NFL Draft

NFL Draft Roundup: Rainy weekend dampens hype for QBs

24 September 2016: Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer (14) in action during a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Duke Blue Devils at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, IN. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

The Tennessee Volunteers had almost enough magic to storm back against Texas A&M, but even with a cornerback miraculously forcing a fumble turning a runaway touchdown into a touchback, the Aggies prevailed in double overtime. The close loss might mean the karma ran out.

It would have been nice to see those Florida corners match up the LSU receivers, even if the quarterback play was going to make that matchup brutal to watch anyway, but the game got canceled. Still, somehow we’ll live without it. All Tennessee has to do is beat Alabama and they will be able to live without it too. Hopefully their flair for late comebacks doesn’t come back to haunt them against that defense.

Three big things

  1. DeShone Kizer and Mitch Trubitzky need to stay out of the rain: Kizer has emerged out of an unexciting group of quarterbacks to be a potential top-overall pick, replacing Deshaun Watson in the dreams of football fans in Cleveland. Because of the conditions from Hurricane Matthew, we aren’t talking about the 9-for-26 performance with 54 yards and an interception, putting only three points on the board. Trubitzky was similarly unimpressive after shooting up draft boards in recent weeks, posting a stat line of 13-for-33 passing with only 58 yards and two interceptions, and matching Kizer’s output of three points. If everything else checks out these may end up being only blips on the radar, but better options around them could make these performances sting.
  2. Alvin Kamara added his name to the list of potential stars in future NFL backfields: With Jalen Hurd injured, Kamara took over the spotlight and exceeded expectations. He carried the football 18 times, gaining 127 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Even more impressive was his ability to gash the Aggies as a receiver, catching eight balls for 161 yards and the game-tying touchdown at the end of regulation. With NFL teams using running backs to find mismatches against opposing linebackers more than ever, Kamara is making an interesting case for himself as a do-it-all back.
  3. Jabrill Peppers might be ridiculous: Lamar Jackson owns the Heisman so far, but Peppers isn’t fading away yet. Michigan’s Mr. Everything started the season No. 1 on my big board partially because he reminded me of a bigger, faster Tyrann Mathieu, but also because it is so hard to separate the elite edge rushers from each other (and picking Myles Garrett is so boring). However, Peppers hasn’t given much reason to take him off that spot. He had three carries for 74 yards and two touchdowns against Rutgers, while also amassing two tackles, one quarterback hurry, and was in on a tackle in the backfield in the 78-0 blowout. Oh, and this ridiculous punt returned that was nullified by a flag.

Standout senior

Without Sterling Shepard, the Oklahoma offense has been missing their most dangerous weapon from a season ago. However, Baker Mayfield has found a new favorite in Dede Westbrook, the undersized wide receiver who finds ways to play bigger than his frame — sound familiar? — and produce like bigger, faster contemporaries. Westbrook had 10 catches for 232 yards and three touchdowns against Texas, helping get a 45-40 win in the Red River Rivalry. That gives him 17 catches for 390 yards and five touchdowns in two Big 12 games so far. He is an underrated playmaker who could find himself getting drafted much earlier than people thought preseason.

Small-school star

Before talking about Haason Reddick, let’s acknowledge Navy linebacker Josiah Powell. He might never get picked in the NFL draft, but his two interceptions — one of which he returned for a touchdown — were the difference in one of Navy’s biggest wins in decades as they beat a top-10 Houston team. Reddick however has a better shot at being drafted, as the 6-foot-1, 230-pound edge rusher notched two sacks against Memphis to bring his total up to 4.5 on the season. That was part of an 11-tackle day against an always-impressive Memphis offense. Reddick won’t find himself pushing into the top two tiers of this edge class, but he could make the transition to NFL linebacker with some upside as a pass rusher on day three of the NFL Draft.

Sneak peek: 2018 draft

Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted three passes, running one of them out of the endzone over 100 yards for a touchdown. Fitzpatrick is a guy who kept flashing on film over the summer as I was watching basically all of his teammates on defense who could be heading to the NFL Draft after this season. Of course, Alabama doesn’t rebuild, it retools, and despite a lack of depth at corner, Fitzpatrick looks set up to be a superstar. He has excellent speed and coverage skills, with the ability to play outside or in the slot as he showed often last year. At 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds, the true sophomore has ideal size for the position, and I don’t think it is crazy to think that he might be better than any cornerback prospect from Tuscaloosa in the Nick Saban era, including his partner Marlon Humphrey across from him.

Week 7 matchup to watch

Every week, it seems like one of these matchups is an SEC pass rusher vs. an SEC offensive tackle, and because — aside from a little life from Dan Skipper — Cam Robinson is the only tackle worth talking about he seems to get the nod each week. He held Arkansas’ Deatrich Wise off the quarterback last week in limited snaps, but Derek Barnett of Tennessee is the rare player who can influence the game against the run and the pass off the edge. If Robinson can push him around, it will be impressive. (PS look for Robinson here again next week when Texas A&M comes to town).

In case offensive line play bores you, it would be a good idea to watch Raekwon McMillan roam the middle of the Ohio State defense against Wisconsin. The Buckeyes have a lot of NFL talent in their secondary, but the Badgers will want to hand it off to Corey Clement and let their offensive line work. McMillan will get a chance to prove he can play linebacker between the tackles.

Finally, I am looking forward to seeing Kizer against the Stanford defense. After giving up 86 points the last two weeks, the Cardinal are as desperate for a win as Notre Dame is. Win or lose, Kizer will be expected to put another big number on the board against a defense that hasn’t stopped anyone the past two weeks. If Christian McCaffrey gets back on track and Stanford wins that’s one thing, but Kizer needs to follow the egg he laid with something resembling a performance for a top-10 pick in the NFL draft.

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