And so the chaos begins in earnest for the 2018 College Football season. ARMY takes OKLAHOMA into OT, in Norman, before the thin gray line breaks. STANFORD comes from well behind to beat the Ducks on the road. KELLY BRYANT loses his starting job at Clemson, and is leaving school. The biggest bad news is that top NFL Prospect NICK BOSA has had to have surgery to repair internal damage to his core muscles. He’s a Top 5 prospect, who may not be back until November at best. But for now here are 10 guys Who Caught My Eye, as strong 2019 NFL DRAFT prospects.
ZACH ALLEN #2 DE 6’5/285 BOSTON COLLEGE
I have been waiting for a week when BC played a worthy opponent and luckily taped the BC/Purdue game. Great opportunity to eyeball ALLEN. ALLEN is a traditional, let’s even say old-fashioned NFL DE prospect. Which is to say he is multi-talented but not a modern era edge-rusher. He is a relentless player who pursues the ball all over the field of play. I thought it was amazing last season when this guy amassed 100 Tackles. That did include 6 sacks and 6 QBH. He clearly has a high FBI, which helps him diagnose plays and get himself into the action. He’s not a superior athlete, but is often around the ball. He should project well as the strong-side DE in a 4-3 or 3-4 base. Against Purdue, in a losing cause, he recorded 5 tackles, 3 of them solo, with 1/2 TFL, 1/2 Sack and was almost always in the camera frame relative to the ball. As much as I love his basic, smart style of play his game is not for everyone in today’s pro game. I would NOT say he projects as a first rounder. In fact, with DL expected to be THE position of strength in the 2019 Draft, and with incredible positional depth if DL underclassmen declare for early entry, I see ALLEN lasting until Round 3. For a team looking for his style of smart, steady player he could be quite a bargain. Think CAMERON HEYWARD/Steelers.
CHRIS BROWN #77 OG 6’5/310 SOUTHERN CAL
Let’s move over to the other side of the ball, and the other side of the country, to take a look at another very solid prospect in BROWN. Against Washington State BROWN was starting his 21st game for the Trojans. He has OT size and length, but perhaps not the footwork for pass-pro out on the edge. He might have the ability to back-up at OT in the pros, as long as he doesn’t have to protect a QB blind-side. He’s perhaps a bit more athletic than your average interior-lineman. That came in handy against the boys from Pullman, who always feature a smaller defensive front, based more on speed and quickness than strength. What also adds to his value is the fact that he works on a basically pro-style Offense at USC. That should somewhat cut down on his Rookie learning curve in an NFL Training Camp. His starting experience, from a top level college program will get him draft consideration, but don’t look for him until the middle of the Draft, Round 4/5.
JUSTIN HERBERT #10 QB 6’6/238 OREGON JR
To my eyes, and most other Draftniks, if you didn’t get your franchise QB in the 2018 Draft you are likely to be sadly disappointed in 2019. Therefore, there could be a massive gold-rush to get a QB in a thin group, pushing most QB value way too high. Accordingly, I paid a lot of attention to the play of HERBERT against Stanford. And considering the lack of elite weapons on the Oregon roster I was quite impressed. Remember, that per usual the Stanford D is the anchor of that team. Considering the disparity in talent between the opposing units when HERBERT was on the field I think he acquitted himself quite well. As you can see above he’s a big guy, and very athletic. His arm is above average, and he can throw with touch. He can throw it deep and he can thread it into coverage. For the game he went 26/33, 78.8%, for 346 yards and 1 TD, 1 INT. He also ran 11 times for 35 yards (in college that stat includes minus yards on sacks). He completed 67.5% of his throws in the 2017 season. Don’t let the baby face deceive you, this is a man. He does not have the resume’ yet, but I will tell you he reminds me of ANDREW LUCK coming out of the pac-12, in his size, throwing ability and athleticism. He is the one QB that I can see going in the Top 5/6 Picks with franchise QB written all over him, if he comes out after this season. That would leave the field wide open for TUA/Alabama to be the top Pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Just saying!
ELIJAH HOLYFIELD #13 RB 5’11/215 GEORGIA JR
The son of boxing champ Evander, continues to play second, or third, fiddle at the RB position for UGA. In recent years it was CHUBB/MICHEL, and now SWIFT is the lead horse in the RB stable. But HOLYFIELD is a tough, explosive runner in his own right. He only got 50 carries last season, but average 5.9 ypc. He runs past or thru people on a regular basis, and has better than average speed. In the solid SEC road win last weekend @ Missouri, HOLYFIELD had 14 carries for 90 yards. That is an excellent 6.4 ypc average. He also caught a pass, which he turned into a 24-yard run and catch effort. He’s a punishing runner and a tough guy. If he gets 33%, or more of the carries this season, I think his numbers will be of interest to NFL teams, and he may just decide to move on from a still crowded UGA RB stable, if he has a good 2018 season. In fact he might be an even more productive in an NFL uniform. He’s a potential 5-7th Rounder, IMO.
PAT JASINSKI #56 IB 6’1/233 UCF
It may not be a Power 5 program, but when your team goes undefeated, beating Auburn in a January Bowl Game, and you led the team in tackles with 104 last season it just might be enough for NFL teams to pay some attention to you as a prospect. JASINSKI is a talented athlete and a smart football player. He is also versatile enough to function as a run stuffer and a capable pass defender. Last Friday night Florida Atlantic traveled up the road to Central Florida, with their high profile Head Coach LANE KIFFIN for a showdown contest. KIFFIN and his Owls played tough but UCF ended up with a 20 point Win, 56-36. Clearly, the Offenses were primary in the outcome, but UCF’s D was the difference and as usual JASINSKI led the charge. He started out with an INT on FAU’s first possession and continued on from there. For the game PAT had 8 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT. He’s a high energy player who also has a knack for penetrating into opponent backfields. Once again I would project JASINSKI as being draftable if he posts positive numbers at the Combine next January. Look for his name in later Rounds next April.
DEVIN SINGLETARY #5 RB 5’9/200 FLORIDA ATLANTIC JR
I find some serious irony in the fact that Mr. Passing Attack, LANE KIFFIN, has one of the elite RB in his stable of weapons down in Boca Raton. SINGLETARY, who is short, but not small, might be the first RB taken in the 2019 Draft if he comes out early. SINGLETARY has a tantalizing set of skills, with that highly coveted breakaway burst that pro scouts just love. He is not a Johnny-come-lately prospect either. In 2017 he rushed for 1920 yards, including 32 TD, and averaged 6.4 ypc. He also has good hands and can catch. Scouts rave about his quick-cut ability and his field vision to find running lanes and elude tacklers. He pretty much kept FAU in the game against UCF last Friday night. Despite being the top target for the UCF defense, SINGLETARY ran 25 times for 131 yards and 3 TD. In addition to his elusiveness, DEVIN breaks a lot of tackles because of his strength and the reality that not many defenders get a clear shot at him. He and BRYCE LOVE may end up as he top candidates to be the first RB taken in the 2019 Draft if he comes out.
CAMERON SMITH #35 IB 6’2/240 SOUTHERN CAL
In this day and age of 100 underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft each year, many of us were a bit surprised that CAMERON did not declare for the 2018 Draft. I feel like I have been watching him make tackle after tackle for a decade, even though this really is only his fourth season on the field for the Trojans. He started 9 games as a true frosh back in 2015. The game with Washington State last Saturday was his 39th start at USC. He recorded 112 tackles in 2017 to lead the Trojan defenders. And so far in 2018 he is being asked to do even more for the defensive unit, which is young up front and a bit thin from a depth perspective. SMITH is being asked specifically to involve himself more in pass coverage schemes, which can be a challenge for a guy 6’2 and 250 lbs. But he is helping his pro chances by spending more time playing in reverse this season. And he still is likely to lead the team in tackles. Against the tough and fiery Cougars he led the Trojans D with 15 tackles, 12 of them solo, and including 2 TFL, despite my decrying the amount of times he dropped into coverage as I watched the game. He’s a Top 100 prospect, likely to go in Round 3. It seems like I have been watching him forever in that Southern Cal uniform, and by far most of what I have seen has looked awfully good. The scouting concern remains his lack of “speed”, even though he wisely dropped at least 10 lbs. this past off-season to improve his coverage mobility.
D’ANDRE WALKER #15 OB 6’2/245 GEORGIA
WALKER has had to wait his turn on a solid depth chart of defensive players for the Bulldogs. He is basically taking over for the departed Lorenzo Carter, who plies his wares in the NFL these days. And based on what I saw in the UGA victory over Missouri, he’s on his way to an NFL draft slot next Spring. He actually had some amazing numbers last season playing in a backup role. He recorded 40 tackles but was a real demon getting after the QB, primarily off the edge. In those 40 tackles he had 8 TFL and 5.5 Sacks. Most impressively to me were the 12 QB Hurries he was credited with in limited playing time. He has nice size and runs very well. I expect that he will post some pretty impressive numbers at the 2019 Combine working out in shorts. He and his defensive teammates absolutely terrorized MIZZOU QB DREW LOCK, who I consider a first rounder for the next Draft. He was a blur at times chasing down LOCK from multiple angles. By the end of the day WALKER had 4 tackles, all solo, including 2 sacks and 1 QB hurry. He also batted down a pass. He was in the Missouri backfield all day, and with his teammates so dominated the Tigers OL that I stopped taking notes on QB LOCK. He had little support and no chance to show much against the UGA Defense. I see WALKER working his way up toward the Top 100 if he maintains his current pace of play.
CHRISTIAN WILKINS #42 DT 6’4/300 CLEMSON
In our GBN player rankings this Summer I nominated the entire Clemson starting DL as my defensive Player of the Year. And the veteran anchor of that unit has been WILKINS, who can do it all. Coming off a junior season in which he was selected as 1st Team ACC, WILKINS decided to return to school for his senior season to play with his 3 DL buddies. And they have already been dominant, as they look to dethrone ALABAMA come January, 2019. WILKINS can stop the run and also shows surprising penetration and pursuit of opposing QB. WILKINS is not a true heavyweight, at 300 lbs, but as you watch his play you realize he has a huge/wide base that gives him plenty of power to stand up to some heavier blockers on the inside. I think WILKINS is best suited at that DT slot in a base 4-3 scheme, but I could see him also holding up well as a 3-4 DE and in a 2-man Eagle front. WILKINS stat line against Tech was 3 tackles, 2 solo, 2 TFL including 1 Sack. That does not even begin to tell the story of his overall play. He is always around the ball. However, as much as I luv him as a prospect I do not think he’ll be a huge impact guy at the next level. He’s a Top 100 prospect, but I’d not take him before Round 3.
JONAH WILLIAMS #73 OT 6’5/300 ALABAMA JR
As NICK SABAN continues to collect 5-Star athletes, like a billionaire motor-head collects classic cars, most players have to wait their turn to start at ‘BAMA. But by the same token, 2-3 guys per season stand out from the get-go. WILLIAMS was one of those guys back in 2016. As a true frosh he started all 15 of the Crimson Tides games in 2016 and was 3rd Team SEC. He was a 3rd Team All-America last season. He will be ranked as a First Round NFL prospect when this season ends. He seems to have the perfect makeup, both mentally and physically, for the LT position. He has mobile feet in any direction. He appears long enough and strong enough to keep defenders off of his body. He’s a natural knee bender, with enough functional strength to control most pass-rushers. He also seems to have the perfect mental demeanor to play under control, but with great technique and temperament. He is not the physical specimen that CAM ROBINSON was before him, but he grades out higher than CAM on an every down basis. In fact, back in 2016 as a true frosh, he graded out as the team’s most efficient OL. Alabama handled A&M with relative ease, especially in the second half last weekend. New star QB TUA shows a lot of confidence, and some of that is engendered by his stellar LT. WILLIAMS looks to me like the top OL prospect for the next NFL Draft, when/if he declares.