The Watch List 2021: Week 7 Preview

Updated: October 15th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

(Editor’s note: There have been two important updates related to this week’s article. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has tested positive for covid and there is some speculation that the game may be postponed. Update your game watching schedule accordingly. Also, Tamorrion Terry underwent knee surgery and is expect to miss at least a few weeks.)

If you only have time to watch one college football game this weekend your choice must be #3 Georgia visiting #2 Alabama. The game is chock full of future NFL stars on both sides of the ball, however I’ve recently written about both teams so I am going to look elsewhere for this weekly preview. To run the gamut of watchability, let’s take a look at two prospects who are playing on teams that are bad enough that you can barely bring yourself to DVR and fast forward through their contests: Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry and Duke’s Deon Jackson. Duke finally broke their duck with a victory against Syracuse in Week 6, whereas FSU’s lone win came against FCS squad Jacksonville State. Combined against FBS opponents, the two teams are 1-6 and have been outscored 263-157. I selected these two players to spotlight and started writing this preview before the kickoff of Week 6 games and the performances by both Terry and Jackson in those games confirmed my suspicions that we need to keep these two on our shortlists.

Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State

Tamorrion Terry is a former 4-star recruit who landed in Tallahassee with some hype after turning down offers from a number of blue blood programs like Georgia and Auburn. I love finding absurd stats in player bios and Terry had one of the best I’ve seen: as a senior in high school he recorded 40 receptions and scored on 19 of them. Fast forward to his freshman and sophomore seasons at FSU where Terry couldn’t possibly match that incredible efficiency but amassed strong 35-744-8 and 60-1,188-9 stat lines. Heading into Week 6 of 2020 though, Terry had just 12 receptions and 129 yards with no touchdowns. That underwhelming output — including a catchless game against Miami — is more on quarterbacks James Blackman and Tate Rodemaker than on Terry. Jordan Travis got the nod for the Notre Dame matchup after a good showing late in the win versus Jacksonville State. That was great news for Terry who ended the Notre Dame game with nine grabs for 146 yards and a touchdown. (7-121-1 of that line came from Travis who injured his hand late in the game but has said he’ll be fine.)

Terry’s touchdown against Notre Dame was a thing of beauty so it’s worth looking at more closely. Terry is lined up on the perimeter, to the field, against off-man single coverage. Terry runs a short stem, cuts hard inside for a slant which the corner pounces on as Terry cuts back outside for a double move. The corner recovers but Terry is able to get a few yards of separation. The ball is slightly under thrown so Terry slows his momentum and tracks the ball well to make an over the shoulder grab in stride. The corner makes a valiant effort at the tail end of the play trying to bring Terry down by his ankles but Terry is too big and too strong as he falls forward into the end zone.

I also watched Terry’s 2019 Boston College tape and some highlight packages. There was a lot to like in those clips too but the biggest surprise from watching the BC game was that Terry loves to block. He threw a wallop of a block near the goal line in the first quarter and was the key downfield blocker for a second half touchdown scamper by Jordan Travis (who was used situationally as a runner in 2019). Terry checks a ton of boxes — size, catch radius, speed, tackle breaking ability, physicality — and it’s hard to find major negatives to his game. If I had to nitpick, I would say that one thing that I noticed repeatedly was that he doesn’t always use his sticky-strong hands and lets the ball get into his body.

When researching Terry I found that there was some disagreement on his top-end speed. One of my trusted scouting sites, DraftScout.com, projects Terry in the 4.6 range. A few other resources suggested a 4.50 forty. And then I stumbled on a Reddit thread that shared a tweet that has since been deleted that clocked Terry at 23.4mph during the bowl game against Arizona State last year (which happened to be his best game of the year, 9-165-1). As the commenters point out, that would be faster than any speed the NFL has tracked using their next-gen stats. So either Terry will be the fastest NFL player ever or he’ll run one of the slowest times of the class at the combine. I’ll go with the median and expect a time between 4.45-4.55.

Tamorrion Terry has the wingspan and ability to attack like a pterodactyl from a Jurassic Park sequel. From what I have seen so far, I expect that he can be a starting X receiver in the NFL. In regards to Terry’s NFL Draft prospects, we may have a similar situation to that of his former teammate RB Cam Akers. Few could argue against Akers’ talent but there was enough uncertainty from playing on a bad team that his stock fell from the #1 back in the recruiting class to fourth off the board at the NFL Draft. I’m hopeful that the uptick that Jordan Travis provided continues and Terry sees higher quality targets throughout the rest of the season. I can see Terry becoming a rising star during the predraft process and landing in the Top 50 because of his physical traits.

Deon Jackson, RB, Duke

When I was searching for some Youtube game tape of Jackson, I came across a highlight reel titled “The Most Disrespected RB in the ACC.” That may have primed me before I dived deeper but after a short study I can’t say I disagree. I’ve fallen in love with Deon Jackson.

Like Terry above, Jackson has been a reliable producer on a mediocre team. In 2018 and 2019, Jackson combined for 333 carries, 1,488 yards and 13 TDs, averaging 4.46 yards per carry. Hardly eye-popping numbers, but solid. Jackson also contributed as a receiver, adding 47-445-4 as a receiver in the same span. That’s an average of 9.46 yards per reception which would be up there just behind Travis Etienne among the conference’s best backs last year. Jackson had the best game of his career against Syracuse last week, earning 169 yards on 30 carries (he did have a bad fumble in the first half though). So far in 2020 Jackson has not yet shown up as a receiver — just six receptions through five games — perhaps because he’s playing with a new quarterback in Chase Brice who prefers to check down to TE Noah Gray instead.

I watched the condensed version of Duke’s win against Syracuse and also watched some of Jackson’s highlights to better understand his game. Jackson probably has 4.55-4.65 speed so he won’t be winning too many long distance sprints but that’s okay because he’s plenty quick. He mostly runs straight ahead, adding just a little wiggle if needed in the open field. He’s patient at the line of scrimmage but is decisive once he sees his hole. As a receiver, Jackson is fantastic. He only had one reception against Syracuse but it was a good hands catch, as were those in his highlights. He occasionally lines up as a receiver and looks to run solid routes from anywhere. Against Syracuse he was used in pass protection a few times and protected Chase Brice well on the team’s first touchdown of the game. Here was Jackson’s highlight play against Syracuse, a fifty yarder in the first quarter where he showed some speed and that decisiveness I mentioned above. He accelerates as he hits the hole and manages to break through the traffic beyond the line of scrimmage.

Jackson has enough speed and the size at 6000/215 to be a workhorse at the next level (think: Chris Carson). I’ve made the mistake of writing off running backs like Carson (and Alvin Kamara) who had similar athletic profiles and collegiate production, so I won’t be doing that with Jackson. It’s too soon to predict next-level success like that of an NFL star but we need to keep a close eye on Deon Jackson.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List 2021: Week 6 Preview

Updated: October 9th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Forgive me for sounding like a cub reporter for the The Tiger, the student newspaper at Clemson, but this week’s entry is going to focus on the nation’s best. Clemson has started the season 3-0 with relatively easy contests against Wake Forest, The Citadel and Virginia. So far they have outscored opponents 127-36, and were never really in danger against UVA even though they did allow the Cavaliers to keep it somewhat close for awhile. The #1 ranked Tigers will face a real test this week when #7 Miami travels to Death Valley for Week 6, looking to protect their own unbeaten start. Since the first three Clemson outings were snoozers broadcast on the depths of your channel guide, many of you, like me, probably haven’t seen too much of the Tigers yet in 2020. I thought it would be good to check in on a few of the key draft eligible players who might make a difference on Saturday night.

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

“And that’s the one Marvin, that’s the silver tuna.” I’m not sure why that Home Alone quote was the first thing to come to mind when I was brainstorming a quirky opening sentence that summed up Trevor Lawrence and his place atop the college football world, but hey it works! During his three years as the Clemson starter, I have not written much about Lawrence because frankly there isn’t much for me to say. Lawrence has been the darling of #DraftTwitter since before he even took a snap for Clemson. Back before the 2018 season, I was ready to pencil him in over incumbent Kelly Bryant right away, saying “it’s only a matter of time before we see Lawrence take over at Clemson.” In hindsight, that seems like a “no duh” sentiment and it should have been because Bryant had no business playing over Lawrence to start that campaign. Barring injury, or a self-preservation redshirt, Lawrence will end his career with over 10,000 passing yards, more than 100 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing scores. Unsurprisingly, Lawrence is the all-time leader in passing efficiency in ACC history. This week against Miami, Lawrence will be facing the best and most opportunistic defense he’s seen so far (and maybe until the playoff).

Trevor Lawrence has it all as a quarterback. He has better than prototypical size at 6060/220. His arm is strong and he trusts himself to squeeze it into tight spaces. He’s accurate and doesn’t make many mistakes (a 73:12 TD:INT ratio is good right?). He’s effective as a short yardage runner and has enough juice in those long legs to break off an occasional long run. Check out this first half highlight reel from his last game against UVA where you see him do a little of everything:

In addition to his traits on the field, something else that I was pleased to see this offseason was Lawrence’s leadership off the field. Regardless of your personal opinion on the viability of this year’s college football season amid a pandemic, it was nice to see Lawrence rallying players from across the country. Lawrence has also been a leading voice in the college football world when it comes to equality and social change. Sports Illustrated recently quoted him saying, “I’m not an activist of any sorts, but I do think I have a responsibility to promote equality and help the people I love.”

Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck and will undoubtedly be the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s also going to be a first rounder in your rookie draft; even if you’re not playing superflex he’s going to go earlier than you think because somebody will want to build around a once-in-a-generation talent.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

I last wrote about Travis Etienne, currently my favorite college football player, in the Spring when I previewed three potential 1.01 rookie draft picks. In that preview, I gushed about Etienne once again. Over his career, Etienne averages 7.7 yards per carry and has scored 65 total touchdowns. It’s hard to argue with that production, especially when you consider the level of competition he’s facing at Clemson. In six career playoff games, Etienne has nine scores and over 450 scrimmage yards. So far this year, Etienne has earned 315 yards from scrimmage and 3 total TDs. He’s not off to a blazing start but that doesn’t worry me. With a modified offseason and a mediocre opening slate, I would not be surprised if the plan was to ease Etienne into the season until they need him most.

Etienne started his career as a home run hitting speedster. Since then, he’s developed his body and his game and has become powerful at the point of contact. He has also overcame his reluctance as a receiver to be a valuable option out of the backfield (37 receptions, 432 yards and 4 receiving TDs last year). The two snippets below show just how his game has evolved. The first highlight is from his freshman season in 2017 and it shows just how quickly he can accelerate and stride past all eleven defenders. The icing on the cake was the sprinter’s lean as he crossed the goal line. The second play came against Virginia last week; it’s only a sixteen yard run to the endzone but he shows us so much. The clip illustrates his patience, strength and contact balance while four defenders have a chance to stop him.

https://twitter.com/TheHHShow_/status/1312559519390593024?s=20

I think it’s inevitable that Travis Etienne is a first rounder in the NFL Draft in 2021 and a Top 3 pick in your next rookie draft. I hope I luck into a number of shares because I love watching him play and expect he’ll continue to develop into a complete three-down NFL running back.

Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson

A few months back we did not expect that Amari Rodgers would be the Tigers’ leading receiver. Instead, we assumed it would have been Justyn Ross, however a neck/spine injury has sidelined him for this year (and hopefully only this year.) Through his first three years on campus, Rodgers proved to be a trustworthy complementary target with a career stat line of 104-1,124-8. When I wrote about Rodgers in the Spring, I described him as a “strong and compact slot receiver whose unique 5100/210 body type is well suited to breaking tackles.” I went on to suggest that Rodgers would “have an instant role in the NFL as a reliable underneath receiver and dynamic punt returner.”

Against Virginia, Rodgers had one of the best games of his career, going for 72 yards and 2 TDs on six grabs. His best play of the game didn’t count though: an acrobatic diving touchdown that was ruled incomplete but should have been reviewed. Rodgers showed the ceiling and the floor of his potential versus the Cavaliers. The two clips below will help illustrate my point. At worst, as I mentioned above, he’s a satellite player who can succeed in space, whether that’s on screens or returns. At best, he can use his speed and nimble nature to get open on deep posts and make difficult receptions. I don’t expect him to regularly win contested downfield balls against NFL defensive backs but if he can occasionally stretch the defense to open up options for his teammates he’ll be a key contributor at the next level. I’ll bet Rodgers, likely a late rounder, becomes a fan favorite by the end of the season because we’re going to see a lot of Clemson in primetime and he’s bound to make some memorable plays.

 

 

Jackson Carman, LT, Clemson

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have an eye for scouting offensive lineman. But, you don’t need a scout’s eye to notice Jackson Carman and his gargantuan 6050/335 build. Carman took over as the starter in 2019 and has twenty career starts thus far at left tackle. Phil Steele, one of my most trusted voices in college football, had Carman as the 12th best offensive tackle in the draft-eligible class before the season began. The Draft Network has him ranked even higher at the 6th best in the class. In their scouting report, TDN described Carman as a “road grader in the run game” and said that “no pass rusher is going through him.” Sounds good to me. Dabo Swinney has proven himself to be one of the best coaches in the nation and he wouldn’t trust his phenom quarterback’s blindside to just anybody.

Baylon Spector, LB, Clemson

The Clemson defense has been without its two biggest prospects to start the season: Justin Foster and Xavier Thomas. That has left the door open for other guys to make a name for themselves, including graduate linebacker Baylon Spector. Spector is the team’s leading tackler with 20 tackles, 2.5 TFL and 1.0 sack through three games. He lit up the box score last week against UVA, tallying 13 total tackles. Clemson’s defense has been an NFL factory of late but that usually comes from the edge rushers and secondary. Some of their recent off-ball linebackers like Kendall Joseph and Ben Boulware went undrafted but got a sniff in the NFL as undrafted free agents. Spector may be in the same situation if he can continue to rack up the counting stats this season. Admittedly, I’m also a sucker for a good “human interest” story and Baylon’s younger brother Brannon is on the squad too. He’s a redshirt freshman receiver who had four receptions last week. The Athletic recently had an entertaining profile of the brothers and how they trained together throughout the pandemic. It’s unlikely that either Spector is a viable NFL Draft prospect but I’ll be rooting for them anyway.

 

PS: The Hurricanes offense will be paced by dual-threat QB D’Eriq King and TE Brevin Jordan but we should be paying attention to junior RB Cam’Ron Harris too. It’s been four years since the ‘Canes had a 1,000 yard rusher and even in a shortened season Harris is on pace for 1,140 rushing yards and 18 scores. He caught my eye in their opener against UAB, showing both long speed and power to push the pile. He has an ideal build at 5100/210 and should continue to earn passing game work too.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List 2021: Week 5 Preview

Updated: October 3rd 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

The 2020 college football season started in earnest last week with the SEC kicking off and things are only looking up for draft fans as the rest of the college football world returns soon. Until then, we’re “stuck” with the SEC for our premier matchups. The centerpiece game of Week 5 is without a doubt the matchup between #7 Auburn and #4 Georgia at 7:30pm on ESPN. Neither team looked convincing in their opening victories so this will be an important game for one of them to get back on track with a statement win. I touched on a number of players from those two squads last week (I see you Seth Williams) so for this preview I am instead going to direct your attention to two Top 10 talents who will be playing earlier in the day. At 12:00pm you should be watching TE Kyle Pitts and Florida face off against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Then at 3:30pm turn to ESPN+ for your only chance at seeing NDSU’s Trey Lance this year. Want to learn more about these two? You should…

 

Kyle Pitts, WR, Florida

Nobody did more for their professional prospects in Week 4 than Florida TE Kyle Pitts. He seemed even more dominant than his 8-170-4 stat line would dictate if that’s even possible. Regular readers will remember that I profiled Pitts in the Spring and predicted he would be a “hot NFL Draft commodity.” Frankly, I thought that would take more than just a single game but here we are. #DraftTwitter is abuzz with “Pitts as TE1” talk and I’m here for it.

So what was it about his outing against Ole Miss that has fans looking forward to his matchup against South Carolina this week? Let’s take a closer look thanks to this perfect tweet from the SEC Network that has a short video including each of Pitts four scores.

https://twitter.com/SECNetwork/status/1309956964403810304?s=20

If you were trying to cherry pick a season-long highlight package that showcased all of Pitts strengths you couldn’t do better than the above video. On the first play you see how Pitts can be deployed as if he is going to block before sneaking out into the flat for an easy score. (Pitts being a serviceable and willing blocker obviously helps with this feint.) On the second score he fights with the press corner off the line of scrimmage and then again at the top of his stem. He maybe pushes off a bit but spins off the defender and locates the well-placed ball and makes the catch as he falls past the goal line. Neither defender had a chance to make a play on the ball, just a perfect connection between quarterback and receiver. On the third touchdown Pitts shows us his speed and separation as he beats his defender down the seam. Like in the second play, he adjusts well to the ball that is under thrown. He lands a stiff arm that knocks the tackler off of him because of his longer reach. Then it’s off to the races, and none of the three DBs gets within five yards of him. Finally, Pitts showed us that he can be a weapon in the red zone. He’s lined up just off the line of scrimmage, runs a middle route against double coverage and beats both defenders in the air. At 6060/240, Pitts can win just about any jump ball.

Pitts literally put on a clinic against Ole Miss and I’m so glad I was tuned in and will certainly be watching again this week against South Carolina. If we were drafting today, I have no doubt that Kyle Pitts would be the top tight end selected and surely in the top half of the first round. Hopefully this Gator keeps chomping all the way throughout the season.

 

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

In a year full of strange seasons, perhaps none is stranger than that of the North Dakota State Bison. The FCS, as a collective, is not playing football this fall, however some of its teams were permitted by their conference to create their own schedule. Some of those teams, like Central Arkansas and Houston Baptist, have benefited from the situation because their early games surely had more viewers than in a usual year. NDSU has just a single game on their schedule and it comes this week against the aforementioned Central Arkansas. Thankfully for draft fans the game is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN+ giving us a chance to see superstar quarterback Trey Lance in action once more before he inevitably starts his NFL Draft preparation. To his credit, Lance is apparently going to play in the game and says his focus is on the game and not his future. If he returns to campus next year it’ll be a big surprise.

Lance leapt into the national conversation about halfway through his redshirt freshman season, his first as the starter. He accounted for 11 total TDs through the campaign’s first three games and kept up an impressive pace all season long. He ended with 2,786 passing yards, 28 passing TDs and ZERO interceptions; he also added an even 1,100 yards and 14 TDs on the ground. Lance had a record-setting season and led the Bison to a perfect 16-0 record. The list of his 2019 accomplishments on his athletic department bio has twenty-two bullet points. In case the stats weren’t enough to convince you, take a look at these highlights:

On the field, Lance is a multi-faceted force for defenses to gameplan against. Size-wise he’s listed at 6040/226 and DraftScout.com predicts he’ll run in the 4.60 range (think: Ryan Tannehill). When I wrote about Lance back in May, I gushed about his arm talent saying that “Lance has the ability to uncork the ball with placement.” Outside the pocket, he keeps his eyes downfield and throws very well on the move. When running Lance looks more like an upright running back than a scrambling QB. He’s not afraid to initiate contact and is a high effort player who will sacrifice his body for a first down. (That’s admirable but he’ll need to make sure he keeps himself healthy and avoids big hits.) I can’t wait to study Lance further and get to know him better as a prospect because he could be special. I have not seen that much of Lance yet, none of us really have given he’ll essentially come out as a one-year starter, so take this next sentence with the requisite grain of salt: Lance oozes natural talent, confidence and charisma that has me as excited as I was when studying Patrick Mahomes back in 2017.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List 2021: Week 4 Preview

Updated: September 25th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

The SEC is back! College football has certainly felt different so far this season but I think this week will be the first that feels “normal” because we can get lost in some matchups from the Southeastern Conference. We only get one Top 25 matchup this week from the SEC (Kentucky at Auburn) but no matter, the games will be fun to watch. To help you plan your schedule on Saturday, I am going to present you the best SEC game to watch in each broadcast window to maximize your prospect viewing pleasure.

12:00pm | Kentucky at Auburn

The SEC season kicks off with the league’s only Top 25 matchup of the day: Kentucky at Auburn. If I’m being honest, Auburn is the reason to watch this one. Kentucky may end up having a solid season but they are ranked 23rd simply because 40% of the Power 5 are not playing (yet). Before we get into Auburn, I will share one future NFL name from the Wildcats: Punter Max Duffy. Duffy won the Ray Guy award in 2019 after leading the NCAA in average yards per punt (48.1). If you’re recording the game to watch later, hit play when you see Duffy trot onto the field. You might get to see the NFL’s next best field-flipper in action, but it also means that Bo Nix and the Auburn offense are coming back onto the field.

Bo Nix isn’t yet draft eligible but he’s a name you should know because he’s likely to build on a solid true freshman season and make a case as a 2022 first rounder. He had 23 total TDs but was inefficient at times, especially in big games against Oregon, Florida and Alabama. The Tigers did pull out the victory over Alabama, but it was more in spite of Nix than thanks to him. Nix has plenty of room to grow and I suspect he will.

His top target from 2019, Seth Williams, is back for his junior season. A lanky outside receiver, Williams, put up a 59-830-8 line last year. He played a smaller role in 2018 as a freshman but managed a 20.5 yards per catch average and 5 TDs on just 26 receptions. I watched Williams tape from the 2019 LSU matchup. I was nonplussed for the first 57 minutes of the game before he finally flashed his potential. On those late snaps, I finally saw Williams use his 6030/211 size to his advantage. He isn’t the strongest receiver prospect but on those key plays he used his length and leverage to make plays. The capper of the drive was a too-little-too-late score from five yards out. He jab steps outside, knocks the corner’s hands off him, and then leans into his slant route to use his body to protect the incoming ball. Youtube clips show how well Williams does in the air, especially at the boundary or the back of the end zone. Maybe it’s because he too went to Auburn and I just saw him on Monday Night Football, but my mind went to Darius Slayton while watching Williams’ highlight reels.

Tune into this one for the Nix-Williams connection and hope we get a glimpse of their ceiling together.

4:00pm | Georgia at Arkansas

Few teams were in the national college football headlines as often this offseason as Georgia. Grad transfer QB Jamie Newman coming in from Wake Forest was big news because he would give the offense a different dynamic than in recent years. Then there were murmurs about USC’s deposed signal caller, JT Daniels, coming to Athens to be the heir apparent for 2021. But wait, there’s more. Daniels was granted an immediate eligibility waiver from the NCAA giving head coach Kirby Smart a decision to make. Just a few weeks ago, Jamie Newman made the decision himself and decided to opt out of the season. So, we presume Daniels will be the starter but as of this writing, Smart had not yet made an official announcement — whether it’s just pregame posturing or the staff having doubts about Daniels’ ACL recovery, we don’t truly know. (Editor’s note: As of Thursday, Daniels still has not been cleared to play. Looks like D’Wan Mathis, who overcame emergency surgery for a brain cyst last year, will get the start.) 

Both Newman and Daniels will be draft eligible in 2021 so it will be interesting to see how they stack up in the eyes of NFL scouts. Newman is a dual-threat while Daniels is a pocket passer who was very highly touted out of high school. If Daniels does win the job and decides to declare early I think he will get plenty of attention; it’s hard to say at this point what Newman opting out will do for his draft stock.. What I’m most interested in, despite what the ten sentence lead-in may have you believe, is who will be running the rock for Georgia.

Junior running back Zamir White is likely to get the biggest piece of the RBBC pie in 2020. As a high school recruit, White earned a near-perfect score from 247Sports (0.9957) and was a top player in the 2018 class. Unfortunately, White suffered ACL injuries to both knees in back-to-back years, effectively delaying the start of his highly anticipated college career. White had 78 carries in 2019, gaining 408 yards and scoring three times. He was the lead ballcarrier in the bowl game against Baylor and rushed for 92 yards and a score on 18 carries. White is big (6000/215, and maybe even larger) and runs with power and momentum. He only has two career receptions so I have no idea if he can be a receiver at the next level. There isn’t much of a sample size for White at this point so I’m trusting the recruiting hype and will check in again after a few games.  I always root for guys like White who had so much potential squashed by injury so I’m really hoping he can stay healthy.

Arkansas has their own draft eligible back to watch and his name is Rakeem Boyd. Boyd started his career at Texas A&M but ended up transferring down to JUCO for academic reasons. He returned to the SEC in 2018 with the Razorbacks and over two seasons has rushed for 1,867 yards and 10 TDs. I don’t recall watching Boyd play before, and haven’t seen the newer seasons of Last Chance U where he was profiled, so being introduced to his 2019 highlights was a delight. Boyd is a straight-ahead runner who passes the proverbial “eye test.” I came up with a fun description for him while watching: he’s a wallop-gallop runner. He can run over a tackler with sheer power and then outrun a safety to the endzone. Boyd also contributes in the passing game, making him a solid three down back.

Let’s hope this one stays close so that both White and Boyd log plenty of snaps. Another reason to hope for a close, low scoring, run heavy game: it’ll keep the clock ticking so we don’t miss the start of our next highlighted game…

7:00pm | Alabama at Missouri

Alabama is so chock full of NFL talent that I could devote this entire piece to their squad and still not cover everybody. I have previously written about RB Najee Harris so I’ll gloss over him today but that doesn’t mean I’m any less eager to watch him. There’s also LB Dylan Moses and CB Patrick Surtain who are slam dunk 2021 first rounders. But, in truth, I’ll be watching this one for the pass catchers. The Crimson Tide have had a steady stream of All-American receivers over the last decade and that spigot is still flowing. This year’s tandem, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, are both likely to be first round talents next year.

Smith was eligible for the 2020 draft but declined even after a huge season where he accrued 1,256 yards and 14 TDs on 68 catches. Smith is perhaps most known by casual fans for his game-winning score in the championship game of his freshman year (that’s the one where Tua Tagovailoa came in at halftime) but he’s made so many more eye-catching plays since then. DeVonta Smith is just a damn fun player to watch. He doesn’t truly break tackles, instead he accelerates around or through tacklers who can barely get their hands on him. Smith has the contact balance of an elite running back but also a smoothness that looks more like a track athlete than a football player. I haven’t studied him closely enough yet to know how well he runs routes but considering how polished the recent Bama receivers were in that department I’m sure it’s a strong suit of his as well. Let’s be thankful that Smith decided to return for his senior season because it means we get to watch one of the nation’s best dominate once again.

Waddle, a junior, was the third or fourth option much of the time during his first two years on campus. In those two years combined, Waddle has a 78-1,408-13 line, averaging 18.1 yards per catch. Waddle is fantastic in space. He has 4.35 speed, sharp change of direction and great vision. Alabama found ways to get him touches in the open field: punt returns, kick returns, screens, crossing patterns. The biggest concern when it comes to Waddle’s pro potential is his size. He’s listed at just 5100/182. In the last five draft classes, only seven receivers have weighed that or less at the combine and been drafted (many others went undrafted). Two of those, Marquise Brown and KJ Hamler, were Top 50 picks but the rest of the bunch were Day Three prospects. I think Waddle’s skillset and pedigree hews closer to Marquise Brown than the others in the cohort so I still think it’s likely that he’s a first rounder. Playmakers like Waddle simply don’t come along too often.

On the Mizzou offense we have two potential late-round prospects to keep an eye on in RB Larry Rountree and WR Damon Hazelton. Rountree feels like he’s been playing college football for more than a decade, [checks notes] but apparently his freshman season was in 2017 not 2007. As a four-year starter who has logged 38 career games, Rountree has racked up the counting stats: 537 carries, 2,748 yards, 26 TDs. If he has a halfway decent season in 2020 he’ll become the Tigers all-time second-leading rusher behind former dual-threat QB Brad Smith. From what I’ve seen of Rountree over the years I don’t recall seeing any elite traits but he’s good enough to get drafted and seems like the kind of back who will stick around on an NFL roster for years.

Hazelton is a well traveled receiver who comes to Columbia as a grade transfer from Virginia Tech (who had previously transferred from Ball State). He’s a 6030/215 big bodied guy who should profile as a late round red zone specialist. Twelve of his twenty career touchdowns came in the red zone. He’s consistently produced at his two previous stops and Tigers fans will hope that continues this year — a 50-700-6 line is easily within his reach.

Week 3 saw a rash of Covid-related cancellations and I think this is the game I would miss most from the Week 4 slate. The season is young but I have already watched a lot of mediocre to bad football and I’m (Mac) Jonesing for something great.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List 2021: Week 3 Preview

Updated: September 19th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

We now have two weeks of the college football season in the books. And the verdict? It still feels weird. Some teams haven’t played their first games while we’ve seen so much of the Sun Belt that it feels inevitable that they snag the fourth playoff spot. Speaking of the Sun Fun Belt, my gosh did they make the Big 12 look bad in Week 2 with three upsets (Louisiana-Lafayette over Iowa State, Arkansas State over Kansas State and Coastal Carolina over Kansas). Week 3 has already had a number of schedule changes and who knows if there will be more last minute postponements. This week’s schedule feels a little light on intrigue — the SEC doesn’t start until next week and we lost two of the week’s most interesting matchups (BYU at Army, Virginia at Virginia Tech) — so, there’s no better week to concentrate on your future rookie draft picks!

Saturday, September 19

Marquez Stevenson, WR, Houston

(Editor’s note: since publication of this article, it was announced by the schools that the Houston vs Baylor game for September 19 was cancelled.)

The Houston Cougars had a strange season in 2019, head coach Dana Holgorsen’s first since arriving from West Virginia. After going 8-5 in 2018, I think we all expected the Cougars, with phenom quarterback D’Eriq King and the offensive-minded Holgorsen, to contend for a New Year’s Six bowl berth. Instead, the team started a disappointing 1-3 which lead to the contentious decision for King to give himself a redshirt. Drama and further redshirts ensued, guaranteeing it would be a lost season for Houston. King is now gone to Miami and Holgorsen is left putting back the pieces of a promising team with junior QB Clayton Tune at the helm. Tune will have the luxury of throwing to senior WR Marquez Stevenson. Stevenson was the prime beneficiary of King’s stellar 2018 season, posting 75-1,019-9 numbers. With the turmoil surrounding the team in 2019, his stats dropped but were still a respectable 52-907-9. Coincidentally, as I was starting to work on this piece ESPN was running a replay of Houston’s 2019 game against Navy so I tuned in to see Stevenson catching passes from Tune. Stevenson looks like a natural hands catcher who attacks the ball away from his body. He also tracked the ball well on a deep over the shoulder completion when the defender was all over him. Stevenson is a dangerous kick returner, and it shows after the catch as well when he can put his agility and speed on display. Speaking of his speed, Bruce Feldman included Stevenson on his annual Freaks List and shared some high praise proclaiming that Stevenson “might be one of the three fastest men in football.” Stevenson ended the game versus Navy, the last contest of the disappointing 2019 season, with 8 receptions, 133 yards and 2 scores; Houston fans will hope it’s a prelude to a great pairing in 2020.

(Note: Houston was originally scheduled to play Memphis on September 18 but that game was postponed. Baylor was in a similar situation after their game against Louisiana Tech was called off. So, Houston and Baylor will be facing off this weekend in a hastily scheduled game that helps both teams keep a non-conference game on the schedule).

 

Dyami Brown & Dazz Newsome, WRs, North Carolina

(Editor’s note: since publication of this article, it was announced by the schools that the Charlotte vs North Carolina game for September 19 was cancelled.)

Wide Receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome were a big factor in Sam Howell’s emergence in 2019. Howell, now a true sophomore, will surely continue to grow as a quarterback and that is great news for his pass catchers. 2019 was the first time in UNC history that the team had two 1,000 yard receivers and both return to duplicate their success in 2020. The Tar Heels offense returns 10 starters and should be strong, so I expect that Brown and Newsome will have a weekly showcase to improve their respective draft stocks.

Let’s start with Dyami Brown. Brown is a home run hitting downfield threat. He is listed at 6010/185 and has plenty of long speed to get behind defenders. Brown is adept at tracking, adjusting to, and high-pointing the ball; all of which are key traits to maximize his chances in contested situations. I saw a few plays in his highlight reels and against Syracuse that hint at Brown being physical enough to fight off NFL corners out of his breaks and after the catch. Much of Brown’s success come on go routes and posts/corners when he can utilize his speed; he can sell a route break well when he wants to. Brown averaged an ACC best 20.3 yards per reception in 2019; his 1,034 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns were tremendous production for just 51 receptions. After my short study, I would predict that Brown gets a higher draft grade come next spring that Newsome, maybe as high as Day Two.

Dazz Newsome may not have the consistent downfield role that Brown does but that doesn’t mean he can’t make big plays. Against Syracuse, Newsome ran a punt returning clinic. He recorded six returns, averaging 15.5 yards per, but it was the one that didn’t count that was eye-catching. Newsome caught the punt in traffic and in an instant was sluicing through layers of the Orange coverage team. He slowed at the end because he knew it was coming back and still beat the last defender by more than five yards. As a receiver, he further shows off his body control and superb balance. Newsome can win along the sideline but he excels when he’s targeted in space. I expect Newsome to put up solid numbers again in his senior season (72-1,018-10 last season) and find a home in the NFL as a playmaking slot and return man.

Running backs Javonte Williams (three fourth quarter scores) and Michael Crater (138 total yards) held the spotlight in North Carolina’s match against Syracuse, which was much closer than it should have been for three quarters. Howell, Brown, Newsome, et al will be hoping to brighten the boxscore in Week 3 against Charlotte. The 49ers passing defense might actually pose a test for the Tar Heel targets though. Charlotte ranked 14th in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game last year (189.0), and only allowed 204 passing yards last week against App State’s senior quarterback Zac Thomas. I’ll be looking for Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome to dominate and remind us why they are the ACC’s most dynamic duo.

 

Lyn-J Dixon, RB, Clemson

So far in his short career, Lyn-J Dixon has mostly served as understudy to Travis Etienne so it’s likely that you, like me, have had little exposure to him. I recalled Dixon’s name, likely because of the uniqueness of his first name, but was very surprised to see him as RB8 in Phil Steele’s draft eligible player rankings. So, I knew I had to do a little more research. When I realized that the Tigers were playing The Citadel in Week 3, I figured it would be a perfect time to highlight Dixon. It’s a safe assumption that Clemson will handle the game from the outset and that means that the second team offense, including Dixon, will have a chance to shine. That is, of course, if he’s healthy. Dixon was expected to be ready for Clemson’s Week 2 contest against Wake Forest, but he didn’t see the field. Per Sports Illustrated, Dixon was medically cleared before the Wake game so hopefully the coaching staff was just being cautious to buy Dixon another week.

Dixon has 181 career touches (166 receptions and 15 receptions) and on a per-touch basis he has been super productive with 1,344 total yards and 11 TDs. That averages out to 7.43 yards per touch and a score every 16 touches. Extrapolated over a full work load those rates would be excellent (although, a step below the hyper-efficient output of Etienne). Dixon’s success should come as no surprise to those who had been following him since his high school days in Georgia. He was a 4-star recruit who had offers from other heavyweights like Alabama and Florida.

To get a feel for Dixon’s game, I watched some highlight packages on Youtube. He’s listed at 5110/190 but looks bigger than that to my eye. He is best when he’s running north-south and can build up some momentum. He has a good body lean when he’s running which means he’s rarely going to be knocked backwards and instead will fall forward for extra yardage. When he reaches contact he has the leg drive to break arm tackles, push the pile, or run over a smaller defender. Dixon isn’t going to beat too many DBs with his long speed but that’s not his game. I was pleasantly surprised with my brief film study and am hopeful he gets a larger share of carries in 2020. Dixon is just a junior so it’s too soon to know if he’ll declare early: he may want to return for his senior season when he can be the star running back on a reloading Clemson team. Either way, I’m glad I learned more about Lyn-J Dixon now so I can keep an eye on him all season.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List 2021: Week 2 Preview

Updated: September 10th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will preview the prospects you should be watching each week so you know who will be fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

How good did it feel to watch some live college football these last few days? We saw the invention of the RPPO, the run-pass-punt option, by Austin Peay in the season’s first game after they lost multiple long snappers to Covid-related absences. We saw Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and the gang return for a Zoom-based College Gameday premiere. We saw Memphis kick start the “should the AAC winner get the fourth playoff spot” conversation. As I write this, we’re about to hear Herbie and Rece Davis on the BYU/Navy broadcast which will give the game a gravitas that I’m excited for. Any ambivalence I had about the return of the college football season, after a trying spring and summer, was gone in a flash.

Week 2 sees the ACC, Big 12 and AAC return to play so we have a bevy of draft eligible prospects to watch. Heavy hitters like Trevor Lawrence and Chuba Hubbard start their season on Saturday but my goal in these weekly previews will be to focus your attention on players who may not yet be household names. Let’s get to it…

 

Thursday, September 10

Brevin Jordan, WR, Miami (FL)

I’m really excited for this UAB vs Miami (FL) matchup after the Blazers scored 45 in their opener. Instead of being a high-scoring but one-sided affair, I’m hopeful that UAB can stay competitive and make it a game for awhile against the Hurricanes. Miami will be unveiling their new starting quarterback, Houston transfer D’Eriq King. King is a dynamic playmaker and may be the steadying presence Miami needs after a few seasons of uncertainty at the position. I hope the game is close because I want to see four quarters of King throwing to tight end Brevin Jordan, Miami’s leading returning receiver. I highlighted Jordan in my Spring Scouting series and posited that if Jordan could stay healthy — he’s battled some nagging injuries during his short career — he would be in the running for TE1. Jordan has said that he’s “better than ever” after recovering from a foot injury and that gets me excited. When I watched Jordan I saw a supremely versatile player who can line up all over the formation and cause matchup issues for the defense. He’s small-ish compared to previous elite tight end prospects (6030/245) but is still deployed inline where he’s an instant mismatch against a linebacker. If Jordan can stay healthy for the full season and rack up a 40-600-6 type of season he’ll be on the shortlist come April. (An interesting note to consider in this strange 2020 season… a number of other top tight end hopefuls will not be playing this year, including Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth and Michigan’s Nick Eubanks. What that means will be a regular storyline in 2020 for NFL Draft fans.)
I was also hoping to see Jordan’s teammate DE Gregory Rousseau in this one but he recently announced that he was opting out of the 2021 season. Rousseau is a 6’7″ monster who is projected on some mocks to be the first non-QB drafted next year. He exploded as a redshirt freshman last year with 54 tackles and 15.5 sacks. After just one season Rousseau may be more potential than proven but he’ll be a high pick next year.

Friday, September 11

Shane Buechele, QB, SMU

After I started prepping for this piece, it was announced that the SMU vs TCU game on September 11 in Forth Worth was postponed due to a spate of positive coronavirus tests for the Horned Frogs. Since we already saw Buechele in action this season and will certainly see the Mustangs a bunch on ESPN, I thought it would be a good idea to keep him in this write-up. Buechele’s name is familiar to casual fans because he started as a true freshman for the Texas Longhorns back in 2016, before losing his job to Sam Ehlinger in 2017. He transferred to SMU for the 2019 season and set a ton of school passing records in his first year on campus. Heading into 2020, Buechele was on all the major award watchlists, so observers are expecting a big season from the fifth-year senior.

I watched much of the contest against Texas State and I was disappointed that Buechele didn’t carve up the Bobcat defense better than he did. The final stats look okay, 26-36 for 367 yards and a touch, but he also threw two picks. (He did also have a naked bootleg score called back where he had the entire defense fooled, so that’s a positive.) Buechele looks comfortable in the pocket and isn’t afraid to step into an onrushing defender to deliver a pass. That confidence led to the first pick though, where he tried to hit an opposite-hash out route against pressure. The pick led to a Texas State game-tying score that could have spelled disaster for SMU. When he has time and throws from structure, he can deliver a wonderfully placed ball for his receivers to feast after the catch. During the broadcast, the announcers repeatedly referenced Buechele’s leadership; I think that paired with his experience are going to factor into his NFL outlook, making him attractive to teams as a steady and trustworthy backup.

Saturday, September 12

Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State

Regular readers of mine will remember how much I loved David Montgomery in 2017 when he was just a sophomore and had not yet fully made his case for being an NFL starter. So, when I tuned in to watch the Cyclones during the 2018 season I saw flashes of what Brock Purdy would become in 2019. As a true freshman in that 2018 campaign, Purdy took over the starting job in October and never looked back. He ended up with 21 total TDs, won the award for Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and was the unquestioned starter heading into 2019. Again, Purdy did not disappoint, setting eighteen school passing records as a sophomore. Expectations are even higher now for Purdy who is frequently mentioned as a must-watch quarterback prospect in the 2021 class. Brock Purdy is perhaps best when he’s able to improvise and is on the move. His highlight reels are littered with rabbit-out-of-the-hat evasive maneuvers that he punctuates with finding an open receiver downfield. When he’s throwing on schedule, usually after a zone-read fake, he’s often tossing quick hitting slants or screens with accuracy and timing. His pocket mobility means he’s a threat to keep it on those zone-read plays as well (he has 557 career rushing yards and 13 rushing TDs). At 6010/221 he doesn’t have prototypical QB1 size but he’s plenty big for the new era of quarterback in the NFL. I really like what I’ve seen so far from Purdy and I am looking forward to studying him more deeply in the offseason. If he leads Iowa State to another winning season in 2020, I don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that he plays his way into a late first round grade.

Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville

Despite a memorable name, it’s likely that many readers are coming across Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell for the first time. Atwell was a dual-threat quarterback in high school who chose Louisville over Group of Five offers from the likes of Florida Atlantic and East Carolina. As a freshman in 2018, Atwell put up 24-406-2 in a complementary role. In 2019, he stole the show in the ACC, leading the conference in both receiving yards and touchdowns (69-1,272-11). He ended the season on Pro Football Focus’ All-American team. I was pleasantly surprised to see when researching him that Atwell has played in all 25 career games; you would expect somebody with his 5090/165 frame to get nicked up and miss time. Conversation about Atwell’s professional aspirations will certainly center on his size and relative inexperience at the position. I don’t argue that there may be some limitations to how he fits into an NFL offense but the old adage that “you can’t teach speed” is still true. Atwell is a sub-4.40 burner who can make defenders look silly and stuck in the mud. Louisville will continue to manufacture touches for him — jet sweeps, pop passes — and he will continue to put up gaudy numbers. I believe the Cardinals are going to be an ACC contender this year because they return their top two passers, rushers, receivers, tacklers and sackers: that experienced depth will be key in a season full of Covid-19 contact tracing. Tutu Atwell figures to be a large part of that success and I’m looking forward to seeing him shine again this year.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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