21 Oct 2021 NFL Draft Watch: Top 3 Week 8 College Football Games
One positive spin for this year’s COVID-19-influenced college football season is that we get a little present nearly every week. For example, this Saturday we get the Big 10 back, and more 2021 NFL Draft prospects to watch!
With the boys up north back in action, four out of the five Power Five conferences will be playing this weekend, bringing some normalcy back to the sports world. This also means more NFL Draft prospects will be on display and we will have more entertaining games watch.
If you have been disappointed with the college football season so far, this week should reignite your interest.
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#18 Michigan at #21 Minnesota
This is a great matchup not only because of the NFL Draft prospects involved, but also the underlying storylines that are associated with it. Michigan is a traditional Big Ten powerhouse that has been slipping lately, whereas Minnesota is an up and coming program that is coming off an 11-win season.
It will be a classic old school versus new school matchup, and the icing on the cake is all of the future pros that are involved.
One of Michigan’s top prospects is cornerback Ambry Thomas. The Detroit native excels in press coverage and has the hip fluidity to be effective in man coverage at the next level. However, he is not quite as effective when playing off the line of scrimmage pre-snap and does not offer much run support, making him a mid-Day 2 prospect.
At linebacker, the Wolverines have a late first- or early second-round prospect in Cameron McGrone. To defend against the modern day NFL passing game linebackers have to have a significant amount of speed and quickness, and McGrone checks both those boxes. If he can start to play with more strength to disengage from blocks, he will solidify his status as a first round pick.
Edge defender Aidan Hutchinson is another name to keep an eye on. As a pass rusher, Hutchinson has a handful of moves he can win with including a bull rush, push/pull, and swim moves. He could use some extra time in the weight room to become a more effective run defender but regardless, the junior will likely hear his name called on night one or two of the NFL Draft.
Shifting gears to Minnesota, we will start with quarterback Tanner Morgan. With an outstanding 2019 campaign where he showed off some impressive accuracy and a high football IQ, Morgan seems like a lock to be a top-100 pick with the potential to become a first rounder.
He lacks some athleticism that has become more important at the position in recent years, but smart guys who can place the ball where they want do not grow on trees, so any QB-needy team will certainly be interested.
On the receiving end of Morgan’s passes is wideout Rashod Bateman, who will likely be a mid or late first round pick come April. He is a savvy route runner who understands leverage and has smooth change of direction skills, but he struggles to win at the line of scrimmage against press coverage. That should make for a very interesting battle between Bateman and Thomas.
Finally, there is 6’9” 400-pound (yes, you read that right) offensive tackle Daniel Faalele. As you probably could have guessed from his size, Faalele has elite-level play strength that helps him drop the anchor in pass protection and move defensive linemen as a run blocker.
He does lack the footspeed to stay in front of quick defenders on the edge, but his size and strength are something any offensive line coach would be willing to work with at the next level.
Faalele will likely be a late-first to mid-second round pick.
#17 Iowa State at #6 Oklahoma St
Both of these teams stumbled out of the gate to start the season, with Iowa State dropping its season opener to the Louisiana Rajin’ Cajuns and Oklahoma State surviving scares against Tulsa and West Virginia. However, both squads seem to have solved their early season woes, making this a top 20 matchup.
Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy gained some notoriety in the NFL Draft community this offseason primarily because of his ability to navigate the pocket and extend plays. The downside of those traits is he does tend to leave the pocket early, and he does not have the accuracy when throwing on the run to compliment his scrambling ability.
Unless things change between now and April, Purdy will likely be a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick.
One of Purdy’s top targets is tight end Charlie Kolar. As a true hybrid player, Kolar is a solid run-blocker and crafty receiver with reliable hands who can fit into any offense at the next level. He certainly will not be the most athletic tight end in this year’s draft class but with his scheme versatility, it will be a surprise if he slides past the fourth round.
Switching to the other side of the ball, safety Greg Eisworth II is a physical run defender who makes a major impact on the first and second levels. However, he does lack the range to be a single-high safety and will likely be pigeon-holed as a strong safety and special teamer at the next level. Expect Eisworth to be a fourth or fifth round pick in the draft.
Probably the most notable prospect for Oklahoma State is running back Chuba Hubbard. He has a chance to be the second running back off the board due to his terrific vision and home run hitting speed.
The problem is, Hubbard is not much of a factor in the passing game as a blocker or as a pass-catcher, which has become more important in the NFL recently and might scare a lot of teams away.
Wide receiver Tylan Wallace is another offensive weapon for the Cowboys. Wallace has very strong hands, excels in contested catch situations, and is a physical runner after the catch. He will likely be a Day 2 pick and needs to show more ability to create separation if that is going to change.
On defense safety Kolby Harvell-Peel is another player to keep an eye on from OSU. Harvell-Peel can play in the box to provide run support, but he struggles in man coverage against more agile slot receivers. Unless he cleans up his coverage skills, he will likely be a third or fourth round pick in the NFL Draft.
South Carolina at LSU
With both teams entering the game unranked and a combined 3-4 record, this game doesn’t exactly scream “must watch.” But all we’re concerned about here are the NFL Draft prospects and this matchup has plenty of those.
With Israel Mukuamu out last week it was fellow cornerback Jaycee Horn’s time to shine, and he certainly made the most of his opportunity. Horn – the son of former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Horn – had two interceptions and four pass breakups last Saturday against Auburn.
Obviously he has some impressive ball skills to go along with the versatility to excel in a man or zone coverage system at the next level. However, Horn does struggle in run support which could keep him out of the first round come late April.
Offensively, the Gamecocks have an impressive run blocker in offensive tackle Dylan Wonnum. His pure strength and experience in a zone-heavy running scheme will help increase Wonnum’s potential suitors at the next level, but his slow feet and lack of athleticism make him a liability against speed rushers on the edge. The big man will likely be a sixth or seventh round pick.
Wide receiver Shi Smith is a dangerous weapon for South Carolina because of his explosiveness and ability to manipulate defenders. Smith can get sloppy with his footwork when running routes and has questionable hands, making him a seventh round or priority free agent NFL Draft prospect.
Shifting focus to LSU, wideout Terrace Marshall has been tearing it up this season with 21 receptions for 424 yards and seven touchdowns. Marshall is effective on slants and can win at the catch point with his leaping ability and strong hands, but he is a little stiff as a route runner which will hinder his ability to separate at the next level. With such a deep wide receiver class, again, he will likely hear his name called in the third round.
Defensively, Jabril Cox hopes to become the third Tiger linebacker in as many years to go in the first round. He has the coverage skills to make that happen but needs to become better at shedding blocks to erase any doubt. The second round is a more realistic projection for Cox right now.
Jacoby Stevens is listed as a safety on LSU’s roster, but he is really more of a Swiss Army knife as he will line up at slot corner, linebacker, and at multiple safety spots. He is solid in zone coverage and is a sure tackler in the open field, but he gets caught flat-footed in man coverage far too often.
In the NFL, he is best suited as a special teamer who can contribute in sub-packages so expect him to be a late round pick during the NFL Draft.
- A Bay Area native who has a dysfunctional relationship with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.
- Matt played college football and was a recruiting assistant at Division 3 Willamette University, where he received his BA and MBA.
- He has worked in the industry as a journalist, film analyst for PFF, and graduated from the Scouting Academy.