Teams are headed toward the final third of the season and the cream is rising to the top of the bottle, unless the players are injured. Let’s look at a few prospects who are catching the eyes of talent evaluators.
For the 4th time this season I have tried to study the work of GRANT DELPIT/S/LSU who may have looked like the top S in the country in 2018. But after try number 4 against Auburn I just have to shrug my shoulders and ask “what’s up” with him this season? DELPIT has looked like a non-participant to my eyes almost every week. I cannot detect whether his role has been redefined and doesn’t play to his strengths, or if opponents have found a way to stay away from him. But I can’t write an honest thumbnail evaluation of him right now, based on what I have seen. Or maybe, NOT seen would be the more accurate word to use.
On the other side of the coin we have CHASE YOUNG/DE/Ohio State whose play has been elite enough to almost forget about the loss of NICK BOSA to the NFL around Columbus, Ohio. The long, athletic YOUNG (6’5/267) is eating up O-Line opponents and spitting out sacked QB because of it. He played like the ring leader of the Buckeyes D against Wisconsin, as the Buckeyes left no doubt that they are the most dominant team in the Big Ten. It should be noted that against the Badgers, YOUNG played standing straight up like a LB a serious number of snaps. By game’s end YOUNG had recorded 6 tackles, all solo, for 5 TFL, including 4 sacks. Ask the Badgers coaching staff and they will likely tell you it felt like even more. YOUNG is truly an elite player. He plays like his hair is on fire, but is totally disciplined and accountable for his responsibilities. He will very likely light up the NFL Combine and emerge as a solid Top 5 draftee in 2020. I see his style of play and pro impact being very similar to that of Myles Garrett of the Browns. Maybe to serve as an exclamation point to this brief profile I should mention that through 8 games YOUNG now has recorded 13.5 Sacks.
With guys like Young chasing QB around relentlessly pro scouts have to find O-lineman around who can protect their QB and run block for offenses to click. Finding those big uglies gets harder and harder to accomplish. And one of the best blocking prospects for the next NFL Draft is a bright young athlete currently playing down on the plains in Auburn, Alabama named PRINCE TEGA WANOGHO (6’5/307). He is not an elite athletic specimen but he gets the most out of his size and FBI. Because of heavy feet his pass-pro is just adequate, but it’s still a $20-Uber ride to get around him on an edge-rush. In the running game he buries people and gets to his second level blocking assignments with vigor. Auburn battled LSU to the final gun last Saturday and the steady play of this young man had a lot to do with that. His best bet might be as an NFL RT unless pro level OL coaching and training can improve his foot speed to protect the QB blind-side. It seems to me that he stacks up well enough to come in with a Round 2 Draft ranking, certainly in the Top 100 at the very least.
LAVISKA SHENAULT #2 WR 6’2/222 Colorado. The Buffalos lost a tight contest to the resilient Trojans last Friday night. Though they came up short their Offense kept them in the game all night. And the star of that unit was, as usual Shenault. On the evening SHENAULT had 9 receptions for 172-yds and 1 TD. And that effort came on an evening when he entered the contest with an abdominal muscle issue. When he was not on the field of play he spent most of his time riding a stationary bike on the sidelines to stay loose. SHENAULT is a special athlete who should fit in well in today’s pro game. He reminds me of Jaylen Samuels who was a multi-dimensional player at NC State. But Shenault is faster than Samuels, and is a threat to go all the way whenever he touches the ball. In the third quarter, on a 4th and short he took direct snap and secured the first down with a 17-yard run, through serious traffic. He often looks like a RB after the catch. He runs through tackles and past defenders every game. When he turns on the afterburners not often is he caught from behind. He’s a very dependable, hands catcher and sets up downfield blockers very effectively. I truly expect he will settle into Round One of the 2020 Draft. He caught 86 balls in 2018. If he can get/stay healthy height knockoff the door for 100 catches this season.
JALEN HURTS #1 QB 6’1/223 OKLAHOMA, is clearly not the QB who was running the Alabama offense for two years. Under HC Lincoln Riley he has refined his passing skills and all around QB play tremendously. The Sooners recorded their first loss of the season 41-48, when their Defense reverted back to 2018 form against K-State’s normally modest Offense. But JALEN had a fairly typical game for himself since taking over the helm from departed Heisman winner TYLER MURRAY. Through the air HURTS was 19/26- 62%- for 395 yards and 1 TD. On the ground he carried 19 times for 96 yards and 3 TD. He still shows some throwing mechanics that need semi-serious refinement for a pro career. To my eyes his biggest mechanical flaw is probably the most common among even many NFL QB. When the pocket is heavily pressured he still has a tendency to fadeaway from the pressure and throw off his back foot. That flaw often leads to under-thrown balls and interceptions. He’s still not a pinpoint passer, but his overall throwing accuracy is acceptable. So, can he be the next LAMAR JACKSON? I say ‘Why not’?! That’s a very open question to answer given that JACKSON’s pro resume’ is pretty short right now. But it is not out of the question IMO. Given continued success this season, and an impressive Combine showing it seems possible that late first round consideration could be in the cards for Mr. Hurts in the 2020 NFL Draft. Just like JACKSON if you will recall. I’d wait til Round 3, but in today’s QB crazy world anything can happen.
MARLON DAVIDSON DE AUBURN #3 6’3/278 This young man has helped turn the Auburn DL group into the 2019 version of the dominating Clemson DL group of 2017 & 2018 seasons. When DERRICK BROWN announced he was returning to Auburn for 2019, instead of going pro, we knew the Auburn DL would be good. But they are exceeding most expectations. Against the highly talented LSU offense DAVIDSON had his quietest day of the season statistically with 5 tackles, 2 solo including 1/2 TFL. But his stats do not tell the whole story of his game. He’s a strong player at the point of attack and sets the edge very well. Despite his somewhat light 278 lb. frame he is very hard to move off his spot. He lacks blazing quickness in his rush, but has a nice spin move and dips his shoulder quite well. As he displayed in this contest he plays with energy and determination, and often looks like he carries a big chip on his shoulder. Perhaps it was the LSU strategy of trying to cut block him at times pass protection, but Marlon really displayed a hostile attitude much of this contest.
Perhaps under the heading of “why put off until tomorrow, what you can do today” it looks as though I missed my chance to take a hard look at LUCAS NIANG OT TCU. I noticed him two weeks ago while watching the Horned Frogs lose to K-State. His size and ease of movement at that size caught my attention. I wrote his name down in my scouting notebook, but ended up switching away from that game and made a mental note to watch for him again. Not going to happen since he was injured the next game and is out for the year. Let me just say more than a few scouting folks will be watching for his rehab progress and hoping to see him ready for Combine participation. He looked to me to be serious pro prospect material.
ZACK MOSS #2 RB 5’10/222 Utah. By the time this guy’s games show up on TV most everyone east of the Rockies is headed to bed, or putting in eyedrops to watch a scoreboard show. How else do you explain the relative anonymity of a guy who is about to rush for 1000-yds for the third straight season? MOSS is a duel threat as runner and a receiver. After missing his act a few weeks back I made sure to record the Cal game. And it was worth the effort. His running style reminds of AARON JONES/Packers. He’s not quite as fast as Jones, but weighs more and packs a bit more power in moving the pile. He shows good balance on contact and seems have very good field vision. Against CAL, MOSS carried the ball 17 times, for 115 yards and 2 TD. He also caught 3 balls for 89-yards and another TD. For the current season MOSS has now rushed for 728-yards, at 6.6 ypc. He looks to me like an ideal prize for some NFL team in need of a No. 1 RB. My only question right now is whether he can sneak into Round 1 of the 2020 Draft. Let’s mark him down for Round 2.
#19 BRANDON JONES S TEXAS 6’0/205 This is JONES 3rd full season as a starter for the Longhorns. This is one Charlie Strong recruit that Tom Herman is glad he and his staff did not run out of Austin when they came to town and cleaned house. JONES can do it all. He has enough speed to cover deep and seems to just love to work in-the-box stopping the run game. His ball skills may present the biggest concern about his game. He tends to be in position but seems to misjudge the depth of the throw, thus allowing receivers to get their hands on the ball even though he had them in his range. He also fails to wrap up ball carriers looking for a bigger hit at times. In the loss to TCU last Saturday JONES was credited on 11 tackles, 7 solo and had 1 Interception. He leads by example and should make a solid locker room addition for some NFL team. He could make my Top 100 prospect list depending upon volume and quality of underclassmen declaring in January. JONES might make his mark in the NFL in a nickel/hybrid role.
A short list again of some under-the-radar players who are playing quite well:
RODNEY SMITH #1 RB Minnesota Coming back strong from knee surgery.
CHASE CLAYPOOL #83 Notre Dame Paying the price for a limited Irish O, but could be the next St. Brown for NFL.
ANTOINE BROOKS S Maryland #25 Seems be coming on strong for Terps ala Darnell Savage in ’18
QUINTON BOHANNA DT Kentucky #95 Only a junior, but the big guy (6’4, 340) is making plays for Coach Stoops D.
#74 SCOTT FRANTZ OT Kansas State Is now in his 4th season as a starter. Nothing fancy, but does his job.