The Watch List 2021: Week 9 Preview

Updated: October 28th 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.

For this week’s preview, I am getting back to my favorite pastime: trying to unearth G5 gems. Much of my focus the last four weeks has been on the Power 5 darlings whose seasons were getting started. There was a week dedicated solely to Clemson, one highlighting the SEC and, most recently, a super-sized article for the Big Ten. Scant mention of the AAC, C-USA or [gasp] an independent. That changes today! The three players below are dominating at the Group of 5 level so far this season. Without further ado, let me introduce you to…

Sincere McCormick, RB, UTSA

Let’s start with the bad news: Sincere McCormick is just a sophomore and won’t be draft eligible until 2022. Okay now let’s move on because that’s probably the only negative thing I can say about McCormick this season. Through Week 8, McCormick is leading the NCAA in both rushing attempts (155) and rushing yards (867); he’s also top ten in rushing touchdowns (7). Even though counting stats can be a bit misleading in this unbalanced season, that is really impressive. McCormick is a workhorse: on a per game basis, he is averaging 22 totes for 124 yards and a score. Thus far in 2020, McCormick has 18 or more carries in all but one contest and has four games over 100 yards (133, 150, 165, 197). To gild the lily, McCormick is also a capable outlet receiver who averages 2-15 a game.

Coming out of high school, McCormick was a 3-star recruit per 247Sports and had offers from bigger name schools including Colorado and Memphis. Ultimately, he decided to stay closer to home and McCormick grabbed the UTSA starting spot last year as a true freshman. His 1,177 scrimmage yards set school records on his way to FWAA Freshman All-American and C-USA Freshman of the Year honors. McCormick’s emergence was not enough to avoid a losing season in 2019 and UTSA finished 4-8. This year the Road Runners have already matched last year’s win total (4-3), which was a surprise to me, and probably to you too. Three of those wins came against FBS opponents and were by a combined six points. McCormick had 489 scrimmage yards in those victories, so it seems like UTSA is holding onto winning-season hopes by a Sincere McCormick-sized thread. UTSA visits Florida Atlantic this weekend, and a win over the Owls likely means UTSA can finish the season above .500. FAU has only played two games so far but in those two they have allowed just 108.0 rushing yards per game (20th best in the FBS) and just 3.0 yards per carry (17th). Strength against strength.

McCormick is listed at 5090/200 and is the rare running back who actually looks like his media guide measurables. He runs with a low center of gravity and strong lower body which makes it tough to take him down at first contact. That squat body type likely helps in pass protection too. I saw him with blocking responsibilities thrice in the tape I watched (Texas State 2020; 2020 highlights) and none of those plays ended with a QB hit. When it comes to his speed and acceleration, I would say that McCormick has the burst to break off a long run but he lacks the endurance to outrun defenders all the way to the end zone. McCormick is patient at the line of scrimmage and runs with great vision based on what I saw. The below play, against Stephen F. Austin, shows how well McCormick can pick his way through a play to find daylight. He changes his heading at least four times — and one of those was in the backfield which would have negated what was ultimately a forty yard gain.

I typically reserve this space for draft eligible players but McCormick’s success caught me by surprise and I wanted to share him with my readers. I doubt he’ll be able to keep up an NCAA-leading pace for the rest of this season, let alone into 2021, but that won’t be necessary. It’s rare to find a back with back-to-back 1,000+ yard potential who can pass catch and pass protect. If McCormick can stay healthy and keep up his workhorse workload he’ll earn a draftable grade whenever he finishes at UTSA.

Marlon Williams, WR, UCF

The Golden Knights have been a pass catcher factory the last five years and Marlon Williams will be the next off the assembly line. Williams will be hoping to join Gabriel Davis, Tre’quan Smith and Jordan Akins as fantasy-relevant players in the NFL next season, before he gets there though, he’s going to continue carving up AAC defenses. The next defense on the schedule is Houston’s which is allowing 249.0 passing yards per game (65th in the FBS). When you dig deeper into the stats you’ll see that the Houston passing defense is even worse than that. Of the 74 teams who have played three or more games, Houston is allowing the second-most yards per completion: 16.3. The only team that is worse? The 0-6 Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. What I’m saying is that Marlon Williams is going to have a big game this week.

Like McCormick above, after eight weeks (and just five games) Marlon Williams is leading the FBS in two categories: receptions (54) and receiving yards (753). Williams was second chair to Davis last year until Davis decided to forego the team’s bowl game and start preparing for the draft. In that bowl win against Marshall, Williams showed UCF fans that he can be the top target, going for 7-132-1. Would you believe that Williams is averaging even better than that this campaign? In those five games he’s averaging 11 grabs for 150 yards and a touchdown. Impressive.

Back in 2017, Williams chose the high-flying offense of UCF over blue blood offers from LSU, Tennessee and USC. He played a small role on the historic 13-0 team in 2017 and stuck around after Scott Frost left for Nebraska. He’s listed at 6000/215 and they use his girth well. UCF runs a screen-heavy offense that means the receivers are called on to block, and run through contact. Williams doesn’t shy away from either. When he’s not deployed in their signature stack formation, he lines up all over the field. His route running was great at times, but half-hearted at others. Here’s a clip from Twitter showing just how effective he can be when he wants to put the corner on skates:

Honestly, I did not see any elite traits in the two films I watched (Memphis 2020 and Georgia Tech 2020), however Williams is a well-rounded receiver who could probably find a role in any NFL offense. The AAC race looks to be competitive this year so I hope we get to see plenty of Williams down the stretch in meaningful games.


Malik Willis, QB, Liberty

Malik and his million dollar smile were a shoo-in for The Watch List this week even though Liberty doesn’t play again until Nov 7 (a huge game against VaTech). Why? Because Willis had a seven touchdown explosion against Southern Miss on Saturday. I haven’t watched any of Liberty yet this season (I miss you Antonio Gandy-Golden) so I knew I had to take a look to see if the Flames’ quarterback was just smoke or a growing fire.

Willis is a well-traveled young man. He played at two different high schools in Georgia before two seasons at Auburn. He landed at Auburn as a 3-star athlete, spurning an offer from next week’s foe Virginia Tech. Willis backed up future fourth rounder Jarrett Stidham those two years at Auburn; he threw just fourteen passes but was used as a situational rusher, totaling 309 yards and 2 TDs. Willis couldn’t hold off freshman Bo Nix for the starting job in 2019 so announced his decision to transfer. He was not granted immediate eligibility so he sat out last year and came into 2020 as Liberty’s starter. Willis has led the Flames to five of their six wins (he sat out against North Alabama with an elbow injury). Liberty and BYU are the only teams in FBS with an unblemished 6-0 record (Clemson, Alabama and Coastal Carolina are close behind at 5-0).

I watched two extended highlight packages from the Southern Miss rout and I was impressed with what I saw from Willis. He’s a dual-threat but he keeps his eyes down field and does not escape the pocket too early. Willis showed that he can cycle through his progressions and was not afraid to check it down when needed. He also showed some of the more refined traits I look for such as convincing play fakes and deceiving pump fakes. Willis appears to have a cannon for an arm and threw a few moonshot deep balls that were really beautiful. As a runner, he’s quick and elusive. My epiphany was that he looked like what I always wanted Arizona’s Khalil Tate to be. Here’s a clip from last week’s game showing how Willis can use his athleticism to keep a play alive long enough to find an open receiver.

It’s too soon for me to make any proclamations about Malik Willis and his pro potential. However, it’s clear even from my limited study that he’s a high-ceiling player with natural talent. Let’s file his name for now and see how he does down the stretch with tough games against Virginia Tech (November 7) and NC State (November 21).


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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