Who Caught My Eye October

October 22, 2019

I’ve been on the road vacationing for a few weeks, and accordingly, have found it difficult to watch enough college football games to complete this scouting segment. However, given the plethora of games that are televised I kept my scouting notebook handy and made notations while traveling around.

One of the most impressive players that I have watched so far this season is CEEDEE LAMB/WR/OKLAHOMA. Though 6’2, his 195 lb. frame might seem a bit light for heavy duty in the NFL. Not to worry. He’s a workout warrior with a tightly sculpted body. Let’s call him wiry strong, and I would expect that his body fat is very low. Let me just say that his frame and weight do not scare me in the least right now. What got my attention was the multiplicity of things he can do on the football field. Clearly, he is not as fast of a straight-line runner as former teammate HOLLYWOOD BROWN, but he is anything but slow. He runs every pattern known to man, and is tough for defenders to bring down after the catch. His balance, strength, and field vision translate to a lot of after-the-catch yardage. LAMB grabbed 65 receptions last season, and actually out-gained BROWN per catch, 17.8 to 17.6. I want to be clear that LAMB is also a ferocious downfield blocker. If you missed LAMB’s performance again TEXAS in the Red River Rivalry game two weeks ago, I strongly urge you to find tape of that game. Against a very physical and athletic LONGHORNS Defense, CEEDEE had 10 receptions for 171 yards and 3 TD’s. He was absolutely dominant, especially in the second half of the SOONERS victory. Right now on my Big Board, he’s the top rated WR, if he comes out for the 2020 Draft.

Let’s stick with the receivers for a few more sentences here. This time, I want to make a few comments on a senior who didn’t have a glowing resume’ heading into the 2019 season, but does have the highly sought after trait of big time speed. He’s #16, FREDDIE SWAIN from FLORIDA. SWAIN’s main claim to fame beyond his speed has been his work as a Punt returner for the GATORS. In 2018, he returned 22 punts for an average of 10.2 yards per return. One of those was for a TD. He also caught 14 passes last Fall at 18.9 ypc., including 5 TD’s. DAN MULLEN’s coaching staff has worked to find more ways to utilize him and his speed this season. In the GATORS big road win over SOUTH CAROLINA, SWAIN caught 5 balls for 20 yards and a TD. Testing at the Combine could be the big boost to get him on an NFL roster, if he gets invited to Indy. If not, the FLORIDA Pro Day should help him. Right now, he is still developing as a wideout. I would expect him to go undrafted, given the likely WR talent glut that is likely to be available for the 2020 Draft, but his athleticism and potential should certainly get him signed as a priority Rookie Free Agent.

I felt pretty strongly last year that OHIO STATE LB MALIK HARRISON was a Top 100 prospect last season. Luckily for new HC RYAN DAY, he chose to stay in school and come back for the 2019 season. Now he is one of the key anchors for the BUCKEYES Defense, on a team that looks like the cream of the Big Ten crop this season. He’s a big, physical guy, (6’3/245), who can fly around the field. He is often used as a blitzing option and can regularly be seen chasing down QB’s, RB’s and even receivers in game action. The BUCKEYES really put the wood to NORTHWESTERN last Friday night and HARRISON was, as usual, one of the leaders of a strong defensive unit. He was credited with 9 tackles, 7 of them solo, including 1/2 TFL and a QBH. He looks to me like a player who can handle the new NFL role in a 2-man LB crew, playing against a run/pass option offense. The BUCKEYES defensive coaches have him dropping into pass coverage more this season, and that role can only boost his pro stock. Expect some big numbers at the Combine from him, which should boost his stock even further as the Draft approaches.

Comps of current players to former alums of the same school cry out of laziness sometimes. However, there are times when the comparison just jumps up into your face. Having watched ALABAMA RB NAJEE HARRIS in 3 games already this season, I am comfortable in comparing him to former Heisman winner and CRIMSON TIDE great, DERRICK HENRY. They are both power backs who have carried heavy workloads for Coach SABAN. HARRIS is not winning a Heisman this year, but he is the bell cow RB for the 2019 squad, and that load may even go up with QB TUA out with ankle issues again. HARRIS is a heavyweight glider, (6’2/227), who picks his running lanes well. He shows great balance and is hard to knock off his feet. He is not quite the bruiser that HENRY was, but those getting in his way in tackling efforts will pay a price for doing so. With JOSH JACOBS & DAMIEN HARRIS collecting pro paychecks right now, I think it worth noting that the most productive RB, per carry, during the 2018 season was NAJEE at 6.7 yards a crack. He has also shown some nice route running and soft hands in the passing attack this season. He also does not shy away from protecting his QB with his blocking in the pocket. When not providing some top notch blocking in the pocket, HARRIS was busy with the ball in his hands against the VOLS. He had 21 carries for 105 yards and 2 TD’s. He also caught 4 balls for another 48 yards. HARRIS is a junior, but I don’t see him coming back to school for another year in 2020.

MEKHI BECTON/OT/LOUISVILLE is a giant, even on the football field, at 6’7, and weighing 355 lbs., give or take a few meals. Even though LOUISVILLE was in over their heads against CLEMSON, I found BECTON to be a fascinating study. He uses his arms and strong looking hands to jolt defenders and keep them off of his body. He demonstrated fluid movement to reach second level blocks. We could argue about a desire to have him lose about 10-20 lbs, but in all honesty, to my eyes his weight fits his overall body size. I had that concern about ORLANDO BROWN two drafts ago, but he’s starting for thee RAVENS, and I really do believe that BECTON is more fluid in his movement than BROWN, when I compare them. He slides his feet pretty well in pass-pro, but I am not sure that I see him protecting my QB’s blind side at the next level. He’s another stellar Junior, who if he comes out after this season, I can see pushing for a late First Round draft spot. Guys this big with athleticism are rare indeed.

TRAVIS ETIENNE/RB/CLEMSON, seems to be a consensus Top 5 RB prospect, if indeed not the top guy overall at his position. His speed is top shelf, and his vision in the open field makes him a TD threat if he gets more than ten yards into the open field. He also shows quickness and shiftiness to and through holes created by his O-line. They have also begun using him as a receiving threat on a weekly basis this season. He’s never been a burly guy, but he’s now listed as being 5’10/200. I also like his balance after contact. His pro niche will certainly be as part of a RB rotation. His biggest weakness right now is as a blocker in pass pro. Currently, you won’t see him often as the single back on short yardage downs. Against LOUISVILLE, he carried 14 times for 192 yards and 1 TD. He also caught 4 passes for another 35 yards. I wouldn’t recommend him for return duties as a pro, despite his speed and explosiveness, because of his lack of bulk. Only a Junior, it would seem very difficult to keep him out of Round 1 next April, if he declares to come out early for the Draft.

Now might be a good time to talk about FORMER CLEMSON RB TAVIEN FEASTER, who transferred to SOUTH CAROLINA, and is looking good while sharing carries with RICO DOWDLE. DOWDLE was injured early in the loss to the GATORS. In wet/rainy conditions, FEASTER looked the part of a downhill runner, with 25 carries for 175 yards, including 1 TD. He’s not a pure speedster, but he did show some burst to and thru holes. He also proved hard to bring down, once he picked up speed in the open field. FEASTER played the backup role to ETIENNE while at Clemson. Once it began to look like LYN-J DIXON was sliding into the back-up role to ETIENNE, FEASTER decided to take his 5.6 yds per carry elsewhere to see more action. I do NOT see Feaster as being slow, but his 40-time at the Combine may go a long way in deciding if he is a 4th Round Pick or a 7th rounder in the next Draft. If DOWDLE misses any significant time to injury, FEASTER may make a run at 1,000 yards, which is always helpful in getting the attention of the scouting community.

K’VON WALLACE/S/CLEMSON is the unquestioned leader of the TIGERS secondary this season. He’s a very good athlete and a dynamic force from his S spot. He combines above average ball skills with a very physical style of play. Receivers keep their heads on a swivel when roaming into his area of the field. WALLACE demonstrated early on (1st Quarter) that he was not a guy to be picked on downfield by opposing QB’s, with an INT to stop a LOUISVILLE drive cold. He also added 2 solo tackles on the day. WALLACE has nice S size at 5’10, 210 lbs, and uses that size to punish ball carriers and receivers with equal malice and contempt. He’s had to share playing time because of the talented depth at CLEMSON until this season, but with starter’s playing time this year, and pro coaching in the future, he could find himself developing into a legit starter in the pros.

Back home, and with my remote and recliner at the ready, I expect to devote the coming weekend to scouting and should have a full weekend’s worth of notes for next week.