11 Nov 2021 NFL Draft Watch: Top 3 Week 11 College Football Games
A couple of COVID cancellations put a bit of a damper on the Pac-12’s debut, but USC and Arizona State gave us an instant classic. NFL Draft prospects Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns were both mentioned as players to watch in last week’s column, and they combined for 14 catches and 153 yards, playing a crucial role in the Trojan’s 14-point comeback with just over two minutes to play.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame made a statement with an overtime win against Clemson, with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah accumulating nine total tackles, two and a half for loss, and half a sack. Daelin Hayes put together a nice outing as well, picking up a sack and two tackles for loss.
This week’s slate of games has already lost a big one with the cancellation of Alabama/LSU. Since that game will not happen, we will focus on some other matchups featuring NFL Draft prospects this weekend.
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#13 Wisconsin at Michigan
Wisconsin’s season got off to a hot start with a 38-point victory, but a Coronavirus outbreak has sidelined the Badgers the last two weeks. Then there is Michigan, who could not be off to a worse start. The Wolverines did win their season opener, but have dropped their last two with a home loss to rival Michigan State and a three-possession defeat at Indiana.
One of the most notable players for Wisconsin is linebacker Jack Sanborn. A high football IQ is Sanborn’s calling card, which allows him to be quick to key and diagnose running plays and be effective in zone coverage. If he can loosen up his hips to be more effective covering tight ends man-to-man, he will improve on the current third-round projection he is facing.
Offensively, wide receiver Danny Davis III is a savvy route runner who has beautiful body control to make some impressive in-air adjustments. However, he lacks top-end speed, struggles to create separation against physical defenders, and has a rather long injury history. With that, Davis will likely be a fifth- or sixth-rounder on draft day.
Moving to the inside, the Badgers have an early- to mid-Day 3 prospect in Jake Ferguson. The tight end excels as a receiver with a wide catch radius and the elusiveness and power to tack on yards after the catch, but he leaves a lot to be desired as a blocker. Ferguson often whiffs at the point of contact and struggles to stay engaged when he does get hands on the defender, meaning NFL teams will have to be patient with him in this realm.
Michigan linebacker Joshua Ross will be tasked with slowing Ferguson down. This matchup may favor the latter because Ross struggles in coverage and is more of a downhill run-stuffer. With the NFL being a more pass-happy league, that is hindering his NFL Draft stock as a potential fifth-round pick.
Kwity Paye has been rising up some draft boards this season, as he has managed to accumulate two sacks and four tackles for loss in just three games. The edge defender is an extremely versatile player who can defend against the run, get after the quarterback and drop in coverage. Paye’s problem is he does not play with a lot of aggression, leading to him earning a fourth-round projection over the summer.
He is quickly playing his way into the second-round discussion this year.
On the other side of the ball for the Wolverines is a late-Day 2 prospect in tight end Nick Eubanks. His combination of size – 6’5” and 256 pounds – and athletic ability make him a matchup nightmare for linebackers in man coverage. However, Eubanks lacks the technique and play strength to be able to block defenders one-on-one, meaning he is a liability in the running game.
Utah at UCLA
A Utah player was hospitalized because of COVID-19 last week, which delayed the start of their season. But the Utes have not had a positive test in at least two days, so this week’s contest should be on for now. As for UCLA, they lost in a shootout to Colorado last Saturday, and it is time for head coach Chip Kelly to start racking up a few W’s to lock in some job security.
At quarterback Utah has Jake Bentley, a graduate transfer from South Carolina. Bentley missed all but one game last year for the Gamecocks with a foot injury, which is very concerning because mobility in the pocket was one of his biggest issues before the ailment. Regardless, he does do a good job of working through his progressions and is not afraid to step up and deliver the ball under pressure.
That alone makes the signal-caller a potential late-round pick and developmental quarterback at the next level.
One of Bentley’s top targets this season is tight end Brant Kuithe. With the impressive ability to adjust in mid-air and a pair of strong hands, Kuithe thrives in contested catch situations. But he leaves something to be desired as a blocker and is not explosive enough as a route runner to create separation in the NFL, making him a late-Day 3 prospect.
Shifting the focus to UCLA, safety Quentin Lake is a versatile defender who can cover the slot in man coverage or take away the middle of the field from a deep one-high alignment. The problem is his traits and production do not line up as he only managed to accumulate 93 total tackles and two interceptions the last three seasons.
As it stands, Lake will likely be a fifth- or sixth-round pick, but that can change dramatically with an impressive 2020 campaign.
As a potential Day 2 pick, defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa might be the most notable draft prospect the Bruins have. Odighizuwa wins with some impressive play strength as a run defender and a quick get off as a pass rusher. If he can add a few finesse moves to his pass rush arsenal, he will have a chance to sneak into the NFL Draft Day 1 conversation.
Demetric Felton is a hybrid running back/wide receiver player who is best described as an offensive weapon. He is a dynamic receiving threat with good contact balance and home run ability. However, Felton needs to improve as a blocker and lacks NFL-level size at 5’9” and 185 pounds, making him an early-to-mid Day 3 guy.
#10 Indiana at Michigan State
The Hoosiers have been the biggest surprise out of the Big 10 this season. They are 3-0 with upsets over ranked opponents Penn State and Michigan, and ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 1969. Outside of a win against their in-state rivals, it has been a miserable year for Michigan State and new head coach Mel Tucker. The Spartans are 1-2 with a two-score loss to Rutgers and a 42-point drubbing at the hands of the Hawkeyes in Iowa.
Indiana wideout Whop Philyor is a late-round prospect with strong hands and good body control. However, he struggles to create separation and does not show enough traits to suggest that will be any different at the next level. Unless that changes soon, Philyor will likely be a special teamer to start his NFL career.
There are not many players who make Bruce Feldman’s freaks list twice, but Marcelino Ball’s 405-pound bench, 365-pound power clean and 22.74 mph top speed was good enough to make the cut. Ball has the speed and strength to play in the NFL, but his instincts in coverage do not match his physical abilities.
The athletic freak will likely get drafted in the sixth or seventh round unless a team falls in love with him at the combine and is willing to be patient and develop him.
Michigan State has an absolute mauler in the run game in guard Kevin Jarvis. He plays with some nastiness as a run blocker and has a stout anchor in pass protection, but he frequently loses balance and struggles to recognize and pick up delayed blitzes. Jarvis is currently facing a fourth- to sixth-round draft projection.
Next to Jarvis is center Matt Allen, who has some Day 2 potential but will likely be a Day 3 pick. With a high football IQ, good hand placement, and a strong grip, Allen is a rock in the passing game. The problem is that those skills do not seem to translate to his run blocking, as he plays with high pad level and struggles to get much movement against defensive linemen.
One the other side of the trenches for the Spartans is Naquan Jones, a disruptive 3-4 nose tackle with great size – 6’4” 338 pounds – and good short-area quickness. However, he is a one-year starter and is very limited as a pass rusher, making it hard to see him get drafted any earlier than the seventh-round at this point. An impressive senior season will go a long way towards Jones’ draft stock.
- 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.