Just a brief explanation of how I decide what games to watch for scouting purposes on any given weekend. The primary, overriding criteria, by far, is the competitive nature of the matchup for each game. I absolutely refuse to create a thumbnail on an athlete playing for a nationally ranked program that is playing some cream puff competition. What value can there be to rate a prospect’s performance against competition from a team that his team will dominate by 30-plus points. For instance, this past weekend Penn State was playing against Villanova. The 38-17 victory in Happy Valley was actually closer than many expected. But in reality, a Penn State prospect is more than likely going to post some stats that clearly overstate his pro potential against inferior competition. In most games, I will also be targeting teams with a really good match-up, and multiple prospects. I am unlikely to create a thumbnail for a player who has an “off” game, or of course, gets injured. My scouting notebook is replete with crossed out names and notes from players that I will rewatch in a later game. After all, everyone has an off day… don’t we.
The 2020 WR Draft group was one of the strongest and deepest in years. And as usual in the receiver group, a large number of them were underclassmen. That leaves a big hole at the top of the Draft Prospects lists this Fall, while we wait for the “new” receivers to step up and assert themselves. I have been waiting, rather impatiently, for some WR to come forward and present. Finally, this past weekend, it happened. Watching the TEXAS A&M/ARKANSAS game I was blown away by the appearance and work of one TREYLON BURKS, #16 for the Razorbacks. He’s a big guy at 6’3/220-225, but is quicker and faster, and stronger, than any DB I watched trying to cover him. My first note on him was of his receiving an Offensive Holding penalty early in the first Arkansas possession for blocking downfield a bit on a running play. But late in the first quarter, he beat the Corner coverage and went long… He made a nice over the top catch and outran a defender in the open field for an 85-yard catch and run TD. That was the beginning of the BURKS Show. On the day, BURKS was targeted 9 times, catching 6 of them for 176 yards and 1 TD. His combination of size and speed, with good hands is exceptional. I was impressed enough to put in my notes, and put them in print here, that he reminds me a lot of a big time receiving star named JULIO JONES, now with the Titans. High praise, and deservedly so. He looks like a future No. 1 Receiver for an NFL team with Pro Bowl talent. Round One, and likely the first wideout in the 2022 Draft based on this showing.
In the same game, a nice upset Win by Arkansas, I also eyeballed A&M OL KENYON GREEN #55, again. He had played at OG previously in his Aggies career but had been moved outside to RT in the Spring. In this game, he started back at RG and was at his usual best, using strength and mobile feet to dominate in a limited area inside. But as the game progressed, he was moved outside to OT, including late time at LT. And it did not go well for him outside to my eyes. The edge-rushers in general for Arkansas were quick enough to beat him around the edge repeatedly. A&M can use him where they need him most going forward, but for me, he will be listed as an OG the rest of his time leading up to the Draft. And on the interior, where his lack of length does not show, he has the look of a 2nd Round Pick to me.
#7 MALIK WILLIS QB Liberty 6’1/220 My initial take heading into this college football season was that the QB group was not going to feature the pro ready QB talent that we have seen in recent Drafts. I had the opportunity last Friday night to watch WILLIS lead his Flames team into the Carrier Dome to face a decent Syracuse team, with an, at times, dominant Defense. In comparison to some intel I had read heading into this season, I just want to advise LAMAR JACKSON that he has very little to worry about as far as Mr. Willis stealing any of his thunder with his legs, as he heads to the NFL next season. WILLIS has above average athleticism, but nowhere near the speed and scrambling ability of JACKSON. What I did like was what I saw from MALIK as a passer, which pleasantly surprised me. I don’t think I saw him throw off his back foot once in this game, other than to avoid a sack. His OL was basically overwhelmed all night in pass-pro against a young, athletic ‘CUSE defense. I am also not convinced that anyone in his current receivers group is of future NFL caliber. However, WILLIS refused to give up and led a solid rally heading into the 4th Quarter. His arm is well above average, and his throwing motion and footwork are clearly pro ready. He made some very nice long, sideline throws and his ball looks very receiver friendly. They get to the target on a spiral, but aren’t breaking any fingers. Despite not being a “speedy, elusive” runner, WILLIS showed good poise and decision making in some RPO situations. On the game, WILLIS was 14/19- 73.7%- 205 yds- 3 TD’s- 0 INT’s. The zero Interceptions actually impresses me the most. It speaks, in good part, to nice decision making and the mobility to extend plays on his part. Given the limited amount of talent surrounding WILLIS in the huddle, he still has a chance to show enough to flirt with a First Round Draft selection, but I see a more likely Round 3 project, with long range starting potential. I see no reason to think that this pro projection on WILLIS will get any easier in the next couple of months. If the team even comes close to double-digit wins at the end of their regular season it will likely be from WILLIS efforts. However, OLE MISS and LA/LAFAYETTE sure look like L’s right now. Even ARMY is no gimme. Word to the wise, MALIK. You and your future Agent better be accepting a Senior Bowl invitation and try to impress the NFL coaching staffs that will be checking out the prospects all week in Mobile.
#5 DANNY GRAY WR SMU 6’1/180 My notebook had REGGIE ROBERSON of SMU listed as my wideout to watch, but ROBERSON appeared a bit limited as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury in game 4 of 2020. GRAY became my guy to watch after a 68 -yard catch and run in the first quarter. He finished the day with 4 receptions for 130 yards and said TD. He’s a speedy, tho not blazing, athlete with nice soft hands and very good Run-After-Catch ability. He runs past and around deep defenders after the catch. He served as their primary Kick Returner last season, and might even have some Punt Return potential as a pro. I will be watching box scores and highlight shows for more of GRAY this season. For now, I would label him as Day 3 draftable.
#27 JEREMIAH HALL FB/H-B/TE Oklahoma 6’2/244 The NFL Draft these days doesn’t focus in on selecting a FB a whole lot. More than half of the NFL teams don’t even list a FB on their rosters. It’s that versatile H-B/FB/TE hybrid that also has a key role or two on Special Teams units that teams are interested in. Last year BEN MASON/Michigan was the consensus FB prospect and he wasn’t taken until Round 5, by the Ravens, and did not make their 53-man roster. HALL looks to be this year’s MASON. He’s a vicious blocker who has decent hands as a receiver and can take a carry or two on short-yardage situations. HALL caught one pass for 9 yards against West Virginia. You won’t hear his name a lot this Fall, but I think he’s got what it takes to provide a Swiss Army Knife of options to an NFL team.
#32 OCHAUN MATHIS ER/OB TCU 6’5/250 As a group this season, the TCU Defense looks soft and disorganized. But no such problem with Mr. MATHIS. He’s a long lean defender with plenty of athleticism. He’s used pretty much as an edge-rushing DE. I would say he projects as a pro to a base 3-4 Defense OLB spot with edge-rush assignments on passing downs. He might need to be moved around to confuse OL blocking assignments. I’d say he has a slight-looking frame, but I sense sinewy muscle there. In 10 games last season, MATHIS had 34 tackles, including 9 Sacks. Against SMU, he recorded 5 tackles/4 solo, including one Sack. I will be expecting some nice numbers by the end of the season from MATHIS again. this season! Also, look for him to post some very good workout numbers for NFL scouts, postseason, if he declares. At the least, he’s a Round 4 guy if he can’t quite squeeze into the Top 100.
#86 EMEKA EMEZIE WR NC STATE 6’3/210 The Wolfpack upset Clemson last Saturday and is setting itself up as the early front runner in the Atlantic Division of the ACC (back after a Covid season hiatus) with that Win and 2 Losses for Clemson, tho one of those L’s was out of Conference. DEVIN LEARY is improving weekly as State’s QB and his number one target, in a nicely balanced Offense, is EMEZIE, who is a large target, with good speed for his size and the strength to wrack up YAC. Against Clemson, EMEZIE led his team in receptions with 14, for 116 yards and 1 TD. He runs some nice tight routes and shows good hands latching onto the ball. He led the team with 47 catches last season, and looks primed to almost double that number this year. He has the earmarks of a potential No. 2 receiver at the pro level to my eyes. He could emerge as a solid Round 3 receiver at his current pace of play.
#4 QUEZ JACKSON LB GA TECH 6’1/235 JACKSON is a highly athletic Backer who chases the ball, but with discipline. He’s a solid blitzer and can provide coverage help when he drops into throwing lanes. He had a big day in the upset of UNC, demonstrating his versatility. His production stats for the game were 10 Tackles, all solo, 1 Sack, 2 TFL & 1 Fumble Recovery. He has the athleticism and FBI to make an NFL roster. Last season, in 10 games, he recorded 80 tackles, second most on the team. He will shine on special teams and in certain personnel packages right from the start. I am impressed enough with his productive play to say he’s early Day 3 in the 2022 Draft, if he doesn’t use his free season to stay in school.
#48 CORY DURDEN DL NC State 6’4/310 DURDEN got tired of the chaos within the FSU football program and headed slightly north to play for Coach DOEREN. And it looks like a solid decision. As FSU continues winless, DURDEN is standing out in the DL rotation in Raleigh. Against Clemson, he recorded 6 Tackles, which included 1.5 Sacks.
#2 TARIQ CARPENTER S/LB Ga Tech 6’4/226 CARPENTER had to sit out the first half of the game with UNC, but was his usual athletic self in the second half. He’s in the mold of an NFL hybrid- SS/LB that we have seen evolve in recent seasons. I might revisit this guy later in the season when he plays the entire game.
#19 TYSON CHANDLER RB UNC 6’/210 When MACK BROWN and his staff figure out how to better use the talent on their current roster, this guy could become a serious Day 3 Draft prospect. He’s a good all-around player who is a solid runner, and an even better receiver. Scouts may have to revert to 2020 Covid-season gamete to truly judge him at this rate.