The schedule really picks up this first weekend of October as a number of important conference games will kick-off Saturday. And with it a number of top NFL prospects will be facing their toughest test of the year. Here are five players and match-ups scouts will be watching on Saturday.
1) Can Paul Richardson keep the momentum going? Richardson is a receiver prospect we’ve mentioned several times this season as he’s having a terrific campaign one year removed from his knee injury. This weekend he faces his toughest challenge of the season when CU meets Oregon. The Ducks secondary is loaded with prospects starting with often mentioned junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Yet it does not end there in the Oregon secondary as we’ve handed two more players (Terrance Mitchell/CB and Erick Dargan/S) draftable grades while another pair (Avery Patterson/CB and Brian Jackson/S) are free agent worthy. No doubt Richardson will be doubled most of the evening. Scouts want to see how he responds.
2) Scouts continue to praise James Hurst Hurst is building a buzz around himself in scouting circles. He did an admirable job against Jadeveon Clowney during the first game of the season then later looked good facing off against Jeremiah Attaochu. Tomorrow James Gayle and J.R. Collins of Virginia Tech take their turn trying to get past Hurst. This is another great opportunity for Hurst as both Gayle and Collins gave Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio all he could handle. Just to repeat what we reported in our week two podcast; Hurst is receiving second day draft grades after the first month of the season. Stopping the speed rushers of Virginia Tech could help solidify him as a second round selection.
3) How does Keon Lyn stack up? Lyn is all over the place on draft boards. The Syracuse senior entered the season stamped as a late round prospect but many consider him mid-round value. The criticism is Lyn can only play safety in the NFL, which we don’t agree with. Someone will be proven correct tomorrow as Lyn has the opportunity to show his skills against Clemson’s high powered offense. Stopping receiver Sammy Watkins (25 receptions, 355-yards, 2 touchdowns) and quarterback Tajh Boyd is paramount for Lyn and Syracuse. The contest offers Lyn an opportunity to quiet the critics.
4) Za’Darius Smith vs Corey Robinson: Underrated match-up of the week. Four games into his Kentucky career junior college transfer Za’Darius Smith is turning heads in the scouting community. The defensive end totaled 4.5 sacks as well as 4.5 tackles for loss during the seasons first month, though most of those numbers came against inferior competition. South Carolina left tackle Corey Robinson is a big time NFL prospect with great upside. There are rumblings about Smith’s next move and I’m sure will hear the same about Robinson in the not too distant future. That being the case, Smith must prove his worth against top competition before giving any serious consideration to entering the draft.
5) Is Stanley Jean-Baptiste for real? The Nebraska safety entered the season graded as a camp body by NFL scouts despite his measurements of 6-feet, 2-inches, 210-pounds and a forty time in the 4.5s area. Four games into the campaign Jean-Baptiste has already intercepted four passes and broke up five more. In the past he’s been someone who flashed skill but is beginning to show consistency as a senior. The Corhuskers face Illinois and their surprising passing attack on Saturday. The Fighting Illini rank second in passing offense in the Big Ten, averaging more than 300-yards through the air each game. Its a chance for Jean-Baptiste to prove he’s the real deal and continue marching up draft boards.