NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

Media outlets wishing to interview Colin Lindsay or Pigskin Paul Guillemette about the draft or other football topics should email the editor or call 613-692-1088

Top QB prospects catch Pigskin’s eye in college football last week … The big game in college football last weekend, at least from a draft perspective, was in Los Angeles where USC and UCLA played their annual shoot-out in a game that featured the top two QB prospects for the upcoming draft – and maybe the top two prospects period – in Sam Darnold of Southern Cal and the Bruins’ Josh Rosen. GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette weighs in with his observations on both players from Saturday night’s game as well as thoughts on Louisville QB Lamar Jackson among others in this week’s overview of the players that caught his eye in last weekend’s action with an eye toward the 2018 draft.

Senior Bowl announces first acceptances … The Senior Bowl formally has announced that 26 players have accepted invitations to this year’s game. Headlining the initial list of Senior Bowl acceptances are Oregon RB Royce Freeman and OT Tyrell Crosby, along with WRs Michael Gallup of Colorado State, Iowa State’s Allen Lazard and Anthony Miller of Memphis, TEs Adam Breneman of UMass and Indiana’s Ian Thomas, and Southern Cal OLB Uchenna Nwosu. The Senior Bowl list also includes a number of promising FCS prospects including South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert, South Carolina State OLB Darius Leonard and North Carolina A&T OT Brandon Parker. At the same time, here is the updated GBN list of reported Senior Bowl invitations and acceptances. This year’s Senior Bowl will be played January 27th in Mobile.

Browns stay at #1; 49ers back to #2 in weekly draft order … Cleveland hit double digits in losses for the year earlier today when the Browns lost 19-7 to Jacksonville to drop to 0-10. And that means the Browns will hold onto the #1 pick in the proverbial ‘if the draft were this week’ selection order for the 2018 draft for at least another week.

Specialist rankings posted … Due to popular demand – well, not really – we have added the specialists – punters, PKs and long snappers – to the 2018 positional rankings a little earlier than we have in the past.

OU QB Mayfield won’t start this week after sideline outburst … Oklahoma has announced that star QB Baker Mayfield will not be a team captain and won’t be the starter when Oklahoma hosts West Virginia on Saturday. Mayfield, the clear frontrunner in the Heisman race and a potential first round pick at the 2018 draft, got into it on the sidelines in this past weekend’s game against Kansas when he grabbed his crotch and shouted several expletives at several Jayhawks’ players; that was after the Kansas players refused to shake his hand during the pre-game coin flip and a number of other chippy moments during the game. Mayfield apologized after the game, but still won’t start this weekend, although its not clear how long his ‘suspension’ will last. Indeed, its possible that Mayfield could only miss a series or two given the importance of the game to the Sooners who need a win to keep their CFP playoff hopes alive. Its also not clear how either Heisman voters or NFL scouts will react to the outburst, but in the latter case Mayfield will certainly have some explaining to do at pre-draft interviews. Stay tuned!

QB Watson, RB Hunt head Pigskin halfway All-rookie team … With the NFL season now into the homestretch, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette has posted his All-rookie team through the first half of the campaign. And no surprise that Houston QB DeShaun Watson and Kansas City RB Kareem Hunt headline the team.

LSU LB Key doesn’t travel last week; WVU QB Grier injured … A couple of notes from this past weekend’s college football schedule. LSU junior OLB Arden Key, a potential top 10 pick for the 2018 draft, did not travel with the team to Tennessee for Saturday’s game with the Volunteers. Key did not practice last week because of an undisclosed knee injury suffered the previous week against Arkansas. While the injury is not believed to be overly serious, it may raise some concerns among pro scouts as Key already missed significant playing time earlier this season after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery. Meanwhile, West Virginia junior QB Will Grier, who has emerged as a potential mid-round prospect were he to opt to enter this year’s draft, is expected to be out 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair he broke the middle finger in his throwing hand during the Mountaineers game with Texas over the weekend. Given the time frame, Grier will miss the team’s season finale this coming week, but could conceivably be back for their bowl game.

Who to watch in college football this week … After two great weekends on the college football schedule, it’s kind of breather week coming up with teams gearing up for their big Thanksgiving weekend games next week. Indeed, there is only one game on this weekend’s schedule involving ranked teams playing each other. That’s in the Big Ten where 5th ranked Wisconsin tries to keep its CFP hopes alive against visiting #18 Michigan. And the Wolverines-Badgers match-up is one of the games that GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be watching this weekend with an eye toward the 2018 draft. The place to be in college football this weekend, though, will be Los Angeles when UCLA plays at Southern Cal at 8 PM ET on Saturday evening on ABC in a game that features a head-to-head match-up between QBs Sam Darnold (#14, 6-3, 220) of USC and UCLA’s Josh Rosen (#3, 6-4, 220), the consensus top prospects at the position for the 2018 draft, and just maybe the top two prospects overall. USC also features a quartet of very good junior prospects including RB Ronald Jones (#25, 5-11, 200), WR Deontay Burnett (#80, 5-11, 170), ILB Cameron Smith (#35, 6-1, 250) and CB Iman Marshall (#8, 6-0, 205). Meanwhile other Bruins to watch several seniors including WR Darren Andrews (#7, 5-10, 195), a Biletnikoff semi-finalist, veteran C  Scott Quessenberry (#52, 6-2, 310), DE Jacob Tuioi-Mariner (#91, 6-2, 285), LB Kenny Young (#42, 6-1, 235) and S Jaleel Wadood (#4, 5-9, 180).

To QB or not to QB … Right now, what were picking up from sources around the NFL is that there is a growing sense that QBs Sam Darnold of Southern Cal and UCLA’s Josh Rosen would be the first players off the board if the 2018 draft were held today. And NFL.com’s Dan Jeremiah did his own small survey of NFL personnel executives in which Darnold was the unanimous choice (of 5 people polled) to be taken before Rosen. There also appears to be somewhat of a drop off to the next tier of QBs in the 2018 draft class which likely includes Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson of Louisville, and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, although all of these players still appear to have at least first-round potential. The most interesting of the latter group may be Mayfield, the front runner in this year’s Heisman race, who just about everyone will tell you would be in the top 2-3 discussion ‘if he were 3 inches taller.’ Stay tuned!

Husky LB Victor suspended for DUI … Washington senior LB Azeem Victor has been suspended indefinitely from the team after he was arrested over the weekend and charged with DUI. Victor entered the season as a pre-season All-American, but has had a tumultuous senior season that has taken a toll on his draft grade. Victor was suspended for the Huskies’ season opener as a result of a failed drug test and then lost his starting job in October.

Who caught Pigskin’s eye in college football last week … In the wake of last weekend’s fascinating slate of games on the college football schedule, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette weighs in with some thoughts on the players that caught his eye in last weekend’s action with an eye toward the 2018 draft.

Bills bench QB Taylor; hand ball to rook … In a somewhat surprising move, Buffalo will replace starting QB Tyrod Taylor with rookie Nate Peterman, a 5th round pick at the 2017 draft, when the Bills play Tampa Bay on Sunday.  The move is a surprise because the Bills would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The move has also led to speculation that the Bills could very well be looking at QBs at the 2018 draft; Taylor is due a big ($6M) roster bonus if he’s on the roster on the 3rd day of the 2018 football season; he’ll also count over $18M against the Bills cap next year and that’s a lot for a guy ranked 23rd in the league in passing efficiency. It also doesn’t hurt that Buffalo is one of two teams with multiple first-round picks in the opening round that could give the Bills some ammunition if they wanted to move up on April 26th. For the record, the Bills would have the 21st and 24th (acquired from Kansas City) picks in this year’s opening round if the draft were held this week.

Bonus coverage … We’ll have our full college football weekend preview up a little later, but for now fans looking for an emerging second-tier offensive lineman should tune in tonight’s MAC conference game between Western Michigan and Northern Illinois (7 PM ET; ESPN2) and check out WMU LT Chukes Okorafor (#77, 6-6, 330), an early second day prospects for the upcoming draft.

Star game roster update … It will be awhile before the rosters for January’s all-star games are formally announced. But GBN Investigative College Football Reporter Larry Parker reports that there are confirmed reports that several top prospects have at least been invited to the Senior Bowl including WRs Courtland Sutton of SMU and Memphis’ Anthony Miller, UMass TE Adam Breneman, OT Tyrell Crosby of Oregon, and rising UTEP OG Will Hernandez. There are also unconfirmed reports that Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield, the consensus leader of the Heisman race, has also been invited. Of course, these are just invitation and there are no guarantees that the players will actually accept and then actually show-up. Meanwhile, the one confirmed invite to the Shrine game is South Florida QB Quinton Flowers.

Updates on OT Williams, QBs Rosen and Allen, DE Key … Good news out of Texas this week where star junior OT Connor Williams has been cleared to return to action this weekend. Williams, a potential top 10 candidate for the upcoming draft, has been out since he sprained an MCL in his left knee in late September. Williams is not expected to start Saturday when the Longhorns play at West Virginia, but could see time in the team’s OL rotation. It’s good news for Williams, though, in the sense that he will almost certainly be fully recovered in time for pre-draft testing. Meanwhile, for those that were out of the universe over the long weekend, UCLA junior QB Josh Rosen returned to action after this past weekend when he completed 25-of-45 passes for 381 yards and a touchdown in the Bruins’ 44-37 victory over Arizona State on Saturday. Rosen had been forced to sit out the previous week after suffering a concussion the week before and there were concerns that the injury could keep him out for an extended period. And for those who haven’t heard, Rosen and USC’s Sam Darnold, the top two QB prospects in the 2018 draft, go head-to-head this coming Saturday when the Bruins play at Southern Cal. At the same time, Wyoming QB Josh Allen is listed as questionable for this weekend’s game with Fresno State after he suffered what is being reported as a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder last weekend. LSU DE/OLB Arden Key is also listed as questionable as he has not practiced this week after he was forced to leave last weekend’s win over Arkansas with an undisclosed leg injury. The injury is not believed to be serious, but its not going to help Key’s grade as he already missed the early part of the campaign after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery.

Gamecocks’ TE first junior to declare … South Carolina has confirmed that junior TE Hayden Hurst will be giving up his final season of eligibility and declare for the 2018 draft. ccording to Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. The NFL, however, will most likely not consider him to It is possible, though, that the NFL won’t technically consider Hayden, who played three seasons of minor league baseball before returning to school, as an official underclassman as he is already well over 3 years removed from high school. The 6-4, 255-pound Hurst, who has 38 receptions for 480 yards this fall, is considered to be a mid-to-late round prospect for the upcoming draft. As far as we can tell, Hurst is also the first underclassmen to formally announce his intention to enter the upcoming draft. As is past years, we’ll be tracking the underclassmen as they declare for this year’s draft.

Browns back to top pick in updated weekly selection order … With San Francisco getting off the schneid posting its first win of the season after beating a listless Giants on Sunday, Cleveland has reclaimed the #1 pick in the opening round of the 2018 draft selection order were it to be held today. In fact, the Browns would actually have to win at least two games to have move out of the top pick as both the Giants and 49ers, the league’s two one-win teams both have stronger strength of schedule numbers than Cleveland. Meanwhile, San Francisco still technically holds the second pick as of this week as the 49ers are 1-9 while the Giants are 1-8; however, San Francisco’s strength of schedule figure continues to be somewhat higher than that of New York so the Giants will slide up to #2 if they were to lose their game in hand. Its also a pretty good bet that the Browns, 49ers and Giants end up with one of the top three picks in April’s draft as every other team has already won at least three games.

Pigskin’s latest Top 20 … With the race for the 4 CFP playoff spots now in high gear, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul  Guillemette has updated his Top 20 with a month to go in the college football schedule.

Star game gazing … If its mid-November and the college season is wrapping up a young draft prospect’s thoughts turn toward, well the draft including the all-star games. Indeed, with the end of the regular campaign we will start to see underclassmen announcing whether they intend to enter the upcoming draft or not. We will also start to see the major post-season all-star games begin to announce their respective rosters. For the record, the Senior Bowl is scheduled for January 27th in Mobile, while the Shrine Classic and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl go a week earlier on January 20th. And there was major news from the NFLPA game which is moving to Los Angeles and will held at the Rose Bowl this year. The NFLPA game also announced that former NFL head coaches Mike Martz and Darrell Green will be the head coaches of their two teams this year. As usual, GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette will be reporting from the ground at both the Shrine and Senior games. At the same time, Investigative College Football Reporter Larry Parker will be tracking player acceptances at the three games.

Another great week on the college schedule … Its crunch time in college football and we get a second straight weekend with multiple games featuring ranked teams going head-to-head, all of which have huge conference and national implications. It all culminates with a Saturday night double header with Notre Dame playing at unbeaten Miami and TCU at Oklahoma in virtual CFP elimination games. Better keep the remotes handy, though, because unfortunately those 2 games are on at the same time on different networks. And needless to say, this weekend’s slate also feature many of this year’s top draft prospects. Here is GBN Associate Editor Pigskin Paul Guillemette’s picks and previews for this weekend’s big games with an toward the 2018 draft.

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