I have to keep reminding myself to try to temper early season player thumbnails because overall play suffers a bit the first couple of weeks of the season, since college has no pre-season games… thank God. So in general I try to avoid QB evaluations this early. But as you will see below I have made an exception, or two.
#19 J.J. ARCEGA-WHITESIDE WR 6’3/225 STANFORD JR. This guy was very hard to miss in the Stanford opening W over San Diego State. He is the leading returning Cardinal receiver from 2017, when he caught 48 balls. His size is legit, and he looked like a guy with some serious explosion in his legs. He won several jump ball situations amongst his 6 receptions, for a whopping 226 yards and 3 TD. That’s an average catch of 37.7 yards. He is tough to bring down for smaller DB. He also displayed strong hands to win several of those jump balls. He clearly looks like he will be Stanford’s go-to receiver in 2018. I will also peg him as a Top 100 prospect, especially if posts the workout numbers I think he is capable of when the next Combine rolls around. I couldn’t overlook his performance and had to thumbnail him even tho he’s only a junior.
#40 KENNY BIGELOW DL 6’3/300 WEST VIRGINIA BIGELOW is an interesting prospect following his transfer from Southern Cal to WVU. He shows quickness and explosion off the snap, but gets pushed around if double teamed. He recorded 2 tackles on the game, both of them as TFL. He’s playing inside at DT to fill a need for the Mountaineers, but it looks to me like his best position would be as a DE in a base 3-4 scheme. He also showed some nice hand use to go with his quick jump at the snap, thus keeping blockers from getting into his body and tying him up. If he progresses within the WVU scheme as the season progresses and continues to pile up TFL, he might get a draft call in Round 7, based on what I saw in the opener.
#5 DERRICK BROWN DT 6’5/315 AUBURN JR I can talk ’til I am blue in the face about not featuring underclassmen early each season, but the reality is that with so many players leaving school early to go pro it is hard to watch very many games without being excited about the non-senior players. So here we go again. Both Washington and Auburn have multiple defensive pro prospects, but the guy who really caught my eye last weekend was Tigers DT DERRICK BROWN. He was dominant along that line-of-scrimmage, and at times behind it, in this tussle of Top 10 teams. BROWN was an immovable object at plays aimed straight-ahead, and also pursued the ball relentlessly. Clearly, Washington was trying to keep away from him most of the day. He seems to penetrate at will with a combination of power and surprising quickness and mobility that belies his size. He had 3 tackles for the game, but his mere presence greatly influenced the Auburn plan of attack. In 2017 BROWN tallied 56 tackles, including 3.5 sacks and 3 QBH. I think he could play anywhere along a defensive front that a pro team wanted, and could stay on the field whether the team’s D was in a 2, 3 or 4-man DL. He is a potential first round draftee and reminds me a lot of FLETCHER COX of the Eagles.
#17 JAMAL CUSTIS WR 6’5/220 SYRACUSE In the past two years the Orangemen have lost a lot of talented receivers to NFL Training Camps. They lost 194 catches from last year’s tandem of ISHMAEL and PHILLIPS. But it looks like they may have found their new No. 1 wideout in CUSTIS, at least based on his week one work against WMU. Last season CUSTIS was limited to only 8 receptions in a back-up role. But after one game he looks like a wanna be star. He went deep and he crossed the middle. He even played the sidelines to good effect on occasion, finishing the game with 6 catches, for 168 yards and 2 TD. He did an amazing job tracking long, high throws primarily from DUNGEY. Note his size, and what look like nice big hands for catching. Keep your eyes on his development as the season progresses.
#2 ERIC DUNGEY QB 6’4/230 SYRACUSE With all due respect I will say that DUNGEY’s style of play, and skill set, remind me a bit of TIM TEBOW. He’s a workout warrior who is a pumped up player and shows pretty good speed and balance toting the rock. However, he also is lacking in throwing fundamentals and is very erratic as a passer. In principle he should make a solid RPO practitioner at the next level. I saw the best and worst of DUNGEY as a pro prospect in the opener against Western Michigan. He rushed the ball 15 times for 200 yards and 2 TD. For the math challenged that’s 13.3 yards per carry. However, he was 7/17 passing, for 184 yards and 2 TD, with 0 INT. But some of his throws were way, way off TARGET, ala TEBOW in Denver. In his defense the Syracuse receiving crew is young and inexperienced, but many of his incompletions were just not on target. Surprisingly, given his size and strength he has been often banged up during his college career. Last season he completed 59.7% of his throws, but he didn’t even look that accurate in this one. I doubt he will be be drafted next Spring, but he should be signed to a 90-man roster for Training Camp 2019.
#7 WILL GRIER QB 6’2/215 WEST VIRGINIA I like to save QB reviews until a bit later in the season, when some early season bugs are worked out of many offenses around the college scene. But I felt like I had to comment on GRIER after watching the Mountaineers beat down the Vols 40-14. GRIER was a bit underwhelming in the first half of that game, though more than adequate. It looked as though he was nervous in the pocket with dancing feet, and a propensity to tuck the ball and run. Much of the time that strategy failed. GENO SMITH he ain’t in the legs department. But in the second half he was on fire. I am guessing he got a lecture during a storm extended half-time about staying patient in the pocket and using his arm not his legs to lead the Offense. Something sure worked, as he finished the day going 25/34, 73.5%, for 429 yards, 5 TD, 0 INT. He’s a good athlete, who can use his legs to extend plays, if not scramble around too much. He also throws a nice, catchable ball with good accuracy. GRIER has the body of an AARON RODGERS, though not his arm. But then again, not many guys do. He has a chance to build on this game and work himself into a late first round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He has COUSINS potential for the next level, IMO right now.
#5 DREDRICK SNELSON WR 6’0/206 UCF JR The Knights lost a ton of talent from their undefeated 2017 team, especially in their receiving corps. Against UCONN, SNELSON looked like the guy ready to be the leader of this year’s receiving group. He caught 6 balls for 90 yards on the night. He has a big frame and looks very strong to the ball and on the catch. He’s not likely to loose out on many 50/50 balls. His hands looks strong, even though he had one bad drop in the first half of play. He was UCF’s second leading catcher last season (46 receptions) and has a solid rapport with QB MILTON. What really caught my eye in this game was his work as a blocker. He looked aggressive and effective in seeking out and blocking defenders whether in run support, or after the catch in helping his receiving mates gain extra yards downfield. He looks to have the stuff to make himself a 4th Round draftee next Spring.
#8 RICKY WALKER DT 6’2/305 VA TECH. After watching WALKER hustle around the field all night against the Seminoles, I will confess to having under estimated his abilities as a football player going into the season. He’s stout but not overpowering, and I doubt if he would hold up as a true Nose Tackle at the next level. But I do think he can earn an NFL roster spot in a base 4-3 scheme, as a rotational player. He doesn’t dominate, but he does refuse to give up or go away once the ball is snapped. Considering his squat build he seemed to be able to get skinny and penetrate through blocking gaps. He also shows some ability to pressure the QB. In 2017 he had 41 tackles, including 8 TFL, 4.5 sacks, and had 6 QBH. Against FSU he recorded 2 tackles, 1 of which was a TFL, but certainly was around the ball a lot more often than those numbers indicate. My initial observations put him at a talent level to get drafted around Round 5, or later.
#15 CHASE WINOVICH ER/DE 6’3/255 MICHIGAN An awful lot of folks thought that WINOVICH would enter the 2018 Draft after showing clear pass-rush ability last season when he posted 8 sacks and 6 QBH. He also had 77 total tackles last season. He plays like his fairly long hair is on fire, but also shows some discipline to his game. I would expect him to fit best as a 3-4 base scheme OLB, rushing off the edge. Against Notre Dame, he turned it up a notch in the second half, and finished the game with the following stat line: 6 tackles, 4 solo, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 2 QBH. His testing at the Combine in addition to his 2018 season stats could push his value into a Top 100 Prospect rank. Keep an eye on his efforts in the months ahead. I know I will be doing so.
That’s it for Week One.