The Watch List 2021: Week 10 Preview

Updated: November 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.

Last weekend was compelling and gave us a number of interesting storylines to follow as we get closer to the first set of College Football Playoff rankings (which are due out just before Thanksgiving). Cincinnati cemented its place as the top Group of Five team and is knocking on the door of the top four. Two other Group of Five leaders, Coastal Carolina and Marshall, are still undefeated and could be the heir apparent for a New Year’s Six bowl bid if Cinci falters down the stretch. Boise State, another G5 hopeful, mysteriously lost their starting quarterback and there’s still no explanation from the coaches. Clemson nearly lost without Trevor Lawrence and will have to play without him again in Week 10 against Notre Dame. Oklahoma State was the Big 12’s last hope at getting a playoff berth but they lost in OT to UT. Georgia won ugly and it seems unlikely they will be able to win out to clinch the SEC title. Right now it feels like Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State are locks for the CFP. If Notre Dame goes undefeated, or only loses to Clemson, it would be the NCAA’s dream to get them into the playoff too. Much can, and will, change between now and November 24th but it’s fun to keep an eye on the machinations for the playoffs and the top bowl games.

Looking ahead to Week 10, we have two more conferences joining us: the PAC-12 and the MAC. It’ll be nice to extend our football watching window with the return of PAC-12 After Dark and Wednesday night MACtion. I didn’t feel that I had a strong enough grasp on the players or teams to watch from those two conferences so I am going to hold off on highlighting them until next week. In this week’s article, I take a closer look at two players who had excellent outings in Week 9 and whose teams face a must-win in Week 10.


Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State

We see you Jahan Dotson. You may not have known his name, but you surely saw Dotson’s signature grab last Saturday on SportsCenter (see below). Not only was that OBJ-esque one-hander great, it was made even more amazing because it immediately followed a pinned-against-helmet catch on the previous play. The Penn State-Ohio State game was not as close as the thirteen point margin suggests and the main reason the final score seemed within reach was Jahan Dotson. Dotson ended the game against Ohio State with a 8-144-3 line and I knew I had to feature him in this week’s preview.

Dotson arrived at Happy Valley in 2018 as a local 3- or 4-star recruit, depending on your preferred service. He had originally committed to UCLA before flipping to Penn State. I was surprised to see the laundry list of Power 5 offers he had including Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Clemson. Josh Gattis, who at the time was the PSU receivers coach and is now Michigan’s offensive coordinator, said “[Dotson] has unbelievable ball skills, some of the best that I’ve seen coming out of high school.” Well we now know Gattis was spot on with that observation. Dotson played sparingly as a true freshman but earned a bigger role in 2019. Despite being the third target behind KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth, Dotson managed 27-488-5 and averaged 18.1 yards per catch.

My introduction to Dotson came during the aforementioned Ohio State game last weekend. Most of Dotson’s targets against the Buckeyes came lined up across from standout corner Shaun Wade. Wade will be a first rounder in 2021 and is often mocked in the top half of the first round. So this explosion by Dotson isn’t the result of playing against some scrub mid-major defense. I re-watched his film from the game and also checked out a 2018-2019 highlight reel to make sure he wasn’t a one hit wonder. When I looked up his measurables I was surprised to see Dotson listed at just 5110/182. Clearly his catch radius is much wider than your typical player of that size. Dotson has go-go-gadget arms and has elite body control along the sideline. He stacks his corner well, running right at him with plus speed, before exploding out of his break. That agility helps after the catch too where he can make the first defender miss and knows how much he needs to get to the marker or goal line. I thought Dotson was fearless too. Early in the game, Wade was often in Dotson’s front pockets, being physical at the line of scrimmage. Dotson didn’t let it bother him. He’s unafraid to go across the middle and can obviously win contested catches. As good as Dotson’s miraculous catch was, I think it’s even more impressive that he had the body control to stick the landing and then the presence of mind to get into the end zone.

Penn State is off to a disappointing 0-2 start, though Dotson is not the one to blame. The Nittany Lions are desperate for a W when Maryland visits this weekend. After two games, Maryland’s defense has allowed 87 points; their 43.5 points allowed per game is 99th worst out of 103 FBS teams who have played this year. The weak point seems to be the rushing defense (293.5 yards allowed per game; 102nd worst) so maybe it is less imperative for Dotson and QB Sean Clifford to connect through the air but I’ll bet they are good for a highlight or two in a much needed win. We’ll need to see a larger sample size of production from Dotson to consider him a bonafide 2021 prospect but anybody who has the athleticism to make the showstopping snags he did against Ohio State deserves a look.

Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

Desmond Ridder landed on my radar prior to the 2019 season when I wrote my AAC season preview. In that article I listed him as the top underclassmen to watch, sharing that “Ridder’s composure in the pocket and his ball placement impressed me.” Last Saturday was Cincinnati’s revenge matchup against Memphis and they decimated the Tigers by a final score of 49-10. (Memphis beat Cincinnati twice last year in back to back games to close out the season, stealing Cinci’s shot at a so-called New Year’s 6 bowl berth. Ridder missed the second of those Memphis contests, the AAC Championship, but was back for the consolation bowl game against Boston College and turned in an MVP performance.)

Saturday’s drubbing of Memphis was largely thanks to Ridder. He dominated the box score: Ridder completed more than 80% of his passes, threw for 271 yards and 3 TDs, and added 41 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. I was mostly watching other games in the noon window but it felt like every ten minutes they were cutting in with a Cincinnati scoring update. Houston comes to town this week and might be the toughest test remaining for Cincinnati (I don’t think UCF’s porous defense will put up much of a fight in a few weeks). Ridder had 4 total TDs last year against the Cougars and held onto the victory with a late clock-killing drive. I found a condensed version of last year’s matchup against Houston on Youtube and dove in.

I thought that Ridder made many good decisions in the game that showed his awareness and situational smarts. He threw it away when the play had broken down; he made prudent choices in the option and zone read game; he tucked it and escaped the pocket to gain positive yardage; he milked the clock on that last drive to keep the ball away from Houston’s offense. (He did take two bad sacks though, so he’s not immune to poor choices.) Ridder is statuesque in the pocket, standing at a taut 6040/215 that makes him look like an NFL quarterback. I particularly liked Ridder’s looping and catchable deep ball. He makes throwing the ball fifty yards look effortless; I bet he can throw a seventy yard hail mary. The few times I saw his deep ball my mind flashed to how Russell Wilson throws it downfield. Below is a clip from Twitter showing off that strong arm.

Ridder has proven that he can be a successful starter at a high level. His impressive 26-5 record, including a 5-0 start to this campaign, features signature wins against UCLA, Virginia Tech, Boston College and UCF. Being able to add a NY6 win against a Power 5 defense to that resume will be huge for Ridder so I’m hoping Cinci can hold onto the AAC lead. In the meantime, shining in a prime 3:30pm showcase on ESPN like this weekend against Houston, will help expose more fans to Ridder and his potential. I think Ridder is the whole package — athleticism, strong arm, good size, durability, experience — and will prove to be a bargain as a mid-rounder next April if he comes out early.


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:,,,,,,,,
  • Recruiting:,,,
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis,
  • Draft info and mocks:,,,,,,
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info:,
  • Draft history:
  • Combine info:,,,
  • 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:
  • Odds & Gambling Stats:

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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