NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Week 11 could prove to be the most significant weekend of the college football season. So many crucial games this weekend will impact the college football playoff race, as well as conference races nationwide. Without further to due, let’s dive into the top matchups to be watching as well as a quick top 10 mock draft to see where we stand after 10 weeks.
#12 Baylor vs #15 Oklahoma Noon Fox Sports 1
The day gets kicked off right with a Big 12 battle between two high flying offenses. Baylor controls their own destiny to a Big 12 championship, while Oklahoma needs to win out and get some help. This is a huge game for Baylor QB Bryce Petty. At one time viewed as a potential Day 1 prospect, most draft experts have him outside the top 3 rounds. His accuracy has been in question, as well as his overall pocket awareness. Oklahoma has a very talented and versatile defense led by one of my favorite prospects Eric Striker. Should be a high flying shootout in Norman on Saturday. I think Oklahoma will win this game between the trenches (if they stay committed) where they have a significant advantage. Home team, by a touchdown.
OLB Eric Striker: First round pick on my board. Has been from the start of the season. Very disruptive and has a good feel for pass coverage.
OG Adam Shead: Good arm length and quickness, needs to work on his feet though. Can tend to have bad technique at the point of attack up field.
DE Charles Tapper: Tapper has day 1 talent but he may end up being a day 3 pick. Hasn’t had the stellar season some envisioned him having, I get a sense he’s being forced to play a scheme that doesn’t particularly fit his upside. Tapper and Striker should be able to get after the Baylor front and disrupt Petty.
Other prospects: OT Daryl Williams, OT Tyrus Thompson, ILB Frank Shannon, K Michael Hunnicutt, TE Blake Bell, CB Julian Wilson, DT Chuka Ndulue, DE Geneo Grissom
DE Shawn Oakman: At 6’9, 275+ lbs, he is an absolute freak coming off the line. He has the ability to beat OTs with his pure length and his speed. I have him as an ‘end of the first round’ type of prospect, definitely the main guy to watch for Baylor on defense.
QB Bryce Petty: I said about 5 weeks ago “I want to see Petty against Oklahoma before I have a definitive opinion on him”. That game has arrived. He’s been inconsistent at times with his overall accuracy and his footwork in the pocket, curious to see how he handles the inevitable rush that Oklahoma will bring.
WR Antwan Goodley: Has had injury issues, but boy is he an interesting prospect to watch. Built like a running back (5’11 220 lbs) Goodley offers a unique skill set that could benefit him at the next level.
Other prospects: WR Levi Norwood, RB Shock Linwood, OT Spencer Drango, ILB Bryce Hager
#10 Notre Dame vs #9 Arizona State 3:30 ABC
Hard not to be excited about this playoff elimination game in the desert. For most on the east coast, it will be their first true look at Arizona State as they are playing an Eastern Standard Time zone-friendly game against a quality opponent. Notre Dame is a “controversial” call away from being undefeated, and a very solid football team that can be carried by their defense, or offense if need be. Last week it was the offense led by Everett Golson who accounted for six total touchdowns as the Irish snuck by their rival Navy. Arizona State has bounced back nicely since their debacle back on September 25 losing to UCLA 62-27 at home, winning four straight (knocking off 3 ranked teams in the process). This is the biggest game the Sun Devils have played in quite some time, and I see them making the most of it. I’ll pick the Sun Devils to win, and one of my favorite prospects to watch WR Jaelen Strong to go for over 150 yards and 1 touchdown.
Arizona State Prospects
WR Jaelen Strong: One of my favorite prospects to watch in the entire country. At 6’4 205 lbs, Strong possess great body control and jumping ability. His first step off the line is very impressive on film as he effortlessly gets into his route and out of his break. He’s caught 57 passes this year for 821 yards and 8 touchdowns, and I expect a big day from him agaisnt the Irish Saturday.
RB DJ Foster: A prospect who I like, but he’s been inconsistent with his production over the last month. Smooth runner who lets his blocks develop. Also a threat out of the backfield as a pass catcher. Foster is a combo back and should be at the forefront (with Strong) of the game plan vs Notre Dame.
OG Jamil Douglas: Better in the passing game then the running game, at least at this stage in his career. He has good flexibility and has good balance in the passing game. On film he tends to get higher then you’d like when engaging defenders, he also has a bad habit of then ducking his head to compensate. Still though, a good prospect to watch.
Other prospects: DE Marcus Hardison, FB/H-Back De’Marieya Nelson, S Damarious Randall, DT Jaxon Hood
Notre Dame Prospects
CB Cody Riggs: He’s been tested this year by some talented receivers (Ty Montgomery), but Strong will be his biggest competition yet. I don’t believe we will see too much one on one with Riggs and Strong due to the pure height difference, but in the reps where they are matched up I will be paying attention to see how Riggs holds his own. A potential huge game for him in the draft process.
TE Ben Koyack: Not the pass receiving threat of say…a Gronk..too say the least, but Koyack brings a consistent presence in the blocking and receiving game that must be talked about. Just an overall solid football player with great size (6’5 260 lbs).
QB Everett Golson: Have a feeling this game is going to turn into a shootout. Golson is outplaying his preseason expectations by far throwing for 2,311 yards and 22 touchdowns through 8 games. To compare, in his 2012 season in which the Irish played for a National Championship, Golson threw for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns in the entire season.
Other prospects: OG Christian Lombard, WR DaVaris Daniels, DE Ishaq Williams, CB KeiVarae Russell, DT Sheldon Day
#5 Alabama vs #16 LSU 8:00 CBS
Bama. LSU. As far as college football goes it doesn’t get any better over the last decade when these two SEC West rivals square off. Alabama controls their own destiny into the playoffs. All they have to do is, you know, knock off LSU in Death Valley, beat Mississippi State at home, and oh yeah, the Iron Bowl and the end of the year. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. This game pits an offense (LSU) who just does not believe in the concept of the forward pass vs a defense who is among the nation’s best against the run. The stable of LSU backs led by freshmen Leonard Fournette carried the ball 48 times against Ole Miss muscling the Tigers to a win. I would assume there will be a similar plan vs Alabama. Amari Cooper has been near un-coverable for Alabama, but I expect bracket coverage, some high-low looks, and safeties shading. Covering Cooper will not be a one man job (a similar plan to how they played Laquon Treadwell). Alabama has the much better team. Yeldon, Henry, Cooper, Collins.. these are all guys who I expect to be significant contributors at the next level and soon.. but Saturday night will belong to the Tigers (Don’t ask how, or why, because I truly don’t even know. Just believe in Les Miles). I always say home field advantages are overrated, but not when it comes to LSU and home night games. Give me Death Valley at night over Alabama, 20-17.
OT/OG La’el Collins: He’s been solid, and if the draft was today wouldn’t get out of the top 20.
OG/OT Vadal Alexander : Received high praise from Alabama coach Nick Saban this week. You just have to love Alexander’s versatility and reliability. Would be a great fit in New England…then again he’d be a great fit in multiple NFL locker rooms.
WR Travin Dural*: The sophomore receiver has carried the Tigers’ WR corps so far. At 6’2 with good leaping ability, but LSU’s inability to throw has hurt his production thus far. Solid 2016 prospect though.
RB Kenny Hilliard: I still have him as a top 10, draftable RB right now. He’s had a lighter work load as Fournette continues to build on a solid freshmen campaign.
RB Terrence Magee: The senior has had a limited workload (happens in a 4 RB system), but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t produced. He averaged 14.1 yards per carry vs a good Kentucky front 2 weeks ago and averaged 6.2 yards a carry against the best defense in the country in Ole Miss. A possible draftable running back.
Other prospects: DE Danielle Hunter, FS Ronald Martin, DE Jermauria Rasco
SS Landon Collins: I’ve had him inside my top 10 mock every week. The best overall defensive back in the draft.
WR Amari Cooper: Can anyone cover Amari Cooper? We all knew he was a solid prospect, but after his disappointing sophomore campaign it was tough to imagine this kind of season. By my math, he’s on pace for over 100 catches, 1,600 yards, and 15 touchdowns. Not bad for the future top 10 pick.
TJ Yeldon: It’s been the Derrick Henry show, then it’s been the TJ Yeldon show, and it’s been back and forth all year. In their last contest against a decent run defense at Tennessee, Yeldon ran for 52 yards on 14 touches with a touchdown. Good in blitz pickup, hasn’t had fumble issues, and a good decisive runner. He’s a second round-third round kind of player to me, I’ve talked to people who view him as a possible top 25 pick.
OG Arie Kouandjio : Big, strong, and nasty. A top 5 interior offe]nsive line prospect. A projected late first round pick if all goes well.
Other prospects: RB Derrick Henry, DT Brandon Ivory, OT Austin Sheppard, WR Christion Jones, RB Kenyan Drake (Hurt, possible solid UDFA), C Ryan Kelly, DT Darren Lake, ILB Trey DePriest, ILB Denzel Devall
#14 Ohio State vs #8 Michigan State 8:00 ABC
Arguably the biggest game of the season in the Big 10 as we have a rematch of the conference championship. Michigan State QB Connor Cook will look to continue his rise up draft boards as he faces a solid Ohio State defense which currently ranks 17th in the country giving up 19.9 points per game. Cook didn’t have his best game vs rival Michigan in Sparty’s last game, but I’m not looking too in depth into that. He has been up and down this season which discourages some NFL talent evaluators, but he still posses the tools which should elevate him into a first round discussion. Both teams are 4-0 in conference, and the winner will ultimately decide who will move on to the conference title this year (Didn’t have the 2 division format last year). Nobody talks about him, but I think Jeremy Langford will ultimately be Sparty’s best player and will prove to be the difference Saturday night. Sparty 27-17.
DE Shilique Calhoun: Sparty’s most impactful defensive player. He can disappear at times, but overall Calhoun has been consistent of late and has recorded a sack in 5 straight games.
QB Connor Cook: This is his moment. I think he’s played well this year even when the numbers have been iffy (ex. Michigan). Some are high on him, others are skeptical. Michigan State won’t play a team of Ohio State’s caliber probably until bowl season, so it’s important for Cook to play well on the national stage Saturday.
CB Trae Waynes: Thrives as a press-man corner. There’s been a lot of volatility on the cornerback 2015 big board, but I still have Waynes as my overall number 1. I think he’s overall length and size is the difference (6’1 185 lbs) and it allows Waynes to be physical and in the receiver’s face from the get go.
RB Jeremy Langford: He’s been over 100 yards in each of his last 5 contests, and he’s scored 3 touchdowns in back to back games. The senior is on fire and I expect him to see 25+ carries Saturday.
Other Prospects: FS Kurtis Drummond , RB Nick Hill, DE Marcus Rush, WR Tony Lippett
Ohio State Prospects
DT Michael Bennett: Uses great leverage and better quickness to get past opposing OL. Hard working kid with a high ceiling and room to improve. He struggles getting off blocks at times, and doesn’t always get the push you would want out of a top DT.
CB Doran Grant: Could sneak his way into a back end first round prospect. On film, I thought he was the Buckeyes’ most consistent CB throughout last season (CB Bradley Roby, 1st Rd. Pick, Denver). I like any corner who isn’t afraid to come up and tackle somebody, which is something Grant can excel at. Always seems to be around the ball, a real solid potential day 2 to 3 prospect here.
TE Jeff Heuerman: Great build (6’5 255 lbs) and very athletic, Heuerman could be the Bucks best offensive threat when healthy. He hasn’t been truly healthy all year, which has really hampered the Ohio State offense. A potential name of interest on day 3 of the NFL draft (Whether draft of UDFA).
Other prospects: WR Devin Smith, OT Taylor Decker, LB Curtis Grant, DL Adolphus Washington
..and if your still hungry for some college football, #20 Georgia vs Kentucky at noon, #18 UCLA vs Washington at 7, and #7 Kansas State vs #6 TCU should all be games worth watching.
After 10 weeks let’s see where we stand in a mock draft setting. No trades.
And with the first pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Oakland Raiders select:
Marcus Mariota – but the gap is closing. I will not re-rank the QB’s until the college football season is over, but Jameis has closed in on what once was a big gap.
2) Jacksonville Jaguars : USC DL Leonard Williams. No change here. Williams arguably the most impactful defensive player on the board, would make sense for JAX.
3) New York Jets: FSU QB Jameis Winston. I (think) Geno Smith isn’t the answer long term in New York. I know Michael Vick isn’t the answer either. I think the Jets would have to make this pick, no questions.
4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Stanford OT Andrus Peat. Passed on Taylor Lewan for the flashy pick in Mike Evans…can’t do that again this year with that O-line in shambles. Peat is the easy pick here.
5) Tennessee Titans: Nebraska DE/OLB Randy Gregory. Tennessee has all sorts of issues, the biggest of which (in this scenario) that they would be losing out on a top tier QB. I currently have Gregory (just barely) ranked ahead of Missouri DE/OLB Shane Ray, either could be the pick here.
6) Atlanta Falcons: Missouri DE/OLB Shane Ray. It’s simple: they need guys who can close games, they need guys who can make impactful plays, and they need guys who can disrupt the QB. Ray can be all 3 of those.
7) Washington Redskins: Iowa OT/G Brandon Scherff: They could use secondary help here, but I’m going to give the franchise QB RG3 some help instead. Scherff should be able to raise the level of play from that unit from day 1.
8) New York Giants: Alabama S Landon Collins. Talk about an upgrade where it’s needed. The back end of the Giants defense has been hurt by the injury bug, yes, but the guys who have played have underperformed as well. Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps will both be 30 or over next year, I think Collins is a performance improvement over them from day 1 of training camp anyway.
9) Chicago Bears: Georgia RB Todd Gurley. I know Bears fans, I know! That secondary is terrible. Figure it out in the other rounds or free agency, Gurley is too solid of a prospect to pass up on here. Matt Forte and Todd Gurley I believe would become the best backfield in the game, and it wouldn’t be close. Arguably the best pass receiving back in the league combined with the bulldozer with speed that is Todd Gurley, oh baby. Can’t imagine tackling Gurley on a cold November afternoon in the Windy City would be easy, either.
10) St. Louis Rams: Michigan State QB Connor Cook: Think about that RG3 trade. 3 first round picks. Wonderful. Not so wonderful, that the Rams are still a bottom feeder in the NFC 3 years later and have nothing to show for their large assortment of picks (in the win column). Cook could be and probably is a reach here at 10. This isn’t the pick I would necessarily make, but the Rams don’t have a choice to me. They have endless talented young defenders….whose rookie deals will be up soon (ChaChing salary cap). The free agent QB market doesn’t look too revealing, as Mark Sanchez may very well be the best option there. Cook has out-performed my personal expectations for him this year and I expect him to be a top 40 pick regardless.