Image Credit: Larry Kuzniewski
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
For various reasons, some draft prospects may fall to the later rounds. Whether it be concerns about size, a lack of production, or terrible scheme fits, some players have plenty of talent but will be taken way later than they should be. The key to finding these talents is to really look at the traits they display in a vacuum, taking away what the numbers say. Factors outside of their control may limit their production, and the traits they display may be terrible matches for their particular scheme. Traits, though, are translatable. While hitting on the top picks is important, it is also important to find the diamonds in the rough later in the draft that fall for reasons outside of their control. Getting a George Kittle in the fifth round or a Tom Brady in the sixth can drastically accelerate a team's ascent to being a playoff caliber team.
This week, we take a look at one guy from each position who has a chance to be a diamond in the rough this year. To filter out names, I consulted the Big Board over at The Draft Network and chose one player from each position who is ranked lower than 175th overall (which would be right around the start of the sixth round if the picks mimicked the board). I also have excluded some players (such as Daniel Jones from Duke) who are the hot names to skyrocket up boards in the last month of the season.
Quarterback - Jordan Ta-amu, Ole Miss
If you're drafting a quarterback, you want it all. You want the size, the intellect, the accuracy, the arm strength, the quick release, the processing power, and the athleticism. If a prospect has all of those talents coming out of college, their name is Andrew Luck and teams tank and do whatever they can to select them first overall. The size and arm strength jump off the screen more than anything as they are things you can't "teach." Coaches will take more of a risk on a player who can throw the ball 70 yards on the hope they can teach them to hit the broad side of a barn. Meanwhile, quarterbacks with a quick release and accuracy are overlooked. Ta'amu definitely fits in the latter category.
Ta’amu has a very compact and quick release with enough velocity and accuracy on short and intermediate throws to be reliable. He can make the deep throws, but his accuracy suffers with the longer windup and step he has to put into the throws to get it there. In other words, he’s not a Patrick Mahomes-type quarterback who can flick his wrist and throw it 70 yards. Ta’amu has very sound mechanics, and makes NFL-level reads in the conference known as having the best defenses and the most high-level athletes in the country. His consistency suffers from the higher level of competition and his reduced ability to stretch the field, but a lot of this can be attributed to playing on one of the least talented teams in the best conference in the country. A lot of pundits are also quick to say he is only good because of the elite receivers on the other end of his passes, but Ta'amu still has to put the ball where the receivers can make a play. I think that Ta’amu has the traits to at least be a 14-year backup in the NFL, with the potential to win some games if he is in the right system.
Running Back - Matt Colburn II, Wake Forest
With running backs that are drafted in the later rounds, I want them to display short-area quickness, vision, and some ability as a receiver. Colburn gives you all of those. He may not have elite breakaway speed or enough power to consistently run over a defender, but neither do Kareem Hunt or David Montgomery (who is looking like RB1 in this class). The ability to break tackles largely comes from using short-area quickness to move your body position away from the defender to make it so the defender can't maintain leverage through the tackle. This is where Colburn excels.
He also has enough speed to break away once he gets in the open field. This combination of short-area quickness and straight-line speed gives him the tools to be a good route runner, and he couples that with strong enough hands to be a good receiver (Colburn has two total fumbles in 528 carries in his college career). The issue with Colburn is his production. He has only 7 catches for 83 yards, 698 yards for 145 carries in 2018. However, Wake Forest is one of the least talented teams overall in the Power 5 conferences, so he doesn't get much help while going against high level competition. He doesn't get much opportunity to flash as a receiver or run the ball behind an offensive line that has the advantage over the opposing defensive line. When he does, he can have games like he did against Louisville (243 yards on 20 carries and three touchdowns). Look out for Matt Colburn to be one of those late-round running backs who bursts onto the scene once he gets into the NFL.
Wide Receiver - Jalen Hurd, Baylor University
I remember when Hurd was a true freshman at Tennessee. They played Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl, and he was a running back for the Volunteers. At 6'4" and 230 pounds, it was insane to watch a player of that size run the ball with the amount of speed and quickness he displayed. I thought for sure that he would be a high-end running back whenever he entered the draft, but he changed his mind after his junior season when he saw the shelf life of the modern day NFL running back. When he approached Tennessee about making a change to wide receiver before his senior year, the coaches scoffed at the idea, regardless of whether it was best for him or not. So he transferred to Baylor.
After sitting out the 2017 season, this is his first year as a wide receiver, and you can tell there are growing pains. As a running back, he is used to getting a few steps to read the defense before choosing where to go, or before any breaks are needed for a route. As a wide receiver, he is not yet comfortable with having a defender right in front of his face trying to press him off his route. He also is not used to run blocking, as well as figuring out how to handle different coverages and where to settle in zones.
Again, this is his first season playing wide receiver. These things can come with experience and coaching, especially when you have a player like Hurd who has truly elite athleticism and size. He is a great jump-ball receiver, has soft hands and catches the ball away from his body, can accelerate in and out of his breaks with ease when he has space, and is obviously a huge threat when he has the ball in his hands. With the amount of large receivers in this class and his extreme level of rawness, he is going to drop. However, I would go as high as the fourth round to take a shot on him, as his ceiling is elite, and potentially as high as any in this class.
Tight End - Brandon Fritts, University of North Carolina
The 6'4", 250-pound Fritts is one of the few tight ends in this class who is a better blocker than receiver at this point in his career, catching only 25 passes for 177 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. However, you should not dismiss Fritts’s ability as a passer, but merely recognize that he is not used much as a receiver.
Instead, North Carolina lined him up all over the field, and Fritts was a valuable extra blocker in UNC's running game in all areas. He's still a decent receiver, but isn't really used in the passing game. He has shown good hands in his limited usage, and his adequate speed means that he has the potential to improve as a receiver. Fritts has been limited thus far to finding open spaces and getting into them, either leaking off a block or battling zone coverage, but his knowledge of zones and spacing is impressive. He may not have the elite athleticism that Kittle has, but he has a very similar story of usage issues and could be an above-average starter very quickly.
Offensive Lineman - Calvin Anderson, University of Texas
This is Anderson’s first season at Texas after being a graduate transfer from Rice, and you can tell that he hasn't had the best coaching thus far. Anderson's blocking technique, at this point, is to use his size, athleticism, and mobility to get in front of the defender and just try to get his hands on him. He doesn't have the advanced hand fighting and arm extension techniques down to handle counters or more advanced moves from rushers.
However, he has balance, he has mobility, he has strength, and he has size (6'5", 300 pounds), and these physical traits are all at the great to elite level. He has all the traits to be a top-end talent, but he just has to put it all together. He has grown substantially in this one year at Texas, and he could grow even more if he was able to go to a situation where he can sit behind an experienced tackle who can show him the ropes for the year or two. Papa Staley, anyone?
Defensive Tackle - Levi Onwuzurike, University of Washington
You look at the traits in a vacuum for the 6'3", 290-pound, Onwuzurike, and you think he would be a second-round talent. He has good arm and stride length, elite agility for a defensive tackle his size, and gap awareness in run defense. His lack of great explosion off the snap limits his pass rush a little, but his agility and block-shedding ability makes up for the lack of initial explosion.
So why is he seen as a late round pick? Washington is playing him at nose tackle. Without the explosion, playing 0-technique directly over the center, and without the size and strength of most nose tackles, he can get pushed around. However, he is absolutely not a nose tackle. Move him over to the 3-technique, and he will shine. It takes a little projection since Washington hardly plays him there, but his traits translate to NFL success. The Huskies are doing him no favors.
Defensive End - Kenny Willekes, Michigan State University
Willekes is another player who could use a bit of coaching, but seems to have all of the physical traits to be a successful edge rusher. He is 6'4", 250 pounds, excels in short area quickness, has the strength to maintain ground against stronger offensive linemen when engaged, has good pass rushing moves and counters to get to the quarterback, and, above all else, he has an elite motor and desire to make the play.
The issue is that he does not play with any rhyme or reason. What I mean is that he seems to be just a step slow in deciding how to attack an offensive lineman, almost like he is running through the potential moves he could use and trying to make a decision on the fly. If he was coached to have some aggression to attack the tackle rather than react to the tackle, or maybe got in the film room a little more, I think he would be a much better pass rusher. A team that takes a chance on Willekes in the late rounds could find themselves a gem.
Linebacker - Michael Pinckney, University of Miami
Pinckney is the other Miami linebacker that plays next to Shaq Quarterman. Everyone raves about Quarterman, and Pinckney gets lost in the shuffle. However, he could actually be the better prospect.
Pinckney is tasked with taking on blockers to allow Quarterman to roam around and make plays. However, in the times when Quarterman has been on the sideline and Pinckney has moved to the role of playmaker at linebacker, he has excelled. Pinckney has sideline-to-sideline speed, good physicality, is good in coverage, and is pretty much everything a team needs from a modern middle linebacker. At 6'1" and 228 pounds, it’s no wonder that he is not great in his given role at Miami, as he is not good as a pass rusher or when engaged with a lineman. However, he has all of the traits needed to play the Mike or Will positions, and will be a much better pro player than what he has shown in college.
Cornerback - Julian Blackmon, University of Utah
The 6'1", 190-pound Blackmon is athletically elite, but finds himself on this list because he is technically raw in one very important aspect of his game that causes him to get beat in coverage all too often. Coaches ask him to play press man a bit at Utah, but Blackmon 's technique while pressing is lacking. He knows this, but whether it be coaching or ability, he just isn't successful with pressing. To make up for this so he doesn't get beat deep, Blackmon gets out of his press way too quickly and turns his hips to cover deep. Unfortunately, this leaves him susceptible to underneath and intermediate, quicker breaking routes, leaving receivers in great position to pick up yards after the catch.
When he doesn't press, he is great in coverage (both man and zone), using his elite athleticism and size to keep up and mirror most receivers. If he could either learn better press technique or go into a system where he isn't asked to press at all, he could see a huge rise in on-field production. A strong defensive backs coach could mold Blackmon into a star player, but even a change in scheme would do wonders for Blackmon’s production. It’s a seemingly simple fix for what could pay off big in the end.
Safety - Reggie Floyd, Virginia Tech University
The issue with Floyd is a severe lack of talent around him after the Hokie defense was gutted in the draft last season. Floyd has all of the traits to be a great single-high safety, with size (6'0", 220 pounds), elite range to play deep in coverage, and generally great instincts and processing. Floyd is also able to come up and play downhill to make stops in underneath routes and running pays, and has the ability to make quick breaks to the ball on deeper routes.
In 2017, he was great. In 2018, he is way too aggressive to try to make up for the lack of talent around him. This over-aggression causes him to be caught out of position on play action passes and the like. I don’t see it as a regression in his instincts, but an over-aggression to try to play hero ball. If you can get him coached out of that, telling him to stick to his responsibilities a bit more, then he could go back to 2017 version that was thought of very highly.
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 twelve (all times Eastern, Playoff rankings in parentheses).
As a preliminary note, this may be one of the worst weekends of college football games that we’ve had all season. A lot of teams are playing, obviously, but there are no matchups of teams with multiple high-end prospects. That being said, here are the games that will at least include a lot of draft-eligible talent, even if it is in a one-sided affair.
Friday, November 16
University of Memphis at Southern Methodist University, 9:00 PM, ESPN2
Memphis lost quite a bit of talent last year, but still have some guys worth checking out. Darrell Henderson (junior running back, #8) is the shiny weapon this year on offense, having a ridiculous 9.2 yards per carry on 158 attempts this season. Drew Kyser (senior center, #54) heads a line that will look to open holes on the ground for Henderson to burst through. Curtis Akins (senior outside linebacker, #7) is intriguing on the defense, but most of the talent in this game, as expected, is on the offensive side of the ball.
While their best prospect in years (wide receiver Courtland Sutton) recently left for the NFL, SMU still has some talent to watch. Jordan Wyatt (senior cornerback, #15) likely would have joined Sutton as a vaunted prospect in 2018, but tore his ACL and decided to return for his senior season. Richard Moore (junior linebacker, #14) is another late round prospect on the Mustang defense, while Xavier Jones (junior running back, #5) and Braeden West (senior running back, #6) are looking to keep SMU’s offense rolling. Look out for Levon Livingston (junior offensive tackle #76) on the offensive line. He is lean but very tall at 6’7”. He could seemingly add muscle at the NFL level, and has the sound technique to be a sleeper in the middle rounds.
Saturday, November 17
The Citadel at (1) University of Alabama, 12:00 PM, SEC Network/ESPN+
Our good friends over at Dictionary.com have two definitions for what a citadel is. The first is a fortress that commands a city and is used in the control of the inhabitants and in defense during attack or siege. The second is the name of the school that is about to get a 70-burger hung on them by the most dominant college football team we have seen in a long time. Okay, only one of those definitions may be on their site, but both are true nonetheless.
This is because the Crimson Tide have perhaps the most talented defense in the country, and an offense to match. Deionte Thompson (junior safety, #14), Anfernee Jennings (junior outside linebacker, #33), Raekwon Davis (junior defensive tackle, #99), and Mack Wilson (junior linebacker, #30) all have lived up to the first round chatter they have been receiving thus far. Isaiah Buggs (senior defensive tackle, #49), Terrell Lewis (junior linebacker, #24), and Quinnen Williams (redshirt sophomore defensive end, #92) are all having solid seasons as well, and are starting to garner first round buzz themselves. Saivion Smith (junior cornerback, #4), Shyheim Carter (junior cornerback, #5), and Trevon Diggs (junior cornerback, #7) have come on strong this season in the secondary, and would all be drafted if they decide to enter the 2019 draft. On offense, Jonah Williams (junior tackle, #73), Matt Womack (junior tackle, #77), Ross Pierschbacher (senior guard/center, #71), and Lester Cotton (senior guard, #66) hope to all come off the board before the end of the second round, and should open plenty of running lanes for Damien Harris (senior running back, #34) and Joshua Jacobs (junior running back, #8). Irv Smith, Jr. (junior tight end, #82) has almost matched his 2017 production in the first three games, giving Alabama another weapon to play with. He isn’t draft eligible, but Bovada lists Tua Tagovailoa (sophomore quarterback, #13) as the current Heisman favorite at minus-450 odds, so he’s worth watching nonetheless.
(10) Ohio State University at University of Maryland, 12:00 PM, ABC
Nick Bosa (junior defensive end, #97) may very well be the first overall pick next year, but he is missing the remainder of the season with a core injury. Dre'Mont Jones (junior defensive tackle, #86) and Robert Landers (junior defensive tackle, #67) each have first round aspirations with their strong 2018 campaign. It seems like Dwayne Haskins (redshirt sophomore quarterback, #7) is the most likely to join Bosa in the first round after his hot start to the season. Ohio State’s receivers – Parris Campbell (senior wide receiver, #21), Johnnie Dixon (senior wide receiver, #1), K.J. Hill (junior wide receiver, #14), and Terry McLaurin (senior wide receiver, #83) – all have the athletic profile to get drafted, but need to show the production to go along with it to have a real chance to be more than Day 3 prospects. Michael Jordan (junior guard, #73) and Isaiah Prince (junior tackle, #59) anchor an offensive line that will look to clear room for Mike Weber (junior running back, #25), who has outperformed talented true sophomore J.K. Dobbins in the first four games. Prince in particular has been exceptional as a right tackle this season. On the back end of the defense, Damon Arnette (junior cornerback, #3), Kendall Sheffield (junior cornerback, #8), and Jordan Fuller (junior safety, #4) hope to continue Ohio State’s recent tradition of strong play in the secondary. Dante Booker (senior linebacker, #33) and Jashon Cornell (junior defensive tackle, #9) are likely undrafted guys, but should find a camp home next summer.
Maryland may not have the most talent, but it hasn’t taken a lot of talent to play Ohio State close in recent weeks. Led by a tandem of Darnell Savage (senior safety, #4) and Antoine Brooks Jr. (junior safety, #25), the Terrapin defense plays with speed. Jesse Anibonam (senior defensive end, #6) and Byron Cowart (junior defensive end, #9) also play with speed, but are susceptible to being run on. Ty Johnson (senior running back, #24) and Derwin Gray (senior tackle, #55) may find homes for training camps, but have a lot to prove.
(12) Syracuse University vs. (3) Notre Dame University (at Yankee Stadium in New York City), 2:30 PM, NBC
While the talent in this game is all on the Notre Dame side, Syracuse has played greater than the sum of their parts and should give the Irish a good fight. This game will also be fun to watch because it will be played at Yankee Stadium, and the odd dimensions of the field make it a fun experience. Syracuse is typically pretty barren in football, but they have some interesting prospects this year. Cody Conway (senior tackle, #60), Koda Martin (senior tackle, #78), and Aaron Roberts (senior guard, #59) form an underrated trio on the offensive line. They will look to keep Eric Dungey (senior quarterback, #2) upright in the backfield. Dungey has had injuries each of his first three years on campus, and will need a clean season to have any hopes of getting drafted. Ravian Pierce (senior tight end, #6) is a nice mismatch in the middle of the field, and Chris Slayton (senior defensive tackle, #95) leads a defense that will be challenged plenty by the Notre Dame offense.
Notre Dame’s talent starts with a stifling defense, led by a trio of first-round hopefuls in Jerry Tillery (senior defensive tackle, #99), Julian Love (junior cornerback, #27), and Te'Von Coney (senior linebacker, #4). Alohi Gilman (junior safety, #11), Julian Okwara (sophomore defensive end, #42), Khalid Kareem (junior defensive end, #53), Daelin Hayes (junior defensive end, #9), Drue Tranquill (senior linebacker, #23), Asmar Bilal (senior linebacker, #22), Nick Coleman (senior safety, #24), and Shaun Crawford (senior cornerback, #20) all provide valuable support for the Fighting Irish, and are late round prospects. On offense, Notre Dame does have some talent, with Alize Mack (senior tight end, #86) being the best of the bunch. Alex Bars (senior tackle, #71), Tommy Kraemer (sophomore tackle, #78), Sam Mustipher (senior guard, #53), Nic Weishar (senior tight end, #82), and Dexter Williams (senior running back, #2) all hoping to have a strong 2018 and work their way into draft consideration. Chase Claypool (junior wide receiver, #83) and Miles Boykin (senior wide receiver, #81) have opened eyes recently with strong route running, speed, and size, and gives Notre Dame a pair of playmakers on the outside. Notre Dame also boasts one of the strongest pairs of specialists in the country, with Tyler Newsome (senior punter, #85) and Justin Yoon (senior kicker, #19) each competing for the top spot at their respective positions. The story of this game, though, is with Notre Dame’s quarterback situation. Ian Book (junior quarterback, #12) took over for the struggling Brandon Wimbush (senior quarterback, #7), and the results have been glorious for the Fighting Irish. However, Book is still uncertain to play with his rib injury, making this game a whole lot closer.
(9) West Virginia University at Oklahoma State University, 3:30 PM, ABC
Will Grier (senior quarterback, #7) had a few down weeks in the middle of the season, but is making a push to regain his QB1 status in a down year at quarterback. Yodny Cajuste (senior tackle, #55) is continuing his strong 2017 season, garnering some first round talk himself. David Sills V (senior wide receiver, #13) is trying to prove that he can be a number one receiver for a team, and Gary Jennings (senior wide receiver, #12) is showing off his talent in his own right. David Long, Jr. (junior linebacker, #11) and Ezekiel Rose (senior edge, #5) are having strong seasons, but still are Day 3 prospects at best.
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. Tyron Johnson (junior wide receiver, #13) was looking to take over the receiving game from recent draftees James Washington and Marcell Ateman, but he just isn't at their talent level despite the strong production. Taylor Cornelius (senior quarterback, #14) is taking over the mantel left by Mason Rudolph, slinging the ball all over the field effectively. Britton Abbott (senior tight end, #41) is a sneaky name to know in the undrafted market. Trey Carter (senior defensive tackle, #99) is the leader of the defense, although Oklahoma should have their way. Jordan Brailford (junior defensive end, #94) and Justin Phillips (senior linebacker, #19) are late-round prospects, but names to know nonetheless.
Duke University at (2) Clemson University, 7:00 PM, ESPN
The quarterback position is pretty limited in this draft class, but Duke’s Daniel Jones (junior quarterback, #17) is starting to open some eyes. While he’s only a junior, given the limited talent in this year’s class and the importance of the quarterback position, he could be working his way into the QB1 conversation. That means, even if he only gets a second or third round grade, he could see himself as a top-five pick in 2019, especially if Justin Herbert and/or Dwayne Haskins return to school. So, New York Giants fans, take a look at your potential Eli Manning replacement. Last week, Jones made us all look smart with 361 passing yards and 186 rushing yards, proving that he has a shot to be the real deal. A matchup against the vaunted Clemson defense will be great film for him if he is able to show out. Daniel Helm (senior tight end, #80) is having a strong season as both a pass catcher and a blocker for the Blue Devils, while Joe Giles-Harris (junior linebacker, #44) leads the defense. Mark Gilbert (junior cornerback, #28) was a name to watch in the preseason, but a season-ending hip injury likely ensures his return to school next season.
Clemson is still sleepwalking to an undefeated season. 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), Tanner Muse (junior safety, #19), Isaiah Simmons (sophomore safety, #11), Albert Huggins (senior defensive tackle, #67), 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.
(16) Iowa State University at (15) University of Texas, 8:00 PM, Longhorn Network/ESPN+
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, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. 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.
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.
It is not available to a lot of fans, but if you are a draft person, this may be the one game you try to watch this weekend. That is because the matchup between Hakeem Butler and Kris Boyd will be exciting throughout the night. If one prospect can definitively win the matchup, it could push them into the first round conversation while simultaneously moving the other back into Day 2. These two will be going at it snap after snap, and is the best singular matchup of the week.
University of Arizona at (8) Washington State University, 10:30 PM, ESPN
Arizona has also had a very up and down season, losing to UCLA one week and beating Oregon the next. In 2019, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (senior safety, #6) is the only prospect on the Wildcat defense. On offense, J.J. Taylor (sophomore running back, #21) is very small (5'6", 180 pounds), so scouts will have to see if his skill overcomes his size. Khalil Tate (sophomore quarterback, #14) is also 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, though his actual draft value is still in flux.
Gardner Minshew (senior quarterback, #16), the transfer from East Carolina, is the story of the year for Washington State. After some productive seasons at East Carolina, Minshew and his mustache kept the production high after the jump in competition, though he still throws a lot of interceptions. 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. There is no reason this team should be ranked 8th in the country, yet here we are. 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, but these are really the only serious 2019 prospects for the Cougars.
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