College Football Week Eight: Draft Prospects’ Recap

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This past weekend we experienced a match-up between two of the top quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Oregon got the win over Washington, but it was Jacob Eason who out-performed Justin Herbert. It’s a perfect example of why scouts don’t just look at stats in the box score. If they did, Herbert would look like a premier QB talent destined to be selected top 5. Instead, Herbert had several screen passes that led to long touchdowns, inflating his stats.

It’s another great weekend of big-time matchups that are imperative for players to do well in. When Alabama is playing some directional state school, scouts don’t exactly lean on that game in their evaluations. But when Jonathan Taylor goes against Ohio State’s defensive front, or Joe Burrow faces a tough Auburn defense, scouts tune in and pour over the tape several times.

On Friday I’ll be releasing an updated Top 10 at each position. As you can imagine, there has been a ton of movement since the season started. Burrow wasn’t even a top-10 ranked QB prospect at the time.

Risers:

1) Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

Eason lost the game but won the battle of top 2020 NFL Draft QB prospects against Justin Herbert and it’s time to talk about him in the first-round conversation. Eason carved up Oregon’s defense for a 77% completion percentage, 289 yards, 3 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He had some great throws in tight coverage that displayed his arm talent. This is the big game that scouts will look at in evaluating Eason as a first-round talent.

2) Javon Kinlaw, DL, South Carolina

I mentioned Kinlaw in last week’s article, but I didn’t list him as an official riser. That changes this week. Kinlaw has been a dominant force in the middle of the South Carolina defense the last three weeks. It doesn’t show up in the box score, but Kinlaw has altered the past three games for his team. He has a big and strong build, but he is also quick with his hands and feet. Kinlaw is a first-round prospect, simple as that.

3) K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State

Penn State was expected to have a drop-off this season with the losses of RBs Saquon Barkley and Miles Sanders and QB Trace McSorely in the past two years to the draft. Hamler is a big reason why this offense hasn’t taken a step back. On Saturday, he reeled in 6 catches for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns in a huge battle against Michigan. He’s a blur on the field with elite speed and his traits will translate to the next level.

Fallers:

1) Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Oregon won the game against Washington and Herbert’s stats look great, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Herbert has yet to put it all together and therefore he’s about as inconsistent as QBs come. He made some incredible throws showing off his elite arm strength, but then on the next play he’ll hurry his mechanics and throw a bad ball. A fifth of his passes this year have been on screens, allowing a huge uptick in his completion percentage. I’m still not sure what we’re going to see out of Herbert every game, or even every throw, making it hard to make him a top-10 pick.

2) Brandon Jones, S, Texas

The Texas defense looked like a turnstile as they gave up the most points in a game since week 1 of the 2017 season. This defense has a lot of injuries, but Jones was a liability on Saturday. He gave up big plays and whiffed on several tackles. He was injured late in the game putting his head down on a tackle, showing more of a lack of tackling fundamentals. I liked Jones as a third-round prospect preseason, but if he continues to give up big plays, the NFL won’t see much use out of him to warrant anything above a Day 3 pick.

3) Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

I had a feeling before the season started that Gross-Matos was going to be a breakout player, and it’s been the opposite. The production just hasn’t been there, and he’s completely disappeared at times. He has the traits that look like he’s a first rounder, but the production has to match, or come close. We’ve seen it before on both sides where the production is much higher than the traits or the traits are much higher than the production, and it typically doesn’t end well. There are still a lot of games left in this season, and I still see Gross-Matos as a first-round prospect, but the production needs to show up.

Small-School Prospect Highlight:

Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio

I’m a big fan of small-school prospects because often times they have traits that were overlooked in college recruiting, and Rourke might be the best small-school prospect in the country. He led his team to victory on Saturday throwing for a 68% completion percentage, 342 yards, 2 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also ran for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns, marking 421 total yards and 4 total touchdowns. Rourke is one of four quarterbacks in all levels of college football this season with at least 1,500 passing yards, 5 passing TDs, 250 rushing yards, and 5 rushing TDs. I project him as a late-round developmental QB that will most likely end up on a practice squad next season, with a chance to become a backup the following season.

Top Three Games to Watch this Weekend:

1) Ohio State vs Wisconsin – October 26th

Ohio State dominated yet another opponent on Friday to the tune of a 52-3 victory. Edge rusher Chase Young is still the best player in this draft class and with the supply and demand of QBs in this class, Young will fall a few spots to a very lucky team. Ohio State also features 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.

Wisconsin was on track to potentially make the playoffs if they won this game against Ohio State. Instead, they lost to a 2-4 Illinois team whose head coach was on the hot seat. This game isn’t nearly as juicy now, but a Wisconsin win would completely throw off the playoffs and the BIG10 conference. Wisconsin’s top prospect is running back Jonathan Taylor, who was a Heisman candidate as a true freshman and now he is finally eligible for the draft. Wisconsin also has offensive linemen Tyler Biadasz and David Moorman, linebackers Zack Baun and Chris Orr, and receiver A.J. Taylor.

2) LSU vs Auburn – October 26th

LSU is now the second-ranked team in the nation after Clemson hasn’t looked as dominant in years past. Always being known as a defensive dominant team, LSU’s offense, led by quarterback Joe Burrow, has been lighting up the scoreboard. Like I mentioned at the top of the article, Burrow has received a big bump in my rankings. Besides Burrow, LSU is led by safety Grant Delpit, edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, cornerback Kristian Fulton, defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence, receiver Justin Jefferson, and linebackers Michael Divinity Jr. and Jacob Phillips.

Auburn is a surprising team this year, even with the loss to Florida two weeks ago. Defensive lineman Derrick Brown is a huge reason for their success, and he is improving every game, establishing himself as the best interior defensive lineman in the 2020 Draft class. Auburn also has top prospects in edge rusher Nick Coe, offensive lineman Price Tega Wanogho, defensive lineman Marlon Davidson, and linebacker K.J. Britt.

3) Notre Dame vs Michigan – October 26th

Notre Dame once again feels like a dominant team for the most part but is just a step below competing for a national championship. They lost to Georgia a few weeks ago, who just lost to South Carolina two weeks ago, making it harder for Notre Dame to get in the playoffs based on strength of schedule. Notre Dame is led by edge rushers Julian Okwara and Khalid Kareem, offensive linemen Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg, receiver Chase Claypool, safety Alohi Gilman, defensive lineman Daelin Hayes.

Michigan has had a rough season so far, barely managing a win in overtime against Army and then getting dominated by Wisconsin, before losing a close one to Penn State this weekend. Michigan’s playoff hopes are over, and probably their BIG10 title hopes. They still have plenty of talent on their roster, talent that will be drafted this year. Those guys are receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black, cornerback Lavert Hill, offensive linemen Ben Bredeson and Jon Runyan, linebacker Josh Uche, and quarterback Shea Patterson.

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