Week 1 of the college football season is officially in the books. It was somewhat anticlimactic in terms of games that will ultimately affect the top 25 or College Football Playoff picture. Where the real excitement came was getting a good look at all the 2020 NFL Draft prospects for the first time in months. There were plenty of prospects who lived up to the hype, some that burst onto the NFL Draft scene, and a few who had disappointing games. It’s a long stretch until the NFL Draft, but tracking performances throughout the season and shedding light on who is impressing and who is faltering is always key. Heck, the Dolphins even went into full Sam Hinkie tank mode for Tua this week it seems. With the NFL season officially here, it’s as good at time as any to plug into NFL Draft talk. Also check out my latest 2020 NFL Draft big board and position rankings here, mock draft here, and the 2019 NFL rookie spectacular here.
Tweet of the Week
Breaking: The Cowboys and RB Ezekiel Elliott have agreed to a 6-year, $90 million contract extension with $50 million guaranteed.
Well, the Cowboys did it. They stood pat with the Ezekiel Elliott contract until right before the NFL season and then threw an unprecedented amount of money at him. By giving Zeke a six-year $90 million contract extension the Cowboys now have him under contract for the next eight seasons… Jerry Jones must think its still the 90s. Now, there’s been so much back and forth on the value of RBs lately that it’s tiring to talk about, but it’s going to be a hot topic until teams stop valuing them so much OR they are proven to be of significant value.
The big issue was the Cowboys basically had to pay Zeke. By taking him fourth overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, they essentially said running backs matter. To not pay him now would be admitting taking him was the wrong move, and Jerry doesn’t seem like someone who likes to admit they’re wrong. There’s no denying Zeke is a top-three RB in the league, but would you rather have that over Jalen Ramsey or DeForest Buckner? Ramsey went fifth and Bucker seventh overall in that same draft. The Cowboys essentially doomed themselves to paying Zeke the minute they drafted him.
Zeke has been in the league for three seasons and in those three seasons, he’s totaled 5,247 yards from scrimmage with 34 TDs. He’s also led the league in rushing in 2016 and 2018 and would have in 2017 if not for a suspension. Again, there’s no denying his dominance. The issue is how easy it is to find production out of the position and the need to spend draft capital and money on more important spots. Another issue is how quickly RBs tend to drop-off due to the constant beating. Just look at some of the other highest-paid RBs, David Johnson, Devonta Freeman, and Jerick McKinnon. Injuries end these guys quickly. Why spend on them when you can find a Phillip Lindsay, Chris Carson, or Aaron Jones.
In the News
Thanks to the Texans having no GM and Bill O’Brien’s knee jerk reaction to the Andrew Luck retirement, the Dolphins are officially in full tank mode. Just trust the process Miami fans and thank Sam Hinkie. After acquiring two first-round picks and a second-round pick from the Texans, the Dolphins are loaded with picks but have very little talent on the roster. So, welcome to tanking season.
This move essentially doomed the perpetually doomed Josh Rosen. It seemed odd that the team was favoring Ryan Fitzpatrick despite Rosen outperforming him in their preseason games and scrimmage. Now it all makes sense, this team doesn’t want to win and they don’t want to find out what they have in Rosen. They want to lose and use the first overall pick on Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa. Rosen is living the same season over and over… it’s a shame because he has all the tools to be a franchise QB, but nobody is giving him the chance.
From an overall roster perspective, the Dolphins rebuild should take years. They clearly have four untouchable players, Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Christian Wilkins, and Jerome Baker. Other than that it would be hard to imagine Miami is overly attached to anybody. With those four it looks like Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, Kenyan Drake, Michael Deiter, Davon Godchaux and Bobby McCain are the only definite quality starters in their plans next season.
They should have at least 14 draft picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 and 2021 NFL Draft. They’ll need many of those picks to play early and make an impact to have any relevance in the NFL the next few years. Ownership is undoubtedly on board with this, they gave head coach Brian Flores a five-year contract and GM Chris Grier has been with the organization since 2000. These guys have job security so they’re going the Sam Hinkie tank route. The on-field product won’t be fun, but seeing how this all plays out will be, it’s like playing Madden franchise mode in real life.
Star: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
There are few NFL Draft prospects that look like they were created in a lab to be the first overall pick. Jadeveon Clowney, Myles Garrett and Cam Newton come to mind. Well, Chase Young might just join that list. He has everything to justify being the number one player in the 2020 NFL Draft. The man is a freak of nature and will draw Clowney comparisons. At 6-5, 265 pounds Young is the most intimidating player in college football. There have been whispers of his future as a top pick since he was a true freshman. Last year when Nick Bosa went down those whispers turned into shouts. In his last 14 games Young has 16 TFLs and 11 sacks despite facing constant double teams. Young is the rare freak prospect that has all the athletic tools but is a technician who gets better every week.
Chase Young with a nice and easy rip move for the strip sack. He’s already such a strong hand fighter as a pass rusher. Hard to see him not being a top 5 player in the 2020 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/iXV17wtN7e
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) June 6, 2019
The best thing to happen to Young was to play with Nick Bosa. It seems as if he went to the school of Bosa when it comes to his hand-to-hand combat. Both Nick and Joey Bosa were elite with their hands coming out of Ohio State, that’s a massive reason they were top picks. Now injecting those violent hands and pass rush moves into Young’s freaky athletic frame and you’ve got a monster. The crazy part is, it feels like he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his pass-rush ability. Young has elite athleticism, ideal length and power, violent heavy hands, and a non-stop motor. As he adds more moves to his repertoire and begins putting combo moves together, nobody will be able to block him for four quarters.
Sometimes with top pass-rushing prospects there are questions about their ability or willingness as a run defender. That couldn’t be more opposite for Young. His ability as a run defender is what got him on the field so early as a Buckeye. With his strength and hands, he has no problem consistently setting an edge. Often he’s able to set the edge and make the play because of the motor and athleticism he brings. Chase Young is a five-tool prospect and should be a top-five lock in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Sleeper: Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
It’s going to be an incredible draft class for edge defenders, especially edge defenders from the Big Ten. Chase Young and AJ Epenesa get the vast majority of the attention, but over in East Lansing, they have their own beloved pass rusher. Kenny Willekes is the stuff of legends at Michigan State. Willekes started off as a walk-on linebacker and after not playing his first two years, he earned a starting job on the defensive line as a redshirt sophomore. After a massive junior season, it looked like he might turn pro, but he broke his leg in the bowl game and now he’s back as a senior. For teams looking for a locker room leader with an elite work ethic and all the tools to be an NFL starter, this is the guy.
Safe to say senior EDGE Kenny Willekes #48 is back to full health for #MichiganState.
Despite not being a dominant athlete like some of the other pass rushers in the class, Willekes makes a massive impact getting after QBs. He wins with technique and effort. As great as explosive athleticism is, in the NFL you need technique and effort to get home on QBs. Willekes is powerful at the point and can win with a bull rush or speed to power. What he does best though is mix-up his attack and string together combo moves. He keeps offensive tackles guessing and rather than stick to one or two moves, he keeps it fresh. That alone is a massive advantage in college football. This season Willekes is looking more athletic with his first step and more flexible with his bend. He might not be a double-digit sack artist, but he’s a disrupter with pressures.
Kenny Willekes with a jab step left into swat-swim to get half-man, then rips to clear contact and sacks Jordan Love. Great example of how a mediocre athlete can be a productive pass rusher. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/6oO1VXkX52
— Ross O'Keefe (@RossOKeefe2) August 8, 2019
There will be some Chase Winovich comparisons for Willekes due to the state he plays in, the effort he brings, and for some other obvious reasons. The comparison isn’t all wrong, but Willekes is a much stronger run defender and doesn’t have the same athleticism as Winovich. Willekes has the strength to anchor down and set the edge as a run defender, something Winovich struggle with at Michigan. It also helps that Willekes has powerful hands and has shown an ability to stack and shed and make plays backside with his motor. When the NFL Draft comes around don’t be surprised to see Willekes go top 50.
Overrated: Nick Coe, DL, Auburn
On paper, the Nick Coe top 50 draft hype makes some sense. He’s 6-5, 291 pounds, put up 13.5 TFLs and 7 sacks in the SEC last season, and is Auburn’s most versatile defender. Then when you throw on the tape it’s a whole lot of JAG play. Coe flashes his length and power as a pass rusher at times, but it’s not consistent. Playing all over the front seven is fun, but he never seems to settle into a groove at any one position. Auburn uses him everywhere from 3-Tech to 5-Tech to EDGE and even some at off-ball LB. It’s impressive he can play all those spots, but he doesn’t play any at a high enough level to be considered a top prospect.
Coe has size and a motor. Those are good building blocks, but there’s not a ton of athleticism on his tape. He’s slow off the snap, doesn’t have the flexibility to bend around the edge, and plays too high to have an effect on the inside with quickness. In the run game, Coe gets washed far too frequently. His lack of leverage hurts him a ton and he struggles to get off blocks if his initial quickness doesn’t win. Right now Coe is much closer to a Day 3 project than a first-round talent.
Risers and Sliders
Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
- Everybody knows the story of Jalen Hurts. Everybody also knows Oklahoma has produced the previous two Heisman winners and first overall picks under Lincoln Riley. Put the two together and you get some magic. Hurts put the whole country on alert with his primetime performance against Houston. In the 49-31 win, Hurts totaled 508 yards with 6 TDs and firmly put himself near the top of the Heisman raise. The most impressive part of it all though was his clear improvements as a passer. Hurts no longer looks like an RB playing QB. His footwork has vastly improved, his mechanics are much more consistent and compact, the ball jumps out of his hand with velocity, and his accuracy on every level has noticeably improved. Hurts is officially a QB to watch for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford
- The most impressive overall performance from Week 1 of college football might have come in one of the worst games. Stanford beat Northwestern 17-7 with their backup QB and it was a painful watch. The best player on the field was clearly Paulson Adebo. Adebo, a potential first-round pick, was toying with new Northwestern QB Hunter Johnson. At one point he baited him on a quick out and showed off his instincts and closing speed for an INT. Adebo also added two more pass breakups. He lined up at outside CB and nickel, showing off his versatility. One of the best things about Adebo is his willingness as a run defender and it showed vs. Northwestern. Top 20 seems likely for Adebo.
Trevon Diggs, CB/Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
- Although it was just Duke, Alabama looked ready to compete for a national title in their 42-3 win. Not only should Alabama fans be excited for Tua and the offense, but the defense looks dangerous once again. It got a big boost with the return of Trevon Diggs and Terrell Lewis, both had season-ending injuries last year. Diggs showed off why he’s considered a first-round talent. He was excellent playing press-man with length and ability to mirror. At one point he came away with an INT where he ran the route for the WR and did a perfect job locating and high pointing the ball. Lewis has played in just five games the past three seasons, but he’s dripping with talent. Against Duke the length and explosiveness were obvious. He came away with a monstrous sack and has the NFL Draft community buzzing about his potential.
Zack Moss, RB, Utah
- If not for a season-ending injury in 2018, Zack Moss was almost guaranteed to be a top-five RB in the 2019 NFL Draft. Now, he’s the best senior RB in the country and he cemented that statement with his performance in the Holy War. Against BYU Moss ran for 187 yards and broke a mind-boggling 15 tackles. His rugged running style had him giving out more hits then he took in the game. Moss’ contact balance might be the best in the country and when paired with his twitchiness and explosiveness, he’s unstoppable between the tackles. He also showed his willingness to pass protect and pick up the correct man. Proving he can play on passing downs will be his ticket to being a top 60 pick.
Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest
- Weekday college football games can get pretty zany. There were plenty of eyes on Wake Forest’s 38-35 Friday win over Utah State because everybody wanted to see Jordan Love. Sage Surratt took advantage of the spotlight and made two of the biggest plays for Wake. He caught a deep TD early in the game where he overwhelmed the DB with his size before showing off his acceleration to separate. Later in the game with Wake down four in the fourth quarter, Surratt blew by the DB, high pointed a slightly behind throw and took it down to the Utah State five to set up the game-winning score. He’s just a redshirt sophomore, but the height-weight-speed factor he brings will have NFL attention.
When Wake Forest needed a big play vs Utah State they went to Sage Surratt. He’s a height-weight-speed WR who’s stock could skyrocket this season. pic.twitter.com/6EnSHJkV8J
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) September 3, 2019
Walker Little, OT, Stanford
- It was as rough a start to the season as imaginable for Walker Little. Little, whom some tout as a first-round talent, was a technical mess vs Northwestern. In pass protection, he was playing way too high and struggling to handle both speed and power. The biggest issue for Little was false steps. He just doesn’t seem to have any consistent technique down in pass protection. Matters got worse for Little later in the game when he went down with a leg injury. He’s now expected to miss at least six weeks. It’s feeling increasingly likely that’ll he’ll be returning to the Cardinal for his senior year.
Derrick Brown, IDL, Auburn
- One of the biggest storylines heading into Week 1 of the college football season was the matchup of Oregon’s O-line vs. Auburn’s D-line. Despite coming away with the win, Auburn’s D-line looked unimpressive. The alpha of the group, Derrick Brown, was held to just 3 tackles and made very few noteworthy plays. Oregon center Jake Hanson kept Brown neutralized for pretty much the entire game. He’s got all the tools you want in an interior defensive lineman, but to solidify himself as a top 20 pick he needs to show up in big games. Luckily for Brown, Auburn has plenty of big games left for him to take over.
Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
- It was a rough week for South Carolina football. Heading into the season with high hopes, they lost 24-20 to rival North Carolina who went 2-9 the previous season. Bryan Edwards, the Gamecocks best playmaker was shutdown. With Deebo Samuel gone Edwards is expected to make a big leap, but he was held to just 1 reception for 7 yards in the opener. He ended up leaving the game with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for Week 2. Edwards struggled to create separation and had a drop. If he’s going to be a top 100 pick he needs to be a more complete player. Edwards makes fantastic contested catches, but he hasn’t gotten better since his breakout sophomore season.
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
- Depending on who you ask, Justin Herbert’s performance was proof he’s not a first-round QB or the Oregon offense is a mess and it’s not his fault. At the end of the day, Oregon should have defeated Auburn. They blew chance after chance to put them away and Herbert rifled a Hail Mary attempt out of the back of the end zone. On paper Herbert’s numbers are fine, but the entire second half was just screen passes and the offense was kept very bland. Keep in mind Herbert was missing four of his top targets and the guys on the field were not getting open. A few times Herbert made incredible ball placement throws into tight windows, but the lack of talent at WR really hindered the offense. Overall, people need to relax on the Herbert isn’t a top QB takes. He has all the tools to be a top 10 pick. Now he needs to elevate Oregon and get them back on track. Consistency is key going forward.
Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
- It was a similar outcome for Jordan Love to that of Herbert. He showed why he’s considered a potential first-round pick come April, but mistakes led to a 38-35 loss to Wake Forest. Love showed off his physical tools early with a touchdown drive and made throw after impressive throw. He can spin the ball with the best of them. The velocity and accuracy he threw with at times were jaw-dropping. So what’s the problem? He threw three interceptions. They came when he either got mechanically sloppy and forced a throw off his back foot or when he struggled to read the defense. For Love, the mental side of the game isn’t there with the physical side yet. To solidify himself as a first-round pick he needs to improve his reads pre and post-snap.
Mistakes like this are what killed Jordan Love vs Wake Forest. Footwork falls apart and forces a tough throw to the outside off his back foot. Needs to clean this stuff up. pic.twitter.com/y6GLYZMTaD
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) September 1, 2019
Game of the Week
#6 LSU @ #9 Texas
This is a battle of two programs that might finally be back and fighting for a playoff spot… or they both might end up winning eight or nine games and playing in some poorly sponsored bowl game. That’s the fun of LSU vs. Texas, nobody knows if either program will be good this year. The game will have a massive impact on how their respective conferences are viewed and could really shake up the rest of the season. All in all, it’ll be a fun football game full of NFL Draft prospects. Seeing how Collin Johnson handles an elite CB prospect in Kristian Fulton will be massive for his stock. Getting a look at LSU’s front seven against an athletic QB in Sam Ehlinger will be important in understanding if he’s developed as a passer. Overall this is really a battle for the current title of DBU and that’s reason enough to tune in.
|#6 LSU||#9 Texas|
|Grant Delpit, S||Brandon Jones, S|
|Kristian Fulton, CB||Collin Johnson, WR|
|K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE||Zach Shackelford, C|
|Jacob Phillips, LB||Park Braun, OG|
|Rashard Lawrence, IDL||Samuel Cosmi, OT|
|Lloyd Cushenberry, C||Devin Duvernay, WR|
|Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB||Malcolm Roach, DL|
|Michael Divinity Jr., LB||Sam Ehlinger, QB|
|Damien Lewis, OG|
|Kary Vincent Jr., CB|
|Justin Jefferson, WR|
|Joe Burrow, QB|
|Saahdiq Chalres, OT|
Top 10 QB Rankings
|3||Jordan Love||Utah State|
|7||Brian Lewerke||Michigan State|
Underclassmen on the Radar
Freaky Frosh: Freshman QBs (Sam Howell, UNC/Hank Bachmeier, Boise State/Bo Nix, Auburn/Jayden Daniels, Arizona State)
- One of the few memorable things about Week 1 of this college football season was the frenzy of freshman QBs who hit the ground running. Three of them have been massive storylines this week. Sam Howell upset South Carolina, Hank Bachmeier upset Florida State, and Bo Nix somehow upset Oregon. On top of that Herm Edwards seems to have found his guy at Arizona State in Jayden Daniels. It was a fun week for the kids. The four of them combined to throw for 1,113 yards and total 8 TDs on their way to going 4-0. In reality Howell and Bachmeier thrived in huge moments while Nix got lucky after playing an awful game, and Daniels just showed he’s dripping with potential against an inferior opponent. Bachmeier also gets a bump because of his brother’s names which are Tiger, Buck, and Bear.
Super Sophomore: Jevon Holland, S, Oregon
- The obvious pick for the most impressive sophomore of the week is Ohio State’s Justin Fields. In his first game as a Buckeye since transferring from Georgia, he totaled 295 yards and 5 TDs in their win over FAU. The more impressive performance came in Jerry’s World (AT&T Stadium) where Oregon may have lost, but their safety Jevon Holland put on a show. Holland was the most dynamic duck of the day. He ripped off punt returns of 29, 81, and 21 yards to go along with a key interception on a drive Auburn was threatening to score on. Despite the loss, Holland showed he’s a future NFL safety with his athleticism and effort.
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