The next phase of scouting for the 2016 NFL Draft begins tonight with the kick-off of the new college season. And even in the dawn of a new campaign there are important match-ups scouts will be focusing on. Here’s the first of my weekly feature on “five things to watch”.
TCU vs Minnesota
Thursday, 9PM EST, ESPN
Minnesota will look to turn the tables on the thrashing they received a year ago at the hands of the Horned Frogs. Scouts will closely monitor the battle between receiver and cornerbacks.
Several scouts grade Josh Doctson as the best senior receiver prospect in the nation and believe he has top 45 potential. Doctson is quick, sure-handed and grabs everything thrown in his direction. He does the little things well but has average size/speed numbers.
Scouts also have high opinions on the Gophers duo at cornerback, Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Both come with solid ball skills and instincts, though I give the nod to Murray on my board based on measurables and his polished game.
The match-up between Doctson and both Murray and Calhoun is key to scouts. Doctson has the size advantage but the Minnesota pair are quicker and faster then TCU’s top pass catcher.
Michigan State vs Western Michigan
Friday, 7PM EST, ESPNU
On paper this is not really a contest and MSU should come out the big winner. But scouts will be watching the Spartans top defender versus WMU’s sleeper offensive lineman.
Shilique Calhoun gets a lot of love on the outside world but many in the scouting community feel he’s overrated. A solid college pass rusher, Calhoun has a slim build at 6-feet, 5.5-inches and barely 251-pounds. Though quick off the edge, Calhoun does not display great pursuit or long speed.
Calhoun faces off against Willie Beavers, a terrific college left tackle who gained my notice during his sophomore season. Beavers is quick, can slide his feet and move in space. He projects nicely as a zone blocking guard on Sunday’s and fits well in the late rounds.
From a scouting point of view this is a situation where Beavers has a lot to gain and Calhoun potentially much to lose.
Texas vs Notre Dame
Saturday, 7:30PM EST, NBC
There are several notable match-ups in this contest but two players have much to prove.
I’ve been vocal in my opinion that Tyrone Swoopes will develop into a top rated quarterback prospect for the next level. In all honesty despite his great physical skills the Longhorn passer does make a fair number of mistakes.
I also stamped Notre Dame cornerback Keivarae Russell as a top 60 player despite the fact he was sidelined with suspension last season. During the 2013 season Russell consistently shut down opponents and offers terrific next level size.
Russell must prove no ill-effects from the year off while Swoopes must stay away from mistakes and move his team down the field. Both players can get the momentum moving in the right direction in the season’s first wek.
Ohio State vs Virginia Tech
Monday, 8PM EST, ABC
Rewind to the initial game of the 2013 season between Virginia Tech and Alabama. Despite the fact the Tide rolled over the Hokies by a final of 35-10, holes started to appear in the game of Cyrus Kouandjio as Bama’s highly rated left tackle struggled all night with Virginia Tech’s undersized pass rushers, primarily Dadi Nicholas.
Fast forward to Monday evening. Dadi Nicholas and Ken Ekanem, another undersized but talented pass rusher, face off against Taylor Decker, the Buckeyes highly rated left tackle.
Compared to Kouandjio the Ohio State senior is much more consistent in his mechanics, offers better versatility and is more effective in space. He best be as both Nicholas and Ekanem, each who’ll likely end up at outside linebacker on Sunday’s, can bring it off the edge and up the field.
Arizona State vs Texas A&M
Saturday, 7PM EST, ESPN
Damarious Randall is gone but Arizona State still possess a pair of safety’s that have the interest of scouts.
Senior Jordan Simone makes plays based on hustle, heart and instincts. Despite average size/speed numbers scouts believe Simone is a borderline second day talent. In my opinion junior Viliami Moeakiola has much better upside based on his size, athleticism and range.
The Arizona State pair will have their work cut out for them against two terrific A&M receivers.
Junior Josh Reynolds has second day possibilities while redshirt sophomore Ricky Seals-Jones is a first rounder in the making.
Seals-Jones has Calvin Johnson type size and dominates opponents. He still need to polish his game but the arrow is pointing north.