Basically the entire country expected Week 3 of college football to be a big letdown. Everybody was looking forward to the great slate of games in Week 4 and per usual college football snuck up on us all and gave us a show. The games involving elite teams ended up being blowouts, but there were some sneaky good battles and even a few upsets. Florida’s last-minute win over Kentucky with their backup QB, Penn State barely staying alive against Pitt, Herm Edwards and Arizona State gutting it out in a controversial win over Michigan State, Iowa taking home the Cy-Hawk Trophy in a sloppy game with multiple weather delays, Temple upsetting Maryland with a goal line stand, Virginia holding on against FSU with a goal line stand, and BYU likely ending the Clay Helton era at USC in OT.
Week 3 was a reminder that no matter what college football is the best and nothing beats a Saturday of unpredictability. Of course, plenty of 2020 NFL Draft prospects made headlines with big showings and draft talk will certainly be heating up with the NFL season underway.
Tweet of the Week
In past two days:
Eli Manning benched, Daniel Jones promoted.
Minkah Fitzpatrick traded to Steelers from Dolphins.
Jalen Ramsey requests to be traded.
Ben Roethlisberger placed on IR with elbow injury.
Drew Brees sidelined roughly six weeks with thumb injury.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 17, 2019
The NFL has been a mess in 2019 for starting QBs. Andrew Luck retired, Nick Foles broke his clavicle, and Sam Darnold has mono. Now it’s worse, Drew Brees is out at least 6 weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb and Ben Roethlisberger needs season-ending elbow surgery. How does this affect the 2020 NFL Draft? Well, more teams could be looking to take a QB early. Both the Saints and Steelers have backups that they’ve invested in with Teddy Bridgewater and Mason Rudolph, but neither has proven they’re the guy. The rest of the season will be a nice way for the teams to assess if they’ve got the QB of the future in the building or if they need to spend draft capital on replacing their Hall of Fame quarterbacks.
The list of teams who will potentially be taking a QB early in the 2020 NFL Draft continues to grow. As of now the Dolphins, Bengals, Raiders, Steelers, Colts, Titans, Buccaneers, Vikings, Chargers, and Saints could all be considering a QB early. The rest of the 2019 NFL season will be big for assessing their situations. Also, there’s just not enough top QB prospects for everybody. Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and Jordan Love are the consensus first-round passers right now, but having more emerge is possible. Quarterbacks like Jacob Eason, Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow, and Jake Fromm could play their way into the first-round or end up going there out of necessity. The QB situations around the league could end up defining this season.
In the News
Few things are worse than injuries. They’re one of the biggest downfalls of the great sport of football. The top LB prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft, Alabama’s Dylan Moses, was already lost for the season to a torn ACL in August. Another top LB prospect is now done for the year with a knee injury, Purdue’s Markus Bailey. Bailey injured his knee in practice leading up to the TCU game. Not only is this a major blow to the Boilermakers defense, but it’s another BIG hit to the 2020 LB class. Bailey is already a fifth-year senior so it’s unlikely the NCAA will grant him a sixth-year of eligibility. This means Bailey is pretty much locked into the 2020 NFL Draft despite the injury.
Although Bailey isn’t nearly the same caliber of prospect as Moses, he was the safe option at LB in what looks to be another weak class for the position. He’s an instinctual and physical run defender who’s rarely out of position. His aggressive play and heavy hands allow him to consistently get off blocks and make plays around the line of scrimmage. There are some athleticism questions with Bailey, but he’s a plug-and-play prospect. Now with his second major knee injury at Purdue, he could be a Day 3 steal if he comes back healthy for the 2020 NFL season. As for the LB class, Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, Northwestern’s Paddy Fisher, Oregon’s Troy Dye, and Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray are the top guys to watch this season. Some LBs who could move up the board are Nebraska’s Mohamed Barry, Georgia’s Monty Rice, and Virginia’s Charles Snowden and Jordan Mack.
Star: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
We’ve reached a point where Tua Tagovailoa almost feels like a mythical football player worthy of throwing your entire franchise away for just to get him. This isn’t Tua’s fault. He’s been surrounded by hype since he won the Elite 11 and was the top QB prospect out of high school. The legend only grew when he led Alabama in a legendary comeback OT win over Georgia for the National Championship as a freshman. Then of course in his first full year as the starter, he was a Heisman finalist. Now, he’s a draft-eligible junior and the Miami Dolphins seem to be risking it all with a #Tank4Tua. Tua looks like a franchise passer and he’s already looking like he improved holes in his game as a junior, but what makes him so talented?
Two things that immediately stand out with Tua when watching his tape is his lack of height and that he’s left-handed. The height thing is no longer a concern (see: Mayfield, Baker and Murray, Kyler), but being left-handed will be a legitimate question with him for some scouts, ignore them. Tua isn’t some physically gifted QB with raw tools. He lacks size, his arm isn’t jaw-dropping, and he’s mobile, but not to the level of a Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray. The thing that separates Tua is his instincts as a passer. He throws with rare anticipation and ball placement to every level. That alone is exciting to build around. He’s also a high IQ passer that rarely makes a poor decision and is never rattled under pressure. Quite honestly, Tua is NFL-ready and should succeed early in the right situation.
The questions that will arise with Tua have to do with his ability to read a defense both pre and post-snap. He struggled with that in Alabama’s National Championship loss to Clemson. So far this season he looks like he’s made major strides in that part of his game, but it’s been against lower competition. It feels like Tua has already locked up being the first overall pick, but there’s still so much further to go.
This is the stuff Tua Tagovailoa needs to cleanup as a Jr. in 2019. Stares down his WR and Richard LeCounte makes a great play reading his eyes. pic.twitter.com/lyFDTB5Z41
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) May 6, 2019
Sleeper: Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
At this point, Sage Surratt might not even be a sleeper anymore. He’s making highlight-reel plays every week for the Wake Forest offense. Everybody who’s addicted to college football and watching weekday games definitely knows his name, for some reason Wake plays a lot on weekdays. So far this season in just three games the redshirt sophomore has put up 22 receptions for 372 yards, third-most in the country, and 3 TDs. He’s been unstoppable for the Demon Deacons. Surratt flashed talent last year but has taken a huge leap this season.
Surratt is a mismatch nightmare. He’s consistently the most physically imposing athlete on the field. With his size (6-3, 215), speed, and explosiveness he plays wide receiver like a basketball player. He frequently makes incredible adjustments on poorly placed balls with his catch radius, strong hands, and freaky jumping ability. There aren’t many pass-catchers his size with the flexibility and body control to adjust to both high target and low target balls with the ease he can. It’s also a huge bonus that he’s still such a young raw player getting better and better each week. The physical tools are going to have scouts in love with his potential.
When Wake Forest needed a big play vs Utah State they went to Sage Surratt. He’s a height-weight-speed WR who’s stock could skyrocket this season. pic.twitter.com/6EnSHJkV8J
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) September 3, 2019
What Surratt needs to improve upon is his ability as a route runner, his releases off the line of scrimmage, and his ability to work open on the underneath routes. His game isn’t very nuanced right now, it’s all about height-weight-speed. Seeing how far he’s come from his freshman to sophomore year gives a lot of hope that he’ll continue to get better. Right now he’s not fully on the NFL Draft radar, but he’s shown the skill set of a Day 2 pick. If he improves the little things with his game and returns to school, then first-round in 2021 isn’t crazy talk.
Overrated: Alton Robinson, EDGE, Syracuse
It’s quickly become a disappointing season for Syracuse football. They started the season ranked, but struggled in a win over Liberty before getting bullied in blowouts to Maryland and Clemson. The team is now 1-2 and their big bowl hopes are dead. With the Cuse slow start has come a rough look for their top draft-eligible prospect, Alton Robinson. Before the season Robinson had some first-round hype. He put up 17 TFLs and 10 sacks last season and on tape, he showed a consistent ability to win with violent hands and always had a pass rush plan. His technically sound game made up for his lack of functional athleticism and overall lower ceiling.
The 2019 season was supposed to be a very productive year for Robinson, but he’s struggled to show up in both the losses to Maryland and Clemson. In those two games, he’s only combined for 1 tackle and a PBU. He has had very little impact and has been called for multiple offside penalties. Robinson is a nice player thanks to his hand-to-hand combat and great motor, but without great athleticism or bend, there’s a limit to how good he can be in the NFL. The first-round hype is beginning to disappear and he’s looking more like a late Day 2 or early Day 3 player.
Risers and Sliders
DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
- When Alabama’s other other other WR is giving you the business, you’re in for a long day. Against South Carolina, DeVonta Smith was the go-to guy for Tua and the Alabama offense. He caught 8 passes for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns, all career highs. Smith is often the forgotten man in this offense because Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are first-round talents and sophomore Jaylen Waddle could be one in 2021. Despite being the fourth biggest name, Smith has the tools to be a top 100 selection. He showed off his tremendous hands, Alabama says he has the best of the quartet, and ability to separate and make big plays with explosiveness. Smith was a big recruit and when given the chance he’s a playmaker, he’ll continue to move up the board as the draft approaches.
JK Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
- After his freshman year, everybody was in love with JK Dobbins. Then he had an up and down sophomore season and looks like he could be lost in the shuffle of a great RB class in 2020. His performance against Indiana reminded the country that he’s one of the best backs in football. Dobbins is a human bowling ball with his physical running and contact balance, he just bounces off tacklers. Although he dropped a would-be TD pass early, he rebounded and made up for it later by snagging one. Dobbins finished with 207 total yards and 2 TDs on 24 touches against the Hoosiers. His open-field vision and ability to set up blockers is rare and is a big reason he should be a top 75 pick.
Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina
- Although South Carolina was blown out 47-23 at home by Alabama, they did show some fight. They were in this game until they had a touchdown on a fake field goal flip to their kicker called back. One player gave Bama trouble throughout the game, Javon Kinlaw. Kinlaw is the Gamecocks best prospect. A long and explosive interior defensive lineman with a huge motor and a ton of raw athleticism. The best play of his dad was when he threw Alabama center Chris Owens with a powerful bull rush for a sack. Kinlaw dominated the Alabama interior O-line all game creating muddy pockets and getting pressure on Tua. The physical tools are there for him to be a first-round pick.
Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
- The cardiac Golden Gophers season continued with a last-second win over Georgia Southern to make them 3-0. If not for Tyler Johnson, there’s no way Minnesota would have won the game. Johnson put the team on his back and caught the game-winning TD with 13 seconds level. He absolutely cooked Georgia Southern who have two NFL prospects at CB in Kindle Vildor and Monquavion Brinson. Johnson finished with 10 receptions for 140 yards and 3 TDs. His game is NFL-ready with maybe the best route running in the country to go along with incredible body control and terrific contested catch ability. Johnson will translate to the NFL game immediately and plays a lot like Davante Adams.
Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
- Lots of Alabama vs. South Carolina talk in a funky week of college football. When it’s the first time seeing top prospects against a fellow SEC school it’s a good way to gauge their talent. Alabama’s most impressive and consistent defender against the Gamecocks was safety Xavier McKinney. McKinney was flying around the field cleaning up plays with his aggressive style, he was like a bullet. He blew up a play in the backfield and made a handful of stick tackles. Late in the game, he easily read South Carolina QB Ryan Hilinski and came away with an interception in the end zone. McKinney isn’t on Grant Delpit’s level, but if he continues this play he’ll be a clear first-round pick.
An interception for Xavier McKinney to cap off his great day against South Carolina. Easy read and great job high pointing the ball. pic.twitter.com/8FKCJGZBAM
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) September 14, 2019
Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
- There’s been a lot of first-round talk surrounding Yetur Gross-Matos. At 6-5, 265 pounds he looks like a big-time NFL talent. He put up huge numbers as a sophomore too with 20.5 TFLs and 8 sacks. Then when throwing on the tape he’s underwhelming, there’s a splash play every once in a while, but ultimately a lot of disappearing. Well, he didn’t help himself against Pittsburgh. In a defensive battle, Gross-Matos had pretty much no effect on the game and for large chunks he was irrelevant. That’s massively worrisome for a potential first-round pick. Gross-Matos has the physical tools to be a top prospect, but his game is raw and he hasn’t shown any signs of getting better.
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
- Had Bryce Hall declared for the 2019 NFL Draft he would have been the first CB prospect off the board. Instead, he went back for his senior year and is in a far deeper CB class. Hall is a technician with elite ball skills and wonderful instincts, but the biggest worry with him is overall athleticism. Does he have the long speed to hold up against NFL WRs? Against Florida State, the athleticism question kept coming up. Tamorrion Terry beat him deep multiple times and if not for an inaccurate throw, Hall would have given up the game-winning TD on the final drive. The lack of athleticism gives him a lower ceiling than most the other top CB prospects in the class and will likely push him to the late first-round.
Middle Tier QB Prospects
- The 2020 QB class is really beginning to take shape and the middle tier QBs are having a rough start to the season. It’s been a lot of inconsistent play from the potential Day 3 QB prospects. Each one of them has had issues in every game. This week KJ Costello, Brian Lewerke, Nathan Stanley, D’Eriq King, Bryce Perkins, Cole McDonald, and Steven Montez all struggled to show they’re NFL-ready. With Tua, Herbert, Love, Eason, Fromm, Burrow, and Hurts separating themselves as the most interesting options at the position a few of these middle-tier QBs will be left behind. Costello and Stanley have the most hype, but neither has been consistent. King and McDonald are the most fun to watch, but both are sporadic with accuracy. Lewerke, Perkins and Montez each have NFL traits, but none of them are playing as well as they have in the past.
Shyheim Carter, DB, Alabama
- If there was one player who struggled on the Alabama side against South Carolina it was versatile DB Shyheim Carter. Carter plays both safety and nickel for the Crimson Tide and is known for his aggressive style, but the Gamecocks caught him with messy technique a few times. He gave up a TD to Shi Smith that never should have happened. He was in the perfect position to break up the pass, but couldn’t find the ball. Later in the game, he was caught flipping his hips the wrong way and gave up a first down as a result. Carter is an interesting prospect, but needs to clean up his technique, especially because he doesn’t look like the most fluid athlete.
Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA
- There are two Power 5 programs that have yet to win a game, Vanderbilt and UCLA. The Bruins have been a mess under Chip Kelly so far this season and their offense is irrelevant. Joshua Kelley was their most hyped prospect entering the season after putting up big numbers in 2018, but the tape never matched the production. Against Oklahoma, he was completely shut down and ran for just 51 yards on 2.8 YPA, an awful day. He rips off a big run every so often to boost his stats, but he’s not a consistent runner. Kelley doesn’t have the power to break tackles nor the vision to create for himself. He needs to show a lot more to get drafted.
Top 10 EDGE Rankings
|1||Chase Young||Ohio State|
|4||Kenny Willekes||Michigan State|
|9||Yetur Gross-Matos||Penn State|
|10||Curtis Weaver||Boise State|
Game of the Week
#7 Notre Dame @ #3 Georgia
Even though Week 3 of the college football season ended up being far more exciting than anybody expected, Week 4 leaves it in the dust. There are three different games that could be the “Game of the Week” both in terms of importance and for the amount of 2020 NFL Draft prospects involved. First, there’s #11 Michigan at #13 Wisconsin then #8 Auburn at #17 Texas A&M, and finally the cherry on top of a perfect Saturday, #7 Notre Dame at #3 Georgia. A truly major game in shaping the College Football Playoff landscape and it’s full of prospects.
This will be the first big test of the season for both teams. Seeing Jake Fromm in a primetime game against a defense with multiple NFL prospects will be huge for his evaluations. The most exciting matchup though comes in the trenches. Georgia left tackle Andrew Thomas taking on Notre Dame pass rusher Julian Okwara is a battle of two potential first-round picks. It’s all a heck of a game for safeties. All four starting safeties, JR Reed, Richard LeCounte, Alohi Gilman, and Jalen Elliott are NFL prospects. Some other lower-key prospect battles will be Chase Claypool vs. Eric Stokes, Isaiah Wilson vs. Khalid Kareem, and Tommy Kraemer vs. Tyler Clark.
|#7 Notre Dame||#3 Georgia|
|Liam Eichenberg, OT||Andrew Thomas, OT|
|Julian Okwara, EDGE||D’Andre Swift, RB|
|Alohi Gilman, S||Jake Fromm, QB|
|Jalen Elliott, S||JR Reed, S|
|Daelin Hayes, EDGE||Brian Herrien, RB|
|Khalid Kareem, EDGE||Monty Rice, LB|
|Troy Pride Jr., CB||Solomon Kindley, OG|
|Robert Hainsey, OT||Richard LeCounte III, S|
|Tommy Kraemer, OG||Tyler Clark, IDL|
|Chase Claypool, WR||Eric Stokes, CB|
|Cole Kmet, TE||Isaiah Wilson, OT|
|Ian Book, QB||Demetris Robertson, WR|
|Tony Jones Jr., RB||Lawrence Cager, WR|
|Tyler Simmons, WR|
|Rodrigo Blankenship, K|
Underclassmen on the Radar
Freaky Frosh: George Pickens, WR, Georgia
- In the Kirby Smart era, Georgia has been elite at recruiting and developing NFL talent. Now in his fourth season in Athens, there’s more NFL talent on the team than ever before. One of their future NFL prospects is George Pickens. There had been rumblings from Georgia fans that he’s their most talented WR since AJ Green, high praise. Now he’s starting to show it on the field. Against Arkansas State Pickens saw major playing time and caught 5 passes for 84 yards. What really put his name on the map though was the insane sideline grab he made in the second quarter. Pickens has insane body control to go with fantastic hands. His role should expand as the season goes on and he has the tools to go early in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Super Sophomore: Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
- As the story goes, Ohio State was as Mission Hills high school to get eyes on top QB prospect Jack Tuttle, but some scrawny WR kept making plays. That was Chris Olave, a measly three-star recruit who couldn’t get the attention of in-state schools like USC, UCLA, or Cal. After he caught two touchdowns and blocked a punt as a freshman against Michigan last year, most the country knows his name. In a deep Ohio State WR corps, Olave continues to make plays as a sophomore. He’s quickly becoming one of Justin Field’s favorite targets. Against Indiana, he caught 3 passes for 70 yards and a score while blocking another punt. Olave just knows how to get open. He’s a crisp route runner with the speed to separate and trustworthy hands. He’s willing to do anything on the field, he’ll be playing on Sunday’s soon.
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