Happy to say that I got power back in time to watch pretty much a full slate of games last weekend. It was another week of solid game match-ups and some significant performances by 2018 NFL Draft prospects. Here are some notables from games I was able to watch.
DEONTAY BURNETT/WR #80 SOUTHERN CAL 6’0/175 JR Please allow me to gush a bit about the athletic skills and receiving exploits of BURNETT for a few moments. I watch him play and compare him in style of A.C Green of the Bengals. However, my biggest concern is his slight build. He is incredibly athletic and acrobatic in his play. He can out-leap just about any defender on the field and shows excellent hands. He has Fred Astaire feet and and uses the sideline as his ally in battles with defenders. I am not sure what his 40-time is but he gets open deep and accelerates well out of his cuts. At his size will be be able to get off the line of scrimmage against man-press coverage? Probably not all the time, but conversely he will leave some defenders still trying to chuck him as he blows past them. He’s also explosive and allusive after the catch. His hands look big to my eyes when watching him pull in throws, ala OBJ. In the tight win over Texas he was once again SAM DARNOLD’s favorite target with 8 catchers, for 123 yards and 2 TD. This is an elite player who clearly looks to be a Round 1 prospect and one of the top 5 WR prospects for the 2018 Draft if he comes out early.
AARON COCHRAN/OT OKLAHOMA STATE 6’8/350 SR Mike Gundy and his staff found a very pleasant roster addition when this man-mountain signed on as a Grad-Transfer from CAL. I have been pretty impressed that for such a mountain of a man (think ZACH BANNER/D.J. FLUKER) COCHRAN has won the LT slot protecting MASON RUDOLPH’s blind side. It’s a long way to go around COCHRAN to get to the QB, and his arms look very long and strong. He can move a bit and create good screen-off blocks to the inside in the running game. I am skeptical whether an NFL team would want him on the left side at the pro level, but in two early games against USA & PITT he more than held his own in both the run and passing games. If he gets invited to the Combine I am betting there will be some oohs and aahs when his arms and hands get measured. Keep your eyes and ears peeled on this guy. He could be headed for an NFL career, and a mid-round draftee.
DUKE DAWSON/CB #7 FLORIDA 5’10/208 SR If there has been any doubt I think we can now put it aside and proclaim the Gators football program to be DB-U. The number of DB that this school has been putting into the NFL in the past decade plus has been phenomenal. They produce guys for NFL rosters who aren’t even able to earn a full-time starting job in Gainesville. In fact watching the play of this guy reminds of BRIAN POOLE 2 seasons ago, who was not a full-time starter for the Gators and was not drafted. POOLE is the Nickel Corner for the Falcons these days. HeDAWSON is a tough guy with a hard body, who is not a blazing runner but has good ball sense and plays tough. He’s equally solid against the pass and the run. Also has shown great leadership skills on a very young Defensive unit this season. Against Tennessee he had a typical Duke-day with 6 tackles, 1 TFL, and a big INT in the 3rd quarter with Tennessee positioned inside the Gators 5-yard line. Given the success of his former teammate POOLE, I would look for DAWSON to be drafted somewhere in rounds 5-7.
DIMITRI FLOWERS/H-B #36 OKLAHOMA 6’3/245 SR We need to go back a couple of weeks to just before Irma here in Florida where I live. One of the most impressive players in the Sooners win over Ohio State in Columbus was TE/FB/H-B/DIMITRI FLOWERS of the Sooners. He was active all night as a valuable underneath receiver for Baker Mayfield. In a close game at the time, he had a big 3rd Quarter catch that he turned into a catch & run TD. At the end of the evening he had caught 7 passes for 98 yards and that TD. He is also a very effective blocker in the run game. He looks to me to be an H-B candidate for an NFL team that does not employ a full time FB. I’m also pretty sure he will also excel on Special Teams. If he continues to participate like this, and the Sooners keep winning, he might get himself drafted early on Day 3 of the NFL Draft next year.
ROYCE FREEMAN/RB #21 OREGON 5’11/230 SR FREEMAN rushed for almost 1400 yards as a true freshman back in 2014. He gained over 1800 yards and looked almost unstoppable in 2015. He came back for a solid season in 2016 with 945 yards despite missing time to a suspension. He’s a classic power back who gains most of his yards between the tackles. He is a solid receiver on dump-down throws, able to gain yards after the catch if he gets a head of steam up. He is always going forward, though he sometimes has too much lean and seems to fall forward when hit by any defender. But he keeps the chains moving and is a deadly force running in the red zone. He is a TD machine down near he goal line. He now has 9 TD in the Ducks first 3 games! IMO, he’s very similar to Samaje Perine, who is a rookie with the Redskins this season. Behind a solid OL FREEMAN pounded his way to 157 yards on 30 carries, scoring 3 TD against Wyoming. He also caught a dump-down screen and wasn’t brought down until he had rambled 50 yards late in the 2nd Quarter. He may not get drafted until Round 4, but for a team that controls the ball and likes to run the clock he could make a valuable addition to an NFL roster.
JOHN KELLY/RB #4 TENNESSEE 5’9/212 JR And many of us thought the VOLS would be suffering greatly from the loss of ALVIN KAMARA to the NFL. This guy may be a better all-around player and more valuable pro prospect than KAMARA. He does not quite have KAMARA’s straight line speed, but he looks tougher to bring down to me, with the ball in his hands. He had an incredible day against the touted Gators Defense last Saturday. He carried the Vols offense, especially in the second half, both running and receiving. He toted the rock 19 times for 141 yards- 7.42 ypc- 1 TD, showing excellent power, good speed and exceptional balance. He also finished the day with 6 receptions for another 96 yards. He made some very good Florida defenders look pretty inept in their tackling efforts. Given the level of competition on the field in this game KELLY’s overall performance was as impressive as I have ever seen in a college match-up. If he declares for the 2018 Draft, and keeps up this level of play all season, he should be knocking on the door of Round 1 Draft status.
MIKE McCRAY/OB MICHIGAN 6’4/248 The Wolverine lost 10 of their 11 defensive starters at the end of the 2016 season. This young man is the lone returning starter and he is leading the young, still strong Wolverine Defense. He’s a long, athletic young man who can handle just about any assignment they give him. In 2016 he had 76 tackles which included 4.5 sacks, 7 PBU, 2 INT, 5 QBH. And he’s off to a solid start to the 2017 season as the clear leader of that unit. Against a solid, disciplined Air Force team last Saturday he had double digit tackles, with 11, and 7 of those were solo tackles. Included in those stops were 2 TFL. I have a strong hunch that he will gain momentum as a draft prospect as the season progresses. His FBI is climbing. I also suspect he will show very well as an athlete at the Combine. He is a Top 100 prospect for my money.
DEATRICK NICHOLS/CB #3 SOUTH FLORIDA 5’10/190 This guy has been the heart of the USF secondary over the course of his collegiate career. Quicker than fast, he looks for all the world like a Nickel Corner for the NFL, all day long. He has shown really good ball skills and recognition. In 2016 he recorded 4 INT and 7 PBU. And he’s off to another solid start to 2017. Against Illinois I had him down for 2 PBU and the stat chart also showed 2 tackles, which included 1 TFL. He’s a tough little guy who does not hold back in run support. Wears that Big C on his uniform. Scouts know about him and he will be a late round Draft Pick next Spring.
JASHON ROBERTSON/C/G #75 TENNESSEE 6’3/305 SR. JASHON is not an elite athlete, or even a Top 100 pro prospect, but he has been a reliable starter for the VOLS throughout his career. He had 35 starts under his belt at OG entering the 2017 season, and now finds himself manning the OC position to allow BUTCH JONES to get his best five OL on the field. Watching him in the game with Florida, I would say he has adapted well to his new position. This will only add to his value for an NFL team. While he competes for an NFL job he will be able to provide his team with a multiple position backup for game day. He has nice size for an interior OL position, with the ability to move his feet and get to second level blocks when needed. I think he will find himself ranked as a draftable, Day 3 guy next Spring.
MASON RUDOLPH/QB #2 OKLAHOMA STATE 6’5/230 SR I’m going to go ahead and proclaim RUDOLPH to be the top Senior QB in the land, while everyone scrutinizes the Big 3 underclassmen, in DARNOLD/ROSEN/ALLEN. Under the tutelage of former State QB Mike Gundy and his staff, this guy has gotten better each season for the Cowboys. He had 28 starts coming into the 2017 season and should have the kind of game experience NFL scouts prefer in their QB prospects, but rarely get any more. He may have his best supporting cast yet this season, and appears to me making the most of it through 3 games. Against an always competitive PITT team RUDOLPH had a field day. He went 23/32- 71.9%- 497 yards- 5 TD- 1 INT in a bit less than 3 full quarters of action. He displays an above average arm and has demonstrated the ability to put touch on his throws as required. He also shows the ability to move around in the pocket to extend plays. He is NOT a scrambler/running threat, but that may help him stay healthy. If he keeps this kind of play up the remainder of the season I would see him being taken in Round 1 of the next Draft. Keep an eye on this guy the remainder of the season.