I spent a bit of time watching Elijah Molden a few days ago and last night I was able to focus on him during a live game for the first time.
In terms of pure talent, instinct and athletic ability — he’s a first rounder with rare skills.
Some players just have an innate ability to be around the ball. They are playmakers. Tyrann Mathieu had that at LSU. He wasn’t the biggest, the fastest or the strongest. Yet time and time again, he’d be making the play.
Molden has that same quality and offers a complete, rounded game with the versatility to fit into numerous roles at the second level.
Operating as a nickel corner he has the short area quickness teams crave. He ran a sensational 3.93 short shuttle at SPARQ and you see it in the tape. He has gliding, twitchy movement. There are no wasted steps and his body position and fluidity is elite. You see him turn and transition with ease.
Look at his interception against Utah. The quarterback holds onto the ball for four seconds before making his throw. That is a long time to cover across the middle. Yet there’s Molden — perfectly positioned to undercut the route and make the play. He made it look easy. I couldn’t help but imagine him running that coverage for the Seahawks against the Rams. Imagine him taking away all the crossers LA use?
He fights and battles in man coverage and he contests so many throws to the intermediate level. He has the valuable ability to take away quick options for the quarterback. He’s also adept at reading the play and has the suddenness to react.
You just don’t see many players with this X-factor quality.
He’s well sized with dynamite explosion in the lower body. You see it when he delivers jarring hits. You see it with the movement he makes to play the ball. He jumped a 37 inch vertical at SPARQ and he isn’t just a smaller, agile defensive back. He comes up to the line and plays well in run support. He hammers ball carriers.
His instinct and football intelligence is exceptional. Look at the interception he had against Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl. He reads the long-developing screen and has the speed and smarts to make the play. I can’t recall seeing this level of processing and physical quality.
He has great hands to play the ball and the ability to fight and compete when the ball’s in the air. He had 13 PBU’s in 2019 alone. He has five interceptions in 2019 and the three games of 2020. He has three forced fumbles and 5.5 TFL’s.
Molden is the definition of the modern day defensive back. He can be an exceptional nickel or he can be the next Mathieu or Budda Baker.
He was listed at 5-11 at SPARQ but at Washington he’s listed at 5-10 and 190lbs. To me it doesn’t matter. He’s not an outside cornerback anyway. He’s the ultimate playmaker at the second and third level — capable of playing either safety spot or nickel.
He can be a permanent snap taker on the defense, you never have to take him off the field. His tackling and run support is a major strong point. He seems to relish taking on blocks, shedding and working to the ball carrier. His physicality, to go with the skill and agility, is what makes Molden such an exciting prospect.
The icing on the cake is his maturity. He’s extremely well spoken and grounded in interviews. He appears determined and focused. Teams are going to love his tape and his personality.
Frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up being a top-20 pick. Molden is a special talent and it won’t be a surprise if he quickly develops into a NFL star.
Regulars to the blog will know how highly I rate Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo. Playing on a useless Vanderbilt team isn’t doing him any favours in terms of media coverage but the fact is he’s a great talent.
He had two sacks in Vandy’s latest blowout loss to Missouri. On the second he fought through a double team off the right edge and made it look easy, before throwing down the QB.
For me he warrants top-15 consideration. He’s a terror off the edge with an outstanding combination of length, power and athleticism. He converts speed to power with ease, knows how to win in numerous ways and at 6-6 and 276lbs he looks like a NFL stud.
He has 5.5 sacks for the season on a hopeless team. If he tests well at the combine, his stock will go through the roof.
Florida’s Kyle Pitts is an absolute lock to go very early. He was practically unstoppable against Kentucky — recording 99 yards on five catches with three touchdowns.
Pitts is the ultimate mismatch weapon. He’d be ideal for a young, blossoming quarterback (eg Justin Herbert) as a safety net, red zone target and chunk-play specialist. College football teams have no idea how to contain him. His ability to work openings at the second level is incredible. He’s a very natural athlete for his size. He either gets open or you can throw it to him and he’ll make it happen anyway. He has superb hands and can pluck the ball out of the air on difficult, contested catches — as he showed in this latest game on one of his TD’s.
Hopefully he lands on a team that appreciates what he is. It’d be a waste of time trying to convert Pitts into a traditional, all-round tight end. He’s basically a big slot receiver and mismatch weapon. In the right offense, he could be one of the leading receivers at the next level.
Blog regulars will know we’ve talked about Colorado linebacker Nate Landman for three years. He’s been consistently excellent. Against San Diego State he tallied 11 tackles, 3.5 TFLs and three sacks. Landman isn’t the fastest player but he had a 37.5 inch vertical at SPARQ.
He’s an absolute hammer hitter who brings toughness and physicality to the MIKE position. As you might expect from a three sack performance, he’s a useful blitzer. He might not go early in the draft but I wouldn’t bet against him making an impact in the NFL.
Finally, while Pittsburgh might’ve felt the full force of the return of ‘Big Trev’ for Clemson, Patrick Jones continues to have an exceptional season. He had a sack and two TFL’s. Jones now has nine sacks for the season — second most in the NCAA behind only Patrick Johnson of Tulane (10). Jones is a classic LEO/EDGE.
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