2018 NFL Draft: Draft Implications from College Football Week 2
Did you overreact to Week 1 of the 2017 college football season? If so, don't worry; NFL scouts and analysts do as well.
With another week of games, those scouts and analysts can learn more about the players eligible for the 2018 draft.
What did I learn in Week 2? Lamar Jackson is the Heisman front-runner, Brian Kelly is on the hot seat at Notre Dame, J.T. Barrett isn't the answer at quarterback for Ohio State and the Clemson defensive line is preposterously talented.
What takeaways will NFL scouts have from Week 2, and how will this weekend's action affect the 2018 NFL draft? Let's get caught up.
The Nation’s Hottest Passer Isn't a Priority Pro
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph is a legitimate Heisman candidate. Through two games, he completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 638 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. As a draft prospect, though, Rudolph is on a different tier than Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold or Josh Allen.
Rudolph's lack of arm strength is a major concern when watching his film. He's a big-framed passer, but he doesn't generate the velocity or show the deep push on the ball you want from a quarterback. Rudolph is also lucky to play with the best wide receiver corps in college. Wide receiver James Washington is the most impressive prospect on that offense.
Currently, Rudolph comes in as a Round 4 prospect on my board.
Does the NFL Want Lamar Jackson?
Lamar Jackson took home the Heisman Trophy last season and is already off to another hot start. He had six total touchdowns against UNC in Week 2 and has posted over 1,000 total yards of offense through two games. Jackson is the most exciting playmaker in college football, and he's the most exciting one I've seen since Cam Newton or Vince Young.
Jackson's college brilliance will have NFL scouts buzzing, but I've yet to talk to one scout or exec who thinks he is a Round 1 quarterback.
The main concern I've seen with Jackson's game is his thin frame, given how active he is outside of the pocket. Like Robert Griffin III or Teddy Bridgewater, you worry about bulk when the quarterback is going to take off and run. Mechanically, Jackson's footwork can be inconsistent and sloppy, which leads to him sailing passes on out routes.
I disagree with those who believe Jackson isn't an NFL quarterback, and I'm excited to see him in person next week against Clemson.
Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee was mentioned in last week's Scouting Notebook as a potential sleeper. Then Oregon happened.
Lee was 19-of-41 with four interceptions, although two may not entirely have been his fault. That put a hard stop to the buzz Lee carried into the season as a first-year starter for the Cornhuskers after he transferred from Tulane.
It's notable that the Oregon defense frustrated Lee all day given the Ducks' next opponent: Josh Allen of Wyoming. Allen and Lee are similar passers (strong arms, lots of rollouts), and if the Ducks' speed can frustrate Nebraska, they'll likely wreak havoc on the Wyoming offensive line.
Another potential sleeper, Missouri's Drew Lock, came back down to earth after dominating Missouri State in Week 1. Against South Carolina, Lock tossed two interceptions and otherwise looked off all game. He did pass for 245 yards and a touchdown, but the quick reads and decisive play from Week 1 weren't there.
Potential First-Rounder Benched
I'm looking at my big board, and there's Washington State quarterback Luke Falk sitting at No. 32 overall. That might be changing after he was benched in the team's win over Boise State.
Falk struggled to get the ball down the field and threw an interception that led to his benching. He was then put back into the game and left it after a hard hit caused his head to bounce off the turf.
DeShone Kizer was similarly benched at Notre Dame last year and came back in the same game. It hurt his draft stock the rest of the way because evaluators had a hard time reconciling the fact he was benched.
Falk is a smart quarterback who would be great in a West Coast system, but a poor showing against Boise may haunt his season.
Get Saquon the Damn Ball!
I understand Penn State not giving running back Saquon Barkley 20 or 25 touches when blowing out Akron. In a closer game against Pitt, though, can he get more than 14 carries?!
Barkley continues to impress when he does have the ball. He rushed 14 times for 88 yards and a touchdown, but made his biggest impact in the pass game, where he grabbed four passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. He also returned two kicks for 50 yards.
Barkley is listed as 5'11" and 230 pounds, and he has game-changing speed, agility and three-phase ability. Ride that bell cow, Coach Franklin.
Rosen Remains Hot
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen's arm looks just fine after he missed parts of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury.
Through two games, Rosen has nine touchdowns and completed nearly 68 percent of his passes. He also continues to show the zip and strength that make him a standout performer and top draft prospect. No quarterback in college football has a prettier process as a passer.
Rosen looks like he was created in a lab with his tight, compact, quick motion and perfect footwork in the pocket. He doesn't have the athleticism or arm strength of Josh Allen, but he looks like Eli Manning or Matt Ryan as far as what he does in the pocket and with his release.
Rosen's stock was already incredibly high, but his early performance this season is also erasing concerns about his arm health.
Darnold Impresses, INT Count Climbs to 4
There are positives and negatives to the two weeks of Sam Darnold's game so far. If you box-score scout it, Darnold has thrown four interceptions while playing Western Michigan and Stanford. That's a concern, as it appears on film that Darnold is struggling to see underneath coverage and doesn't quite have the arm strength to push through tight windows.
On the other hand, Darnold continues to show remarkable grit and moxie as a quarterback. There are times he's scrambling and making on-the-fly reads that get you out of your seat. He's also incredibly poised under pressure and has a clutch gene that can't be overlooked.
It's unfair to judge anyone after two games—starts No. 11 and 12 for Darnold—but there is enough good in his game to be excited about.
Clemson Just Sacked Jarrett Stidham Again
Saturday's matchup between the Auburn offensive line and Clemson defensive line was one of my top five battles to watch. Clemson won it.
The Tiger defensive line racked up 11 sacks on quarterback Jarrett Stidham, who is hopefully in an ice tub right now. Junior Austin Bryant (6'5", 265 lbs) led the way with four sacks, while his teammates Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence also cleaned up.
Clemson has become known as a wide receiver school, but this defensive line has four legitimate first-round prospects. It was Bryant's day on Saturday, but all four must be ready to go next week in Louisville when they try to corral Lamar Jackson.
Baker Plants the Flag
If Lamar Jackson isn't your Heisman front-runner, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield likely is.
Mayfield led the Oklahoma offense to a win over No. 2 Ohio State while hobbled with what looked like an ankle injury. Mayfield's wild, scrambling, long-ball style has people on Twitter calling him Johnny Manziel and Russell Wilson.
The NFL will likely see Mayfield differently than that. I compared him to Colt McCoy, and one NFL scout I spoke to Sunday morning said Chase Daniel was a better comparison. Mayfield is exciting and tough, but NFL teams will critique his lack of arm strength and height.
The biggest issue I see is Mayfield's difficulty playing from the pocket. Russell Wilson and Drew Brees are short quarterbacks who have had NFL success because they're able to move their feet to find passing windows, but both also play controlled football from the pocket. Mayfield isn't asked to do that at Oklahoma, so it's an open question whether he can excel in that style.
Josh Allen Bounces Back vs. Gardner-Webb
Josh Allen struggled to move the ball down the field against Iowa in Week 1. He also threw two ugly interceptions in that game. He received a welcome break in Week 2 in the form of Gardner-Webb.
Allen was able to move the ball at will despite getting little help from his run game. He went 22-of-32 for 328 yards and tossed two touchdowns. Allen was much more decisive with his reads and did a better job playing in the pocket.
It's worth repeating that Allen is a project and a trait-based quarterback at this time. He needs to be developed, but the positives in his arm strength, toughness, and athleticism are all eye-popping. How he performs against Oregon next week will undoubtedly drive narratives, but it's a game Wyoming has no business winning.