NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Every week is important, but no month is more important in the college football season than November. With that in mind, let’s look at who’s been our biggest movers up and down the draft board thus far.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: Let’s start with Lynch. He’s gone from just “another guy” to potentially “the guy”. We knew he had the physical attributes, but we didn’t know he would develop so quickly. He is far from a finished product, but his raw physical attributes, impressive size and surprising accuracy on his throws has entered him into the conversation for first quarterback off the board.
Andrew Billings, NT, Baylor: One of my overall favorite players in the country. Billings has easily been the most dominant player along the Baylor defensive front all season long. Easily tosses offensive linemen out of his way, as he also has great technique and keeps his pad level down. He has thrown his name into day one consideration as of this moment.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: If James Jones is a ‘touchdown machine’ for the Packers, Coleman is a touchdown guarantee for Baylor. Coleman has an incredible 18 touchdowns through 7 games. Never mind the insane EA Sports NCAA Football stat line, Coleman has proven he can be a top prospect through his athleticism, phenomenal footwork and outstanding before and after the catch ability.
Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama: This may be cheating a bit. Ragland was considered a great prospect at the start of the season, but in my eyes he has played his way into the top overall inside linebacker position right now. He won’t fly sideline to sideline, but his in the box ability is second to none. An absolute force, he is always playing downhill and is serviceable when blitzing as well. The obvious comparison is former Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and although that may be overstretching his ability a bit, it isn’t too far off.
Jeremy Cash, SS, Duke: A former transfer from Ohio State, Cash has found a home with the Blue Devils as he has been one of the most instinctive and versatile players in college football. If the Patriots didn’t already have 17 safeties on the roster, I’d peg Cash as a potential Patriots’ selection. He will line up deep in center field, as well as on the line as a nickel. Cash can potentially make it back-to-back first round selections for Duke, which would be the first time in school history.
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State: This whole quarterback class has been a bit frustrating this season. I’ll tee it off with Cook. He could have been a top 10 selection in last year’s draft, and was looked upon in the preseason as a potential #1 pick. He’s played far from that. He hasn’t been awful and at times has looked the part of a first round quarterback, but he lacks the true ideal arm strength in my mind, and hasn’t been consistent on the accuracy front. A troubling stat: Only two quarterbacks taken in the first round have ever thrown under 60% completion in their final year of college. Those quarterbacks? Jake Locker and Josh Freeman. He’s currently at 57.5% (58.1%, 58.7 in his Soph, JR. seasons).
Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor: Oakman has ideal size and strength to be a top prospect, however he simply hasn’t produced. If you simply look at his stats, 4 sacks in 6 games isn’t terrible. But when you consider teams are constantly down 40 when playing Baylor, you’d expect the sack numbers to be even better. Forget about the numbers though, he’s been handled by lesser competition and when you consider the off field concerns, you’re looking at a day 3 prospect in my opinion.
Mike Matthews, C, Texas A&M: A great family name and a solid junior season had Matthews high on preseason boards. However he’s struggled this season, particularly when playing NFL competition. Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson absolutely dominated Matthews all game as it simply showed Matthews may be overwhelmed by the size and speed at the next level.
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State: What a wild ride for Cardale Jones. Who knows, he may have been a top 5 pick riding his 3 game wonder story to the National Championship last year. He has since been benched for J.T. Barrett, a quarterback that better fits Urban Meyer’s system. I still believe in Cardale Jones, his arm strength is unquestionable and could arguably be the third quarterback in this class. But when you go from a guy who could be a top 5 pick to a guy who may be a second-third round pick, you’ve fallen and end up on a list like this.
Georgia vs Florida 3:30 CBS (Jacksonville)
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party is relevant for both sides once again. The Florida-Georgia game over the years (particularly last season) is one of the most difficult games to predict. Florida can all but clinch a birth in the SEC Championship game with a victory. But what about Georgia? A Georgia win would put the Bulldogs in control of their own destiny to Atlanta as well, and the Dawgs’ November schedule is very manageable. Florida QB Treon Harris played well under the lights in Death Valley two weeks ago, answering the main question surrounding this football team. With Georgia RB Nick Chubb done for the year, I look for sophomore Sony Michel to have a big day. Michel is a smaller, shiftier back and could possibly give that Florida front fits. This rivalry is unpredictable – give me Georgia by 3 in what would be considered a major upset (or just the standard for Florida-Georgia).
OLB Leonard Floyd: One of the few true elite pass rushers in the SEC, Florida should pose a different challenge. Florida won’t drop back and wing it all over the field, but if Georgia is going to pull the upset this dynamic playmaker (96 yard fumble return vs Tennessee) is going to have to show up in other ways. I expect UGA to move Floyd around a little bit.
OLB Jordan Jenkins: Isn’t a guarantee, but it looks like Jenkins will play vs Florida. Perhaps the combination of Floyd and Jenkins could make Florida QB Treon Harris uncomfortable, something the LSU front was surprisingly unable to accomplish.
WR Malcolm Mitchell: Mitchell has a chance to really jump onto the national stage with a solid showing vs the talented Florida secondary, highlighted by potential top 15 pick Vernon Hargreaves. The 6’1 5th year senior has had a productive campaign thus far, racking up just over 500 yards receiving with 4 touchdowns.
OT John Theus: He struggled mightily against Missouri, and was especially vulnerable vs the speed edge rush. Theus will be a key play to watch to see how he bounces back vs the Gators.
Other prospects: OG Greg Pyke, RB Keith Marshall
CB Vernon Hargreaves: He’s had an injury riddled year, yet has stayed strong and still looks like a first round talent. Hargreaves/Mitchell is the key WR/CB battle to watch here.
ILB Antonio Morrison: I have him just inside my top 10 ILBs at the moment. He is a solid tackler and shows quick recognition skills. He also can get after the quarterback, a skill that he has improved on more and more.
DE Jonathan Bullard: He continues to line up all over the field for the Gators, and has been stout vs the run all season long. He will be a major focal point for the Georgia offensive line all game long.
Other prospects: WR Demarcus Robinson, TE Jake McGee, CB Brian Poole
USC vs CAL 3:00 FOX
The suddenly red hot USC Trojans square off vs their instate rivals from Berkeley in a crucial Pac 12 match up. Make no bones about it, this game is about the quarterbacks, two three-year starters in Jared Goff and Cody Kessler. I’m going to be looking more at Cal QB Jared Goff. USC has athletes all over the field, and is playing some inspired football in recent weeks – none more impressive then the beat down of Utah last Saturday. Cal hasn’t won vs USC since 2003, and I don’t expect that to change even with Goff at the helm. Also keep an eye on electric USC sophomore Adoree Jackson. Jackson is a three-way threat and will headline the 2017 draft class. Give me USC by 10.
OLB Su’a Cravens: Physical, at times reckless, and an overall explosive defender. He’s phenomenal vs the pass and has a great knack of blowing up plays in the hole. Cravens could see his stock continue to elevate as the season goes on.
RB Tre Madden: After sitting out last week and being a nonfactor vs Notre Dame two weeks back, Madden looks like he could finally be a full go Saturday. He was very impressive vs Washington on 10/8, using his bruising style to a 120 yard effort averaging 7 yards per carry.
QB Cody Kessler: Jared Goff won’t be the only quarterback of note in this game. My main issue with Kessler is that he’s been there for what seems like forever, and the improvement just hasn’t been there. Lacks the big arm and will rarely stretch the field deep. The Cal secondary isn’t all that intimidating, so Kessler should have a good opportunity to have a big night.
Other prospects: CB Kevon Seymour, DT Antwaun Wods, DE Delvon Simmons, ILB Anthony Sarao
QB Jared Goff: Had a nice bounce back effort vs UCLA throwing for 295 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most importantly, he made good decisions throughout and made the 5 interception Utah disaster a thing of the past. Better be ready for USC however, they look opportunistic as ever and will probably overwhelm the offensive line of Cal throughout.
Other prospects: RB Daniel Lasco, OG Jordan Rigsbee, SS Stefan McClure, DT Musafa Jalil
#9 Notre Dame vs #21 Temple 8:00 ABC
Notre Dame absolutely needs this one to stay in the playoff chase. They face a pesky undefeated Temple squad under the lights in what could be the biggest game in program history. Love me some underdog action, I just don’t see it. Temple has some defenders that has a shot at the NFL though, so from a prospect standpoint this isn’t just a one-way game. Give me the Irish, huge.
Notre Dame prospects:
OT Ronnie Stanley: Stanley has been superb this season. Has the ideal NFL frame with the athleticism to go with it, and it has showed up on film all season long. He has top 10 talent, no question.
OLB Jaylon Smith: He’s dominated this year, and is arguably the top linebacker in college football. His pursuit ability is unquestioned, and is one of the best overall athletes in the game. I’m not sure Temple has anybody that can contain him.
DT Sheldon Day: Temple must try and contain Day to have any shot at a run game and keep the field position and time of possession battle in their favor. Day has been money for the Irish all season long and could play his way up draft boards into the top 20 if he continues his progression.
Other prospects: CB KeiVarae Russell, SS Elijah Shumate, C Nick Martin
OLB Tyler Matakevich: Has a never-ending motor and plays the run extremely well displaying great ability to take on and shed blockers. He will struggle in space if isolated, something I look for Notre Dame to exploit.
Other prospects: C Kyle Friend, DT Matt Ioannidis, CB Tavon Young, DT Hershey Walton