Firstly this week, thanks to John who posted a comment on last week’s article with a nice link to a large list of Draft prospects. It will be a big help when many of the top sites seem to be struggling on that score this season.
Lamar Jackson (QB, Lousiville) faced a stern test with a road trip to NC State, where the fans were out in force for a big Thursday night matchup. We can all agree that Jackson is a unique athlete at the position, and that was again on display. He has a “plus” arm, with a flick of the wrist and the ball is there. He also showed nice touch on a TD pass, and the ability to take something off passes to wide open receivers. The key concern for me was his feet. I was actually thinking to other QBs who had this issue and I remembered Tyler Wilson, who was under Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. Wilson took a huge step once he received the snap, and Jackson is the same. On a quick pass, his base then goes from wide to narrow – or his feet don’t move and he’s flat footed. At times, he has to do a little skip after his first step to get his front foot facing the right way, as the step back is with his left foot. Generally this is a problem on quicker passes. When he has time (not so much in this game), he looks flat footed – and can point his front foot to the sideline, leaving him chest on. The problem is then accuracy, which I thought from an NFL projection, was below average. There’s clearly huge talent to work with, but he’s got a few things to clean up.
Giving Jackson a torrid time was NC State edge rusher Bradley Chubb (the cousin of Georgia RB Nick Chubb, that’s some athletic DNA!). Chubb got an early sack, beating Geron Christian for speed. He was active all night – and he didn’t have the benefit of heavy rotation. Chubb has an athletic build and is long – I can see most NFL teams thinking they could find a place for him. He showed he’s not just a speed rusher, with an inside move and also speed to power, where his long arms help him. I can see him being a high first round pick on this evidence.
I also want to mention HB/TE/FB/RB Jaylen Samuels – who caught the ball naturally and looks athletic. He can do a lot of things and with someone like the 49ers paying big money for Kyle Juszczyk (4 years, $21 million), I think we can assume some teams will appreciate this young man.
Memphis WR Anthony Miller had a nice day when I saw him against UCLA earlier in the season – and he followed that up with a monster day in the first of the Friday night double header. He finished with 15 catches for 224 yards and 4 TDs. His one handed catch is worth seeking out on YouTube (quality isn’t great on this link but all I could find), so one can assume he has big hands despite not being a huge receiver. He ran some nice routes, setting up the CB on a corner-post route, waiting until the CB opened his hips and taking the post. I’ve moving him into top 100 territory.
Miller’s QB Riley Ferguson was also impressive – for sure I would take him on day three and work with him. He has a plus arm, the ability to extend a play and the confidence to make tight window throws. He needs to clean up his footwork and accuracy, but you can say that of most college spread QBs.
Connecticut have put a number of DBs into the NFL, although some like Blidi Wreh-Wilson haven’t had great success. The latest off the line is Jamar Summers, who is played CB and safety in 2016 – and was at CB in this one. I think he’ll be a pro safety – although I will say despite his length, he wasn’t pressing and that may have helped him as he had some issues in off coverage.
UConn DT Folorunso Fatukasi is one of thise prospects who just happens to be coming into the league at the wrong time. He’s hard to move and flashed some two gap ability, but lacks anything outside of a bull rush as a pass rusher. I would think day three for him, but he might have gone higher a few years back.
Part two of the Friday night game gave me another look at Boise State DL David Moa, who was quiet when I saw him earlier in the year (I seem to recall he was suspended for the first quarter or something). He was miles better against BYU, using his hands well and was active all night. He showed athletic ability to penetrate and lived up to his reputation.
For BYU, LB Fred Warner isn’t the biggest (listed at 230 lbs, but might be a little lighter…), but he made some nice plays. He faded a little as the game progressed, but he is comfortable in space, in zone coverage and flashed some ability when in the tackle box making plays. His highlight was shedding a TE block and forcing a fumble.
I’ve seen Penn State twice already this season, but wanted to watch Northwestern, so ended up watching the game. Northwestern RB Justin Jackson is a good player. He has quick feet and can cut sharply – he’s also a “plus” in the passing game, running good routes and catching the ball comfortably. From a Draft standpoint, the question will be 40 time – he’s not the biggest back, but I don’t know if he’s the faster either, although I thought he looked more explosive than last year. I like him, I’d draft him, but I don’t know at what point yet…
The other Northwestern prospect who might push for day two is safety Godwin Igwebuike, who was a big part of Northwestern keeping Mr. Barkley quiet for most of the game. He was keying on the Penn State RB and coming downhil quickly. He made several solid tackles, arriving with force and then wrapping up well. In coverage, he can get a bit flat footed – which was the case on a TD reception that got behind him. He’s mainly in a two deep base system, so he might need to show scouts in an All-Star game that he can cover man-to-man.
Edge rusher Arden Key started for LSU, but outside of one sack (beating Martez Ivy) he was pretty quiet. I will hold on ranking him though as he’s clearly getting into shape. I will hope to see more variety with his pass rush moves as he does.
I would expect Florida CB Duke Dawson to have really short arms when we get into Combine season. When he tried to press, he was struggling – often leaving himself off balance and giving up the inside. I think he’ll be really good in an off man/zone system where he can read the QB and break up on the ball. He will hit, so is not a small/timid guy.
I watched Florida State DL Derrick Nnadi a lot last year and before he elected to return had him in my top 100. He’s a plus run defender – displaying a natural anchor and some nice hand use to shed blockers. There are also flashes of quickness to get penetration – and that is also flashed as a pass rusher, where there is just enough there to think day two. I like him more than Dalvin Tomlinson last year who went to the Giants with pick 55.
Florida State CB Tarvarus McFadden had a much busier day than when I saw him earlier in the year and didn’t get much thrown his way. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the best game and gave up the game winning TD. He’s one of those tall/wiry CBs and he’ll need to get stronger if he is to press with success in the NFL. They tended to have him in off man or zone. He didn’t look like a natural Cover-2 guy to me – CBs who play that system well can feel a WR behind them, almost bait the QB and get depth suddenly – but he didn’t show that. He was better in man coverage, but he will have an adjustment in the NFL as he’s very “grabby”/”handsy” with receivers – which is legal until the ball is in the air in college, but illegal after 5 yards in the NFL. I would say he’ll have an adjustment like a lot of the Alabama CBs who have come out in recent years – many of who have taken a year or two to adjust. I know he’s rated highly, but I would pump the brakes for the reasons described.
I might end up watching Michigan more than I need to just because of DT Maurice Hurst – great fun to watch with his power and ability to penetrate for a big man. Sometimes you just have to say “Wow!”. He can battle Christian Wilkins of Clemson to be the first DT on my board!
As noted earlier in the year, Mason Cole (OL, Michigan) is back out at left tackle in 2017 and it’s not going to help his Draft stock. He had troubles against longer DEs on Saturday – and he consistently waist bends to try to get into people. I almost think he’ll need a good post-season to remind people how good he is inside. I’m all for prospects staying in school, but I don’t know there’s much of a point in this season for Cole, unless Michigan recover from this loss and win the National Championship.
I made an effort to take my eyes from Hurst and watch Michigan LB Mike McCray. I wrote in my notes “?Speed – is he Josh Perry?” Now, comparing him to a former Ohio State prospect won’t go down well with Michigan fans, but he’s that type of player. I don’t think he has that extra burst – so for the type of player he is, I want to see greater hand use from him. I don’t think he’s quite as good as Perry, but I will watch again.
Prospect of the Week: Anthony Miller – WR – Memphis – close run thing this week, but the one handed catch gave him the edge!