College Football Week Four: Draft Prospects’ Recap

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The College Football season is a month old now and big shake-ups are happening across the NFL Draft landscape. Several prospects are off to hot starts which means their stock is soaring. Meanwhile, several prospects haven’t taken the step forward this season, or even taken a step back, and their stock is plummeting.

There has been an interesting rise in senior prospects this season, challenging the ever-growing list of early declarations from juniors. Most notably is Quarterback Joe Burrow from LSU, who was a riser in last week’s article, and who had another stellar performance this week. The senior wide receivers are starting to put pressure on the young group expected to declare, coming from every program from Alabama to Rhode Island.

Risers:

1) Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

Notre Dame has had a steady stream of NFL talent at the wide receiver position over the past decade. Claypool will join that list and could be towards the top. He’s a big and physical athlete with athleticism that doesn’t seem fair at his size. Claypool faced a great defense in Georgia and came out looking better. He caught 6 passes for 66 yards and 1 touchdown and physically dominated Georgia’s secondary. Claypool, as a senior, should be a Senior Bowl invite and could see his stock rise from now until the draft.

2) Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

Taylor looked like an NFL running back against a college team on Saturday against Michigan. The defense had no answers for him as he rolled for 203 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 carries. Taylor already has 440 yards and 7 touchdowns in three games this year and is in the conversation for Heisman again. Taylor is competing with Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Clemson’s Travis Etienne for the top running back spot in this class, but I wouldn’t count him out.

3) Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas

Most of the Texas wide receiver draft prospect attention is on Collin Johnson, but Duvernay is making his presence known. He had 12 catches for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns against a great LSU defense two weeks ago. On Saturday against Oklahoma State he caught 12 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown. Duvernay has the speed to turn a 5-yard slant into a 75-yard touchdown, while running over a defender in the process. Also a senior, Duvernay should see an invite to the Senior Bowl and a nice bump in his draft stock throughout the draft season.

Fallers:

1) K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford

Costello exited the first game of the season due to injury and missed Stanford’s next game against USC. In his first game back against UCF, Costello did not look good at all, completing just 47.7% of his passes for 199 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Things did not improve for Costello on Saturday against Oregon as he completed 53.3% of his passes for 120 yards, 1 interception, and zero touchdowns. Costello struggles mightily with his accuracy and is not a threat outside the pocket or on the run. Costello is trending downwards and towards a late-round pick.

2) Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

Georgia’s offensive line handled Okwara with ease, particularly LT Andrew Thomas (a consensus first-round prospect). Okwara was silent most of the game and completely disappeared in the second half. He has good traits that could still land him in the first few rounds, like his speed and ability to turn the corner, but he’s only generated one sack this season in three games. Okwara needs to pick up his production to stay in early round talk.

3) Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado

Shenault has been injury-plagued this season, the main reason for his drop. He left this week’s contest after the first series and did not return. Shenault had two surgeries before this season to repair a torn labrum and toe injury. In the three games and change he’s played in this year Shenault has only amassed 17 catches for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns. This isn’t the production that a potential first-round prospect should have at this point in the season.

Small-School Prospect Highlight:

Aaron Parker, WR, Rhode Island

Parker is on pace to break several receiving records at Rhode Island and in the CAA Conference. So far this season, he’s caught 30 passes for 515 yards and 2 touchdowns in just 3 games. Parker has a knack for getting open, running routes efficiently and finding the soft spot in the defense. He is a big-time playmaker after the catch, thanks to his size and speed. Parker will be drafted, it’s just a matter of how high.

Top Three Games to Watch This Week:

1) Alabama vs Ole Miss – September 28th

Alabama had another easy matchup this past weekend, but their best players still left me impressed. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is still in Heisman and number one overall pick in the draft conversations. Wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are an unfair tandem for any receiving group. This defense is still top-notch with defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, cornerback Trevon Diggs, edge rushers Anfernee Jennings and Terrell Lewis, and safety Xavier McKinney.

Ole Miss has had a rough start to their season, losing to Memphis and Cal so far. A matchup against Alabama this week isn’t a good sign for their fortunes to turn around. Ole Miss saw a great group of receivers leave last season for the NFL, but they have a handful of prospects again this year. Defensive linemen Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney, edge rusher Qaadar Sheppard, and running back Scottie Phillips.

2) USC vs Washington – September 28th

USC is having a roller coaster of a season, losing their top two QBs due to injury, beating Stanford and number 10 ranked Utah, and losing to unranked BYU. The stability can be found in the receiving group, led by senior Michael Pittman Jr. USC is also led by draft prospects running back Stephen Carr, edge rusher Christian Rector, defensive lineman Marlon Tuipolotu, and offensive lineman Drew Richmond.

Washington had a surprising loss against Cal at home two weeks ago, but they still look like a powerhouse in the PAC 12. Quarterback Jacob Eason has looked good this season and his stock is rising. Washington also has offensive linemen Trey Adams and Nick Harris, wide receiver aaron Fuller, tight end Hunter Bryant, and defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike.

3) Ohio State vs Nebraska – September 28th

Ohio State keeps on dominating opponents and edge rusher Chase Young might be the most dominant defensive player in college football. Ohio State has plenty of prospects this year in cornerbacks Jeffrey Okudah and Damon Arnette, linebackers Malik Harrison and Tuf Borland, running back J.K. Dobbins, wide receiver K.J. Hill, edge rusher Jonathan Cooper, and offensive lineman Thayer Munson.

Nebraska still feels like they are in rebuild mode with Head Coach Scott Frost in his second year at the helm. They’re primed for a breakout, but I don’t think it’s coming this year and certainly not this weekend against Ohio State. Still, Nebraska features several draft prospects making this game a must-watch. Defensive lineman Darrian Daniels and Khalil Davis, safety Eric Lee Jr., linebacker Mohamed Barry, and cornerback Dicaprio Bootle lead things for Nebraska.

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