Saturday Slate: College Prospects to Watch in Week 9

2015 NFL Draft

NEPD Staff Writer: CJ Sousa

Whatever your opinion might be about the controversial ending to the Notre Dame vs Florida State game Saturday night, this one fact can’t be debated. Jameis Winston can flat out ball on a football field. He had one horrendous decision in the second quarter when he was in full retreat mode backwards, stopped, and flung a pass high over the middle which was easily intercepted. However, take away that one play from Winston, and he played a flawless game. He came out on fire in the second half, completing his first thirteen passes and he ended the night with 273 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Golson: Impressive in his own right was Notre Dame QB Everett Golson. Against a defense loaded with NFL prospects, Golson played composed and amid some mistakes (2 interceptions, a few other shaky decisions) he held his own and played in my opinion well enough to launch him into the NFL prospect debate. For some he was already there, not in my eyes. The throw that really got me excited was in the beginning of the second quarter. While rolling to his left Golson threw a perfect touch pass to the back pylon for an Irish touchdown (with good coverage). Not buying the Heisman talk from him, but I do consider him a legitimate NFL draftable prospect.

 

Other impressions: Week 8 saw two Big 12 teams potentially blow a playoff spot. Baylor was outclassed and outplayed by West Virginia, 41-27, and Oklahoma lost a brutal home game to Kansas State. Oklahoma pre-season All-Big 12 kicker Michael Hunnicutt missed two short field goals (including a chip shot with 3:53 remaining in the game down 31-30) and had an extra point blocked on the day. Junior OU receiver Sterling Shepard was impressive all afternoon going for 197 receiving yards with a touchdown. He tied a school record with 15 catches in the process. And without Todd Gurley (still my #1 draftable running back), Georgia fully unleashed freshmen RB Nick Chubb. Chubb is a load at 5’10 230 lbs, as he bruised the Arkansas defense for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns.


#1 Mississippi State vs Kentucky 3:30 CBS

It isn’t often Kentucky hosts the CBS SEC game of the week (1st since 2007 4OT loss to Tennessee), and it isn’t often Mississippi State enters a game ranked #1 (Actually, it’s never happened).   These two teams have a combined 1 SEC championship game appearances (1998 MSU). Even better stat? The last time either of these two teams came into the CBS SEC game of the week and was the higher ranked team was in 1999! So, yeah… this is a weird game all the way around. Kentucky had some serious momentum – like SEC championship game appearance momentum – before their deflating loss 41-3 at the hands of LSU. MSU QB Dak Prescott will look to continue on his Heisman trail after a bye week. After three very physical games for MSU, the schedule softens up a bit this week and going forward.   They will be easily favored in their next 3 games before their November 15 tilt with Alabama in Bryant Denny Stadium. I expect Kentucky to put up a much better fight at home against MSU then they did last week in Death Valley. I don’t expect that their effort will be enough. I anticipate Prescott having a huge day, and although I think it will be close to start, I think by the end MSU will remain undefeated and leave Lexington with a multiple score win.

MSU Prospects

OLB Benardrick McKinney: Auburn was able to keep McKinney in check with their unique play calling and game plan. I thought McKinney was exposed slightly in pass coverage and was caught playing too much with his eyes. Nonetheless, the inside the tackle instincts are there, and present on film. Auburn proved however with some commotion going on in the back field (motions, sweeps, ect.) you can catch the entire MSU defense off guard at times. I still see McKinney as an end of the first round / beginning of the second round type of prospect.

 RB Josh Robinson: Auburn has a very good run defense, and Robinson was still able to put in a solid effort. 97 yards, 2 touchdowns… all this kid does is produce. Just a junior, he may be more of a 2016 draft prospect.

 QB Dak Prescott: Leader of the Heisman race, fastest rising QB prospect, and the QB of the #1 ranked team in the country. Life is good to be Dak right now. However Kentucky has athletes on defense, and they’ll be flying around in what should be as good of an atmosphere as possible in Lexington Kentucky Saturday. Above all, I still expect a big game from Dak.

Other prospects: WR Jameon Lewis, CB Jamerson Love, Justin Cox, TE/FB/ATH Malcolm Johnson

Kentucky Prospects

DE Alvin Dupree: Rising up draft boards. I could see him as a first round pick at this point. Had a huge pick 6 to seal the South Carolina win and was named SEC defensive linemen of the week (Oct. 6). Dupree doesn’t have phenomenal get off speed, but has a great motor with great instincts. He plays faster then one would expect. By far Kentucky’s main prospect to keep an eye on.

DE Za’Darius Smith: Quietly having a great year for the Wildcats. Won’t get the recognition of a Bud Dupree, but arguably as important to the Wildcats front. Must play big Saturday along with the entire front 7 to have any chance.

Other prospects: WR Ryan Timmons *Soph


#3 Ole Miss vs #24 LSU 7:15 ESPN

Ole Miss looks to continue their undefeated dream season with a win at night in Tiger Stadium. Regardless of how LSU has played this year, even at home, beating LSU at night in Tiger Stadium is a feat that is as tough as any in college football. Ole Miss really impressed me last week. Tennessee isn’t a very good team right now, but still, hard not to be impressed with Ole Miss and their ‘Landshark Defense’. Ole Miss dominated the line of scrimmage recording 7 sacks, 2.5 from true freshman Marquis Haynes. More from Haynes in a minute. DB Senquez Golson was particularly impressive, recording his SEC leading 6th and 7th interceptions of the season. The landshark defense has only given up six touchdowns all season long. With studs like Robert Nkemdiche on the interior line and ferocious speed rushers like Haynes on the outside, the defense is extremely impressive. LSU QB Anthony Jennings must at worst match Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace. Jennings has been under impressive this year, and must have the game of his life to win. I really want to take LSU in this one, and won’t be surprised one bit if the Tigers do in fact win, but I’ll bet against LSU in a home night game for the first time ever. Ole Miss…close.

Ole Miss prospects

FS Cody Prewitt: Has played well all year long, and should be a lock to be a top 50 pick. Physical safety with ball skills, he’s working his way into first round territory.

OT Laremy Tunsil*: Potential 2016 #1 overall pick. I think he’s already a top 2-3 OT in college, by the time the season is over he may be a better prospect then 2015 top prospects Andrus Peat or La’el Collins.

WR Laquon Treadwell*: Even when Treadwell isn’t getting his numbers, he’s a huge factor in the game. Interested to see Les Miles game plan against him.

QB Bo Wallace: He’s been the good Bo Wallace for over a month now. Is this a new trend? Or his he just due for a shake-your-head-at-Bo game?

Other prospects: DE C.J. Johnson, SS Serderius Bryant, CB Senquez Golson & DE Robert Nkemdiche*

LSU Prospects

OT/OG La’el Collins: The matchup I’ve been waiting for with Collins. I will pay money to see him and Haynes 1 on 1 all game long.

OG/OT Vadal Alexander : Like Collins, Alexander is a very versatile player. He’s one of the top interior O-line prospects that I see right now.

WR Travin Dural*: The sophomore receiver has big play ability but he’s not getting the catches, or the targets, that he should be getting. Potential big time 2016 draft prospect to keep your eye on.

RB Kenny Hilliard: He’s been banged up a bit, and Leonard Fournette is finally getting going. That combo has meant a significant decline in touches for Hillard, still have him as a draftable prospect however.

Other prospects: DE Danielle Hunter, RB Terrance MaGee, FS Ronald Martin, DE Jermauria Rasco


South Carolina vs #5 Auburn 7:30 SEC Network

Believe it or not, South Carolina is two measly possessions away from being a 6-1 football team in the front seat to get to Atlanta. You can play the ‘what if’ game with many programs, but South Carolina is a team who I feel is much better than the 4-3 record says. Auburn on the other hand must essentially win out to make it to the playoffs. Outside of the Mississippi State game the Tigers have been dominant this year. I don’t like the matchup here for South Carolina. Gus Malzahn saw the tape way back in August when USC played Texas A&M. Although compared a lot, the A&M and Auburn offensive systems have vast differences. The one constant however? Tempo. For whatever reason, the Gamecocks have struggled with tempo teams not just this year, but going back a few years. I don’t see the talent gap being big in this game, but I do see the Gamecock front 7 exhausted by mid 3rd quarter. I expect Auburn to win, but it will be a fight. AUB 37 USC 28

USC prospects

RB Mike Davis: Finally looks healthy, and looks like the Mike Davis we all know and love. 3 straight weeks of 100+ yards and a touchdown, I expect him to have a bell-cow like work load Saturday night…if USC can control the clock and tempo of the game.

OG A.J. Cann: Has played well this year, and has been a big part of Mike Davis’ resurgence. During the Kentucky game however, Matt Stinchcomb (former All-American at UGA) spotlighted Cann for tipping plays. He made a legitimate point. Something to look at this week.

DT J.T. Surratt: The leader of the rebuilt Gamecock defensive line, Surratt is a physical gap clogging DT. Currently a mid-round grade.

Other prospects to watch : FS Kadetrix Marcus, SS Brison Williams, TE Rory Anderson (hurt), QB Dylan Thompson

Auburn prospects

RB Cameron Artis-Payne: A big early deficit took Artis-Payne out of it early vs Mississippi State (Still a solid day at the office, 16 touches 4.4 ypc). Should have room to run vs USC.

WR Sammie Coates: Getting healthier, and getting back to his first round billing. I still don’t have him as a first round prospect, but he certainly looks as if he is trending upwards.

OLB Cassanova McKinzy: Flows well, tackles well, and always seems to be in the thick of things on defense. I think I’m higher on McKinzy then most draft experts right now. If you watch an Auburn game, you will hear McKinzy’s name over and over, a trait that’s always good from a linebacker.

Other prospects: WR D’haquille Williams, C Reese Dismukes, DT Gabe Wright, S Robenson Therezie, RB Corey Grant, TE C.J. Uzomah, QB Nick Marshall

 

In a week that provides little big games to watch, and since were past the halfway mark, why not some ‘way too early but always fun’ mock draft time? Given no trades, this is how I could see the top 10 if it went down today.

 

And with the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select:

I’ll say Mariota..but this isn’t an ideal situation. They like Derek Carr, and was a high selection last year. However odds are there will be a new GM (coach already fired), and coaches and GM’s like to win..or lose.. with their guys.

2) Jacksonville Jaguars : DL Leonard Williams. Jags probably trade down here, but Williams would be a great addition to Gus Bradley’s defense.

3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston. So many holes. Not enough picks. Has anyone else seen enough of Mike Glennon? Because I sure have.

4) Tennessee Titans: OT Andrus Peat. A lot of issues in Nashville right now. With the top 2 QB’s off the board why not take arguably the best player available at a need position. Gregory & Ray could easily be the pick here as well.

5) Washington Redskins: OLB Randy Gregory. If you haven’t seen any Nebraska football this year (I don’t blame you), at least throw on a Gregory highlight tape. Great prospect who could go as high as 2, or 1. Who knows?

6) New York Jets: WR Amari Cooper. Should only be a matter of time before Percy and the Jets become an embattled marriage as it was with Minnesota and Seattle. If you can’t be happy playing for NFC titles and Super Bowls with those two teams, how long until he becomes unhappy as a Jet? Cooper is the best WR in the class and would immediately become their number 1 option over Decker.

7) Minnesota Vikings: RB Todd Gurley. How high is too high for Gurley? If he’s available when Minnesota picks I don’t see how they could pass up on Gurley. AP’s future is a nightmare, and the whole Asiata / McKinnon thing isn’t going to work forever. If ever.

8) St. Louis Rams: OT/G Brandon Scherff. In this situation, the toughest pick so far by far. The Rams must do everything in their power to get Mariota or Winston. If they swing and miss, adding Shane Ray is tempting…but that defense isn’t the problem. Probably too early for Kevin White from WVU here, so let’s just take the best OL available.

9) Atlanta Falcons: OLB/DE Shane Ray. They would be ecstatic with this pick. Ray is a top 5 talent who would immediately be a contributor for the Falcons.

10) Houston Texans: S Landon Collins. Similar to the Rams, if I were the Texans I’d be doing anything and everything to get one of the top QBs. However if they strike out, Collins is a great second option here. Their safeties have been terrible this year and Collins is easily the best S in the class.

 

Some other games to watch this week are Texas vs #11 Kansas St. ESPN Noon. #22 West Virginia vs Oklahoma State 3:30 ESPN. # 20 USC vs #19 Utah 10:00 Fox Sports 1. And Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville #4 Alabama vs Tennessee 7:30 ESPN 2

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3 Responses to “Saturday Slate: College Prospects to Watch in Week 9”

  1. steve earle says:

    Great list of prospects but I wonder how many will fit into the need/ value/ availability box at draft pick time? Assuming we use our 1st pick on a player, additional considerations has to be early impact and expected longevity. My thinking goes toward DT or o-line in those areas. As the best of the DT’s and OT’s usually go earlier I’d suggest the best value might be an OG. Currently I’m drawn to Vadal Alexander OG/OT LSU 6-6 342 who is a powerful run blocker, (road grader type) who also has the long arms making him good in pass blocking too. He has the flexability to play at RT a BB requirement making him attractive. Only a jr. he may or may not declare but if he does would be an excellent prospect in the lower 1st rd. Something to think about.

    • CJ Sousa says:

      Steve, I like Alexander. Collins gets all the talk but at times Alexander has been (clearly) LSU’s most reliable offensive linemen. That being said, I see a great opportunity for NE to address depth at the LB position this year so theres not a trade deadline scramble after 1 injury. McKinney, Johnson, Perryman, Kendricks.. those are 4 solid players. Kendricks and Johnson are guys who aren’t getting the love they desereve right now in my opinion and are guys who could be significant contributers from day 1 in NE. If to go in another direction, and looking at a guy who will be there, Cody Prewitt from Ole Miss (S) is a kid I love to watch. #25 could start in NE from day one and make guys like Ebner, Wilson, even Harmon expendable and use those roster spots elsewhere.

      • steve earle says:

        Agree these other directions are just as viable, my consideration is to keep Brady upright and healthy as long as possible, a strong running game contributes greatly to that goal and Tom is a master of play actions. When time comes for him to retire a really strong running game will be no small aid to a new QB whoever that may be. Your concern for the LB position is also a reality and I’d think a good LB would still be available in the 2nd or 3rd as would be a SAF. It’s just how we prioritize these needs I guess.

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