Week three on the college schedule was another Saturday which resulted in a major disruption at the top of the national rankings. It was also a weekend in which a pair of small conference offensive linemen and a trio of defensive backs impressed NFL scouts. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week three.
Brandon Facyson/CB/Virginia Tech: I grade Facyson as a top five cornerback as well as a potential first round pick and he look every bit the shutdown corner on Saturday when the Hokies smoked Boston College. The junior finished with 4 tackles and broke up 3 passes, displaying great ball and cover skills. His ability in man-to-man coverage was outstanding as Facyson stopped opponents down the flanks while also making several terrific plays on crossing patterns. During Facyson’s freshman season in 2013 when the Hokie defensive backfield included Kyle and Kendall Fuller, first and third round picks respectively, many scouts felt Facyson was the top pro-prospect from the group. I would expect the junior to enter the draft once the season is complete.
Jamal Adams/S/LSU: Adams set the tone early for LSU during the Tigers victory over Mississippi State and he ended the game with a team leading 9 tackles. His run stopping skills helped hold the Bulldogs to under 60 yards rushing on the day. Forceful and best making plays up the field, I still feel his cover skills are suspect but Adams would thrive as a strong safety or in a zone system.
Obi Melifonwu/S/UConn: Saturday was a defensive battle between UConn and Virginia though some would argue it was a match-up between two awful offenses. Regardless it was another solid performance for senior safety Obi Melifonwu who led the Huskies with 11 tackles, giving him 25 in three games. The senior safety goes 220-pounds and plays with solid instincts and awareness. Some scouts question his physicality but in many ways Melifonwu reminds me of a poor man’s Su’a Cravens; a solid last day pick that could line up at strong safety or potentially as a one gap linebacker.
Dion Dawkins/T/Temple: The Owls played catch-up against Penn State from the get-go but Dawkins looked solid none the less. Except for one poor penalty which resulted in a score being nullified, Dawkins displayed a lot of athleticism, footwork and next level skill. He looked terrific in pass protection, easily sliding off the edge to shut down pass rushers. While Dawkins needs to improve his run blocking strength he looked like the second day pick most scouts stamped him to be.
Taylor Moton/OL/Western Michigan: WMU is 3-0 this season including a pair of convincing wins over Big Ten teams in which their offense controlled the game. During the victory over Illinois on Saturday the Broncos pounded a talented Illini defense for 287-yards on the ground and Moton, the teams top offensive lineman, handled opponents all game. The big bodied lineman blocks with terrific knee bend, power and intensity. He’s a dominant run blocker but lacks footwork and lateral range which is the reason many, including myself, rate him at guard versus the right tackle position he plays in college. I would expect Moton to receive an invitation to the Shrine Game and possibly the Senior Bowl then go on and be a steal in the later (5th) rounds of the draft.
James Washington/WR/Oklahoma State: The Pittsburgh defense Oklahoma State faced on Saturday leaves a lot to be desired but I can’t be dismissive of the 9 catch, 296-yard, 2-TD performance by Washington. The junior was dominant and could not be stopped from the get-go. He made several difficult catches with defenders draped on him, displayed better than advertised speed and generally looked like an overall receiver stud. Many I’ve spoken with expect Washington to enter the draft if he continues this pace.
Sleeper Prospect- Bobby Baker/S/Georgia State: Scouts graded Baker as a marginal street free agent in large part due to a lack of speed yet the tape tells a different story. Though not the fastest defensive back Baker has excellent size (6-feet/2-inches and 200-pounds) and shows a complete game on film. In three games this season he’s accumulated 23 tackles (including 11 during the loss to Wisconsin on Saturday) as well as a team leading 3 pass break-ups. Baker is a disciplined safety who plays within the system and does a terrific job covering the slot receiver when called upon. Though it may be a long way off keep an eye on Baker’s pro-day results then remember his name next summer for the team that brings him into camp.
Small School- King Frazier/RB/North Dakota State: The defeat of the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City at the hands of NDSU was the biggest shocker of the weekend. The Bison offense posted 231-yards rushing against a Hawkeye defense which fields as many as four top 100 prospects. Frazier led the way with 99-yards on 16 carries (6.2-yd average) with 1 score and the senior answered the call any time he touched the ball. Dismissed by scouts entering the season, Frazier is a nice size ball carrier (5-feet/10-inches, 210-pounds) who grinds it out on the inside and has enough foot quickness to make defenders miss in the open field. Though not much of a pass catcher, Frazier has enough power, size and skill to make a Sunday roster as a fourth running back.
Charles Walker/DL/Oklahoma: There’s an opinion in some circles that Walker projects as a top 60 choice but its an opinion I never bought into. He’s somewhat explosive but Walker is also a defensive lineman with a very inconsistent game. During the loss to Ohio State when he faced off against a pair of NFL prospects on the Buckeyes line, Walker finished the contest with just 1 tackle which gives him a total of 5 in three games this season. Walker does not stand out in any single aspect to justify a top 90 selection.
DJ Dowdy/TE/Cincinnati: I scratched my head when informed Dowdy received a mid-round grade from scouts. After watching the film I eventually stamped him as a marginal last round pick largely due to his computer numbers. Three games into the season Dowdy has failed to meet expectations and has totaled just one reception in 2016.
Several games during week two of the college season featuring highly rated teams resulted in closer than expected finishes. On the prospect front linebackers and pass catchers impressed NFL decisions makers as did one of the top guard prospects in the nation. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week two.
Dorian Johnson/G/Pittsburgh: The interstate rivalry between Pittsburgh and Penn State was one of the more enjoyable games from the weekend. The Panthers established offense dominance over Penn State’s defense from the get-go and Dorian Johnson led the way on the offensive line. Pittsburgh finished with 341-yards rushing, 226-yards coming in the first half. Johnson dominated Penn State defenders on the line of scrimmage and looked surprisingly effective as a pulling guard or blocking straight ahead on the second level. Initially graded as a potential second round pick, Johnson continues to impress next level decision makers and could break into the draft’s top 32 selectins.
Marquel Lee/OLB/Wake Forest: The athletic Lee entered the season graded by some scouts as a potential third rounder and the senior is off to a fast start. During the victory over conference foe Duke, Lee posted 10 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Besides forcing the action up the field Lee makes a lot of plays in space or pursuit and has the ability to develop into a three down defender.
Mike Tyson/OLB-S/Cincinnati: Tyson was surprisingly stamped as a third round prospect by a number of scouts but I was concerned about his ball skills since he primarily plays in the box despite tipping the scale under 210-pounds. This was the main reason I graded him as a late round prospect. Against Purdue the senior showed he has no issues making plays in coverage as Tyson came away with three interceptions and made a number of positive plays moving in reverse. I still feel Tyson projects as a late round pick but his play this weekend definitely helps his draft stock.
Brooks Ellis/LB/Arkansas: Ellis was graded as a street free agent entering the season but that opinion is slowly changing. Leading Arkansas with 102 tackles last season, he turned in a dominant performance during the Razorbacks hard fought victory over TCU. Ellis posted 13 tackles including 3 tackles for loss and made a key interception early in the second quarter which he returned for a score. Most impressive was the way Ellis played assignment football against a TCU offense that is lethal in the passing game, running game as well as running the option. If Ellis times faster than expected (4.7s) prior to the draft he could slip into the late rounds.
Sleeper Prospect- Nathan Cole/WR/Cincinnati: I graded Cole as a middle of the road free agent entering the season but the senior looks as though he’s turning the corner. After struggling for playing time last season due to the enormous depth at receiver on the Bearcats roster, Cole has recorded 12 receptions in two games this season, one less then he did during the entire 2015 campaign. He posted 6 receptions for 81 yards with 2 scores during the victory over Purdue, making several important 3rd down catches to keep the chains moving besides coming away with a contested pass for a score at start of fourth quarter to help seal the win. Possessing a stout build at just under 6-feet/210 pounds, Cole could sneak into the draft’s late rounds then make a roster as a fifth receiver.
Small School Prospect- Billy Brown/WR/Shepherd: Presently one of the better programs in all of Division II, Shepherd has a star in the making in Billy Brown. Possessing outrageous size/speed numbers the senior measures 6-foot, 3.5-inches and 242lbs while reportedly running the forty around 4.6s. He led the Rams last season posting 89 receptions for 1492 yards with 10 scores. Against Charleston this weekend Brown totaled 7 receptions for 94 yards and 2 scores. Entering the season with a third round grade, I would expect Brown to receive an invite to the Shrine Game if not the Senior Bowl next January, where he may be tried at tight end.
Gunner Kiel/QB/Cincinnati: Kiel entered the season stamped as a potential middle rounder by scouts but as I mentioned, there were several red flags which would result in a draft day slide. Putting that aside the strong-armed passer did not win the Bearcats starting job and is watching from the sidelines as the team has started the season undefeated. This does not bode well for Kiel to receive playing time in the near future and will adversely effect his draft grade.
Jackson Replogle/DL/Purdue: Replogle was stamped as a potential second round choice after his junior season in which he recorded 60 tackles including 14 tackles for loss. In two games this season he’s posted just 1 tackle for loss and was not much of a factor getting pressure up field against a Cincinnati Bearcat offense with two new starters at offensive tackle.
There were more than a few barn burners during week one of the college season, including several upsets. A number of defensive prospects from losing teams impressed NFL scouts as did a pair of running backs from the wining side. Here are the Risers and Sliders from week one.
Davon Godchaux/DT/LSU: Few expected LSU to lose to Wisconsin yet even in defeat Godchaux looked every bit the dominant defender. He led all LSU defenders with 9 total tackles and when he wasn’t making plays on the ball Godchaux was occupying double team blocks and allowing teammates to get to the action. He’s an explosive and relatively athletic defensive line prospect who can play in a variety of systems and someone I stamped with a first round grade before the season.
Jeremiah Clarke/DT/North Carolina: Few speak about Clarke, who I graded as a potential third rounder last month, but during the Tar Heels loss to Georgia the red-shirt sophomore displayed his awesome potential. The stats were solid, 6 tackles, but Clarke’s ability to hold the point and control blockers was very impressive. Listed in the program at 6-feet/5-inches and 315-pounds, Clarke plays with tremendous leverage and does not give up an inch of ground to opponents. Like Godchaux, he was able to make several nice plays on the ball as well as occupy gaps which allowed teammates to make the tackle. There’s nothing but upside to Clarke’s game and we could soon be talking about a potential top 45 choice.
Elijah Lee/LB/Kansas State: Lee is another underclassman prospect who does not get enough next level recognition. During the Wildcats loss to Stanford the linebacker posted a game leading 12 tackles, making plays sideline-to-sideline. Lee is slightly undersized yet a three down defender who quickly arrives on the scene.
Tanzel Smart/DT/Tulane: The Green Wave lost a close contest to Wake Forest by a score of 7-3 despite holding the Demon Deacons to 175-yards total offense and credit must be given to Tanzel Smart. A prospect I described as one of the better three technique tackle prospects before the season, Smart finished with 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. He was omnipresent and tough to stop all evening. Smart’s quickness, change of direction and ability to get leverage on opponents is impressive.
Nick Chubb/RB/Georgia: All eyes were on Chubb who looked almost heroic in his return from the knee injury he suffered last October which ended his season. Against a solid North Carolina defense Chubb amassed 222 yards on the ground and punched the ball into the end zone twice. He looked strong, relatively elusive and displayed better than expected speed, running away from Tar Heel defenders late in the fourth quarter on a 55-yard score. Chubb has the makings of a top 60 pick in the NFL draft, a ranking he’ll receive sooner rather than later if he continues to prove good health.
Kareem Hunt/RB/Toledo: Hunt’s totals during Toledo’s victory over Arkansas State were not spectacular as his 78-yards rushing ranked second on the team. What was impressive was his improved quickness, burst and agility. As reported during my MAC season preview, Toledo coaches and NFL scouts were not happy with Hunt’s conditioning entering the 2015 campaign but it looks as though he’s ready for his senior season. His pass catching out of the backfield and ability to make important receptions far from the line of scrimmage was also attractive.
Sleeper Prospect: Josh Magee/WR/South Alabama: Off the 2014 film I graded McGee as a priority free agent and speedy receiver has started quickly as a senior. Ignored by scouts entering the season, Magee finished with 7 receptions for 113 yards (16.15-yard average) and 1 score during the Jags upset victory over Mississippi State. The slender yet speedy wide out who came to South Alabama by way of the University of Alabama then UAB, offers potential as a slot receiver/return specialist on Sunday. A late season contest against LSU in mid-November is a date to circle as Magee faces-off against the very tough Tigers secondary.
Small School Prospect: Cooper Kupp/WR/Eastern Washington: I reported through the beginning of January that Kupp was heavily weighing his NFL options but in the end decided to return to EWU. It seems to have paid off in the early going. Graded as one of the better senior receiver prospects by most scouts, Kupp was stamped with a second day grade. Scouts believe Kupp is one of the best route runners from the senior class, which compliments his vacuum like hands. A year ago he made everyone take notice during the season opener against Oregon when he totaled 15 receptions for 246 yards with 3 scores. On Saturday Eastern Washington upset Washington State and Kupp turned in another dominant performance posting 12 receptions, 206 yards and 3 scores. Kupp is sized well (6-feet/2-inches, 210-pounds), reportedly runs under 4.5-seconds and has thus far justified the grades he received from scouts .
Josh Dobbs/QB/Tennessee: The numbers weren’t awful but Dobbs struggles against Appalachian State was evident all night during the season opener. Against a defense which possesses just two potential late round picks on defense, Dobbs completed barely 50% of his throws for under 200-yards passing. There’s plenty of time to turn it around but Dobbs must be on his game against Florida in three weeks.
Zach Banner/T/USC: I graded Banner almost three rounds lower than scouts at season’s start and many got a glimpse why during the Trojans loss to Alabama. Tide defenders ran around Banner most of the night as the offensive tackle was to big and clumsy to stop the Alabama pass rush. He offers a nice degree of natural talent but to reiterate what I said last month, to this point Banner is not much more than a developmental prospect.