KRIS BOYD #2 CB 6’0/196 TEXAS
The CB positions have been a big strength for the Longhorns most of this decade. The leader of the pack for them this season is BOYD. BOYD is not the glamour guy that HOLTON HILL was last year, or that DEVANTE DAVIS is turning into this season for the Longhorns. But he is the steadying influence and week-to-week glue guy that holds their secondary together. In 2017, BOYD had 57 tackles, 15 PBU and 2 INT. Against Oklahoma, in an old-fashioned shoot-out, he recorded 2 solo tackles, 1 TFL and a pass defended. And he really brings it with some of his tackles. Press cover is his forte, and NFL team defensive schemes need to be brought into consideration before selecting BOYD, IMO. If he has a solid season, and shows well at the Combine, I think he has a solid chance to be a Round 3 draftee.
MATT BUSHMAN #89 TE 6’5/250 BYU RSo
I would not have thumb-nailed BUSHMAN, except for the fact that he is almost 25-years old and already has a family. Add that to the weakness of the upperclassmen at TE for the 2019 Draft, and he becomes a viable 3rd Round prospect. He’s not posting huge catch numbers, but is clearly the No.1 receiver for the Cougars this season. He does more blocking in their Offense than a lot of other catching TE prospects are asked to. He is a solid athlete with some speed (for his size) and a feel for tracking throws in the air and into his supple hands. His 49 catches in 2017 led the team. In a tough loss to Utah State last week, he had 4 catches for 78 yards. He has a chance at being a Top 100 prospect if he and his team continue to play well and he comes out early.
DENNIS DALEY #74 OT 6’5/312 SOUTH CAROLINA
DALEY came into 2018 off of a solid (if unspectacular) 2017 season, after filling the LT slot for 11 starts after transferring in from the Juco ranks. Most folks figured he would hold onto that position for his senior season. But many folks have been pleasantly surprised at how well he is handling his job so far this season. He looks most effective in pass-pro, with quick feet and a solid hand punch into defenders. He shows natural knee bend and is not afraid to engage rushers, rather than back-pedal too long. He also stays on his feet and off the ground, whether he wins or loses his initial contact. He’s not as stout as he needs to be in run blocking much of the time. He gets to the second level, but has trouble getting into the defenders for an effective block. Late in the 3rd Quarter he did a nice job of sliding out in front of the RB on a screen, but he never made solid contact with any of 3 defenders in his area. He has decent athleticism and may still be able to improve some of his technique with good pro coaching. Might be able to start eventually as an NFL RT. Mark him down as a decent Day 3 Draft prospect.
JOHNNIE DIXON #1 WR 5’11/195 OHIO STATE
DIXON is the ‘other’ guy in the Buckeyes crowded and talented receiving corps, and a dangerous guy he is indeed. He’s the Buckeyes number one deep threat. In 2017, he had only 18 catches, but averaged 23.4 yards per catch. Those 18 grabs were also good for 8 TD. He did it again in the big win over a tough Indiana team last Saturday, getting open deep and bringing in a 35 yard TD catch. For the game, DIXON totaled 5 catches for 73 yards and that TD. I’m not really sure if DIXON will get a late draft call, but I can guarantee he will be on many Draft Boards when his official 40-time is posted after the Combine or his Pro Day. Most teams can always use another speedy guy who can catch the ball. DIXON could fill that bill for someone in the NFL in 2019.
MATT GAY #97 K 6’0/225 UTAH
We saw in the 2018 NFL Draft that if kickers/punters have a solid college track record teams will use draft picks to upgrade this important aspect of their Special Teams. GAY is pretty much universally accepted as the top Draft eligible K in the country. In 2017, GAY hit on 88% of his field goal attempts. He’s a bit below that this season, but might be just finding his groove. In the big upset win by the UTES at Stanford, GAY went 4 for 4, with a long of 44 yards. He has good size and strength, with a sweet short stroke to his kicks. I believe he’ll have early Day Three value in the 2019 Draft. As was mentioned in the broadcast booth Saturday night, the ball has a booming sound as he connects. I’ve encountered that sound with a few kickers/punters in my 20-plus years of All-Star game coverage. It’s real, and does predict greatness if the player also shows accuracy, which GAY does. He should also be effective in kicking off under the new return rules in effect. GAY will likely be the first K/P/LS to go in 2019.
CHAD HANSEN #22 LB/SS 6’3/223 UTAH
This young man has been the leader of the Utes D for several years now. For the 2018 season, he has made the switch from S to LB. This can only help his pro chances for today’s NFL. My guess is that the move turns him from a large S with coverage limitations, to that new hybrid kind of defender who is big and tough enough to play in-the-box, but also can cover RB/TE receivers. In 2017, as a S, he had 51 tackles, 1 sack, 1 QBH, with 2 PBU and 1 INT. I would be willing to bet that almost all of those numbers may go up with his change of position. It may also cement him a slot as a Top 100 Draftee in 2019. In the Utes big upset of Stanford, he recorded 9 tackles, 7 solo, with 2 TFL and 1 Sack. There can be no questioning his FBI. There is also no doubt that he is a team leader, as indicated by that Captains C on his jersey. We might be looking at a new SEAN LEE here.
KHALIL HODGE #4 IB 6’1/235 BUFFALO
Another productive college LB from the MAC. They may not usually be first round prospects but the NFL has a lot of MAC products dotting rosters. HODGE plays with good speed and diagnosis and has some striking power to his tackling. Speaking of tackling, HODGE was credited with 154 tackles in 2017 for the BULLS, but he also displays coverage ability as evidenced by his 2 INT and 2 PD in 2017. HODGE had a good game in BUFFALO’s win over Central Michigan recording 7 tackles, including 3 solo, as well was a TFL, which was a Sack. Mark him down as a very productive player, likely to excel on Special Teams units, and a solid value in Round 4.
JULIAN LOVE #27 CB 5’11/195 NOTRE DAME JR
Mark me down as one of the skeptical ones in judging LOVE coming into the 2018 season. But after watching his overall play closely in the big W over VA TECH, mark me down as a convert. This is one tough young man, who shows a nice combo of athleticism, FBI and physicality in his overall play. He has good cover skills and excellent ball awareness. Against VA TECH, he made some seriously big plays. He had 7 tackles in the game, 5 of them solo. He also had a Pick 6 late in the game, which I would call the difference maker for the Irish. He was also alert enough to make a fumble recovery on the night. He sticks with his receiver, as was evidenced last season when he recorded 20 PBU, in addition to his 3 INT. He can play the ball and cover his man. If he comes out, I can see him as a solid Round 2 selection.
DILLON MITCHELL #13 WR 6’1/188 OREGON JR
MITCHELL was the Ducks leading pass catcher in 2017 with 42 grabs. He is on his way to shattering those numbers this season. He has become QB JUSTIN HERBERT’s favorite target by far, especially down the field. He has the speed to stretch a secondary, and shows nice hands and footwork as he speeds down the sideline. He also shows very soft hands in securing the catch. He is on his way to posting some large numbers this season, as he and QB/Herbert are clicking on a weekly basis. In the disappointing overtime Loss to Stanford two weekends ago, MITCHELL caught 7 balls for 105 yards and 1 TD. He had over 200 yards receiving the week before. He has Top 100 Prospect potential IMO.
KADEN SMITH #82 TE 6’5/253 STANFORD RSo
SMITH may be one of a rather large group of Redshirt Sophomores to join the 2019 NFL Draft. In his case, this may make sense if the NFL is his next career choice, since the TE position, in general, is rather weak this time around. SMITH is off to a good start to his sophomore season in Palo Alto. He is not an inline TE, despite his impressive size. He’ll block when asked to, but his main asset is being a fluid runner who can get downfield, especially on seam patterns. He displays large, soft hands and can gain some yardage after the catch. He is also athletic enough to jump well on 50/50 balls. He makes a lot of “hands catches” with his arms extended well over his head. He had 8 catches, for 120 yards in the upset loss to Utah last Saturday. He reminds me a lot of former Stanford TE ZACK ERTZ, who has evolved into a top flight NFL receiving weapon with the champion Eagles.
DEXTER WILLIAMS #2 RB 5’11/215 NOTRE DAME
It would be an understatement to say that WILLIAMS got in the Brian Kelly doghouse heading into the 2018 season. He sat out the first 4 games of the season, taking his place on the field against Stanford two weeks ago. He. was unstoppable last Saturday in the big Irish road game victory against VA TECH. He carried the ball 17 times for 178 yards and 3 TD against the Hokies. One of those TD was on a 97-yard sprint, just after TECH thought they had pinned the Irish deep and might gain themselves some field position after a defensive stop. WILLIAMS had limited carries last season, gaining only 360 yards, but his 9.2 ypc was eye catching. He has enough speed to get to the corner, and very good balance to bounce off of would be tacklers. He is also a punishing runner who can tear right through many secondary defenders. If you watched the game last Saturday, then you saw how excited his teammates were at his running work. He brings some exciting, game breaking ability to Notre Dame, as they clearly are in pursuit of an undefeated season and a Final Four appearance. WILLIAMS may have some questions to answer in pro interviews, but I don’t see any felonious aspects to his problems. I’ll project him as a 4th Rounder if he keeps up his productive running.