Happy Saturday, and welcome to week 8 of the College Football season! Once again we are faced with a tough decision with the prime time game this week. Also, the New York Giants will represented at a couple games this weekend. The first is the game between Florida State and Louisville, and they will have a credentialed scout at Oklahoma State vs. Texas as well.
So let’s get to it.
Game 1 - Florida State vs. Louisville
ESPN - 12pm
As I just mentioned, the Giants will be actively scouting this game. And considering how much interest they (reportedly) showed in Patrick Mahommes last year, it’s a fair assumption that they want to get a good look at quarterback Lamar Jackson — Especially considering that this is the second Louisville game at which they have had a credentialed scout this year.
Jackson is, save Saquon Barkley, the most exciting player in college football. He is thin for an NFL quarterback and we just don’t know what his learning curve will be at the next level. However, he has electric athleticism with the ability to break the game at any given moment, as well as an incredibly strong arm to throw frozen ropes on the run with a flick of the wrist.
Jackson’s left tackle, Geron Christian, is an easy mover and could be of interest as well. Louisville also has a number of defensive prospects, such as OLB Trevon Young, who are worth paying attention to.
Florida State has a number of future NFL prospects as well, most notably safety Derwin James.
This is going to be one of those games that is best enjoyed in the moment and scouted after the fact in DraftBreakdown videos.
Game 2 - Miami vs. Syracuse
ESPN - 3:30pm
Syracuse stunned the college football world when they beat the reigning national champion Clemson Tigers last week. Meanwhile Miami as ascended to eighth in the national rankings.
The Miami player to watch from the Giants’ perspective might be defensive end Chad Thomas. The Giants have typically liked big, long, powerful defensive ends, and Thomas is certainly that. At 6 feet, 5 inches, 280 pounds he has length and power in spades. A good run defender, he has been improving his play behind the line of scrimmage. He totaled 11 tackles for a loss in 2016 and already has six, to go with a pair of sacks, this year.
The Syracuse defense has a player of interest as well, linebacker Zaire Franklin. Franklin is a bit undersized at 6’0”, 230 pounds, but he is a versatile ‘backer with an aggressive mentality and a solid football IQ.
Also of interest is wide receiver Steve Ishmael. Ishmael looks the part of a flanker at the next level with good size and reliable route running. He has taken a leap in his senior season, averaging 9 catches and over 100 yards per game, playing an important role in Syracuse’s explosive offense.
Game 3a - Notre Dame vs. USC
NBC - 7:30pm
It is downright cruel of the schedule makers to put this game and the match-up between Penn State and Michigan on at the same time. There are a bevy of future NFL players in both games, and I can’t pick out one I’d rather watch more.
So I’m talking about both games.
For this one we’ll start on the USC side of things.
- Sam Darnold (QB) - We’ll start with the most obvious prospect, the one that everyone is going to be watching. Darnold is currently sitting atop most quarterback depth charts and would likely be the first signal caller taken in the draft.
That is, if he declares for the draft. Darnold is a red-shirt sophomore who will have less than two complete seasons under his belt should he opt to leave for the NFL. Darnold might be going at the top of many mock drafts, but he could probably benefit from going back to school for (at least) one more year. He certainly has intriguing tools to win both from the pocket and after the play breaks down, but he also has questions regarding his decision making and has thrown at least one interception in six straight games (of seven) to start the season.
- Nicholas Falah (C) - While everyone is paying attention to Darnold, the man snapping him the ball is quietly garnering more attention himself. Falah is coming off a strong game against Utah where he blocked well in the run game as well as in pass protection.
- Ronald Jones II (RB) - Jones is in the conversation as a top-5 running back in the draft. He’s a “do it all” back with a similar size and running style to Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman. Ed wrote earlier this week that the success of Darkwa shouldn’t mean that the position is settled for the foreseeable future, and he’s right. Darkwa has dealt with injuries throughout his pro career. Jones runs with determination vision, with the ability to break arm tackles and keep going, and shows good hands as a pass catcher.
- Uchenna Nwosu (OLB) - Nwosu wasn’t getting much publicity entering the 2017 season — not compared to EDGE players like Arden Key. However, he is establishing himself as a pass rusher to watch. Listed at 6’3”, 235 he shows explosiveness off the edge, with solid technique, flexibility to bend around the edge, and power when he needs it.
- Mike McGlincehy (OT) - After the knee injuries suffered by Texas’ Conner Williams and Washington’s Trey Adams, McGlinchey is the top healthy OT. A former right tackle, he moved to left tackle when Ronnie Stanley left for the NFL. He isn’t the athlete that Stanley is, but he shows a solid understanding of angles and plays with the bloody-minded toughness you like to see from offensive linemen. He is tall, listed at 6’8”, but he has solid flexibility and uses sound technique. He doesn’t look particularly comfortable blocking in space or at the second level, but he does seem to relish in burying defenders.
- Quenton Nelson (OG) - Nelson is probably the best offensive lineman in this draft class, and is an absolute monster of a guard. He has everything he needs — technique, power, athleticism, and quick feet — to excel in any blocking scheme in the NFL. It is, quite simply, a joy to watch him work. Nelson is a big guard, listed at 6’5”, 331, but carries his weight extremely well and moves like a much smaller lineman.
- Equanimeous St. Brown (WR) - St. Brown might just have the best name in the draft, and he also has the kind of raw tools to raise scouts’ eyebrows. Listed at 6’5”, 205 pounds, St. Brown has the length that scouts love to see in receiving prospects, and the body control to make circus catches. He doesn’t yet use his size and frame to their fullest potential, but when he does he could, at least, be a “big possession” receiver and might even be a legitimate playmaker at the next level.
- Josh Adams (RB) - Adams has had to split time in the Irish backfield and has had to deal with injuries, but he is a big running back (listed at 6’2”, 220 pounds) with intriguing physical traits. He tends to run a bit upright, but shows good speed for his size and hands in the passing game.
Game 3b - Penn State vs. Michigan
ABC - 7:30pm
I’ve already fawned over Saquon Barkley, and I’m not going to do that again here. Instead, I want to talk about the Michigan Wolverines, who should pose a strong challenge for Penn State.
Looking at college football from a New York Giants draft perspective, you pretty much HAVE to start with the offensive line. That means we’re going to start with Michigan lineman, Mason Cole.
Last year we heard that the Giants were very interested in Cole, with one source saying that they were “all over” him before he decided to return to school. Listed at 6’5”, 305 pounds, he is a bit tall and svelte for a center, but he is a smart and powerful player in the middle of the Michigan line. What makes him especially attractive is that he has the athleticism and experience playing on the edge at offensive tackle. He started 13 games at left tackle in 2015 before moving to center in 2016, and is back to left tackle again in 2017.
Cole would likely be able to start at four positions along the offensive line (left guard to right tackle). With both Justin Pugh (LG/RT) and Weston Richburg (C) entering free agency, a player like Cole would give the Giants plenty of versatility should they only be able to retain one.
Turning to the other side of the ball, the Giants might be interested in defensive tackle Maurice Hurst should he slip out of the first round. Hurst has been getting first round consideration from the NFL since the 2016 season, and is coming off a strong game against Indiana. Listed at 6’2”, 282, he is undersized but an explosive and very quick DT who could excel in the 3-technique role. He plays with very good pad level to maximize his natural leverage and exposiveness, and there is a certain amount of “Aaron Donald” to his game.
If Hurst doesn’t test as exceptionally well as Donald, his size could cause him to slide a bit in the first round and could be a very good value for a team in need of a penetrating interior defender.
Who are you watching this week?