The clock is indeed ticking towards midnight on the 2019 College Football season. And so let’s reflect back on Week 13 and review what my eyes saw last weekend in the realm of pro prospects.
BRANDON AIYUK #2 WR 6’1/200 Arizona State Sr AIYUK has emerged from under the shadow of N’KEAL HARRY (PATS) to become the big weapon in the receiving corps for the Sun Devils this season. With 11 games in the books, AIYUK has 60 catches for 1,125 yards and 8 TD’s. That comes out to an average per catch of 18.8 yards. He’s a good sized wideout with a frame that belies his 200 lbs. Perhaps the highlight game of the 2019 season for him came last weekend when the Sun Devils upset the Oregon Ducks. In the closing minutes of that game (3:54 left), just after Oregon had cut the lead to one score, it was AIYUK who put one fake on a Ducks CB, sprinted past him down the sideline, secured the catch in full stride, and sprinted to the end zone for the game securing score. No one in that secondary was catching this sprinter on that 81-yard score. In the big win, AIYUK caught 7 balls for 161 yards and that TD. AIYUK is not a household name, in part because he only arrived in Tempe in 2018 from the Juco ranks. It appears to me that he has the complete package of good hands, quick moves, and flat-out speed to shine at the NFL Combine next year. AIYUK is currently listed in the first round of invite acceptances to attend the Senior Bowl in January. I for one am looking forward to watching him in that venue.
TYLER BIADASZ #61 OC 6’3/320 Wisconsin Jr I firmly believe that the OC position for the 2020 NFL Draft will have 3 or 4 Top 100 potential draftees if HENNESSY/Temple and HUMPHREY/Oklahoma declare for early entry. But this young man should be the first OC taken without any doubt in my mind. From a pro perspective, Wisconsin has become OL-U during the past decade, if not longer. BIADASZ looks like the best OC from that program in quite some time. He’s a country strong young man who also claims All-Academic Honors in the Big Ten. He’s a 3-year starter who is proficient in both pass-pro and run blocking. A scouting critique that I read about him in the summer claimed that he struggled at times to seal the edge when pulling in run blocking. In the 4 Badgers games that I watched this season, that no longer looks to be an issue. He sustains well once into his defender, and runs his man out of the play. He is also an ace at seal blocking for the running game. He is what NFL coaches refer to as Available and Accountable. Expect him to plug and play, and anchor an OL for a decade or more in the NFL. He could be a late first round pick for a team needing that anchor in the middle.
CAM BROWN #6 LB 6’5/230 Penn State Sr I think right now that BROWN is somewhat overlooked by the media but not so with NFL Personnel people. No doubt that is due in part because he sees the field on a limited, rotation basis. HC JAMES FRANKLIN is a strong believer in rotating players at positions where he has quality depth, and his defense is a good example of that this season. However, the long, lanky BROWN is a good example of the kind of LB the NFL is looking for these days. He can generate a bit of a pass rush in blitz situations, or line up with his hand on the ground. He is a solid tackler who has a feel for finding the ball after the snap. And best of all, he plays well in reverse, when assuming the position for coverage work. He finds the ball and goes to it, but not at the risk of abandoning his assignment. He clearly understands the meaning of “do your job”. BROWN’s stat line for the season gives a good indication of his versatility; 62 T’s, 1 sack, 1 FF, 2 FR’s, and 3 PD. I like this player, but I certainly don’t see him being drafted until the middle of the Draft, let’s say Round 5. BROWN is currently listed as a roster acceptance for the Shrine Bowl.
JAKE FROMM #11 QB 6’2/220 Georgia Jr FROMM has had a great run at UGA, wrestling the starting QB job away from JACOB EASON, who preceded him as a starting Frosh QB for the Bulldogs. In 2018, FROMM completed 67% of his throws with a TD/INT ratio of 30/6. UGA has lost just one game under FROMM’s leadership this season, and is currently ranked No.4 in FBS subdivision play. However, as the season winds up, and NFL scouts are looking for legit pro QB prospects for the 2020 Draft, as many questions as answers have cropped up about FROMM and his NFL potential. FROMM had real issues in dealing with the rain during the first half of the game with A&M. My first thought was how interested I will be in seeing his hand size when he gets to the NFL Combine. It was, by the way, FROMM’s 39th start at QB for UGA, and the victory brought his starter’s record to 33-6. But as the game wore on, it became clear that, as usual, Pro Scouts were right on, in nailing down flaws. FROMM’s Achilles heel seems to be throws in the middle of the playing field. He is just reluctant to try to squeeze the ball into the traffic congestion in the middle of the field. I had an unofficial count of only 3 balls thrown between the hashmarks on slant routes. Almost every throw down the field is targeted outside the numbers. He picked up the slack with better accuracy in the second half as the rain stopped, but even at that, Fromm was only able to lead his offense to convert 3 of 9 on third downs. I will say that a big factor in FROMM’s limited throwing success this year is an almost totally new receiving corps. 4 of his 5 top receivers from last year are sprinkled around the NFL this season. Due in great part to the first half rain, FROMM’s numbers against the Aggies were 11/23 for 163 yds, 1 TD, and 0 INT’s. The value of his ability to NOT turn the ball over has been a key factor to success in his Bulldogs career. If he comes out for the 2020 Draft, I do NOT see him anywhere in Round 1. Being chosen on Day 2 of the Draft will be decided if some NFL team sees the winning and leadership as enough to overcome some throwing deficiencies. I see FROMM as an ANDY DALTON type, as a pro QB.
K.J. HILL #14 WR 6’0/200 Ohio State Sr A clearly underrated talent in a deep and athletic receiving corps in Columbus. With 4 catches for 46 yards and a TD, HILL stretched his streak of games with at least one reception to 45, a Buckeyes record. I think his speed is underrated, and we shall see about that at the NFL Combine. He is a very reliable “hands” catcher, and his TD was a great example of that. On the Buckeyes first possession of the second half against Penn State, QB FIELDS threw a beautiful arching ball toward the far left corner of the end zone where the defender could not get to the ball. It was all HILL’s and he made a picture-perfect catch, from directly over his head to his soft, extended hands. Lots of receivers, even in the NFL, would have missed that catch, but HILL made it look routine. With 3-4 games left in his senior season, HILL is in line to go into the Ohio State record books as their all-time catch leader. It almost goes without saying, but in Ohio State tradition, HILL is a very effective, and willing blocker, whether in the run-game or downfield for his fellow receivers. That ability and positive attitude will play very ell for NFL evaluators. I’ll just leave this summary by saying that I don’t see him in the first two days of the Draft, but by Rounds 4/5, on Day 3, a team needing a good all-around, productive player will want to grab K.J. HILL for their receiving corps.
JONAH JACKSON #73 OG 6’4/305 Ohio State Sr Let us start by saying that JACKSON has already proven to be quite an intelligent young man. After playing in 29 games, starting 16 of them in a moribund Rutgers program, JACKSON entered the transfer portal and decided to take his talent to an elite program at Ohio State. He won the starting RG spot for the Buckeyes, and has been blocking happily this season for the No. 2 ranked team in the country right now. The first thing that I noticed, eyeballing him for this thumbnail in the Penn State game, was how quickly he gets off the snap of the ball and into his block. He also looks to be a natural knee bender that works to keep from popping up too high and straight. He can pull and get to second level blocks. He shows good strength to move defenders and plays to the whistle. I feel that he shows some serious pro potential as an Interior OL, and could back up at all 3 inside slots. Some of his experience at Rutgers was at OC. I have to believe that his name will appear on an All-Star game roster very soon. It may be late, but I think JACKSON has put himself in a good position to be drafted next Spring.
J.R. REED #20 S 6’1/195 Georgia Sr Back in 2016, this young man made a momentous decision and transferred from Tulsa to Athens to play for the Bulldogs. And that marriage has been a huge success. REED has led the Bulldogs secondary, and defense, since his arrival, as a steady starter. Besides being a good athlete and aggressive player, his biggest plus might be his FBI and consistency on the field. He might be in the running as being the best all-around S in the country right now. He showed that combination of smarts and instincts several times again in the UGA Win over Texas A&M. While the UGA Offense struggled in the rain the first half, it was the work of the defense that contained the big play offense of the Aggies, with a little help from that rain as well. In 2018, he was second on the team with 66 tackles. Against A&M, he had 3 tackles and several pass break-ups. He also displayed his recognition with several breaks to the ball, missing an INT in the first Quarter because of a slip in the rain. On the season, REED has been credited with 46 T’s, 1/2 S, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT, and 5 PD. Those numbers give you an idea of his versatility, but don’t let them fool you. His leadership and FBI are what will truly carry him to an excellent pro career. He’s a 3rd Round draftee, to my eyes.
D’ANDRE SWIFT #7 RB 5’9/215 Georgia Jr The Bulldogs have a storied tradition of quality RB’s in their program’s history. Current NFL fans have seen players like GURLEY and CHUBB make their mark as pros early on in their careers, in recent years. The next in that line is SWIFT. Word is, that SWIFT has told friends and teammates that 2019 is his last season in Athens. This certainly makes sense, having touched the ball enough already to have rushed for over 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons. On a sloppy day last weekend, SWIFT put on a display of what he can do to influence a football game. He carried the ball 19 times for 103 yards, while also catching 4 passes for another 29 yards. He is Mr. Dependable, as well as Mr. Explosive. I’m not sure what his 40-time is going to be at the NFL Combine, but I will tell you that when I see his feet almost flying around the field, he looks plenty fast, with very quick change of direction on top of the speed. He also has some power with 215 pounds packed into that 5’9 frame. It has got to be intimidating for defenders in the secondary to decide how to try to get a tackling angle on this player, given his speed/quickness combination. Lots of would-be tacklers end up grabbing at air. He’s also the possessor of a high football IQ, (FBI), as evidenced late in the game, when he had words for his QB for not changing a play-call and running him directly into a loaded right side of the A&M defense for a TFL. He was in FROMM’s face for that one. It’s a bit hard to project his actual Draft rating in a RB group which may be inundated with underclassmen when early entries are announced in January. However, I feel safe saying that if he runs like I think he will at the Combine, it may be tough to keep him out of late Round 1. He’s a big run threat whenever he touches the football.
BRYAN WRIGHT #11 LB 6’3/235 Cincinnati Sr LUKE FICKELL appears to be putting the Bearcats in position to challenge for an AAC title each and every season. They don’t always dominate opponents, but they find ways to win with a solid defense and a dose of heavy running on offense. By beating Temple last Saturday, the Bearcats have reached double digit victory totals for the second straight year. The leader of their Defense, IMO, is LB BRYAN WRIGHT. I have watched 3 Cincinnati games this season, and in every one of them, WRIGHT stood out in my eyes. He always seems to end up in the proximity of the ball at play’s end, and often, he’s the guy recording the first hit. He is not a sack master, but he pressures the pocket on a regular basis. Following his 7 solo tackle effort against Temple, his season’s stat sheet reads as follows; 77 Tackles (career high), 3.5 sacks, 2 FF’s, 1 FR, and 4 PD. I might also add that he plays with a high motor, with malice aforethought to his game. Mark him down as a Mid-to late-round draftee by the NFL.
Count me as surprised to learn, from my compadre LP, that TE PAT FREIERMUTH of Penn State is draft eligible because of playing a combined 5 years of high school and prep school. I will repeat my earlier assertion from a while back that he’s a Gronk-potential player. However, for that comparison to have any chance of occurring, he will have to really improve his blocking significantly, and quickly.
JUSTIN HERBERT’s very weak first half against ASU, and the eventual loss by Oregon, is not going to be helpful to his pro potential evaluation. I still see a lot of talent in the young man, but he is getting that “soft” west coast rap, ala JARED GOFF. I go back further, wondering about his resemblance to DREW BLEDSOE, a good, but not great, pro QB.
For you real Draftniks, I hope you are paying attention to player acceptance announcements from the All-Star games; SENIOR BOWL, SHRINE BOWL & NFLPA COLLEGIATE BOWL. If you want to save time reading player names on Twitter, just go to the gbnreport.com and drop down the 2020 Draft menu to find updated info from our Chief Scout LARRY PARKER.