Zach's Draft Corner: Finding the Next Big Star/What to Watch
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Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
It’s everyone’s favorite part of the draft process: the comps. I’ve been guilty of it myself, scrolling down to the bottom of a scouting report just to see the comps for a player and gathering my first impressions of a player based on those comps. They always tend to be qualified, such as “Player X with a little less speed” or “a stronger Player Y,” but that is simply because it is rare that two players have skill sets that are exactly the same. This week, I take a look at the eight prospects who I think are the closest to being the next version of a player we have seen before.
Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama) is the next Torry Holt
This one took some digging. Jeudy is not overly tall. He is plenty fast, but he is not a pure burner. He doesn’t have the ideal length for a receiver. What he does have is elite acceleration in and out of breaks, elite route running, elite hands, and a fast enough top-end speed that cornerbacks will pay if they cheat up on him. In these ways, he is exactly like Torry Holt. Holt was a master of footwork in a way that allowed him to excel at every level of the field. He was one of the best, most reliable receivers of his time, and I see a similar projection for Jeudy.
Grant Delpit (Safety, LSU) is the next Sean Taylor
Delpit is unlike almost any prospect we have ever seen. He is much taller than most free safeties, much stronger than most free safeties, but still has the ball skills and speed needed at the position. He is a complete defensive player and a perfect fit in modern defenses. Similarly, the late, great Sean Taylor would have been an All-Pro just as much today as he was back in the mid-aughts. We have been yearning for the next Sean Taylor ever since the original left us far too long ago. If Delpit can just finish some of the big hits he lays on ball carriers, he will be the spitting image of the great safety.
Creed Humphrey (IOL, Oklahoma) is the next Nick Mangold
It’s rare that you find a center as complete as Creed Humphrey. As a redshirt freshman in 2018, all he did was step in to lead a line full of pro prospects and outperform every single one of them. He can play in any system, although his athleticism and elite knowledge of leverage makes him better for a zone scheme as opposed to wasting his talents as a gap center. Humphrey is also large, measuring in at 6’4” and over 300 pounds. The last center to come into the NFL with so few questions about his ability and such an imposing size was Nick Mangold, the former USC and New York Jet great. Just as Mangold was the best offensive lineman in his locker room for over a decade, I imagine Humphrey will see similar success and respect.
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama) is the next Arik Armstead
When you have a 6’7”, 300-plus-pound defensive tackle, there are only a few names that can even think of comparing to such a behemoth. At this point in his career, Davis most resembles Arik Armstead as opposed to a DeForest Buckner or Calais Campbell. As with Armstead, Davis is tall, long, and supremely athletic. To this point, that has been enough for him to succeed, but he has hit sort of a ceiling due to his lack of technique and the success of those around him on a talented Alabama roster. If Davis wants to see the same success Armstead has seen as of late, he will need to hone that technique to become a complete player. Davis might start slow, just like Armstead did, but commitment to developing this traits could turn him into something special.
Brycen Hopkins (TE, Purdue) is the next Zach Ertz
Hopkins has continued his strong college career with his best season yet as a senior, becoming the top tight end in an overall underwhelming class. As a receiver, Hopkins skills are unmatched, combining good athleticism with strong hands and nuanced route running well above his competition. Hopkins is the perfect safety blanket for freshman quarterback Jack “The Snack” Plummer at Purdue. Hopkins has good strength as a blocker, but could use some help in the technique and leverage departments. In this way, Hopkins looks like a clone of Zach Ertz, who has been the epitome of a safety blanket for the Eagles ever since he was drafted, but maybe only an average blocker.
Isaiah Simmons (LB/S, Clemson) is the next Derwin James
This one is clear as day. Simmons can play almost any position on defense, and do it at an elite level. Derwin James, admittedly, was one of my bigger draft misses. I thought he would bust because he didn’t have a position. What I didn’t give him enough credit for was that he played every position at Florida State in a way that he showed the traits to continue playing at that level in the NFL. I mistook that for simply his athleticism winning out in a defense that told him to just make plays, thinking it would not translate. However, every defense could use a versatile playmaker that can literally do it all at an elite level, and that is exactly what Simmons has been doing at Clemson. I’m not going to miss this twice.
Jake Fromm (QB, Georgia) is the next Andy Dalton
This became very fitting with the news that Dalton is being benched for rookie Ryan Finley, but I think it also gives us an opportunity to appreciate the perfectly average career that Andy Dalton had. When there was a good team around him, he could bring a team to the playoffs, and he could certainly lose plenty of games. The Andy Dalton line seemed to be consistent, where a quarterback better than Andy Dalton kept his job and one worse than Andy Dalton lost his job. This is exactly what I see from Fromm. He has average arm strength. He can hit open windows in zones, but isn’t going to throw guys open with any consistency. He’ll throw some interceptions, he’ll throw some touchdowns, and he very well may play for a long time. However, he will only go as far as the team around him takes him.
Alton Robinson (DE, Syracuse) is the next Barkevious Mingo
Robinson is an impressive specimen at Syracuse. He is one of the more athletic edge rushers in the class, but not quite to the level of a Josh Allen or a Brian Burns. He is still fast, he is relatively quick, and he is strong. He also plays with very poor technique that is bound to get him into a lot of trouble as time goes on. He won’t be able to win with just his athleticism as a pro, and it’s going to take a lot of work to get him to have success as a professional pass rusher. Robinson will still get a second contract, just like Barkevious Mingo did, because teams will see his athleticism and think that they’ll be the ones to fix him. Good luck.
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 ten (all times Eastern, rankings in parentheses).
As a reminder, we have a new format for the TV Guide this season. I’m going to list all of the draft eligible players that will impact the games themselves, meaning the lists will be pretty long. Then, I'll summarize each team by showing the players seriously in contention to be drafted at this point in time. However, it's important to know that one exceptional season can cause an impactful player to become a draftable player, so these names are still good to monitor.
Friday, November 1
Navy at University of Connecticut, 8:00 PM, ESPN 2
Malcolm Perry, Senior Quarterback, #10
I apologize on behalf of college football for this week of games. Outside of maybe one or two games, there is just a whole lot of nothing. This is literally the only FBS game on Friday, and it’s nothing worth watching from a draft standpoint. Perry might sniff a training camp as a receiver or a running back, but he is not a quarterback.
Art Thompkins, Senior Running Back, #1
Matthew Peart, Senior Center, #65
Same here. UConn Is not going have a player drafted this year, so this game is only one to watch if you really, really need football on your Friday.
Saturday, November 2
University of Nebraska at Purdue University, 12:00 PM, FOX
Jaron Woodyard, Senior Wide Receiver, #88
Kanawai Noa, Senior Wide Receiver, #9
J.D. Spielman, Junior Wide Receiver, #10
Jake Stoll, Junior Tight End, #86
Matt Farniok, Junior Tackle, #71
Brendan Jaimes, Junior Tackle, #76
Boe Wilson, Junior Guard, #56
Carlos Davis, Senior Defensive Tackle, #96
Ben Stille, Junior Defensive Tackle, #95
Daishon Neal, Senior Defensive Tackle, #9
Khalil Davis, Senior Defensive Tackle, #94
Darrion Daniels, Senior Defensive Tackle, #79
Alex Davis, Senior Defensive End, #22
Mohamed Barry, Senior Linebacker, #7
JoJo Domann, Junior Linebacker, #13
Tyrin Ferguson, Senior Linebacker, #43
Lamar Jackson, Senior Cornerback, #21
Eric Lee, Jr., Senior Cornerback, #6
Dicaprio Bootle, Junior Cornerback, #23
Avery Anderson, Senior Safety, #4
Marquele Dismuke, Junior Safety, #19
Well, this game will at least be watchable. It makes me so happy to see Nebraska fall well short of expectations yet again, but they do still have some talent that will be drafted. Spielman is probably the best of the bunch as a big play receiver. The Blackshirts have some decent defensive talent on day three, including Carlos Davis, Mohamed Barry, and Lamar Jackson (not that one).
Richie Worship, Senior Running Back, #34
Tario Fuller, Senior Running Back, #25
Rondale Moore, Sophomore Wide Receiver, #4
Brycen Hopkins, Senior Tight End, #89
Grant Hermanns, Junior Tackle, #78
Matt McCann, Senior Guard, #79
Lorenzo Neal, Senior Defensive Tackle, #9
Markus Bailey, Senior Linebacker, #21
Derrick Barnes, Junior Linebacker, #55
Ben Holt, Senior Linebacker, #44
Navon Mosley, Senior Safety, #27
Purdue makes its first appearance on the TV Guide! The biggest storyline for the Boilermakers is that sophomore receiver Rondale Moore may be returning from his injury. For context, Moore would be a top-three receiver if he was draft eligible, even in this stacked wideout class. He is a big play waiting to happen, and Purdue has missed him sorely. We’ve already discussed Hopkins, who should go in the first round and likely won’t make it by the Patriots if he is still there. On defense, Lorenzo Neal, son of the great fullback, will be taken on day three. The last prospect is Markus Bailey, who would have gone on day two if he was healthy, but a season-ending injury ruined his senior season. We’ll have to see how that affects his draft status.
North Carolina State University at Wake Forest University (23), 12:00 PM, ESPN
Emeka Emezie, Junior Wide Receiver, #3
Tabari Hines, Senior Wide Receiver, #5
Cary Angeline, Junior Tight End, #6
Justin Witt, Junior Tackle, #67
Joshua Fedd-Jackson, Junior Guard, #66
Larrell Murchison, Senior Defensive Tackle, #92
James Smith-Williams, Senior Defensive End, #1
Isaiah Moore, Redshirt Sophomore Linebacker, #41
Nick McCloud, Senior Cornerback, #4
Jarius Morehead, Senior Safety, #31
Another newcomer to the TV Guide! NC State lacks star power, but they still have plenty of day three talents. This includes Emezie, Murchison, Smith-Williams, Moore, McCloud, and Morehead.
Cade Carney, Senior Running Back, #36
Steven Claude, Senior Wide Receiver, #5
Sage Suratt, Redshirt Sophomore Wide Receiver, #14
Scotty Washington, Senior Wide Receiver, #7
Jack Freudenthal, Senior Tight End, #86
Nathan Gilliam, Senior Tackle, #71
Justin Herron, Senior Tackle, #75
Jake Benzinger, Senior Tackle, #75
Carlos Basham, Junior Defensive End, #9
Justin Strnad, Senior Linebacker, #23
Essang Bassey, Senior Cornerback, #21
Amari Henderson, Senior Cornerback, #4
I think I’ve finally finished patting myself on the back for bringing Sage Suratt to your attention weeks before he burst onto the national scene, so it’s obvious you should watch him here. Gilliam and Herron continue solid play along the line, keeping them in day three consideration. On defense, Basham is the star with a day two grade. Strnad and Bassey round out the players to watch on the Demon Deacons.
University of Georgia (8) vs. University of Florida (6) in Jacksonville, FL, 3:30 PM, CBS
Jake Fromm, Junior Quarterback, #11
D'Andre Swift, Junior Running Back, #7
Brian Herrien, Senior Running Back, #35
Tyler Simmons, Senior Wide Receiver, #87
Matt Landers, Redshirt Sophomore Wide Receiver, #5
Demetris Robertson, Junior Wide Receiver, #16
Lawrence Cager, Senior Wide Receiver, #15
Charlie Woerner, Senior Tight End, #89
Eli Wolf, Senior Tight End, #17
Andrew Thomas, Junior Tackle, #71
Isaiah Wilson, Redshirt Sophomore Tackle, #79
Solomon Kindley, Junior Guard, #66
Ben Cleveland, Junior Guard, #74
Tyler Clark, Senior Defensive Tackle, #52
Julian Rochester, Senior Defensive Tackle, #5
Malik Herring, Junior Defensive End, #10
Monty Rice, Junior Linebacker, #32
Tae Crowder, Senior Linebacker, #30
Eric Stokes, Redshirt Sophomore Cornerback, #27
Tyrique McGhee, Senior Cornerback, #26
J.R. Reed, Senior Safety, #20
Richard LeCounte III, Junior Safety, #2
The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party returns, this time with the game of the week between Georgia and Florida. Drop everything to watch this one, and then I don’t blame you for picking it all back up again right after. Swift and Thomas will absolutely have first round grades at the end of the day. Led by Fromm, their offense is stacked for college. However, Simmons, Landers, Robertson, Woerner, Wilson, Kindley, and Cleveland are probably closer to day three prospects at this point than first rounders. The defense is not quite as stacked as far as quantity, but they do have quality safeties in Reed and LeCounte. Herring, Rice, and Stokes round out the defensive side of the ball as late round hopefuls.
Lamical Perine, Running Back, Senior, #2
Josh Hammond, Wide Receiver, Senior, #10
Kadarius Toney, Wide Receiver, Junior, #1
Trevon Grimes, Wide Receiver, Redshirt Sophomore, #8
Van Jefferson, Wide Receiver, Senior, #12
Tyrie Cleveland, Wide Receiver, Senior, #89
Freddie Swain, Wide Receiver, Senior, #16
Lucas Krull, Tight End, Junior, #7
Kemore Gamble, Tight End, Redshirt Sophomore, #88
Stone Forsythe, Tackle, Junior, #72
Jean Delance, Guard, Junior, #56
Nick Buchanan, Center, Senior, #66
Kyree Campbell, Defensive Tackle, Junior, #55
Adam Shuler, Defensive Tackle, Senior, #88
Jabari Zuniga, Defensive End, Senior, #92
Jonathan Greenard, Defensive End, Senior, #58
David Reese, Linebacker, Senior, #4
C.J. Henderson, Cornerback, Junior, #1
Marco Wilson, Cornerback, Redshirt Sophomore, #3
Donovan Stiner, Safety, Junior, #13
Brad Stewart Jr., Safety, Junior, #2
Jaewon Taylor, Safety, Senior, #29
For Florida, the cream of the crop is on defense. Zuniga looks to be one of the top edge defenders in this class, Greenard is coming on strong on the other side of the line, and C.J. Henderson will compete for a first round spot in the secondary. For the rest of these prospects, this season will be all about trying to work their way into the spotlight. Plenty of them have been doing just that, with Perine and Stewart teetering on day two status. Jefferson, Cleveland, Campbell, Reese, Wilson, and Stiner are also solidly in the day three conversation.
Texas Christian University at Oklahoma State University, 3:30 PM, ESPN
Sewo Olonilua, Senior Running Back, #33
Darius Anderson, Senior Running Back, #6
Jalen Reagor, Junior Wide Receiver, #1
Anthony McKinney, Senior Tackle, #68
Lucas Niang, Senior Tackle, #77
Cordel Iwuagwu, Senior Guard, #70
Ross Blalock, Junior Defensive Tackle, #90
George Ellis III, Redshirt Sophomore Defensive Tackle, #93
Corey Bethley, Junior Defensive Tackle, #94
Shameik Blackshear, Senior Defensive End, #91
Montrel Wilson, Senior Linebacker, #18
Garret Wallow, Junior Linebacker, #30
Jeff Gladney, Senior Cornerback, #12
Julius Lewis, Senior Cornerback, #24
Innis Gaines, Senior Safety, #6
TCU took a huge hit last week with Niang, a borderline first round tackle, sustaining a season-ending injury. Reagor is now the star prospect to keep an eye on, while Gladney did nothing but raise his stock with a huge showing in an upset win over Texas last week. Olonilua, Anderson, and Blalock are the other names to keep an eye on.
Dru Brown, Senior Quarterback, #6
Chuba Hubbard, Redshirt Sophomore Running Back, #30
Dillon Stoner, Junior Wide Receiver, #17
Tylan Wallace, Junior Wide Receiver, #2
Teven Jenkins, Junior Tackle, #73
Johnny Wilson, Senior Guard, #72
Marcus Keyes, Senior Guard, #75
Kyle Junior, Senior Defensive Tackle, #93
Calvin Bundage, Senior Linebacker, #1
Rodarius Williams, Junior Cornerback, #8
A.J. Green, Senior Cornerback, #4
They may not have the quantity of some other teams in college football, but they have some of the most fun, high-quality prospects to watch in any given week. Hubbard is challenging for RB1 every week, coming from seemingly nowhere to be one of the best stories of the season. Wallace was also not highly regarded coming into the season, but he has been playing with an Emmanuel Sanders-esque efficiency and underappreciation. Stoner is more of a day three prospect. On defense, A.J. Green (not that one) is one of the top senior cornerbacks in the nation.
Southern Methodist University (15) at University of Memphis (24), 7:30 PM, ABC
Shane Buechele, Junior Quarterback, #7
Ke'Mon Freeman, Senior Running Back, #2
Xavier Jones, Senior Running Back, #5
Reggie Roberson, Junior Wide Receiver, #8
James Proche, Senior Wide Receiver, #3
Delontae Scott, Senior Defensive End, #35
Richard Moore, Senior Linebacker, #14
Rodney Clemons, Senior Safety, #23
Patrick Nelson, Senior Safety, #2
I told you last week to watch the receivers, and they did not disappoint. Roberson and Proche dominated Temple, and they will look to do the same thing to Memphis in the second matchup of ranked teams for the weekend. Roberson dominates the outside, while Proche is an elite slot weapon.
Brady White, Junior Quarterback, #3
Patrick Taylor, Senior Running Back, #6
Pop Williams, Senior Wide Receiver, #9
Damonte Coxie, Junior Wide Receiver, #10
Joey Magnifico, Senior Tight End, #86
Dustin Woodard, Senior Guard, #53
Jonathan Wilson, Senior Defensive Tackle, #38
Bryce Huff, Senior Linebacker, #55
T.J. Carter, Junior Cornerback, #2
Memphis is continuing their high-flying ways, keeping the little draftable talent they have on offense. Taylor is making plays out of the backfield for Memphis, and the magnificent Magnifico pulled a rabbit out of his hat to start garnering draft chatter in recent weeks.
University of Oregon (7) at University of Southern California, 8:00 PM, FOX
Justin Herbert, Senior Quarterback, #10
C.J. Verdell, Redshirt Sophomore Running Back, #7
Juwan Johnson, Senior Wide Receiver, #6
Jacob Breeland, Senior Tight End, #27
Calvin Throckmorton, Senior Tackle, #54
Brady Aiello, Senior Tackle, #66
Shane Lemieux, Senior Guard, #68
Dallas Warmack, Senior Guard, #75
Jake Hanson, Senior Center, #55
Jordon Scott, Junior Defensive Tackle, #34
Austin Faoliu, Junior Defensive Tackle, #52
La'Mar Winston Jr., Senior Linebacker, #32
Isaac Slade-Matautia, Redshirt Sophomore Linebacker, #41
Troy Dye, Senior Linebacker, #35
Deommodore Lenoir, Junior Cornerback, #6
Thomas Graham Jr., Junior Cornerback, #4
Oregon seems to be on this list every week because they are a) good, and b) playing late games on the West Coast. As such, you should know by now that Justin Herbert and Shane Lemieux are first round talents, the Oregon offensive line as a whole is nothing to take lightly, and everyone else on offense should get drafted at some point. On defense, it’s the linebacker duo of Dye and Slade-Matautia that you should keep your eye on.
Vavae Malepeai, Junior Running Back, #29
Stephen Carr, Junior Running Back, #7
Michael Pittman, Senior Wide Receiver, #6
Velus Jones Jr., Junior Wide Receiver, #1
Tyler Vaughns, Junior Wide Receiver, #21
Josh Falo, Junior Tight End, #83
Drew Richmond, Senior Tackle, #53
Austin Jackson, Junior Tackle, #73
Marlon Tuipulotu, Redshirt Sophomore Defensive Tackle, #51
Jay Tufele, Redhsirt Sophomore Defensive Tackle, #78
Brandon Pili, Junior Defensive Tackle, #91
Christian Rector, Senior Defensive End, #89
Jordan Iosefa, Senior Linebacker, #56
John Houston Jr., Senior Linebacker, #10
Dominic Davis, Senior Cornerback, #16
USC is another west coast team that we see plenty of because of their late kickoffs. Pittman has been one of the most impressive receivers in this class for me, and is squarely in the day two conversation now. Opposite him is Vaughns, who is starting to garner day three grades himself. Carr is the top rusher for USC, and should also hear his name called at some point in April. On defense, Tufele and Rector are the prospects to watch for.
Brigham Young University at Utah State University, 10:00 PM, ESPN 2
Ty'Son Williams, Senior Running Back, #5
Aleva Hifo, Senior Wide Receiver, #15
Matt Bushman, Junior Tight End, #89
Thomas Shoaf, Senior Tackle, #59
Tristan Hoge, Senior Guard, #69
Zayne Anderson, Senior Linebacker, #23
Dayan Ghanwoloku, Senior Cornerback, #5
Troy Warner, Senior Cornerback, #1
Austin Lee, Senior Safety, #2
Nothing like a nightcap featuring a school that bans alcohol completely. If you’re still with us, then you’ll need some. Bushman was the top receiving tight end last season, but has seemingly regressed a little this season. Williams is another day three linebacker. The most interesting player is Troy Warner, but only because he is the younger brother of 49er star Fred. He’s not as talented, unfortunately.
Jordan Love, Junior Quarterback, #10
Gerold Bright, Senior Running Back, #1
Caden Anderson, Junior Defensive Tackle, #94
Tipa Galeai, Senior Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, #10
David Woodward, Junior Linebacker, #9
D.J. Williams, Senior Cornerback, #7
This game will give you another opportunity to check out Jordan Love, who has been as inconsistent as any top quarterback in this class. Ultimately, Woodward and Tipa might actually turn out to be the better pros, but they are going through the process with a lot less hype.
Boise State University (21) at San Jose State University, 10:30 PM, CBS Sports Network
John Hightower, Senior Wide Receiver, #16
CT Thomas, Junior Wide Receiver, #6
Ezra Cleveland, Junior Tackle, #76
Eric Quevedo, Senior Guard, #79
John Molchon, Senior Guard, #77
Garrett Larson, Senior Center, #67
David Moa, Senior Defensive Tackle, #55
Curtis Weaver, Junior Defensive End, #99
Kekoa Nawahine, Senior Safety, #10
The final game of the week, and it’s on here only because Boise State has some talented players and this game will give you an opportunity to watch them on a green field. The star of the Broncos is Curtis Weaver, who is sneaking into the end of the first round just as quickly as he sneaks into the backfield with a strong junior season. Cleveland is also a day two prospect at tackle. Elsewhere, Hightower, Moa, and Nawahine are also draftable talents.
San Jose State
Josh Love, Senior Quarterback, #12
Troy Kowalski, Senior Tackle, #79
Quinn Oseland, Senior Guard, #76
Ethan Aguayo, Senior Linebacker, #31
Jesse Osuna, Senior Linebacker, #11
Like I said, this game is watchable for Boise State. While San Jose State will always have a soft spot in my heart for being one of the two teams I liked to take from worst to first in NCAA Football 12 (shout out to the Spartans and the Akron Zips), none of these players are likely to be drafted. I’ll watch this game while looking forward to NCAA Football 21 next summer.
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