Post Tua big board thoughts … In the wake of the significant hip injury suffered by Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa that ended his season and jeopardized his draft standing, the GBN scout staff have chosen to take a worst case scenario position and, for now at least, have dropped Tagolaivoa all the way to the bottom of the opening round on the GBN Big Board. At the same time though, its likely that if he passes his pre-draft medical tests at the combine and beyond, Tagovailoa’s grade will likely move back up into the top ten range. For the record, the Big Board will undergo a full pre-bowl revision early next month with the completion of the regular college season. However, there have been several recent tweaks to the Big Board worth noting, including the fact that Ohio State DE Chase Young has been elevated into the #1 spot overall, followed by LSU QB Joe Burrow at #2.
Among some of the other notable shifts, the GBN staff now has Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs rated slightly ahead of Georgia OT Andrew Thomas. In fact, Wirfs has been moved up to the #4 slot overall on the full GBN Top 100, although Thomas isn’t all that far behind at #7. Wirfs is simply stronger and more athletic than Thomas, who has prototype length and explosive short-area quickness, but has struggled at times to anchor when bull-rushed. Sticking with the OL for a couple more moments, the GBN staff has also added rising Texas redshirt sophomore LT Samuel Cosmi to the opening round mix; he comes in as the #4 OT in the positional rankings and 24th prospect overall. Same story for Ohio State redshirt sophomore OG Wyatt Davis, who is currently at #28 on the Big Board. Also note that Oklahoma redshirt sophomore Creed Humphrey has been moved ahead of Wisconsin veteran Tyler Biadasz among centers, with Humphrey rated 22nd overall and Biadasz 29th. One final note on the offensive front. In normal drafts, if a team wants a quality OT they usually have to think opening round, but this year there appears to be some exceptional depth at the position, with as many as a half dozen very good OTs currently carrying a second-round grade on the GBN board, including Trey Adams of Washington (at #37), TCU’s Lucas Niang (#44), Louisville’s Mekhi Becton (#46), Austin Jackson of USC (#53) and the aptly named Prince Tega Wanogho of Auburn (#62).
At the same time, the GBN staff is warming to Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa, who has really come on in recent weeks culminating in a dominating performance in the Hawkeyes’ win over previously unbeaten Minnesota this past weekend. Epenesa lacks the overall quickness and athleticism of a Chase Young, but he is a relentless defender with long arms and a quick first step; he looks to be best suited to play as a 3-4 DE, but could also fit as a versatile 4-3 guy who could play on the outside on run downs and then kick inside in passing situations. As noted, Epenesa got off to a slow start this fall posting only one sack through his first four games, but has averaged a sack per game over the past 6 games which has included dates with Michigan, Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota. That’s after he led the Big Ten with 10.5 sacks last fall. Right now, the GBN staff has him rated as the 9th overall prospect, but with the ceiling to go higher.
And speaking of ceilings, one other player the GBN staff is really excited by is Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons. He is still only at #14 on the big board, but he is potentially the best overall athlete in college football these days with the physical potential to really blow up the combine. In this day and age when one really has to be able to run to defend in the NFL, the 6-4, 225-pound Simmons represents a potentially really unique quantity such that nobody should be shocked if he’s talked about as a possible top 5-10 guy come April. On the other hand, we appear to have seen some slippage by LSU FS Grant Delpit, who came into the season with a top 5 grade, but just hasn’t made many plays so far this fall.