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.

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