WHO CAUGHT MY EYE Week 8

By | October 24, 2018

JOHNATHAN ABRAM #38 SS 6’0/210 MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Bulldogs roster, during the DAN MULLEN era in Starkville, became a home for a steady stream of JC players from around MS and AL. ABRAM came to State from the JUCO ranks after one failed season at Georgia. In 2017, he started 7 games and recorded 71 tackles for State. He’s a big hitter, who will likely have to tone his play down a notch for the safety conscious NFL. But receivers and runners need to keep an eye peeled for his rough/tough play, and he has some coverage ability. Against LSU, he was credited with 10 tackles, 5 solo, and a TFL/Sack. He appears to be athletic enough to post solid Combine numbers to back-up his game stats. Receivers need to keep their heads on a swivel when he’s in the secondary. His intensity and passion remind me of former GAMECOCKS S, D.J. SWEARINGER, currently roaming the secondary for the REDSKINS in D.C. Some NFL team is sure to want this package of dynamite, but maybe not until Round 4.

JOSH ALLEN #41 OLB 6’5/255 KENTUCKY
ALLEN was a surprise returning star for the Wildcats football program after a 65 tackle, 7 sack, 2017 campaign. Many expected him to be among the 100 declared underclassmen. He’s an all-star athlete and a smart team leader. He’s leading a defense that has his Wildcat team at 6-1, and in the race for the SEC East title. In this day and age of the changing roles for defensive players, ALLEN is a clearly defined player who has the pass coverage and run stopping ability required of an NFL LB. Unlike many prospects who are edge-rushing, undersized DE’s who face a major transition to LB as a pro, ALLEN is already a stand-up OLB. Against Vandy last Saturday it was the Kentucky D that had to lead the way in a low-scoring 14-7 W for Kentucky. And it was ALLEN who led the way with 8 tackles, 5 of them solo. He also recorded 2 TFL, both of them Sacks. In the 2nd Quarter, ALLEN stripped the ball from an intended receiver, forcing Vandy to punt. And it was ALLEN who forced a fumble with his second sack with 1:04 left in the game, that was recovered by Kentucky and allowed them to run out the clock and secure the victory. During one defensive series, ALLEN even lined up as the 3-Technique in the DL to bring pressure up the middle. He almost got a sack from that position. He. also had a 3rd Sack negated when PI was called in the Kentucky secondary. He’s an elite player, and if he posts big numbers at the Combine, could end up a Top 12 Pick.

BEN BURR-KIRVEN #25 LB 6’0/221 WASHINGTON
Heading into last weekend’s action, this undersized, underrated young man was leading the nation’s D1 program in tackles for the 2018 season. He did nothing to tarnish that distinction with 15 tackles, 8 of them solo. He also had 1 PBU, as well as an INT with 3:15 to go in the game, which allowed the Huskies to secure a victory. BURR-KIRVEN didn’t just emerge out of nowhere this season. He posted 84 tackles in 2017. After 8 games this season, he now has 108 total tackles, which still leads the nation. He anticipates well, and trusts what his eyes see. He looks like the poster boy for today’s NFL hybrid LB/in-the-box S who can stay on the field for 3 downs. He also has the makings of a probable Special Teams Capt. at the next level. I believe his numbers at the Combine will be solid, but not elite. I will be shocked if he is not in Mobile for the Senior Bowl week come January. Likely not a Top 100 prospect, but I can’t see him lasting past Round 4 based on his game day productivity.

TREVON BROWN #88 WR 6’2/210 EAST CAROLINA
With UCF QB McKenzie MILTON sitting out the game, it looked to my eyes like BROWN was the best all-around player and pro prospect on the field at ECU. BROWN emerged in 2017, grabbing 60 receptions for an average of 17.8 yards per catch, and including 7 TD, which landed him a spot as a 2nd Team, All-AAC performer. He looks even better this year, but is getting little prospect luv because ECU has a solid chance to lose 10 games this season. But frosh QB HOLTON AHLERS took over the reigns and could provide BROWN with a chance for some very big receiving numbers from here on in. Against a talented UCF secondary, BROWN caught 10 passes for 145 yards and 1 TD. At times, he looked like a man among boys out on that field. He has excellent hands and has a big catch radius. He has good speed for his size, and I am anxious to see his numbers at the Combine. For right now, I have moved him into my Top 100 Prospects list and believe him to have solid 3rd Round potential.

NICK FITZGERALD #7 QB 6’4/230 MISSISSIPPI STATE
I have watched FITZGERALD and State in 3 games this season. I held off thumb-nailing FITZ because he is coming off a 2017 ankle break and dislocation from late last season. But watching him run against LSU, I have to say he’s back to health and football shape. And from a passing standpoint, that’s too bad, because he looks nothing like an NFL QB prospect to me. He’s always been considered to have an average throwing arm, but his overall mechanics are bad and he has become an INT machine. The LSU D is as good as, or better than, any Defense in the SEC this year, (and most years for that matter). They just ate FITZGERALD alive. FITZGERALD just looked totally lost trying to decipher coverages in the LSU secondary. By the end of the slaughter, FITZ was 8 for 24, for 59 yards, with 4 INT. He did rush for 131 yards on 23 carries, but that does not translate into much of anything for the NFL. To my eyes, FITZGERALD is a long, leaner, COLLIN KLEIN of K-State. He has done some great things for State in his career there, but none of it translates to the NFL level, IMO. I wouldn’t even have him on my draft board going forward. And no, I am not reacting to only one game. I know better than to do that. This game performance was just the culmination of what I have seen in most of my watches of FITZGERALD.

NATE HARVEY #40 ER/OB 6’1/225 EAST CAOLINA
HARVEY is not a sure thing to get drafted, but I luv his story. He was way down the depth chart as a RB/FB last Spring, and then someone on the coaching staff started talking about him being too good on Special Teams to just sit the rest of the game. Now he is a speed-rush DE/OB who already has 8.5 sacks on the season. He failed to record a sack against UCF, but was still a penetrating, hard tackling problem for the Knights’ blockers. In the Saturday game @ ECU, HARVEY had 6 tackles, 4 solo, and a TFL. He is still learning, but the natural ability is clear. And I think he will post some seriously solid numbers in speed and quickness drills at his Pro Day. As MIKE MAYOCK would say… he’s making plays and doesn’t even know what he’s doing yet. I see him as an URFA, and a Practice Squad member in 2019, but long term, he may qualify for some serious playing time in the NFL.

KALEB McGARY #58 OT 6’7/325 WASHINGTON
The HUSKIES all-world OT TREY ADAMS is out for the season with back issues, after knee problems last season. In his absence, it has given us all a chance to take a good, hard look at their other bookend in McGARY. Although he is not the overall athlete/prospect that ALLEN was pre-injuries, he’s good, with potential to improve. You can’t argue with his size, and I am intrigued to see what his wingspan and hands measure post-season. Besides his size, he can run, and moves his feet pretty well in pass-pro. He quietly earned 1st Team All-PAC 12 first team honors in 2017. He needs some technique refinement and to stay lower in his stance, but some of both of those issues relate directly to his 6’7″ height. I like his chances better at RT, because I would worry about him being able to keep up with speed edge-rushers coming from his QB’s blind side. He looks to me like a guy who will start in the NFL in the near future, but I don’t think I see him in Round 1 next April. I believe his best chance for his highest potential pick selection would come by heading to the Senior Bowl and dominating there, ala ERIC FISHER, now of the Chiefs.

MONTEZ SWEAT #9 6’5/241 MISSISSIPPI STATE
SWEAT has been a tough evaluation for me, because once again, trying to determine whether he can convert to an OLB spot is a bit baffling. We know he can pursue, and we know he can pass rush. But I’m not sure I see him being able to hold up against the run with his hand on the ground at under 250 lbs. Trying to project how much weight he might be able to add on, without losing his edge rush quickness/speed, is a guess. Even though he left the field a few times after being nicked, he showed well overall against LSU. He had 7 tackles, 4 of them solo, and a TFL/Sack. He must be accounted for in any blocking scheme for game day. Because of his pass-rush ability, many are projecting him into Round 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft. If he is just a situational player, then I cannot see that. He’ll certainly be in my Top 100, but I don’t see Round 1 right now. Even if he heads to Mobile for the Senior Bowl I am guessing they will slot him at DE for the game. But then again, he may split time in practices between the LB and DL groups. That and his workout numbers at the Combine may be enough to sway me to an earlier round selection for him. He is a solid player and will get plenty of scrutiny from the scouting community between now and the Draft.

JOSH WATSON #55 LB 6’2/240 COLORADO STATE
Even though some of the weeknight college football games feature some pretty mediocre match-ups, they give me a chance to watch some lesser teams, who I would overlook most Saturdays. Such was the case last week, when Colorado State got doubled-up on the scoreboard 56-28 by Boise State. Since I had already profiled RYPIEN/QB, and RICHARDSON/WR from Boise, I singled out RAMS LB JOSH WATSON. Boy, was I GLAD I did. Somehow I had been sleeping on this guy as an NFL prospect, but he really opened my eyes as a very active, pursuit LB, who covered the field and had an idea where he was headed much of the time. Upon checking, I discovered that WATSON recorded 109 tackles in 2017, but of equal interest, was the fact that he has enough coverage ability to have also recorded 7 PBU and 2 INT last season. Against Boise, he recorded 9 tackles, 6 of them solo efforts. After this game, he has 80 Tackles in 8 games for 2018. I am not going to get carried away and make a direct comparison, but… Not too long ago we had a generally lightly regarded UTAH STATE (then in the WAC) player show up at the Senior Bowl and absolutely blow us away with his aggressive, hard hitting play and practice habits. That somewhat under-the-radar player was BOBBY WAGNER, who has had one heck of a career as a Sea Hawk. All I am saying here, is that WATSON sure looks to have some very similar characteristics to his style of play. I would not hesitate to take this guy in Round 4 if I needed serious LB help for my NFL team.

RAEKWON WILLIAMS #99 DT 6’4/295 MICHIGAN STATE JR
RAEKWON is a bit less than “big” by pro standards, but he certainly showed me quickness to slant into blocking gaps, and a keen eye for locating the ball in line-of-scrimmage, close quarters, play. Against Michigan, he recorded 4 tackles, 2 of them solo, and 1.5 TFL, which included a forced fumble in the 3rd Quarter. Over and above those numbers he was the toughest blocking assignment for the Wolverines OL most of that game. I can see him fitting into multiple potential schemes at the next level. He is currently playing inside and shooting gaps. But he also looks to have the body and athleticism to slide out to a DE spot in a 3-4 base scheme, and play the majority of downs. I waited for someone to stand out for me on that Michigan State D, and by mid-point 1st Quarter, WILLIAMS had literally caught me eye. Looks like an early Day 3 guy, if he chooses to come out after this season.

MATTHEW WRIGHT #11 K 6’0/180 UCF
As we continue to see NFL Kicking specialists struggle with lengthened PAT distance and long field goal attempts, multiple NFL teams will be on the lookout again for some young kickers to audition. I do NOT see this upcoming group of kickers/punters being as attractive as the 2018 Draft class, but there will be some guys worth kicking the tires on, including WRIGHT, who is now the UCF career scoring leader. With QB/MILTON being held out of action at ECU, it was WRIGHT who held-serve, going 3 for 3 on FG, while RFr QB DARRIEL MACK got settled in as their new starter. All of WRIGHT’s field goals were 40+ yards, with the longest measuring 46 yards. He does not have a booming leg, but he has a solid, smooth repetitive leg motion and features a 50-yarder as his career long. No, not draftable, but keep your eyes out for him if UCF continues another undefeated record campaign.

Pigskin