This upcoming weekend is a football fan's dream. It's also a big one for NFL scouts.
Potential NFL quarterbacks will be in action as Jarrett Stidham and Auburn take on Texas A&M, Drew Lock and the Missouri Tigers travel to Florida to take on a dominant defensive line and senior Will Grier of West Virginia has to handle a nasty Texas defense.
Outside of top quarterback play, there are rivalries and marquee games with playoff implications: Penn State at Michigan and Georgia traveling to Kentucky to face a Top 10 team.
And then there is The Game: No. 1 Alabama traveling to face No. 3 LSU. Not only is this the biggest game of the 2018 season so far, it's also a dream for NFL scouts.
When the ball is kicked off at 8 p.m. Eastern and either offense takes the field, scouts will be paying attention. A lot of them.
When Alabama has the ball on offense, scouts won't just be looking at 2019 draft prospects. They're also keeping an eye on the 2020 class.
"You try to focus on seniors and some juniors, but it's impossible to not look at Tua [Tagovailoa] given his athleticism and arm talent," said an area scout familiar with both schools. Tagovailoa, a true sophomore who isn't eligible for the NFL draft until 2020, is already the talk of the town, according to scouts assigned to the area.
The Alabama offense flows through Tagovailoa, but the rest of the starters are NFL priorities, too.
"When you go to Alabama [to scout], you just print the depth chart and get notes on the two-deep," said an NFL college scouting director tasked with assigning schedules and keeping track of draftable players at each school. "That's how many of them will play on Sundays."
Junior Jonah Williams (offensive tackle) and seniors Lester Cotton Sr. (guard) and Ross Pierschbacher (center) anchor the offensive line and are all considered draftable prospects; in fact, Williams is a potential first-round prospect. Alabama is young when it comes to skill-position talent, but running back Damien Harris and tight end Irv Smith Jr. could be among the top players selected at their respective positions.
The LSU offense doesn't feature as many upperclassman draft prospects, but tight end Foster Moreau is already catching the attention of scouts as a potential Day 3 player.
The real value here is in the defense. And boy oh boy, there are a lot of prospects in this game.
Alabama's defensive line alone features three top-50 prospects, with Quinnen Williams (top five) and Raekwon Davis (top 20) as standout performers. Linebacker Mack Wilson should be a first-rounder, while fellow linebacker Christian Miller is in the top 100 and Anfernee Jennings is another potential first-rounder if he leaves school early as a redshirt junior. Scouts are also already excited about true sophomore linebacker Dylan Moses as a top-10 prospect in 2020.
In the Crimson Tide secondary, free safety Deionte Thompson is a bona fide top-10 prospect as the lone defensive back expected to declare. He's a natural center fielder with the range and instincts to be an immediate NFL star.
Defense is also a strength for LSU. Linebacker Devin White and cornerback Greedy Williams are both the top-ranked prospects at their respective positions. White's stock in particular has soared due to a strong 2018 season in which he's shown his top-tier athleticism and improved instincts.
The defensive line is usually a strength for LSU, and it is once again this year even with the loss of edge-rusher K'Lavon Chaisson to injury. Junior defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence could be a Round 2 pick should he decide to declare.
Searching for a safety? Look no further than Grant Delpit, who one area scout told me is the "next Minkah Fitzpatrick, but better."
The game itself will be fascinating, but if you're into scouting, this is the one you've been waiting for.
The Scout's Report
—Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams' draft stock has taken off like a rocket. The redshirt sophomore defensive tackle has accumulated 8.5 tackles for a loss in eight games and is showing the pass-rushing moves and athleticism worthy of a top-five selection. Some in the NFL scouting community believe Williams projects better to the NFL than Ed Oliver (Houston) or Dexter Lawrence (Clemson). "You see a guy with that body (6'4, 295 lbs) and quickness and you know he's well-coached. He's one of the safer players in the class."
—Another Alabama prospect named Williams, this time left tackle Jonah, is a player scouts advised moving down the board. "He's a guard," said one scout. There are concerns about Williams' 6'5" frame if he doesn't have the arm length desired for the outside.
—Did the New England Patriots want Jaire Alexander in the 2018 NFL draft? Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk shared a quote from head coach Bill Belichick in which he stated: "[He] was one of the top players on the board. I think he'll be one of the top corners in the league for a quite a while now."
—More Patriots news: Boston Globe reporter Ben Volin tweeted his belief that New England didn't make a move at the NFL trade deadline because it is stockpiling picks for the 2019 draft class. The target? A quarterback. Per Volin, the team has a first-round pick, two second-round picks, one third and the potential of adding two more compensatory third-rounders.
—Quenton Nelson was the No. 3-rated player on my 2018 draft board, and the Indianapolis Colts are already seeing the payoff after selecting him. Nelson was just named the Offensive Rookie of the Month for October. Per the Colts, this is the first time an offensive guard has ever been named Rookie of the Month.
Stock Up: Florida Edge-Rusher Jachai Polite
As good as the 2019 edge-rusher class looks, there is still room for movement up the board. That's what's happened with Florida's Jachai Polite. A junior with a powerful 6'2", 242-pound frame, Polite has been unstoppable coming off the corner with seven sacks, 9.5 tackles for a loss and four forced fumbles this season. He's a legitimate top 15-target.
Stock Up: Iowa Tight End Noah Fant
Iowa knows tight ends, and junior Noah Fant is not only the best in the draft class, but he's already the top-ranked skill player in the entire 2019 crop. Fant ranks higher than any running back or wide receiver on my board. With off-the-charts athleticism on a 6'5", 241-pound frame, it's easy to see why some scouts are comparing Fant to Jimmy Graham.
Stock Down: Ohio State Quarterback Dwayne Haskins
Scouts hoped Dwayne Haskins could fill the quarterback void in the 2019 draft class, but with the schedule turning tougher, the first-year starter is beginning to struggle. Haskins has undeniable potential and a gifted arm, but he's missing more targets and has regressed in terms of seeing the field. In a shallow quarterback class, Haskins could still declare and be the top-ranked quarterback, but his stock is trending down as November starts.
Stock Down: Stanford Bryce Love Stanford
Remember Bryce Love? The 2017 Heisman finalist rushed for over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns last season but has been an afterthought during an injury-plagued senior season. Love has only 419 yards in six games and has scored only three touchdowns, the last of which came on Sept. 29. Scouts were already torn on Love because of his smaller size (5'10", 196 lbs), and now there is major concern about his ability to handle the wear and tear of a season.
The Big Board
It's time to update the big board. Here's my most recent top 32:
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
2. Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
3. Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
4. Devin White, LB, LSU
5. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
6. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
7. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
8. Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
9. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
10. Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
11. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
12. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
13. Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
14. Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State
15. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
16. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
17. Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
18. Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
19. Dre'Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State
20. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
21. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
22. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
23. Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
24. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
25. Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
26. Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
27. Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
28. Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
29. Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
30. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
31. David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
32. Irv Smith, TE, Alabama
Each week throughout the rest of the season and up until the NFL draft, you can send your questions in via Twitter to be answered here.
USC may indeed have to make big changes, and it's easy to look at a few coaches winning at smaller programs as potential hires. The problem is that USC isn't the top-tier job it used to be. Whomever the school hires would have to rebuild the culture.
Charlie Strong (USF) has shown an ability to do that in previous stints, but it's hard to picture him in California. The turnaround at Syracuse makes Dino Babers an interesting candidate. The same goes for the job Jason Candle has done at Toledo.
The top name on my board, though, wouldn't even be a current college head coach.
Ohio State's Ryan Day took over a tumultuous situation when Urban Meyer was suspended and handled it perfectly. He was mentioned last offseason as a potential NFL offensive coordinator, so you know he's well-respected, too.
If USC wants a smart, innovative, hungry young mind, it should call Day.
There isn't a Khalil Mack at a small school or Carson Wentz in this draft class—or even a guy like Marcus Davenport at a tiny FBS, who was shooting up boards by this time last year.
Delaware safety Nasir Adderly is a potential top-100 senior, and fellow safety Chris Johnson (North Alabama) is also seen as worthy of a Day 3 draft pick. As of now, North Dakota State senior quarterback Easton Stick ranks as the top overall FCS player on my board with a Day 3 grade.
7. We knew Aaron Donald was good, but this is just ridiculous. It might be time to give him far more national love for MVP.
6. The NFL season has given us a half-season of games thus far, which means there's a clear picture emerging of what the draft order will look like. Here's the current order based on win-loss percentage and strength of schedule.
1. San Francisco 49ers
2. New York Giants
3. Oakland Raiders
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. Buffalo Bills
6. Cleveland Browns
7. New York Jets
8. Indianapolis Colts
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
10. Denver Broncos
11. Detroit Lions
12. Tennessee Titans
13. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)
14. Atlanta Falcons
15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
16. Philadelphia Eagles
17. Miami Dolphins
18. Baltimore Ravens
19. Green Bay Packers
20. Minnesota Vikings
21. Seattle Seahawks
22. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)
23. Houston Texans
24. Cincinnati Bengals
25. Pittsburgh Steelers
26. Washington Redskins
27. Los Angeles Chargers
28. Carolina Panthers
29. New England Patriots
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans)
31. Kansas City Chiefs
32. Los Angeles Rams
5. This is the earliest I've ever added an Underclassman Watch List to the Scouting Notebook, but with two juniors now declared for the draft, it's time to start tracking:
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
4. Game balls for Week 9 of college football:
Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State: 40-of-50, 438 yards, 3 TD
Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse: 27-of-38, 411 yards, 3 TD
J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona: 30 carries, 212 yards, 2 TD
Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State: 11 catches, 247 yards, 2 TD
Tylan Wallace, WR, Oklahoma State: 10 catches, 222 yards, 2 TD
3. Here are the college games you'll want to scout this weekend:
No. 6 Georgia at No. 9 Kentucky
No. 13 West Virginia at No. 17 Texas
No. 14 Penn State at No. 5 Michigan
Missouri at No. 11 Florida
No. 1 Alabama at No. 3 LSU
2. The Stick to Football tailgate tour schedule has two stops left. Make sure to come out and meet the crew!
November 10: Joplin, MO (Missouri Southern vs. Pitt State)
November 24: Columbus, OH (Ohio State vs. Michigan)
1. Stick to Football covers the NFL trade deadline with rumors and news on the Wednesday show. Friday brings us previews and picks, plus a special spooky Top Five. And don't forget our Joplin, Missouri, tailgate coming up on November 10 when Missouri Southern hosts Pitt State. Check out the podcast and subscribe if you haven't already. We will also post a ton of behind-the-scenes content on our Instagram page.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.