Zachs Draft Corner: The Curious Case of Nick Bosa/What to Watch
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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
The 49ers keep on losing, and the 49ers picking in the top five, or even the top one, of the 2019 NFL Draft seems to be almost a guarantee. This should get 49ers fans in and of itself, because there is a singular player that would be a seemingly perfect fit at the 49ers biggest position of need and would not be viewed by anyone as a reach. That player is Nick Bosa. He has the speed and bend to be an elite speed rusher, the counter moves to be a technical savant, and the power to defend the run at the LEO position on early downs and to put on a Justin Smith-esque bull rush on left tackles across the nation. Solomon Thomas could move to big end on rushing downs, kick inside on passing downs with the Sam coming down to rush from the other end, and everything else can fall into place. If Nick Bosa is on the board with the 49ers pick, they should seemingly sprint to the podium with the card, no questions asked. Right? Well, as the immortal Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend.”
While Nick Bosa was dominating offensive linemen at the beginning of the season, he suffered an injury that would sideline him for what was supposed to be only six to eight weeks. However, he recently decided to sit out the remainder of the season to fully heal and prepare for the NFL Draft. So… what gives? There’s a lot to dissect, but have no fear. Your friendly, neighborhood draft analyst is here to bring you up to speed.
What is his injury?
Before we dive into his actual injury, I want to educate you on one major difference between college football and the NFL. Specifically, college coaches are under no obligation to be forthright with injuries. While the Big Ten is pushing for an NFL style injury report that is mandatory for any player missing practice, as of right now, coaches can do whatever they want, and they typically do just that. Coaches may give the vague hockey-style “lower body injury” or “upper body injury” if they want to be kind to the media. In other cases, there are stories of coaches going as far as having players warm up in wrong numbers and wearing helmets so that the opposing team isn't completely sure if the player is playing or not.
All this is to say that, when he first got injured, all we only knew was that Bosa had a "core injury."Does this mean he has a torn pectoral? Broken rib? Heartburn, acid, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea? Does he need surgery or just some Pepto?
We now know a little bit more. On September 20, he had a “muscle surgery.” That still doesn’t give much information, and nobody knows whether any additional surgery is needed. Will he be ready to go through the full workout process in a few months or is his injury worse than expected?We won't know until he shows up to something in the draft process and he is forced to go through medical evaluation and interviews.
All of this makes the question of him skipping the rest of the season difficult. If it was a serious injury that has a high chance of re-injury, what good would it do to "tough out" the injury for a few games and risk getting hurt all over again? As an example, Harold Landry played through an ankle injury, and the bad tape he put out in his final year was enough to drop him an entire round from where he was projected if he came out in 2017. Conversely, if the injury was relatively minor and he could reasonably play without risking re-injury, why is he sitting out? Ultimately, I believe that Nick Bosa has enough good tape to make his number-one overall projection comfortable for scouts and GMs. Coming back for a few games could only hurt his chances, so I don’t necessarily blame him for wanting to maintain his health.
Is he the first player to miss games voluntarily for the draft process?
Not even close. This has actually become commonplace for some top prospects who are not playing in the major bowl games. In the last two years alone, Derwin James, Royce Freeman, Conner Williams, Christian McCaffery, and Leonard Fournette all sat out bowl games. The one difference is that none had injuries prior to doing so, and none missed regular season time. Media pundits made a huge deal of it at the time, but by the time the Combine came around, nobody cared that anybody missed the bowl game. The decisions have even been supported by those who feel strongly about players making as much money as possible and making business decisions while still in college.
What if the injury causes him to miss time?
This will highly depend on what we find out about the injury. Anthony Miller missed some workouts with a foot injury, and it didn't hurt his stock at all. Conversely, Maurice Hurst had a potential heart issue that forced him to miss all of the workouts. However, his issue was potentially career ending, and that caused him to drop from the first round into Day 3.
Most likely, the best comparison would be Billy Price. Price tore his pec during the bench press drill at the combine, and he was unable to do any more of the workouts and was at risk of missing all or part of training camp.However, he was still drafted in the first round, which was at or above his projection by most scouts.
Long story short, since this doesn't seem to be a career ending thing, he should be fine with regards to his draft stock. The injury happened five months prior to Price’s injury, and it sounds like Bosa could play now if he absolutely needed to. We are still unsure as to what the injury is, of course, but it sounds like Bosa is on track to do everything at the Combine.
So should we be worried if Bosa is the pick?
Absolutely not. Cheer, take a shot, kiss your significant other, buy a jersey, customize a “Deez Nutz” jersey with his number. Do it all. If the 49ers manage to land Bosa, he could be the piece that finally brings the defense together. It’s hard to fault a player for wanting to make sure he is healthy so that he can earn a paycheck in a few months rather than risk a more serious injury to play a couple of games for free. If you want to accuse him for lacking competitiveness, just turn on his tape and get rid of that thought. Bosa is an elite talent at a premiere defensive position. Turn in that card and get the pass rusher you’ve been clamoring for ever since Aldon Smith met substances.
The sheer amount of college games on at any given time can be completely overwhelming. Every week, in the TV Guide section of my column, I will choose the top two games at any given time slot and outline the various prospects you can watch in those games. That way, all you have to do is sit back, relax, and hit the “Previous Channel” button on your remote to toggle between games chock full of pro prospects. Here is your guide for week eight (all times Eastern).
Friday, October 26
University of Miami at Boston College, 7:00 PM, ESPN
This weekend has potentially the best top-to-bottom slate of the season to date. This includes Friday, which has two very strong power-five matchups. Miami opened the season with a tough loss to LSU, but rolled over opponents for weeks until an upset loss to Virginia two weeks ago. Miami has perhaps the best defense in the ACC, and will rely on that to keep the success going. Led by Joe Jackson (junior defensive end, #99), Jaquan Johnson (senior safety, #4), Shaquille Quarterman (junior linebacker, #55), and Michael Jackson (senior cornerback, #28), this defense will give the Eagles a tough game.Gerald Willis III (senior defensive lineman, #9) has been a huge surprise for the Hurricanes, and has moved all of the way up to the mid-second round in the eyes of some scouts with his strong play. Michael Pinckney (junior linebacker, #56) and Tito Odenigbo (senior defensive tackle, #94) both could garner late round grades with strong 2018 campaigns. On offense, Travis Homer (junior running back, #24) is an explosive playmaker, and Tyree St. Louis (senior tackle, #78) is working his way up the offensive tackle rankings with his consistent and strong play. Malik Rosier (senior quarterback, #12) was benched in favor of true freshman N’Kosi Perry, all but ending his hopes of turning into a professional quarterback prospect.
BC is coming off a bye week, and has generally been having a strong season.A.J. Dillon (sophomore running back, #2) is easily the stud of this BC team. However, he missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury, which may have cost them a victory against NC State, but he should be making his return this week against Miami. 49er fans should be very interested in this game, as the top-three draftable prospects for the Eagles are Zach Allen (senior defensive end, #2), Lukas Denis (senior free safety, #21), and Chris Lindstrom (senior guard, #4), who are all fits for the 49er system at positions of need and may grade out as second, third, and fourth round prospects, respectively.Will Harris (senior strong safety, #8), Connor Strachan (senior linebacker, #13), Wyatt Ray (senior defensive end, #11), Ray Smith (senior defensive tackle, #96), and Taj-Amir Torres (senior defensive back, #24) should all see training camps next year from this BC defense.Tommy Sweeney (senior tight end, #89) is a blocking specialist at tight end, but can do enough as a receiver that he will get drafted somewhere.Jon Baker (senior center, #77), Aaron Monteiro (senior tackle, #67), Michael Walker (senior wide receiver, #3), Jeff Smith (senior wide receiver, #6), and Sam Schmal (senior tackle, #73) are late-round prospects that could go undrafted, but will have at least a cup of coffee in the NFL.
University of Utah at University of California, Los Angeles, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Utah seems to be a team on the rise. They lost at home to Washington before losing to a suddenly strong Washington State team on the road. Just when things were looking bleak for the Utes, they pulled off a stunning upset on the road against Stanford, dominated Arizona at home, and used that momentum to easily handle USC at home. They don’t have a ton of talent, but they are always really tough for opposing teams, which is looking to hold true again this year. Chase Hansen (senior linebacker, #22), Bradlee Anae (junior defensive end, #6), and Julian Blackmon (junior cornerback, #23) are draftable talents on defense, but are all likely late-round prospects. Zack Moss (junior running back, #2) is the strongest prospect for Utah, but is still a mid-round pick at best. Jackson Barton (senior tackle, #70) is another late-round guy on the offense. Matt Gay (senior kicker, #97) is one of the best kickers in the country, but his position will devalue him to being a late-round guy. Although, plenty of NFL teams have had kicking woes this season, so maybe some team will reach for him in the third round.
On the other sideline, we have 49er legend Chip Kelly,who amazingly finds himself in the middle of a winning streak. Caleb Wilson (junior tight end, #81) and Bolu Olorunfunmi (senior running back, #4) make up an offense that could be capable of putting up a lot of points and that has finally started to find its groove. The Bruins lost Soso Jamobo (senior running back, #1) to a season-ending concussion, but everyone else seems to be picking up the slack. Rick Wade (junior defensive end, #90), Nate Meadors (senior cornerback, #22), Keisean Lucier-South (junior linebacker, #11), and Adarius Pickett (senior safety, #6) are all draftable prospects on defense, but are all more likely to be late round picks that will be fighting for roster spots. Josh Woods (senior linebacker, #2) is another name for that list, although a knee injury has kept him out this season.
Saturday, October 27
Clemson University at Florida State University, 12:00 PM, ABC
Clemson is simply sleepwalking to an undefeated season at this point, winning the past two games by a total of 94 points. Christian Wilkins (senior defensive tackle, #42), Dexter Lawrence (junior defensive tackle, #90), Clelin Ferrell (junior defensive end, #99), and Austin Bryant (senior defensive end, #7) form maybe the best defensive line in the country, leaving Kendall Joseph (senior linebacker, #34), Mark Fields (senior cornerback, #2), and Tre Lamar (junior linebacker, #57) with the task of cleaning up whatever manages to make it past the line. One intriguing name to note is Trayvon Mullen (junior cornerback, #1), who has improved as the season has gone on and worked his way into the CB2 conversation behind Greedy Williams of LSU. On offense, Mitch Hyatt (senior tackle, #75) looks to work his way into the top tackle conversation, while Hunter Renfrow (senior wide receiver, #13) is proving his worth as a potential slot receiver. Greg Huegel (senior kicker, #92) is another kicking prospect who has a chance to make it into the NFL with a strong senior season. However, the big storyline with Clemson this year has been the usurping of incumbent starter Kelly Bryant (senior quarterback, #2). Bryant was benched in favor of freshman Trevor Lawrence (#16), whose absolutely special arm talent was evident from the moment he stepped onto the field. Bryant didn’t play in enough games to lose his ability to redshirt, so he will look to become a graduate transfer and play his final season of eligibility elsewhere next season.
Florida State is the rare occasion where the whole is way, way less than the sum of their parts.They are very talented on paper, meaning their games are still a must-watch for draft scouts, but the team is just not good as a whole. They are 4-3 on the season, but finding two more wins in order to become bowl-eligible seems unlikely as the Seminoles finish the season against Clemson, NC State, Notre Dame, Boston College, and Florida. Demarcus Christmas (senior defensive tackle, #90) and Brian Burns (junior defensive end, #99) have proven to be a dangerous duo on the defensive line, and Levonta Taylor (junior cornerback, #1) and A.J. Westbrook (senior safety, #19) form a strong secondary. These four have needed to be strong, as the offensive talent has been lacking. Derrick Kelly II (senior guard, #74) and Alec Eberle (senior center, #54) seem to have regressed, and Deondre Francois (redshirt sophomore quarterback, #12) has looked terrible against real football teams. These three really need to step up if Florida State wants to challenge anyone in the ACC.
Texas Tech University at Iowa State University, 12:00 PM, ESPN2
This game will be fun, purely for the huge contrast in styles. On one side, you have the explosive Red Raiders. On the other side, Iowa State prefers to run the ball and play defense. Whichever team plays their game will likely turn out the victor. For Texas Tech, Dakota Allen (senior linebacker, #40), Justus Parker (junior safety, #31), and Jordyn Brooks (junior linebacker, #1)form a defensive trio that has a bit of talent, but can’t make up for the extreme lack of talent everywhere else. The extended absence of Octavious Morgan (senior cornerback, #5) does not help matters. Madison Akamnonu (junior tackle, #58) is a large and athletic specimen on the offensive line, but the Red Raiders young talent elsewhere on the offense will make this a close game.
For the Cyclones, Kyle Kempt (senior quarterback, #17)has been down with an MCL injury for a few weeks, but backup true freshman Brock Purdy (quarterback, #15) has stepped in admirably to lead upsets over both Oklahoma State and West Virginia. Teams typically sell out to stop the single season record holder for broken tackles in David Montgomery (junior running back, #32), but Purdy has been making them pay. He’ll need the help of Hakeem Butler (junior wide receiver, #18) to do keep up with Texas Tech. Defensive captain Brian Peavy (senior cornerback, #10) is on a mission to keep Iowa State in games this season, and is accomplishing that thus far.Willie Harvey (senior linebacker, #2) and D'Andre Payne (senior safety, #1) are also decently strong prospects on defense.
University of Florida vs. University of Georgia, 3:30 PM, CBS
The “World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party” is one of the best rivalries in college football. Florida’s strength lies in their defense. Specifically, they have a very talented set of pass rushers in Jachai Polite (junior defensive end, #99), Cece Jefferson (senior defensive end, #96), and Jabari Zuniga (junior defensive end, #92).Khairi Clark (senior defensive tackle, #54) and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (junior safety, #23) are also strong defenders for the Gators. On offense, Martez Ivey (senior interior offensive line, #73), Jawaan Taylor (junior tackle, #65),T.J. McCoy (junior interior offensive line, #59), and Fredrick Johnson (senior guard, #74) are leading Florida to success this season in the trenches.Tyrie Cleveland (junior wide receiver, #89) has disappointed, but Van Jefferson (junior wide receiver, #12) and Jordan Scarlett (junior running back, #25) have produced plenty in Gainesville.
Georgia is coming off a tough loss to LSU, and they will need to win this game if they want to play in the SEC championship game. Georgia is loaded with talent,as they always are. However, quite a bit of their main talent is younger (e.g., next year’s potential QB1, Jake “From State” Fromm). Deandre Baker (senior cornerback, #18) and J.R. Reed (junior safety, #20) form a strong tandem on the back end and could each be picked before the end of Day 2. Tyler Clark (junior defensive tackle, #52), Julian Rochester (junior defensive tackle, #5), and Jonathan Ledbetter (senior defensive end, #13) anchor a fierce defensive line, which benefits D'Andre Walker (senior outside linebacker, #15) coming off the edge. Terry Godwin (senior wide receiver, #5) and Calvin Ridley’s younger brother Riley (junior wide receiver, #8) provide the firepower on offense, while Isaac Nauta (junior tight end, #18) gives Georgia a reliable extra blocker and checkdown option.
University of Iowa at Penn State University, 3:30 PM, ESPN
This will be the premiere matchup of the week for the Big Ten. Last year, these two teams played in one of the best games of the year, with Saquon Barkley keeping the Nittany Lions close throughout the game until Trace McSorley led a game-winning drive that culminated in a fourth down touchdown pass as time expired to win the game. Iowa will look to get their revenge in Happy Valley. Iowa is led by the top tight end in the nation in Noah Fant (junior tight end, #87). Nate Stanley (junior quarterback, #4) and Nick Easley (senior wide receiver, #84) will look to continue producing in the passing game, while Keegan Render (senior center, #69) and Ross Reynolds (senior guard, #59) provide leadership on an offensive line with true sophomores at the tackle positions. On defense, Anthony Nelson (junior defensive end, #98), Matt Nelson (senior defensive end, #96), and Parker Hesse (senior defensive end, #40) all are capable of causing disruption in the backfield. Amani Hooker (junior safety, #27) and Jake Gervase (senior safety, #30) form a solid safety duo in the secondary. Miguel Recinos (senior kicker, #91) is a generally reliable kicker, and could be working his way into draft consideration with a relatively strong season.
Penn State lost quite a bit of talent in the 2018 draft process, but they still keep churning out legitimate players. Miles Sanders (junior running back, #24) has filled in very well for Saquon Barkley, and may be the best draftable running back in the Big Ten. Conner McGovern (junior interior offensive line, #66) and Ryan Bates (junior tackle, #52) anchor a surprisingly strong Penn State offensive line. Juwan Johnson (junior wide receiver, #84) and DeAndre Thompkins (senior wide receiver, #3) both are unsure to play Saturday, weakening the Nittany Lions already weak receiving corps. Trace McSorley (senior quarterback, #9) may stand to benefit from Baker Mayfield having success in the NFL this season, but I still stand by my evaluation that his accuracy and decision making are too poor for him to be a legitimate prospect. Amani Oruwariye (senior cornerback, #21) is a top-five cornerback prospect, while Koa Farmer (senior linebacker, #7), Shareef Miller (junior edge, #48), Kevin Givens (junior defensive tackle, #30), and Nick Scott (senior safety, #4) all have the potential to be Day 3-type prospects.
Washington State University at Stanford University, 7:00 PM, PAC 12 Network
Washington State normally isn’t a team stocked with talent, but they do have an exciting style of play (Mike Leach is their coach, after all) and are playing way above what their talent says they should.The Cougars lost a close game to USC, but dominated Oregon last week in surprising fashion. Andre Dillard (senior tackle, #60) and Jalen Thompson (junior safety, #34) lead their respective sides of the ball, and are each likely to be drafted somewhere on Day 2 or 3.
Stanford’s Bryce Love (senior running back, #20) came into the season with such high hopes, but has been inconsistent and banged up through the beginning part of the season. Meanwhile, my favorite preseason receiver sleeper, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (junior wide receiver, #19), is looking to maintain his dominating season and work his way into first-round consideration. Kaden Smith (junior tight end, #82), Nate Herbig (junior guard, #63), Jesse Burkett (senior center, #73), A.T. Hall (senior tackle, #75), Brandon Fanaika (senior guard, #71), and Trenton Irwin (senior wide receiver, #2) all hope to continue their strong seasons. On defense, Bobby Okereke (senior linebacker, #20) and Alijah Holder (senior cornerback, #13) will look to stop Washington State’s high-powered offense to help the Cardinal come away with a win. Jake Bailey (senior punter, #14) is one of the best punting prospects in the nation, but Stanford hopes that he remains on the sideline throughout the contest.
Texas A&M University at Mississippi State University, 7:00 PM, ESPN
Texas A&M has seen a downtick in talent over the past few seasons. However, they still have a few prospects worth mentioning, and have played close games with a lot of tough teams so far this season. Colton Prater (junior tackle, #76) has the physical profile and the traits to be a top tackle prospect if he can be more consistent, and will have one of his toughest assignments of the season in squaring off against the Bulldogs and their duo of defensive line talent. He will be blocking for Trayveon Williams (junior running back, #5), who is the focal point of the Aggie offense. Daylon Mack (senior defensive tackle, #34) and Kingsley Keke (senior defensive tackle, #8) may not have the off-the-charts athleticism and talent of the Mississippi State defensive line, but are both strong prospects in their own right who can garner some buzz with a strong finish to their season.
Mississippi State’s true talent is on their defensive line, with Jeffrey Simmons (junior defensive tackle, #94) and Montez Sweat (senior defensive end, #9) both looking like first-round locks, potentially even in the top ten overall picks, while Gerri Green (senior defensive end, #4) is working his way into the Day 2 conversation. Johnathan Abram (senior safety, #38), Mark McLaurin (senior safety, #41), and Jamal Peters (senior cornerback, #2) are the beneficiaries of the strong defensive line, as they usually don’t have to maintain coverage for very long. Nick Fitzgerald (senior quarterback, #7) was heralded as a possible breakout quarterback this year, but he continues to prove he is more running back than thrower. Elgton Jenkins (senior interior offensive line, #74) and Darryl Williams (junior interior offensive line, #73) are good linemen to have on a strong running team, and will look to continue their exceptional run blocking against Texas A&M. The story of this game will be told by the Mississippi State running game. If they are able to run against the Aggies, they will likely come away with a victory. If not, the Aggies might get a tough road victory.
University of Texas at Oklahoma State University, 8:00 PM, ABC
Texas keeps getting strong opponents, and they continue to knock them down, with wins against USC, TCU, and Oklahoma on their resume.Texas is looking like the favorite in the Big 12, and a win against Oklahoma State could keep them in playoff contention. On defense, Texas boasts a talented secondary with potential first round pick Kris Boyd (senior cornerback, #2) on one side, Davante Davis (senior cornerback, #18) on the other, and P.J. Locke III (senior safety, #11) roaming the back end. They will be tested throughout this game, and could make themselves a lot of money with a strong game.Anthony Wheeler (senior linebacker, #45), Charles Omenihu (senior defensive end, #90) and Breckyn Hager (senior defensive end, #44) round out the talented defense. On offense, Texas is led by Collin Johnson (junior wide receiver, #9), a receiver with consistency issues but has been physically compared to Calvin Johnson. John Burt (senior wide receiver, #1) is physically gifted but has generally underperformed on the field. Calvin Anderson (senior tackle, #66) and Tre Watson (senior running back, #5) also have some potential. Sam Ehlinger (sophomore quarterback, #11) has been much improved this season, and could be a top quarterback prospect in 2020, but a shoulder injury could keep him out of this matchup.
Oklahoma State is having a down year as far as draftable talent, but they still have plenty of offensive firepower. Justice Hill (junior running back, #5), as overhyped as he may be,is still a good back for the Oklahoma State system. Jalen McCleskey (senior wide receiver, #1) was looking to take over the receiving game from recent draftees James Washington and Marcell Ateman, but was unhappy with his role and decided to redshirt this season and transfer to another school. Taylor Cornelius (senior quarterback, #14) is taking over the mantel left by Mason Rudolph, slinging the ball all over the field effectively. Trey Carter (senior defensive tackle, #99) is the leader of the defense, although a balanced Texas team should have their way.
University of Oregon at University of Arizona, 10:30 PM, ESPN
With Stanford slipping the past few weeks, Oregon walked away with a big win over Washington. Oregon is maybe the most talented overall team in the PAC 12, but Washington State pulled off the upset to knock Oregon right back down. Justin Herbert (junior quarterback, #10) has had an exceptional season, and is easily one of the top two quarterbacks in this year’s relatively weak class if he decides to leave school. Jake Hanson (junior tackle, #55) and Calvin Throckmorton (junior guard/center, #54) lead a line that will try to give him plenty of time in the pocket, as well as open up holes for Tony Brooks-James (senior running back, #20). On defense, Jalen Jelks (senior defensive end, #97) is one of the nation’s premiere pass rushers, with Troy Dye (junior linebacker, #35) and Justin Hollins (senior outside linebacker, #11) patrolling the middle of the field.
Arizona has had a very up and down season. In 2019, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (senior safety, #6) is really the only draftable prospect. Really, this game is only worth watching if Khalil Tate (sophomore quarterback, #14) is healthy after an ankle injury has caused him to miss some games. Tate is one of the most exciting players in the country as a dual threat quarterback, but his absence would make this game a very one-sided affair.
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