CFB Week 7 Draft Scouting Watch Guide

Written by Jeff Risdon on October 14, 2016


North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky needs a big rebound game against Miami
North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky needs a big rebound game against Miami

 

NC State at Clemson, 12 PM on ABC

By now you know the Clemson draft names, from potential No. 1 overall pick Deshaun Watson to his favorite receivers in Mike Williams and Artavis Scott, solid RB Wayne Gallman and lockdown CB Cordrea Tankersley. They’re darn near a weekly feature, and for good reason; the Tigers are loaded with future NFL talent.

Watson has shown chinks in his armor, forcing passes and misreading both his receivers and the defense at times. He’s still got a whole lot to like, but it’s okay to be critical at this point. Last week NC State locked down his primary competitor to the top of the QB rankings, Notre Dame’s Deshone Kizer, though it says here Kizer will be back for the Irish in 2017.

That contest, in a literal hurricane, was my first in-depth 2016 look at Wolfpack RB Matthew Dayes. He impressed with his footwork in the sloppy conditions but also his vision.

That goes in line with what Draft Breakdown colleague Jeremy Hyde wrote about the 5’9”, 205-pound senior this summer,

Dayes proved to be one of the more versatile backs in the ACC in 2015, lining up in the backfield, at H-back, and split out as a receiver in the NC State offense. He is a slashing runner with the ability to get skinny through the hole, accelerating to top speed in a hurry for big gains. He shows excellent agility to make cuts at full speed, enabling him to slip open-field tackles. Not the most powerful back, Dayes is too often brought down on first contact. He also struggles to hold up in pass protection, despite consistently solid effort and good awareness. He excels as a receiver, showcasing strong hands and the speed to pick up yards after the catch. Dayes will need to add strength to round out the holes in his game, but he has one of the more intriguing athletic skill sets among halfbacks in this year’s senior class.   

Clemson’s defense is talented but has shown vulnerability to the cutback, something Dayes has shown he does well. If he can post another 100-yard game with the same traits against the likes of Carlos Watkins, Ben Boulware and improved senior safety Jadar Johnson, Dayes should lock up a Senior Bowl berth.

One under-the-radar guy to catch here: NC State CB Jack Tocho. He’s very good at playing proper technique against the route being run and leveraging the receiver to his help. Tocho doesn’t appear to be a dynamic athlete but he knows his own game well. I know the good folks at Pro Football Focus are big fans.

Wake Forest at Florida State, 3:30 PM on ESPN

Wake Forest is one of two Power 5 teams I have yet to watch this year, with Purdue being the other. I’m seizing the chance to catch the Demon Deacons against an opponent in Florida State that I’ve seen just about every snap so far.

The players I’m most focused on are in the Demon Deacon secondary. Safety Ryan Janvion and corner Brad Watson both made the Senior Bowl watch list. Janvion is smallish at 5’11” and 200 pounds but made a positive impression in late ’15 games against Clemson and Duke. Watson, listed at 6’ and 200”, was a ballhawk last year, breaking up 16 passes and picking off two others. He has replicated the INTs but has just one credited PD thus far.

Both Wake seniors are also noted as special teams standouts, and that’s a good place to watch them here. My latest intel is that both guys are likely headed for the Shrine Game, and I could see do-it-all ILB Marquel Lee in St. Pete too. The three-year starter added 10 pounds and has already matched his sack (3) and TFL (10) totals from last season. Junior tight end Cam Serigne made the watch list, too.

Several Seminoles are regulars on this here page, notably DT Derek Nnadi and DE Demarcus Walker. Nnadi had a tour de force performance last week against Miami, showing range and the ability to quickly shed the block. He seems remarkably comfortable in space for a 315-pounder.

Dalvin Cook continues to impress as well. The junior continues to prove he can handle a heavy workload and keep right on rolling through defenders. Last week he even caught a touchdown pass on a nicely sold play-fake and wheel route…

Unfortunately Florida State safety Nate Andrews is out for the season. Again. I agree with the assessment here…

Andrews was a top 100 prospect when healthy but his body simply wasn’t built to withstand the rigors of football. It’s always sad when this happens, and it happens more often than you might think. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen to Cook, who has battled shoulder problems his entire career.

 

Alabama at Tennessee, 3:30 PM on CBS

When you watch an Alabama game for scouting purposes, the best way to do it is to focus on one particular positional group at a time. The Crimson Tide defense is so loaded, you must have a narrow focus or else somebody different will steal your attention on just about every play. It’s like being at a Motley Crue concert; Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx always commanded attention up front–sometimes for the missed notes–but you really missed out if you ignored Tommy Lee.

Last week against Arkansas my initial focus was on the pass rushers, and Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams did not disappoint. This week, with Tennessee having a QB prospect in Joshua Dobbs, a RB prospect in Jalen Hurd and a WR prospect in junior Josh Malone, the focus goes from the front to back.

They don’t have anyone as flamboyant as Tommy Lee, but Bama sure does have some talent. It seems the online draft community has moved on from CB Marlon Humphrey, but he remains very much in the mix as the top CB for me. Others are twitchier than No. 26 but the redshirt sophomore has track star long speed. He’s also got an outstanding football IQ. Watch him anticipate the plays and run the routes for the receivers. You shouldn’t have to watch long…

I’ve been told by a couple of folks that the NFL sees safety Eddie Jackson (not to be mistaken with the Queensryche bassist) as more of a cornerback prospect than a safety. In watching him just off broadcast copy, it’s easy to see that; he’s a coverage specialist who doesn’t have the positional geometry mastered. Pay attention when he’s in coverage, especially in the shorter ranges.

Jackson will need to be aware of Dobbs extending plays. That’s also where outstanding LB Reuben Foster comes into play. I’m looking forward to seeing Foster meet Hurd in the hole; both are about 240 pounds and use their shoulders as battering rams. Hurd is coming back off an injury, but all indications are he is good to go. He’ll get a lot of usage, especially if this critical SEC contest stays close.

 

Western Michigan at Akron, 3:30 PM on CBSSN

The Broncos are undefeated and ranked 23rd, but Akron is a formidable test despite not having the depth of future NFL talent.

Akron’s top senior prospect is edge presence Jamal Marcus. An Ohio State transfer, Marcus typically plays the strong side end and does a fine job of holding the edge. He’s quite positionally responsible and quick to sniff out screens and cut blocks. While he’s not a dynamic player, he at least belongs in an NFL camp next summer. He did not play last week, nor did fellow ex-Buckeye DE Se’Von Pittman, who made some draft watch lists.

Cornerback–and Senior Bowl watch list member–DeAndre Scott could elevate his stock with a strong showing against Western standout wide receiver Corey Davis. Scott was incredibly productive as a junior with 6 INTs, 11 other PDs and a forced fumble. He has just one PD on the year so far, but in the two Akron games I’ve perused I’ve only seen him targeted five times. He typically doesn’t follow a reeiver but rather flops sides to remain on the boundary side, so we might not see him match up all that often with Davis.

Ah yes, Corey Davis. This guy…

Many trumpet the 6’2”, 215-pound senior as a first-rounder. I have seen Davis in person three times and I don’t see the explosiveness off the line or outstanding wiggle in open space often ascribed his way. Don’t read that as “Risdon hates Corey Davis”. I think he’s got the best hands in the class and above-average field awareness. He does indeed have the “chase” gear with the ball in his hands that allows him to pull away from defenders like Scott after the catch. I currently project him as a second-rounder and compare him to a bigger Jarvis Landry.

Akron also has a prolific senior receiver in JoJo Natson, who stands just 5’7” but has freaky quickness. Natson is also a dangerous return specialist and that is his better NFL shot.

If you’re one who likes to be “first” on a guy, check out Zips LB Ulysees Gilbert. The 6’1”, 225-pound sophomore has stepped into the Jatavis Brown role and ranks sixth in the nation in solo tackles while also ranking in the top 20 in tackles for loss nationally.

 

North Carolina at Miami, 3:30 PM on ABC/ESPN2

It sort of went under the radar with the higher-profile Deshone Kizer having an awful outing in Hurricane Matthew, but UNC’s Mitch Trubisky was another potential first-round QB who had an awful game.

Trubisky is someone just emerging onto the national radar as a prospect, though Justin and Seth here at the Draft Breakdown podcast have trumpeted all year. And as they noted in this week’s episode, Trubisky’s epic struggles in the Tar Heels’ blowout loss to Virginia Tech is very concerning.

The 6’3”, 210-pound Cleveland-area native has shown really strong ball placement and timing all season, but that was in absentia against The Hokies. Check it out for yourself…

The play at 0:37 is wildly out of character for the almost freakishly accurate Trubisky. It’s also one of many plays where slot receiver extraordinaire Ryan Switzer was not at his best. This was the worst game I’ve seen from the nifty No. 3, and I’ve now seen 11 UNC games the last two years.

NFL scouts love watching how a player bounces back from a bad game. The fact Trubisky and Switzer will try to rebound against an impressive Miami defense will show even more. Unfortunately Miami will be without one of its best prospects in senior safety Jamal Carter, who will miss the first half after a (crappy) targeting call.

They still must deal with safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who played quite well against Florida State last week in showing range and quick reactions. Senior CB Corn Elder also played well in the tough loss, and he’s a guy who has the athletic measurables to match up with Switzer. Elder reminds me some of Quandre Diggs, a smaller CB at Texas who transitioned pretty well into the slot for the Detroit Lions but doesn’t have great long speed either.

When Miami has the ball, Brad Kaaya is the feature attraction. The QB offers fantastic mechanics but just doesn’t have the zip all the time. Wideout Stacy Coley has excellent deep speed and releases well, but he faces a challenge in plucky Tar Heels CB Des Lawrence. Both should be Senior Bowlers. Lawrence has had some issues with pursuit angles this year, so pay attention after the catch too.

Utah at Oregon State, 4 PM on PAC-12

I feel a little disingenuous including a game that’s on a network very few folks can actually get, but this is a good one to highlight some under-the-radar prospects.

Cornerback Treston DeCoud tops the Beavers prospect list. He comes off a week where he shut down the Pac-12s leading receiver in Chad Hansen, and that’s not a new development for DeCoud.

Oregon State also has a trio of senior offensive linemen who are all on the draft radar. Heading into the season the top prospect was left tackle Sean Harlow, even after missing half of last year with a broken leg. He returned to the lineup against Colorado and has shown little rust. Harlow excels at down blocking and nullifying bull rushers, which makes him more suited for the right side at the next level.

I’ve been impressed with my limited views of center Gavin Andrews, who missed 2015 with a broken leg. He’s heftier than most centers at 325 pounds, but he’s athletic enough to reach and engage. Andrews has multiple starts at every OL position except left guard over his career, and that kind of versatility will at least get his foot in a training camp. Again, I’ve only seen about 50 snaps this year but I really like what I’ve seen from No. 62.

The Beavers run the ball extensively, which makes evaluating wideouts Victor Bolden and Jordan Villamin tougher. Bolden has nearly as many rushing yards (161) as receiving yards (172), but it suits his game. He reminds me some of Jeremy Kerley.

Utah’s defense has several prospects. The top Ute is DT Lowell (brother of Star) Lotulelei. Alas, he missed last week’s game and most of the USC game with a shoulder injury. Keep that in mind as you watch, if he even plays here. His fill-in last week, Filipo Mokofisi, has NFL in his future too as a run-stuffing maniac on the inside.

Safety Marcus Williams has earned some first-round projections. It’s a shame he doesn’t play in the SEC or Big 10, because then he would have the name recognition of guys I think are his equals as a prospect. Whatever you want your safety to do–man coverage, fill the box downhill against the run, spy a mobile QB, play over-the-top help–Williams does it well. End Hunter Dimick and corner Dominique Hatfield are worth watching, too.

Ohio State at Wisconsin

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A few weeks back none other than Matt Millen boldly declared of Ohio State safety Malik Hooker,

“He’s Ed Reed, only bigger”

Now the horse’s mouth here might be more donkey than thoroughbred, but the worst GM in pro sports history (sorry Isiah Thomas, Millen was worse) was definitely onto something in heaping praise on the redshirt sophomore. He sure looks like a top 10 overall pick if he declares.

The comparison to Reed, while somewhat blasphemous, is not unfounded. You can see stylistic similarities, from how they plant the back foot to explode, to how fast they cover ground in the open field, to the exceptional body control at full speed to be able to break down and make the play in situations where most defenders cannot gather.

Wisconsin comes off a bye, which should be invaluable to freshman QB Alex Hornibrook. Between Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale, he has running backs who can keep Hooker, Raekwon McMillan and the rest of the Ohio State defense honest. Robert Wheelwright is a Shrine Game level of wideout, and junior tight end Troy Fumagalli will play in the NFL someday. Wisconsin does have weapons. They also have an outstanding left tackle in Ryan Ramczyk, who graded out with a perfect game in pass protection against Michigan State.

Ohio State’s top draft-worthy weapon is Curtis Samuel. In this week’s podcast, Justin Higdon compared the slippery dual-threat RB to Theo Riddick and I like it. Samuel is a decent running back but at his best as a receiver out of the backfield. In a progressive offense like how the Detroit Lions deploy Riddick, Samuel can be an excellent weapon and matchup dictator. For this game, I want to see how well he runs as a traditional tailback.

Wisconsin’s defensive strength is the back seven, even with LB Vince Biegel on the shelf. Tiny safety Leo Musso would be a legit NFL prospect if he were the listed 5’10”, but NFL spies tell he’s closer to 5’7”. Outside backer T.J. Watt could continue to build momentum with a big game against a very solid Ohio State OL, which is better inside than out. Watt is just a junior, but with two brothers in the NFL he might rush to join them.

 

Jeff Risdon

Senior NFL/Draft Writer at RealGM, where I've covered the league and draft since 2004. Also cover the NFL for FanRag. On too many podcasts and radio spots to list. Former D-I volleyball player. Headbanger. Ohio U. grad. I hate the Steve Miller Band, short-side toss plays and groupthink

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