NEWS AND NEAR NEWS

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Happy Birthday Austin!!! … Many happy returns to second grandson Austin who turns 12 today. Cool!!

Vols WR Tillman has ankle surgery … Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman, one of the better prospects at the position for the 2023 draft, underwent a surgical procedure that the team hopes will speed his recovery from a high-ankle sprain suffered two weeks ago in the Vols’ win over Akron. Tillman reportedly had what is known as ‘tightrope’ surgery in which a high-strength suture is implanted an the ankle. Tillman, who had been on pace for a second-straight 1,000 receiving yard season prior to the injury, did not play in last week’s win over Florida and gets a week off this week with the Vols on their bye. The program is non-committal as to the timeline for his return but needless to say hope its sooner rather than later with the 8th ranked Vols scheduled to play at LSU next week and then host 2nd-ranked Alabama the following Saturday.

Tide DE Anderson, Buck QB Stroud still 1-2 on GBN Big Board … Alabama DE Will Anderson is still the #1 prospect on the latest, updated GBN Big Board ranking the top 50 prospects overall for the 2023 draft. Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud also stays at #2, with Georgia DT Jalen Carter at #3. Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith Njigba moves up to #4, followed by Alabama QB Bryce Young, Clemson DT Bryan Bresee, Kentucky QB Will Levis, USC WR Jordan Addison, Clemson DE Myles Murphy and Georgia CB Kelee Ringo who round out the top ten. Here is the full Top 50.

Who to watch in college football this weekend … Another pretty good week on the college football schedule with as many as four games between ranked teams including one between a pair of top-ten teams. And there are lots of good prospects for the upcoming draft to check out this weekend, including several of the top QB prospects. Here’s who we’ll be watching with an eye toward the 2023 draft in this weekend’s key college games.

Bonus coverage: Rising BYU Cougs featured in college Thursday niter … We’ll be posting a full ‘who to watch in college football’ tomorrow – and its an intriguing weekend with as many as four games between ranked teams. And no doubt NFL scouts will be all over Saturday’s games. There’s a good chance, though, they’ll also be all over tonight’s ESPN game (8 PM ET) between #19 BYU and Utah State in the 91st meeting between the two for the ‘Old Broken Wheel.’ In particular, pro teams will be checking out BYU QB Jaren Hall (#3, 6-1, 205) who is one of the hot guys in this year’s deep QB class. Hall isn’t all that big, but he is a very accurate passer who reads the field well and gets rid of the ball quickly. For the record, Hall has completed 72% of his pass attempts so far this fall an is on pace to throw for close to 4,500 yards; he also has 9 TDs passes against just one pick. And he hasn’t been picking on football minnows as the Cougars have played both Baylor (win) and Oregon (loss) in their 4 games to date. Hall leads one of the best offenses in the country which also includes RB Chris Brooks (#2, 6-0, 230), WR Keanu Hill (#1, 6-3, 215), who is averaging more than 20 yards per catch, TE Isaac Rex (#83, 6-5, 250), and LT Blake Freeland (#71, 6-8, 305), another solid 2nd day Cougar prospect. Meanwhile, veteran ILB Ben Bywater (#2, 6-2, 230) leads the BYU defense. Unfortunately, 1-3 Utah State doesn’t have the same talent level as the Cougars and in fact don’t have any one considered to be a lock to be drafted this spring. However, the Aggies do have a veteran team, especially on offense, which includes QB Logan Bonner (#1, 6-1, 230), a rare 7th year senior, RB Calvin Taylor (#4, 5-8, 210), WRs Justin McGriff (#10, 6-5, 215) and Brian Cobbs (#8, 6-2, 210) and LT Alfred Edwards (#72, 6-6, 325) all of whom have at least NFL size and could get FA looks.

Defensive rankings posted … With the college football season now pretty much a month in, we have enough info to post our initial positional rankings for the 2023 draft starting with the offensive positions yesterday and concluding with the defensive positions today including the DEs, DTs, LBs, CBs, and safeties.

Early odds to get the #1 pick at the 2023 draft … The 2022 NFL season is just three weeks old, but already we have a pretty idea as to which teams are the likely contenders for this year’s Super Bowl title. Not so much yet, though, for which team will ultimately get the first pick at next April’s draft. For now, if the draft were held this week, Las Vegas, the league’s only still winless team, would have the top pick  general consensus is that the Raiders have too much time to be stuck near the bottom of the standings for all that long. So which teams are the betting favorites, alongside all NFL odds, to have the #1 pick once the season has played itself out later this year. Read more

Giants report: day after thoughts … Okay, so maybe the Giants weren’t going to go 17-0 after all. And last night’s loss to the Cowboys was disappointing as the Giants didn’t play all that well. The offensive line was a sieve, especially in the first half;  the receivers were no-shows and probably should have been asked to buy a ticket to get into the building; and the defense couldn’t get a stop when it really mattered. And yet there we were in the final minute with the ball and a chance to tie. Didn’t quite happen but the Giants clearly competed against a good team. Read more

Offensive rankings posted … With the college football season now pretty much a month in, we have enough info to post our initial positional rankings for the 2023 draft starting with the offensive positions today including the QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, OTs, OGs and Cs.

Utah TE out for year … Utah TE Brant Kuithe, one of the more productive players at the position in college football, will reportedly miss the rest of the season with a reported knee injury. Kuithe is a 5th-year senior with 146 career receptions, but likely will be eligible for a 6th year if he requests one. He is a later round prospect who at just 220-pounds is probably best suited to in an H-back type position at the next level.

Parity reigns in NFL … Just three weeks into the regular season and there are only two remaining undefeated teams: Philadelphia and Miami. On the other hand, there is only one 0-3 team – somewhat surprisingly Las Vegas which was expected to be a contender in the tough AFC West – while Houston is winless but has a tie. Everybody else – that’s 28 of 32 teams are either 2-1, 1-2 or 1-1-1. So what’s it all mean looking ahead to the 2023 draft. Not much! Again, we won’t be posting the full weekly updated draft selection order for a couple of more weeks, BUT if the draft were held this week the Raiders would have the first pick, followed by the Texans and Atlanta, which has the weakest SOS figure of any of the 1-win teams, would have the third pick. At the same time, 4 teams – Arizona, New Orleans, San Francisco and the LA Chargers – all share the next worst SOS number among 1-2 teams. And none of those latter 4 teams were really expected to be in the midst of a chase for top 10 draft spots. Stay tuned!!

Aggie WR out for year; Boise QB on the move … TexasA&M has confirmed that star WR Ainias Smith, a second-tier prospect, will miss the rest of the year after he suffered a fractured leg in this weekend’s win over Arkansas. Ainias still has a redshirt year available which he will use for now, but has indicated he will still consider his 2023 draft options. He’s something of a Deebo Samuel type of receiver who has played both WR and RB in his A&M career. Meanwhile, Boise State QB Hank Bachmeier has somewhat surprisingly announced that he is entering the transfer portal. Entering the year, Bachmeier was considered to be something of a late-round or free agent prospect, but struggled on the field this fall and hopes to revive his chances somewhere else next fall.

Raiders to hold top pick for week … As we noted last week, we will not be posting the weekly selection order for the upcoming draft for another couple of weeks or so until we get a few more games in the books and some real trends start to emerge. That said, we can confirm that when this week’s schedule wraps tomorrow night, Las Vegas will be sitting on the #1 pick overall. The Raiders lost a tough on in an early game this afternoon as they fell 24-22 in Tennessee which also came into the game at 0-2. Atlanta, which is playing at Seattle in a late game this afternoon, could join the Raiders at 0-3, but the Raiders SOS is significantly lower than that of the Falcons. Meanwhile, Houston which also lost a tough on earlier today, 23-20 to the Bears in Chicago on a last-second FG, is currently the league’s only other winless team, although they do have a tie, and will finish the week with no worse than the third pick depending on what happens with the Falcons.

So who is #4? … NFL teams looking to draft a future franchise QB generally follow one of two patterns. They either identify one guy they really like and if they can make a move to get that guy if they need to. More often, though, teams identify a certain number of players they feel are worthy of a top ten, or so, pick and hope to get the best one still available when they make their selection. Talking to people around the league, one gets the impression that, at least at this time, there are currently 3 QBs who fit that ‘top ten worthy’ category: CJ Stroud of Ohio State and Bryce Young of Alabama, both of whom are considered to be top 5 prospects, and Will Levis of Kentucky. It had been thought that Anthony Richardson of Florida and Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke were also pretty close to that group, but neither has played all that well so far this year and, as redshirt sophomores could, and probably should return to school, if things don’t pick up over the course of the rest of the season.

On the other hand, there is something of a growing buzz out there regarding Hendon Hooker of Tennessee and Washington State’s Cameron Ward who appear to have replaced the Florida guys in the 4-5 spots in the QB positional ranking. Both have good size, are excellent athletes who can make plays with their legs, and have plenty of arm talent. However, neither is necessarily a lock to fit that ‘top ten worthy’ grouping. Hooker is already a 6th year senior who’ll be 25 when he gets to his first NFL training after spending 4 years at Virginia Tech before transferring to Tennessee prior to the 2021 campaign. And while he has been close to a 70% passer during his career and has taken very good care of the football, there are concerns that Hooker isn’t necessarily all that consistently precise when throwing from the pocket. In contrast, at least in football terms, Ward is still something of a novice; in fact he’s still only played 4 games at the FBS level after spending two years – albeit very productive years – at FCS Incarnate Word. And there are concerns after throwing 5 picks in those 4 games that he is still a very raw talent.

The other thing one tends to hear talking to people around the league about the 2023 QB class, is that there are as many as a dozen second-tier QBs out there who, while they wouldn’t be worth a first-round pick, or at least an early first round selection, are still good prospects who one would really like to get into camp to see if their physical tools and/or productivity would in fact translate to the pro game. We will be releasing our first full positional rankings for the 2023 draft later in the week, but for now here is the updated QB rankings for the upcoming draft.

‘Cane QB benched in stunning loss … Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke, who has generally been considered to be one of top 4-5 prospects at the position for the 2023 draft was benched in the 3rd quarter of the Hurricanes stunning 45-31 loss to Middle Tennessee State of C-USA who came into the game as 25-point underdogs. Van Dyke completed just 16 of 32 passes for 138 yards and a TD, but had a couple of costly picks. That comes a week after a less than impressive performance in last week’s 17-9 loss to Texas A&M in which Miami did not score a TD.

Bonus coverage: Cavs-Cuse do Friday nite lites … Pretty good weekend of college football coming up with several games worth checking in on as noted in this week’s ‘who to watch‘ column. One of the themes of that post was programs fighting to regain football relevancy. That certainly also goes for Syracuse which hosts Virginia in the ESPN Friday night game with kick-off at 7 PM ET. The Orange are 3-0 after last week’s heart-stopping last second win over Purdue. And the Orange also have some prospects for the upcoming draft. RB Sean Tucker (#34, 5-10, 205) is one of the best backs in the country and has some second-day potential. Same for disruptive LB Mikel Jones (#3, 6-1, 225) who isn’t all that big, but is very quick and aggressive getting into the backfield. The Orange also have a pretty good CB in Garrett Williams (#8, 6-0, 190), along with a promising LT candidate in Matthew Bergeron (#60, 6-5, 325) who has shown up on some top 5 lists for the position. For its part, Virginia, which is 2-1 including a road loss at Illinois, features one of the better second-tier QB prospects in Brennan Armstrong (#5, 6-2, 215), a gunslinger who was 4th in the country in passing yards last fall, although he is off to something of a slower start this year. Pro scouts also like WR Dontayvion Wicks (#3, 6-2, 210), a big target with some speed, while ILB Nick Jackson (#6, 6-1, 235), OLB Chico Bennett (#15, 6-4, 255) and CB Anthony Johnson (#3, 6-1, 205) are solid players with NFL size.

Who to watch in college football this weekend … It’s another week on the college football schedule without a true marque match-up of top ten teams, but once again this week there are a number of really interesting games featuring intriguing prospects for the 2023 draft. That includes looks at a number of rising second-tier QB prospects who are pushing for spots among the top 5 grades at the position. Read more

An open letter to all my Giants’ fans friends … Hard to believe that for the first time in what seems like forever, the Giants are 2-0 – just one of 5 remaining unbeaten teams in the league – and are hosting the hated Dallas Cowboys on Monday night in the first really meaningful game in again what seems like forever. And all anybody seems to care about – at least based on the vast majority of emails I have received this week – is what can we get by trading away our best player. I mean WTF! My response is here in an open letter to Giants fans, especially those who seem to think that the future is like 3-4 years away.

Pats, Vegas swap late, future picks in deal for vet OT … In another one of those deals involving a swap of late round picks, New England has sent 3rd year reserve OT Justin Herron to Las Vegas. To complete the deal the two teams will flip late round picks in 2024 with the Patriots getting the Raiders 6th rounder than year, while the Raiders will get the Patriots’ 7th.

Falcons, Raiders with top two picks … We’ve had several correspondents ask today whether we’ll be posting the updated selection order for the 2023 draft this week. The simple answer is ‘no’. We’ll wait until after the 4th or 5th week of the schedule to give some trends time to start to emerge. That said, we can say that ‘if’ the draft were in fact held this week, Atlanta and Las Vegas would literally flip for the first pick overall, while Carolina and Tennessee would quite literally flip for the 3rd and 4th picks. In fact, just two weeks in the schedule and there just four 0-2 teams and one would expect that Tennessee and Las Vegas, who ironically play each other next week, to stay that low for long. Meanwhile, Houston and Indianapolis are 0-1-1 and would have the 5th and 6th picks, at least for this week. But again, so much is likely to change between now and the end of the season. Stay tuned!

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