#20 OREN BURKS OB VANDERBILT 6’3/230. You have to be a real Draftnik to really know much about BURKS, but I highly recommend you watch him in action for the Commodores as the season progresses. BURKS has toiled in relative obscurity but has been a significant factor in making the Vandy team competitive in the tough SEC. He’s a productive player (59 tackles in 2016), but what makes him so interesting as a prospect is his versatility on on the field. He’s equally adept whether handling run stopping duties, or shadowing receivers as they slip off the line of scrimmage to run their routes. Last season he had 1 INT as well as 6 passes defended. I don’t have to tell you how highly valued that skill set is these days. BURKS was a big influence in the tough road loss to Florida last Saturday. At the end of the day he had roamed the entire field and recorded 15 tackles, 6 of them solo, as well as 1.5 TFL. This guy works the entire field. He has the tools to be a 3-down defender. I’d also expect him to turn into a very good Special Teams player at the pro level. He’s a solid prospect who is both accountable and available for his team. It may not be early, but I can’t see him not getting drafted in 2018.
#4 LUKE FALK/QB WASHINGTON STATE 6’4/223 Talk about a self-made man. This former walk-on is now the field general of the wide open Offense of the 5-0 Wazoo, who upset Southern Cal last Friday night. For the evening, against an athletic defense FALK went 34/51- 67%- 340 yards- 2 TD- 1 INT. This young man has come a long way under HC Mike Leach. So now the question begs to be answered as to his pro-potential. His FBI is quite high after playing for the mad genius of a head coach. His arm is above average, though not elite. He does have nice touch on his throws and anticipates his receivers and their routes quite well. He’s a pocket passer, who is not going to extend plays if his pocket collapses around him. He can dodge around a bit, ala TOM BRADY, but will require a safe pocket to throw from. He reminds me quite a bit of a smaller JOE FLACCO, with an Andy Dalton arm. I don’t see him as Top 100 timber from an NFL perspective. Let’s say he mat get some serious interest in Round 4 next year.
#34 BEN HUMPHREYS LB DUKE 6’2/215 JR. Only a few years ago HUMPHREYS would have been labeled a hopeless ‘tweener for the NFL, with better prospects to play LB north of the border in the CFL. But as the NFL works to get more defenders on the grass who can help cover the multiplicity of receivers flooding the field, the new “hybrid” S/LB players are much sought after. HUMPHREYS, though not a speedster, is a very active player with a high FBI. His 106 tackles in 2016 speak volumes about his ability to cover the field. He also performs well as a zone blitzer. Even though DUKE was outmatched athletically by Miami last weekend HUMPHREYS still stood out with 6 tackles, 1TFL, 1/2 sack and 1 QBH. He’s a sneaky/smart player who hides well before blitzing the QB from all angles. I liken him to Packers Rookie JOSH JONES, who also played in the ACC, at NC State. Humphreys only had 3 less tackles last season than the athletically superior JONES. I could be wrong, but I don’t see HUMPHREYS with enough pure speed to play SS full-time at the next level. But he’s a good athlete, who plays really smart. If he continues to excel and decides to leave school early look for him to be a mid-round draftee.
#75 MITCH HYATT OT CLEMSON 6’5/295 JR It says a lot about a player who can walk into an elite program like Clemson and start as a true freshman, which HYATT did. He’s now a junior and clearly one of the Top 10 OL in the nation, as well as a potential first round draftee. He’s in the new mold of OT who come out of college as polished in pass-pro, which has become the heart and soul for most NFL Offenses. He’s lean, but strong and has the desirable long arms to fend of defenders. He has the athleticism to pull and get to second level blocks in the run game, but he’s not the kind of brute force player whose butt I’d run up down on the goal line. Seal blocks, yes. So let’s be clear here I saw a guy who fits today’s NFL OTB primary criteria of the feet for pass-pro, length and athleticism. If he comes out mark him down as a Day One draftee.
#16 GODWIN IGWEBUIKE S NORTHWESTERN 6’0/205 Please meet the heart and soul of the Wildcats secondary. No, let’s make that the leader of the entire defensive unit. As expected the Wildcats gave the Badgers all they could handle last Saturday in Camp Randall Stadium. Godwin is a S who can play the pass or run effectively. He will come up in run support and attack the RB. But he also has the ability to play the pass pretty much all over the field, including deep. He seems to have a high FBI and has very little difficulty finding the ball and diagnosing plays. He had 7 tackles for the game, 3 of them solo. He also pulled down an INT. His fine play in 2017 should not come as a surprise to knowledgable Wildcat watchers. He led the team in tackles in 2016, with 108. He’s one of only 7 defenders returning to 2017 play in the Big Ten who topped 100 tackles last season. He’s reliable and athletic. He now has 35 career starts for the Wildcats. I’d slot him between Round 3-5, depending upon his play the remainder of the season, as well as his numbers from the Combine.
#25 JAMAL MORROW RB WASHINGTON STATE 5’9/200 It’s not too hard to find the gems for the next draft when scout/watching college games. But we are always watching for a diamond in the rough or two who aren’t on a lot of watch lists… yet. Of course I had to watch the Southern Cal/Washington State contest last Friday night. OK, I admit I taped the late nighter, and watched on Monday morning. Lots of top notch talent on display, much of which will play mostly on Sundays in 2018. However, before the contest hit halftime I had zeroed in on, technically speaking, the No. 2 RB for the Cougars in MORROW. The short (not little) guy was doing it all in the Cougars attack. He showed explosion as a runner, good hands as a receiver, and yards-after-catch ability. He never faded away as the night wore on and was a big factor in one of the State program’s biggest wins in recent memory. He carried only 6 times, but gained 91 yards and scored a TD. QB/FALK hit him 5 times with passes and after YAC running he had gained 147 yards and scored another TD. He also returns kicks in his spare time. I doubt he can push himself into a Top 100 prospect ranking, but he looks to me like a very solid potential change-of-pace, do it all, No 2 or 3 NFL RB prospect. Watch for him the rest of the season. I will project that at this pace he is making himself draftable.
#76 CODY O’CONNELL OG WASHINGTON STATE 6’8/365 HC MIKE LEACH is clearly a free-thinking, wide open offensive mind. But his offensive scheme is more than a chuck and duck design. His OL are asked to do a bit of everything, including run blocking. O’CONNELL is the star of that OL unit. Do not be fooled into thinking that he plays inside at OG because he’s not athletic enough to handle an OT position. His versatility allows LEACH to play him inside to get his best 5 OL on the field. Long, is of course one of the first adjectives used to describe CODY and it is accurate. It may be eye catching when his arm length is measured at the Combine or Senior Bowl. But the best surprise is his athleticism and agility at his size. In the 2nd Quarter against USC I spotted him 15 yards downfield leading the blocking for a WR screen play. He also displayed the ability to pull successfully on several wide running plays. He can engulf and/or bury defenders with his size on running plays, but also use his long arms effectively to control defenders inside on pass-pro. If he’s not an instant pro starter, then I think he surely could be a multiple position back-up for game day back-up duties. He clearly looks to me to be a Top 10 interior OL Draft prospect.
#5 CAM PHILLIPS WR VIRGINIA TECH 6’0/202 How does a veteran receiver respond to being double and triple teamed all night by perhaps the top defensive team in the nation? If you are CAM PHILLIPS you keep working and running your routes ’til the gun sounds, no matter what the score. And at the end of that 60-minutes of clock time CAM had himself 7 receptions for 74 yards in Tech’s beat-down at the hands of Clemson, and their almost pro-level Defense. PHILLIPS shows me some of the same attributes we saw last season from ZAY JONES. He’s fast enough, though not a burner, to get separation from defenders. He’s a solid route-runner and doesn’t drop many balls. Hw was only 3 catches behind ISAIAH FORD, with 76 receptions for the Hokies in 2016. His catch totals should only go up exponentially as RS Frosh QB/JOSHUA JACKSON grows into the starting job. He’s quicker than fast and tough to bring down, again much like ZAY. Another guy who is on the cusp of being a Round 3 draftee next Spring. I hope to see CAM in Mobile come January, for the Senior Bowl.
#6 MATTHEW THOMAS OB FLORIDA STATE 6’3/227 Some days are diamond, some days are stone. Back when FSU fell to NC State in Tallahassee I had THOMAS’ name written down on my scouting sheet. He barely lasted 1 Quarter. That seems to happen on a weekly basis with a player or two I intend to watch for that week’s game. Luckily for me, and the Seminoles, his injury was not too serious and he was back out on the field against Wake. And he was the all over the field defender that will make him a Day Two draftee in the next NFL Draft. He has some pass rush ability, but also can drop off into coverage. He’s the prototype of a 3-4 base set, OLB. His intelligent, highly productive day showed him with 10 tackles (7 solo), 2 TFL, 2 sacks. He also clogged up the passing lanes with his presence. He reminds me a lot of another ex-Seminole named Telvin SMITH who is perhaps the best all-around defensive player for the NFL Jaguars. Expect THOMAS to test out at a top level at the Combine and be one of the first LB taken in the 2018 Draft.
#42 CHRISTIAN WILKINS DT CLEMSON 6’4/310 JR It is almost a waste of time to try to evaluate WILKINS on his tackles count for the Tigers. You have to watch his play carefully to appreciate all that he does. He and giant teammate DEXTER LAWRENCE make it pretty much a waste of time trying to run between the tackles for opponents. I saw at least 3 occasions where WILKINS was asked to drop into shallow/middle pass coverage, while a LB blitzed on the play. You have to also remember that DABO has himself a 2-3 deep front 4 to work with so WILKINS doesn’t get the reps to put up huge numbers. Perhaps best of all is WILKINS ability to penetrate, or push blockers, into the pocket forcing the QB to try to escape to the outside which is futile against the athletic Clemson DE. It’s almost the perfect defensive storm with WILKINS being the eye of the storm. Former teammate CARLOS WATKINS was taken last Spring in the 4th Round by the Texans, joining another former teammate D.J. READER/NT on that roster. IMO, WILKINS is stronger and more athletic than WATKINS, meaning he might crack the Top 100 in 2018.