The bad news for college football fans is that we’re more than halfway through the season. The good news for draft scouts and analysts is that we’re more than halfway through the season. Even though it’s still October, the draft feels like it’s starting to gain some momentum.
The games and individual performances were a bit lackluster this weekend, but of course some guys still stood out in the pack. LSU QB Joe Burrow had another fantastic game against a good defense of a top-10 ranked team. USC WR Michael Pittman led a huge 10-point 4th quarter comeback against Colorado on Friday with two late touchdowns. Clemson RB Travis Etienne got back on track with 3 touchdowns facing a flailing Boston College team. And Alabama’s wide receivers turned in another phenomenal game versus Arkansas.
There were some upsets too, with a big shake-up coming on the national ranks. Kansas State took down #5 Oklahoma, TCU beat #15 Texas, and #19 Michigan clobbered #8 Notre Dame. Other games that affected rankings, #3 Ohio State dominated #13 Wisconsin, #2 LSU edged out #9 Auburn, and #23 Iowa State and #24 Arizona State lost to unranked Oklahoma State and UCLA, respectively.
1) Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Despite the loss, Hurts looked really good and was one of the few reasons this game was even close. Hurts has been on another level this season since leaving Alabama because of Tua Tagovailoa winning that job and joining Oklahoma and the QB guru Lincoln Riley. On the year, Hurts has thrown for 2,469 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions completing 74% of his passes. He’s also run for 803 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 7.8 yards per carry. Hurts is firmly in the Heisman conversation, and his traits are matching his production. He doesn’t look like the prospect that Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray were, but it can’t be ignored what Riley is doing to his quarterbacks. Hurts’ mechanics are much improved, he’s a Heisman front-runner, and he’s being coached by the guy that just had back-to-back QBs selected first overall. The first-round doesn’t look out of the question for Hurts.
2) J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
I wrote about Dobbins as a riser a few weeks ago, but he has to be mentioned after the day he had on Saturday against one of the best defenses in the nation. He had 163 yards and 2 touchdowns while averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Dobbins has the traits you want to see in a running back with vision, speed, strength, and agility. It will be difficult for him to move past Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Clemson’s Travis Etienne, or Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, although Dobbins outplayed the latter on Saturday.
3) Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
Lewis has struggled with injuries throughout his career at Alabama, but when he’s on the field, he dominates. He was all over the field on Saturday, putting a ton of pressure on Arkansas’ offense with 6 QB hurries. His play doesn’t often show up in the stat sheet, but he affects the game so much. This Alabama defense is filled with playmakers (surprise), but Lewis was the difference maker on Saturday. His previous injuries will be his downfall, but his play on the field should put Lewis in the first round conversation.
1) Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
It’s not a good sign when a cornerback has several pass interference penalties in one game but throw in a couple of missed tackles and their draft stock is taking a hit. Pass interference is the result of a cornerback not being quick enough to stay with a receiver, which means Pride is getting beaten often. This is a crowded cornerback class at the top and performances from Pride like the one on Saturday will push him down.
2) Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
The love for Jordan Love has cooled off. He is a traits-based prospect that will turn in some head-scratching performances simply because he isn’t a great player right now. He projects as a potential future starter in the NFL, but whichever teams selects him has to be able to develop him and make him reach his potential. The traits that he flashes are really good, and if they can be worked out to their potential and be consistent, he’ll be a franchise QB for 15-plus years. If not, a team will waste a first rounder on him. We’ve seen traits based QBs work out like Patrick Mahomes and Carson Wentz, and some not work out like Mitchell Trubisky and Paxton Lynch.
3) Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin
Taylor had a really disappointing game against a great Ohio State defense, rushing for 52 yards on 20 carries for an average of just 2.6 yards per carry, and zero touchdowns. While you don’t want to knock anyone for one game, especially when they’ve been in the first-round conversation, but this isn’t an isolated incident for Taylor. He’s only averaging 5.7 yards per carry, down from 7.1 a year ago and 6.6 in his true freshman year. Wisconsin has about as stable and dominate offensive line in the country, but Taylor has failed this season in being a consistent runner against tougher competition.
Small-School Prospect Highlight:
Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
While not an FCS school, Liberty doesn’t often have players drafted. That will not be the case this year, as Gandy-Golden will find himself drafted; there’s even been talk that he could be a second rounder. Gandy-Golden has an elite catch radius and can make spectacular catches in tight coverage. Some of his highlight catches are reminiscent of Odell Beckham Jr. Gandy-Goldman is a name to keep an eye on as we get closer to the draft and teams can dedicate more time watching him (hopefully he goes to the Senior Bowl so we can see him against better competition).
Top Three Games to Watch This Weekend:
1) Florida vs Georgia – November 2nd
Florida is having a resurgent season but is facing another tough test this week. They beat top-10 Auburn this season but lost to top-10 LSU. Florida stands an outside shot at making the playoffs, but only if they and LSU win the rest of their games, so their only loss will be against the number 1 overall team. Florida’s top 2020 NFL Draft prospects are cornerback C.J. Henderson, edge rushers Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard, running back Lamical Perine, linebacker David Reese II, and defensive lineman Tedarrell Slaton.
Georgia suffered an upset loss to unranked South Carolina a few weeks ago, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their playoff hopes are over. Alabama and LSU face off next week, meaning one team will lose, and Georgia can follow the same path as Florida if they win the SEC Championship. Georgia’s top prospects are quarterback Jake Fromm, running back D’Andre Swift, offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Solomon Kindley, safeties Richard LeCounte and J.R. Reed, defensive linemen Tyler Clark and Julian Rochester, and wide receiver Demetrius Robertson.
2) USC vs Oregon – November 2nd
Injuries to the quarterback position have plagued this season for USC. Even still, they’ve been competitive this year and even pulled off an upset win over Utah. The offense hasn’t really missed a beat, although Head Coach Clay Helton is on the hot seat. Their draft prospects include receiver Michael Pittman Jr., edge rusher Christian Rector, defensive linemen Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele, and offensive lineman Drew Richmond.
Oregon scraped out a comeback win against unranked Washington State, but they’ve received a serious bump in the upset losses of Georgia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. If Oregon wins out, the top two teams in LSU and Alabama play each other in two weeks, meaning one will have a loss and Oregon as the PAC 12 Champion has a shot at getting in the playoffs. QB Justin Herbert has been inconsistent this year, but still grades out as a top-15 pick. Besides Herbert, Oregon’s top prospects are offensive linemen Calvin Throckmorton, Shane Lemieux, and Jake Hanson, linebacker Troy Dye, wide receiver Juwan Johnson, and defensive lineman Jordan Scott.
3) Washington vs Utah – November 2nd
Washington had hopes of making the playoffs with an undefeated season, like in 2016. However, it has been an up and down season, losing to Cal by one, and then beating ranked teams in USC and Arizona. Washington features offensive linemen Trey Adams and Nick Harris, quarterback Jacob Eason, tight end Hunter Bryant, cornerback Myles Bryant, and wide receiver Aaron Fuller.
Utah lost in upset fashion to USC early in the season, but still stand in great shape to win the PAC 12. Utah has a fairly easy schedule the rest for the season but needs USC to lose just one game in order to make the championship game. Utah’s top prospects are running back Zack Moss, cornerback Jaylon Johnson, safety Julian Blackmon, defensive lineman Leki Fotu, edge rusher Bradlee Anae, and wide receiver Britain Covey.
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