I want to flash back one week to start this week’s edition of WCME. I ran out of time last week, and did not have enough time to watch my recording of the Nevada/Cal game from Week 1 action. I have since watched it, and felt like I needed to flash back and give my impressions from watching highly regarded Nevada QB CARSON STRONG. Since QB’s are so critical to an NFL team’s success, QB Prospects draw more scrutiny than any other position. So here we go…
#12 CARSON STRONG QB 6’4/215 NEVADA This was a road game at Cal/Berkeley, which is very close to STRONG’s hometown. So in a sense, it was almost a homecoming game for him. And lo and behold, his performance was an illustrated guide for the good, and bad, to his play as a QB prospect. It does not take long to realize that his arm is his prominent feature. He can sling that ball with accuracy and length. He has the size (see above) and arm strength for the pro level. He lacks the mobility to extend plays very long. Also, he looks quite stiff rolling out, and his accuracy suffers when he is throwing on the run. Like JOE FLACCO, he needs to be standing flat footed making his throws, or they will loose zip and accuracy. Not good in today’s NFL, where interior pass rushers often collapse the pocket right into the QB’s face. But he is clearly a classic “pocket passer”. I am not convinced watching him pre-throw that he reads the field all that well, and certainly not as quickly as the pro game demands. Nevada was sadly lacking in the run game against Cal, which added to the pressure on STRONG. Luckily, he is blessed with 3 receivers who have pro potential (TURNER/TE, COOKS/WR/DOUBS/WR), so they often provided him with exceptional targets compared to most Mountain West teams. He completed just over 70% of his throws last season and had a 27/4 TD/INT ratio. Just what NFL scouts want to see. He did lead his team from behind, on the road, 22-17 in this game. His stats included 22/39- 56%- 312 yds- 2 TD’s- 1 INT. Not terrible numbers, but not quite what the pro scouts in attendance at the game were hoping to see. Overall, he could use another year (after this one) of college ball to polish up his technique and decision making. However, the big question is how much more can he improve under his current coaching situation. JAY NORVELL is a solid college coach, but a Mountain West program isn’t paying assistant coaches the big bucks to keep QB-whisperer types sticking around that level of ball. So the hope here is his numbers will improve as the season progresses and some NFL team gets a bargain in Day 2 of the Draft. He should be in the 2022 Draft.
#65 (#70) DARIAN KINNARD OT/G Kentucky 6’5/330. A big thank you to the SEC Network game announcers for this game. Early on, they identified that the prospect I was watching for was not wearing his usual #70. He was wearing the rotating number of his deceased OL coach in #65. As you can see above, KINNARD is a very big fella. He is also a very active football player. He is basically a large man with good athleticism and energy for his size. He moves his feet well and can drive defenders downfield with his run blocking. He moves his feet pretty well in reverse also, making him a better than adequate pass blocker. KINNARD is not a dominant player, but works to get the job done. He also did a lot of little things that point to his being a team leader and good locker room influence. I might give him a shot at a RT position as a pro, but if drafting him, I would keep in mind the option of sliding him inside to OG. I see him starting his NFL career as a versatile 3-spot backup, for game day versatility, with a chance to win a starting job in a season or two. He’s right on the cusp of being a Top 100 player, but right now, I would rank him as a Round 4 guy.
#92 JORDAN PEEVY DT Texas A&M 6’6/310 I have been watching PEEVY with interest for the past 3 years at A&M. And based on his work against Colorado last weekend, it looks like he may have morphed into a legit NFL prospect. His long, lean frame catches my eye early on in every Aggies game I watch, but he has clearly been just a flash player up ’til now. He uses his size and length to make impact plays and then disappears for the rest of the quarter. I did not see that in this game. The big guy showed me more consistency in his play for the entire game than I am used to seeing from him. He recorded 7 Tackles, 5 of them Solo, including 2 TFL, and an INT. For a team that uses a rotation along the DL, he should show a higher energy level than he often does. This game was better! I think he is best suited for a base 3-4 Defense End spot. His biggest technique flaw is that he often looks like a jack-in-the-box off the ball snap. He pops up and with his 6’6 length, and ends up playing way too high. Hopefully some NFL Coach can break him of that habit. Not sure if I would recommend drafting him before Round 5 or 6, but he clearly looks to be a boom/bust player… buyer beware.
#78 NICHOLAS PETIT-FRERE LT Ohio State 6’5/315 PETIT-FRERE is a good enough athlete that the coaching staff was willing to move MUNFORD from LT to play inside so they could put NICHOLAS at LT to protect Frosh QB STROUD’s blind side, while getting the best 5 OL on the field. He’s a great looking pro prospect with his size, length, and dancing bear feet. In addition to his agile back-pedal, he is also a natural knee bender. He’s adept as a run blocker and even better in pass pro. I felt bad that he and Oregon’s THIBODEAUX could not match up because of injury from Oregon’s first game. That would have been a match-up worth paying to watch. His pass-pro is also aided by what appears to be very long arms, somewhat in the style of TYRON SMITH, Dallas. He looks like he might be able to pull up his socks without bending his knees. His hand-punch seemed to rock a few defenders as well. This is his 3rd year on the field, so he will be Draft eligible. My eyes say I saw enough in this game to project him a a First Round talent by the end of this season.
#24 CHRIS RODRIGUEZ RB Kentucky 5’11/225 I was going to put this guy in the Sleeper’s list below. But after watching him dominate in Kentucky’s Win, I decided he deserved his own thumbnail write-up. RODRIGUEZ is a tough power back who maintains his balance after hits, runs thru, over & around defenders, and gets the tough yards. He averaged 6.6-ypc last season, including 11 TD’s. He was not used in the passing attack, so his NFL team will have to determine if he can be developed into a receiver. Against MIZZOU last Saturday, he carried the ball 27 times for 206 yards, at 7.6-ypc and rushed for 3 TD’s. He did catch one dump-off throw and took it to the end zone for a 4th TD. He isn’t pretty at times, but he’s hard nosed and productive. If he is not gone by the end of Round 4, then teams in need of that 2nd or 3rd RB option are missing out. P.S. If he’s not carrying 20 times a contest, then I bet he might end up as a core Special Teamer as well.
#28 ISAIAH SPILLER RB Texas A&M 6’1/225 I floated back and forth for 3 Quarters trying to decide whether to use this game as a thumbnail basis effort. In 2020, he rushed for 1,036 yards and 9 TD’s. He also caught 20 balls last year, but they were mostly dump-off throws and didn’t add much to the Offense. I kept waiting for him to break a big run against Colorado, as he has done throughout his Aggies career. However, the A&M Offense was struggling behind back-up QB CALZADA, a RS Frosh. And then it happened. As the team put on a late 4th Quarter scoring drive to win the game, it was SPILLER who became the big receiving threat and making the most of it. He finished the day with 20 yards rushing on 8 carries, but caught 6 passes for 56-yards, and the game winning TD. He was great as a receiver in that drive. And that effort leads me to believe that he can develop into an all-around RB weapon as a pro. He’s a punishing runner with good speed for his size. This is his 3rd season on the team, which means he will be Draft eligible for 2022. With a new OL in place, in addition to the loss of QB KELLEN MOND to the NFL, I don’t expect ISAIAH to top his previous year’s numbers, but he still should be the favorite to be the first RB taken in the 2022 NFL Draft.
#7 C.J. VERDELL RB Oregon 5’10/210 One of the big, if not biggest, stars of the Oregon road win over Ohio State last weekend was their all-purpose No. 1 RB VERDELL. And he started putting up his numbers early in the game. He’s a quick, explosive runner with some decent power. He is shifty, and often hides well behind his blockers, bursting through openings as the blocking develops. He shows enough speed that he can get to the corner. He showed soft hands and looks like a natural receiver coming out of the backfield. By the end of the contest, and splitting touches primarily with TRAVIS DYE, he had 161 yards on 20 touches (that’s 8.0 ypc) with 2 TD’s. He also had 3 receptions for 34 yards and another TD. He looks to my eyes to be a solid pro prospect, either Round 3 or 4, who could make a nice No. 2 RB for an NFL team. I currently rate him as a Top 100 player, depending upon how many underclassmen declare. Think of MIKE DAVIS coming out of South Carolina a while ago, now with the Falcons.
#85 JALEN WYDERMYER TE Texas A&M 6’5/255 Likely the top TE prospect for the 2022 Draft. He is a large, great looking athletic specimen. And most of the time, he plays that way. He can and will block in the run game. His greatest assets are decent speed for his size and long arms providing a large catch-radius target for his QB to throw to. He will get some yards-after-catch, though he’s not going the distance most likely. He led the Aggies in catches last season with 46, at 11-yards per catch. Against Colorado, with a backup QB throwing, he had 4 receptions for 66 yards. For an NFL team needing a No. 1 inline-TE, this is your Pick. Expect him being drafted late First Round, or most likely early Round 2. To paraphrase Bill Parcells…’God, only makes so many truly big guys. Get one when you can.”
Sleepers to Watch:
#77 GEORGE MOORE RT Oregon 6’6/325 A JC transfer last year that had 7 starts during the 2020-Covid season and is holding his own starting on the right side again this year.
#34 THOMAS BOOKER DL Stanford 6’4/310 A very good athlete that has played primarily at DE and wears the captains-C on his uniform. His athleticism has some scouts talking about him as an OG prospect for the NFL.
#89 D.J. JOHNSON TE Oregon 6’5/258 As you might guess from his size, his forte’ is blocking, but he shows good hands and receiving ability at times.
#4 BAILEY ZAPPE QB W. Kentucky 6’2/215 A guy named MALONE, an Edge Rusher, may be the Hilltoppers top prospect, but keep your eyes on ZAPPE, a transfer from Houston Baptist. In a scoring fest loss to Army, he passed for 435-yards on 28/40- 70%- 3 TD’s- 1 INT, plus 1 rushing TD.
That’s a wrap for this week’s contests. We should be looking at some more competitive game match-ups this coming weekend. Enjoy watching, and come on back for more Draft Prospect talk next week.