As I said on Twitter Saturday night, ‘it’s week one – all the talk of players rising or falling is a bit premature.’ The sample size for these prospects just isn’t great enough at this point to begin the discussion of stock up or stock down.
With all that in mind, gauging a player’s performance begins somewhere and it began this weekend for a boatload of NFL Draft prospects. Last year’s tape officially goes into the vault for us and we begin to start a new chapter for the 2014 NFL Draft class.
Week one of the college football season certainly didn’t disappoint as we were able to see some of the top teams challenged by healthy competition. Today we take a look at performances that were positive coming out of week one. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the performances that left a bit to be desired.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Let me preface this by saying the Georgia defense is not very good. But I’ve been saying all spring, Boyd needs not to leave throws on the field. My overall takeaway from Boyd’s junior tape was that he left far too many throws on the field. It seemed that he had receivers running open consistently – a product of one of the best OC’s in the college game. Boyd didn’t leave much on the field on Saturday in his showdown with Georgia.
Boyd proved he can change arm angles to counter his lack of elite height. Not only did he change his release point, but he did it with accuracy and zip. One of my focuses was his accuracy on the deep ball – an area that I thought was overstated by many after watching ’12 tape. Outside of a couple he left a little short, he was spot on in the vertical game.
Boyd cemented himself firmly as a front runner for the Heisman in this statement game and with 22 NFL scouts in attendance, he certainly made them take notice of his abilities at the next level. Sidenote: Sammy Watkins looks like true frosh Sammy Watkins and remains our top WR prospect.
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
The cat was already out of the bag on Mack but I don’t know that everyone fully understood just how good this kid is/has been. He’s going to be the NCAA all-time TFL and FF leader for a reason. He makes a home of opponents backfield’s. That was never more evident than Saturday against an OSU OL that was expected to be one of the best in the Big Ten – possibly the country.
Mack put on a signature performance in this contest. Yeah, his numbers were eye popping (9.5 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and an INT) but they only begin to tell the tale of just how great and important this game was for Mack. Mack’s pick, which was returned for a TD, he outraced Braxton Miller and Dontre Wilson to the endzone. Impressive because Miller and Wilson are two of the fastest Buckeyes.
Mack showed his signature first step burst and speed but it was his power that proved too much in a matchup with a very good OT – Jack Mewhort. Mack bullied Mewhort into the lap of Braxton Miller on one occasion and routinely abused RT Taylor Decker with speed and power. In addition he proved he could play in space and his motor is one of the best in country. In our preseason mock draft, we had Mack going 28th overall but that seems a pipedream with this performance. Mack gets another big contest in week two with Baylor on the slate. Another dominating performance will have Mack on the move as these non-conference games are so important for a MAC player.
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Wyoming was four touchdown underdogs heading into Nebraska. The Cowboys nearly pulled a major upset of the 18th ranked Huskers behind a spectacular performance by Brett Smith.
Smith finished the game with 383 yards and 4 touchdowns against Bo Pelini’s defense. Smith doesn’t have elite physical tools but his accuracy and ball placement are impressive. A three-year starter that doesn’t receive the hype of some of the other underclassmen QB’s – Smith is one to watch this season as this Wyoming offense won’t surprise teams for too much longer.
Sean Parker, S, Washington
The Huskies were one of the surprises of the weekend with a beatdown of Boise State. Keith Price and the offense will get a ton of credit for the victory but it was defense that I was most impressed with.
One defender that stood out was safety Sean Parker. Parker had seven picks in his three-year career at UW and kicked off the 2013 season with a pick and five solo tackles. Parker is known for his hitting prowess in the backend but it’s his abilities in coverage that will stand out at the next level.
Parker possesses the ability to line up at the nickel spot and lock down most options on the field. He showed that ability on Saturday as he drew multiple assignments in this contest. In what appears a so-so safety class, Parker could be heading north.
Ted Bolser, TE, Indiana
C.J. Fiedorwicz of Iowa gets a lot of the pub as the 2014 top senior TE. I’m not sure that Ted Bolser doesn’t wind up stealing that title by season’s end. Bolser burst onto the scene as a freshman but fell off a bit as a sophomore. He picked back up his production as a junior but many questioned the lack of consistency.
Bolser was open at will in Thursday’s tilt against Indiana State. Yes, it’s Indiana State but the knock on Bolser has been average athletic skills. He showed, that while he may lack elite top end speed – he could make up for with instincts in finding open grass, route running, and a sure set of hands. Add that in with the power to move out bigger defenders in the run game and you have a complete TE.
Bolser finished the Indiana State contest with 6 catches for 78 yards and 2 TD’s. The 6-foot-6, 252 pound TE is one to watch as the season progresses into the heart of the Big Ten schedule.
Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
The Brett Bielema era kicked off with a bang on the offensive side of the ball. The Razorbacks bullied Louisiana-Lafayette up front on it’s way to nearly 300 yards rushing. Senior center Travis Swanson was a major reason as he showed the ability to get out in space and the strength to dominate at the point of attack. Swanson was a guy I felt was overrated heading into the season but I could be eating crow on that one if he continues to play the way he did on Saturday.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
I have been Mettenberger’s harshest critic. I may be eating some crow if Mettenberger continues to play the way he did on Saturday against TCU. Mettenberger was sharp against the vaunted 4-2-5 TCU defense featuring some quality players in the secondary. Mettenberger’s numbers don’t do justice to just how solid he was. This is good film for NFL scouts to evaluate as there were some noticeable differences in his mechanics.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT/DE, Minnesota
Shede Hageman comes into the season with some buzz around the league – and for good reason. The 6-foot-6, 312 pound former TE could and should challenge for a spot in the first round of May’s draft. Hageman showed why he’s so highly regarded in a week one blowout of UNLV. Hageman was all over the field for the Golden Gophers as he accounted for 5 tackles, .5 TFL, knocked down a pass, and blocked a kick. It’s Hageman’s versatility that will weigh heavily in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators and he didn’t do anything to hurt his bid to be a first round pick in week one.
Corey Robinson, OT, South Carolina
The junior OT was completely overshadowed by all the Jadeveon Clowney chatter. It wasn’t lost in our eyes. Robinson is a mammoth OT prospect at 6-foot-8, 342 but it was his feet that impressed me. Robinson controlled whoever was in front of him and showed he could handle a top DE prospect in Kareem Martin on several occasions.
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
The junior end finished with two sacks but that only touches on his performance in this contest. Georgia’s OL may have been the biggest letdown of this contest and it was Beasley’s speed that proved too much for them to handle.
Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
We featured this ECU junior receiver in our ‘Primed’ for a breakout series and you get a chance to see why with his week one performance. Hardy hauled in 16 receptions for 191 yards. Hardy’s knack for finding open grass in zone coverage is very impressive we think the draft community will soon take notice of this underrated ECU star.
Jack Tyler, LB, Virginia Tech
Tyler was a bright spot for Va Tech’s defense – which played well without star corner Antone Exum. Tyler was all over the field for the Frank Beamer’s squad as he racked up 8 tackles and a sack. The former walk-on has become the vocal leader of the Hokies defense. Tyler’s lack of size will be a big negative in the evaluation process but there may not be a more instinctual ‘backer in the country.