solid prospect. For Florida, the three DEs, Jabari Zuniga (RS-Soph), CeCe Jefferson (Junior) and Jordan Sherit looked good. All need a little refinement in terms of hand use, but there’s a long season ahead, so let’s see if any of the three can really take it to the next level.
A quick word on Clemson OG Tyrone Crowder. He carries high rankings (NFL Draft Scout/CBS #39 pre-season overall prospect), but at a listed 340 lbs, I think he’s got to lose some weight to be a top 100 pick. He looks heavy and slow – lunging into contact, and often missing. I liked him last year, but he needs to get in the 320 lb region for me. He doesn’t play every offensive snap either – so not sure how you can invest a day two pick on a guy who will need to be spelled.
There were a couple of flash plays from Ole Miss DE Marquis Haynes, but on the whole I wasn’t impressed as when I watched him last year. He was in my top 100, and indeed I was surprised he elected to return to school. Against Cal, he wasn’t attacking the OT’s outside half enough – attacking square on, but struggling to counter when his man got his hands on him. He also played too high, which compounded the problem. He has a relatively lean frame and I think his game is to use his speed and motor to win. It’s difficult against spread offenses as the ball is out so quickly, but he was down on last year for me, I’m afraid.
Prospect of the Week: Anthony Miller – WR – Memphis