South Carolina vs Georgia
Javon Kinlaw had an outstanding game to highlight his top-15 potential as South Carolina stunned Georgia 20-17. He forced a pick-six from Jake Fromm by splitting the guard and right tackle Isaiah Wilson, delivering the pressure that led to Fromm throwing unwisely off his back foot. Kinlaw is well over 300lbs but carries minimal body-fat. He’s a superb athlete who wins consistently with speed or power. On this occasion he won with speed. The right guard was in two minds whether to pass off to the tackle or absorb the block. Kinlaw’s quickness didn’t give him a second to make a call — before either the guard or Wilson realised the danger he was in the backfield.
It was a terrible decision by Fromm to attempt the throw but it’s Kinlaw’s play.
On another down he destroyed the center, blowing him up and driving him deep into the backfield. There are flashes where Kinlaw is just on another level. He also recorded a sack. He looks like a NFL player competing in college. In my top-50 posted this week I had him at #13. It was too low. He needs to be higher.
Aside from the pick-six, Fromm threw two other interceptions on a day that will severely impact his draft stock. One was a wayward pass to the sideline that was off target. The other came on a tipped pass that should’ve been caught.
Fromm’s always looked like a second round type more than a first rounder. This tape will have teams potentially reviewing the tape. What’s his ceiling? Can he make the right decisions on the field to make up for the lack of great physical tools? On the plus side — his touchdown throw was a nice completion late in the game at a critical moment.
D’Andre Swift had 113 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Andrew Thomas again looked like the best left tackle prospect for 2020 with his smooth kick-step and ability to set, engage a defender and finish. Isaiah Wilson also impressed again. He’s a terrific run blocker but is showing more than enough as a pass-protector to warrant first round consideration.
Israel Mukuamu had all three interceptions against Jake Fromm, including the touchdown. He looks like a Seahawks corner — long, lean. As a sophomore he’s one to monitor for the future.
Alabama vs Texas A&M
I had DeVonta Smith at #20 in my top-50. There’s a reason why. Smith is still unstoppable on slants. He creates separation easily with a sudden break. After a record-breaking performance against Ole Miss, today he took a slant 47-yards for a touchdown. He makes it look so easy. Defenders can’t stick with him. He’s so sudden, so quick. For all the positives about Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, Smith is the one who to me looks like the most prepared to compete in the NFL.
You can’t coach natural quickness. You look at all these receivers in college and so many, even the ones who make big plays, just aren’t fast enough for the next level. And that doesn’t mean 40-yard dash times either. It’s about that ability to create quick separation. So many college wide-outs win via jump-balls and ball skills. At the next level that alone won’t cut it. Smith is an absolute natural at getting open and when he creates separation — he’ll turn a simple play into a scoring play. How many receivers turn quick-hitting slants into 40, 50 or 60-yard touchdowns?
He’s not a one-trick pony either. His five touchdowns last week were all different. A post, a red-line win, a grab in traffic. DeVonta Smith looks like an ideal receiver to be a major third-down converter, a big play specialist and a reliable target with plus athleticism. On a throw to the flat in this game he side-stepped a cornerback violently to gain extra yardage.
If that isn’t enough, Smith had an excellent block to spring Jaylen Waddle for a touchdown on a WR screen in the first quarter.
He did have a bad drop early in the game on one of those slants, juggling the football and looping it into the air (luckily there were no defenders around). Smith was also ejected from the game with just over three minutes to go for throwing a punch in a tussle with a defender. Both players appeared to punch but only Smith was flagged. It was a fuss over nothing really. He ended with seven catches for 99 yards and a score as Alabama won 47-28. For the season he’s now at 636 yards and nine touchdowns.
Henry Ruggs had a nice 33-yard touchdown with a slant-and-go. His speed and quickness also makes him incredibly difficult to cover and there are thoughts he could run in the 4.2’s or 4.3’s at the combine. He also had a 40-yard kick return (105 yards on three total returns). I had him one spot higher than DeVonta Smith in my top-50.
Texas A&M scored a touchdown in the first quarter that was called back for a blindside block. Trevon Diggs completely whiffed on the tackle and gave up the play. I’ve been talking up Diggs all season but that wasn’t a good look. He also had a hold that negated a pick-six. He tugged on the jersey to negate the receivers momentum — then undercut the route for the score. Diggs’ best play came late in the fourth quarter as he shadowed a receiver on a deep fade and made a great play on the ball to force a completion. It was a fourth-down pass and led to a turnover on downs. Diggs tracks the ball in the air superbly and he’s a great athlete.
Tua Tagovailoa had some nice moments (especially when extending plays). Yet he had a really basic red-zone interception throwing over the middle and not noticing the true freshman safety lurking in the deep grass. He was baited into making the throw. There were also a couple of disappointing misses (eg throwing behind Jerry Jeudy when he’s open at the intermediate level). Tagovailoa is a good prospect and could easily be the #1 pick. It’s hard to look at him though and see the kind of franchise-changing talent a team like the Dolphins are hoping for.
Terrell Lewis had some good pressures in the game and is starting to look fairly healthy. His ability to stay on the field will be a question for NFL teams. He’s more of a 3-4 OLB type and his measurements plus testing will be important. He had two sacks and two TFL’s today.
Najee Harris had a physical showing, running for 104 yards on 18 carries. He also had three receptions for 19 yards and a touchdown.
— Maryland’s Anthony McFarland only had four carries in a 40-14 hammering by Purdue. He did have a bad drop in the game (he also had two catches for 18 yards). McFarland is very quick, agile and he can be a big-play threat. Maryland are pretty inconsistent and he’s suffering as a consequence. He has the feel of a player who might fly under the radar and be a better pro than college runner.
— Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb is one of the big name receivers filling out the 2020 class. He had a huge day against Texas with 10 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns. He had a big scoring play on a flea-flicker, gliding away from an awful looking Texas secondary and sprinting to the end zone. He had a beast-mode catch in traffic down the right sideline, before ploughing through two attempted tackles to score. His first touchdown had him running across the line in the red zone on a well-schemed play to get him open. Lamb’s change of direction, footwork, ability to accelerate and competitive edge are impressive and this isn’t the first time where he’s been the MVP for Oklahoma. His stock will rise after this.
— Jalen Hurts had 235 passing yards (16/28) with three touchdowns and one interception. He also added 131 yards from 17 runs with a further score. His pick was ugly though — throwing late across his body in the red zone. He also missed Lamb on what looked like a routine fourth-down conversion to gift Texas a turnover-on-downs. Hurst holds the ball a little loosely on his scrambles too — low and away from his body. Every time he evades pressure you can’t help but feel there’s a chance he’ll fumble. Hurts didn’t do his Heisman hopes any harm with the win and the numbers but the real star for Oklahoma was Lamb (plus a defense that created constant pressure).
— Jonathan Taylor didn’t have a big yardage day (80 yards on 26 carries) but he did score two touchdowns as Wisconsin swept aside Michigan State 38-0. Wisconsin have a lot of qualities but there’s no doubt who their star player is. Taylor is silky smooth in his cuts, he’s patient, has great size, he’s tough to bring down and he can turn on the jets. He did a great job on his first score to stay off the ground and extend the ball to the goal-line. His second touchdown was all about his physicality to finish. He’s a first round pick. I included tight end Jake Ferguson in my top-50 and questioned why he isn’t used more in the passing game. Today he was the top receiver with four catches for 62 yards. He should’ve scored but the turf monster got him at the one-yard line. Ferguson is highly athletic and a good all-round TE.
— Tee Higgins had two catches for 44 yards and Travis Etienne 127 yards on 17 carries as Clemson hammered Florida State 45-14. Etienne also added a touchdown reception on a shovel pass in the red zone. On the first play of the game, Higgins caught a contested deep-shot down the right sideline. Isaiah Simmons led the defense with seven tackles, a sack and two TFL’s. He also forced an interception with a pressure on a well-timed blitz.
— Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin had another good day, rushing for 137 yards on 19 carries. He also scored a touchdown and had six catches for 34 yards. Benjamin is a fun player to watch and really tough to bring down. On the decisive scoring drive at the end he had an excellent catch and run. He’s a tackle-breaker. Receiver Brandon Aiyuk also had a big day with three impressive touchdowns. Arizona State won 38-34 against Washington State.
— LSU quarterback Joe Burrow faced a good test against Florida and performed well in a 42-28 win. His stock continues to grow. He threw three touchdowns and completed 21/24 for 293 yards. He also added 43 rushing yards. Burrow has so far taken a giant leap forward in 2019. The Alabama game could be defining for him and LSU finally has a QB. Kristian Fulton had an interception called back on a questionable roughing the passer flag. Senior receiver Van Jefferson had a good game for Florida with eight catches for 73 yards and two touchdowns. He showed body control to make his catches with no lack of athleticism. He took a major hit to the back on his second score. Clyde Edwards-Helaire did a good Maurice Jones-Drew impression for LSU too. Florida’s pass rush suffered after Jonathan Greenard injured his ankle. Jabari Zuniga is already out with a similar problem.
— Julian Okwara is a bit hit-and-miss for Notre Dame but he had another sack against USC in a narrow 30-27 win. Khalid Kareem is also highly touted by some and he had a sack too.
— Yetur Gross-Matos had a TFL as Penn State defeated Iowa 17-12. It was one of his quieter games. K.J. Hamler had seven catches for 61 yards including a highly athletic touchdown as he leapt for the end zone. Hamler is undersized but incredibly dynamic.
— Minnesota receiver Tyler Johnson was on the top-50 list this week and he had another big game, this time against Nebraska. Johnson had five catches for 109 yards in a 34-7 win. He’s a natural in creating subtle separation.
— Hunter Bryant had another explosive play for Washington as the Huskies beat Arizona 51-27. Bryant ended with three catches for 45 yards including the 22-yard reception.
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