JONATHAN ALLEN/DE #93 6’3/294 ALABAMA The Crimson Tide looks like a serious contender for a national title once again after 2 convincing victories to open the year. And their Defense will be expected to carry the bulk of the load as usual as a new QB is broken in … again. Now here is the real surprise, despite losing two top DL to the 2016 Draft (REED/ROBINSON) their most productive front man may be back in ALLEN. ALLEN is more likely to be taken high in Round 1 this time around, because among other things he is a solid pass-rush threat. Against WKU & USC he put in his typical all-around game efforts. His stat sheet for 2 games reads 7 T, 3 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU, 3 QBH, 1 blocked FG. On a seriously talented overall defensive unit those numbers are most impressive. This guy can do it all, including setting the edge against the run. Expect him to be in consideration for a Top 10 Draft slot next April.
ALEX ANZALONE/LB #34 6’3/244 FLORIDA His college resume’ is not very long, due in large part to losing most of his 2015 season to injury. But talk to his teammates and coaches and the long haired (ala CLAY MATTHEWS) is a serious athlete and smart defensive leader for the Gators. The team lost a host of talented defenders to graduation last of-season so they were counting on a healthy ANZALONE to help lead their D. LB-mate JARRAD DAVIS gets the bigger stats and more attention, but his team understands his value. He can shoot gaps to pressure opposing Offenses on their side of the ball, is an effective edge blitzer and seems comfortable out in space providing pass coverage. He may not pile up huge stats this season, but if he stays healthy he is going to show well on game tape for NFL scouts. Smart, athletic defenders are all the rage for today’s NFL and he may fit the bill. His play against Kentucky gives me reason to believe that he is a man worth watching this season.
A.J. JEFFERSON/DE/LB #47 6’3/277 MISSISSIPPI STATE The kind of versatile multi-dimensional defender that the majority of NFL DC are looking for in the pass happy League. JEFFERSON can rush the passer, stop the run and drop into shallow coverage a bit. He has long arms and uses them very effectively to shed blockers and clear his way to the ball. He is also good at swiping at the ball as the QB cocks his arm to throw. He does play under control and carries out his assignments in their scheme. Was very disruptive against South Carolina spending a lot of the evening on their side of the line-of-scrimmage. He had a sack and 1.5 TFL early in the first quarter to set the tone for the Bulldogs D. From that point on the Gamecocks ran away from him or tried to double team block him. His versatility should play nicely on tape for NFL scouts.
BROOKS ELLIS/ILB #51 6’2/248 ARKANSAS ELLIS led the Razorbacks in tackles in 2015 with 102. But he’s more than just a tackling machine thumper, which you might have noticed if you watched carefully in the upset win over TCU. I counted 3 TFL for ELLIS, who really has a knack for finding the ball coming out of the opposing QB’s hand. His signature play in this contest was a first half Pick 6, where he jumped a route and took it to the house with a 47-yard return. But he also had his usual productive day with 13 total tackles, including 3 TFL. Mark him down as very athletic and versatile, and a solid candidate especially as an ILB in a 3-4 base scheme at the next level.
AMBA ETTA-TAWO/WR #7 6’2/204 SYRACUSE The football program at Syracuse is in a major rebuilding and reshaping mode under new HC DION BABERS. And even though the future is a few more recruiting classes away (at best) BABERS has not been bashful about accepting transfers to his football team. ETTA-TAWO was in a rebuilding Maryland program and decided it was time for a change of scenery. Looks like a great career move because AMBA is showing he is a legit college WR who may have NFL in his future. LOUISVILLE took it to the ‘Cuse, but ETTA-TAWO was not to be stopped. He used his size, strength and speed to haul in 7 balls for 104 yards, and 2 TD. His long catch of the night was good for 47 yards. He has shown good hands and nice route running. After 2 games he’s well on pace for over 100 catches on the season. Keep an eye on this guy this Fall.
JOSH HARVEY-CLEMONS/LB/SS 6’5/230 LOUISVILLE This is not likely to be a big stats year for this incredible athlete, as he basically transitions himself form a S to a versatile, cover LB. His size and athleticism should impress pro defensive coaches with his ability to cover the plethora of receivers running all over the field in today’s pass-happy NFL. He looked confused at times against Syracuse, but he was also around the football a lot for the evening. He may labor through the position transition this season, but when we get to post-season Star Games and the NFL Combine watch out for him to explode in the numbers game and be climbing up prospect charts rapidly.
FRED ROSS/WR #8 6’2/207 MISSISSIPPI STATE ROSS is not an elite player, but he is the backbone and steadiest receiver that State has right now. Despite not being a burner, or a jitter bug, he is a very effective Punt Returner. He had several PR of over 10-yards, and averaged 9.3 ypr against the Gamecocks. In the bounce back win over South Carolina ROSS caught 6 balls for 56 yards and a TD. ROSS is a steady player with reliable hands and lots of intangibles. He also threw one pass and completed it for a TD. The quiet team leader will most surely be drafted next April and should find himself a job as a team’s No. 3/4 WR option. And given his can-do attitude he’s sure to contribute on Special Teams in multiple roles.
COOPER RUSH/QB #10 6’3/227 CENTRAL MICHIGAN Last year a non-D1 QB by the name of CARSON WENTZ was the hot prospect for the NFL Draft. He turned out so well that the EAGLES traded away SAM BRADFORD and started WENTZ riding him to a W in Week 1. EVen though the refs screwed up the end of their game big time RUSH, led the Chippewas to a big upset Win over Okie State on the road. So why can’t RUSH emerge as the non-Power 5 darling for this season? The nice sized senior had a huge day passing 30/42- 361 yards- 4 TD. He’s a mobile guy, who though not a runner, can keep the play alive and roll the pocket as needed. The past two seasons he has demonstrated consistent accuracy completing 64% & 66% of his throws respectively. The team is poised to make a run for the MAC title which would also help boost RUSH’s stock. Watching RUSH stand up to a hostile crowd in Oklahoma, also impressed me. He has earned respect as a top 6 QB prospect for the 2017 Draft.
JEREMY SPRINKLE/TE #83 6’6/255 ARKANSAS A very impressive athlete, who can block and catch. He is a smooth runner with the ball in his hands and reminds me a bit of ANTONIO GATES as a receiver, but more like MARCEDES LEWIS overall. Either way that makes him a serious prospect for next year’s Draft. His size provides a very large target area for his QB. HUNTER HENRY was a 2nd Round NFL Pick last April, and SPRINKLE may not go that high, but he’s an even better inline TE prospect overall. I look for him to double his 27 catches from last season. It should also be noted that his size makes him a valuable red zone weapon. 6 of his 29 catches last season went for a TD. In the big upset of TCU SPRINKLE had his usual day with 3 catches for 58 yards and 1 TD, plus some serious inline blocking all game long. Not great, but he contributes like that on a weekly basis to serve as a cornerstone to their offense. It should also be remembered that HC Bielema spreads the ball around and likes to run a lot.
CARLOS WATKINS/DT #94 6’3/305 CLEMSON A likely candidate for Round 1 of the 2017 NFL Draft. He plays even bigger than his solid 300 Lb.+ frame. The real surprise is how agile and quick he is on his feet. He plays on the Nose for the Tigers, but looks like he would fit even better into a 4-3 base set scheme at the pro level. He has good range and does get penetration into opponents’ backfields. He’s anchoring a Clemson Defensive Line that lost 3 starters to the NFL in LAWSON, READER & DODD. As the senior leader he is being counted on to lead a talented, but young group of new starters all around him. And as the Offense struggles it is WATKINS and the D that has the Tigers sitting at 2-0. He is not the sure thing that LAWSON was last year as an elite edge pass-rusher, but he does provide pocket pressure right up the middle. Even mobile QB like he has faced the first two weeks of the season ave trouble eluding him in the pocket. He should have a shot to be a first rounder in the 2017 Draft.