2017 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps – Week 1

This section breaks down many college football games each week and highlights how 2017 NFL Draft Prospects have performed. Or look at the 2017 NFL Draft Stock page (link coming soon).

By Charlie Campbell.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

Florida State 45, Ole Miss 34
  • One of the stars for the 2017 NFL Draft is Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. Ole Miss was selling out to stop Cook and make Florida State beat them through the air. While the Rebels were successful in limiting Cook in the first half on the ground, Cook hurt them through the air with his tremendous receiving skills.

    In the first quarter, Cook made a superb leaping reception in between two defenders. He had another long catch midway through the second quarter, and got wide open in busted coverage. He could have coasted into the end zone, but Cook flat out dropped the ball and it rolled out of bounds at the 4-yard line. It was a four-point mistake because Florida State had to settle for a field goal.

    In the second half, Cook broke free a little bit more, but still was contained compared to his normal games. He totaled 91 yards on 23 carries, but Cook did damage through the air with seven receptions for 101 yards. Overall, this tape shouldn’t hurt Cook, and if anything it could help him because he was fabulous as a receiver.

  • Some have rated Florida State left tackle Roderick Johnson as the top offensive line prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft. NFL sources say that they weren’t very impressed with Johnson during fall practice and definitely liked Alabama’s Cam Robinson more. That opinion was given clarity against Ole Miss as Johnson had an ugly game. Ole Miss junior defensive end Marquis Haynes is a pass rushing demon that will be playing in the NFL in a year or two.

    In the running game, Johnson was getting zero push at the point of attack. He sustained blocks at the line of scrimmage, but he had to fight hard for stalemates. Early on his pass protection was decent, but then he started giving up pressures to the inside.

    In the final seconds of the second quarter, Haynes knocked Johnson flat on his butt before laying a bone-rattling hit on the quarterback. Luckily for Johnson the throw got out for a touchdown, but his signal caller was with the trainers after the play. In the third quarter Haynes beat Johnson with a speed rush around the corner for a sack. Johnson was called for a holding, but even with the hold he couldn’t stop Haynes.

    In the fourth quarter Johnson was almost beat for another sack. Overall, this was an ugly tape from Johnson. He looked nothing like a top-20 pick. He looked more like a day-two selection.

    It wasn’t all good for Haynes either. In the third quarter, Haynes had Deondre Francois sacked, but he missed the tackle and Francois turned that into a 31-yard run for Florida State. Haynes draft stock should hold steady. It was clear as a sophomore and freshman that Haynes is a dangerous pass-rusher, but is very undersized and needs to get stronger in run defense for the NFL. That looks to remain the case after the season opener.

  • Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly is an early-round prospect for the NFL and he had some tremendous throws against Florida State. On the opening drive, Kelly had an impressive possession as he read the field well and distributed the ball to a variety of targets. He converted with a quick slant for a short touchdown strike. On the next possession, Kelly had a nice run to convert a second-and-10, but he threw a pass well short of his target after starring down the receiver and Seminoles safety Derwin James intercepted the pass.

    Kelly came back to move the ball by using his tight end Evan Engram and Kelly was seeing the field well. That drive ended with a touchdown pass, but Kelly made a bad throw that his receiver bailed him out on by deflecting the pass to himself out of the hands of the cornerback.

    Later in the second quarter, Kelly showed some poor field vision as he had a receiver wide open in the middle of the field in busted coverage. Instead, he forced a screen pass to a well-covered receiver that lost seven yards on the play. However Kelly came back to anticipate well and led Engram open into the end zone for a 21-yard score. Just before halftime, Kelly converted a third-and-10 with a run of about 15 and then lofted in perfectly placed 27-yard pass to Quincy Adeboyejo.

    As well as everything went for Kelly in the first half, the opposite happened in the second as Engram dropped a pass for an interception and then Kelly was strip-sacked on the next possession. In the fourth quarter, Kelly made a few great throws including a 32-yarded to Engram and then a well-anticipated throw leading his freshman receiver open in the end zone. However, he had a terribly inaccurate pass get intercepted in the closing minutes to end any comeback hopes for Ole Miss.

    Kelly completed 21-of-39 passes for 312 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, although one of those picks wasn’t his fault. He also did well picking up yards on the ground. Overall, this tape confirms Kelly’s gun-slinger style of play. He has the arm to make any throw, but could stand to get more consistent in his field vision, accuracy, and decision-making.

  • Engram showed that he is a dynamic receiving tight end for the NFL in the mold of Jordan Reed. On the first drive, Engram had two receptions including one for close to 20 yards as Engram showed good concentration to secure the ball with a safety bearing down on him to deliver a big hit. He did drop a pass on the next drive, but made a tough catch on an out route shortly later.

    In the second quarter, Engram worked the middle of the field on a slant and showed a burst after the catch to get a gain of 26 yards. That play set up a short touchdown pass two plays later. On the next drive, Engram got open for a 21-yard touchdown. Engram had seven receptions for 72 yards and a score at the half.

    Engram had a painful mistake to open the third quarter as he dropped a pass and it was intercepted on the deflection. Early in the fourth quarter, Engram came back to make a superb catch of 32 yards with a defender all over him. Engram totaled 120 yards on nine receptions with a touchdown. It would be a major stock up if it weren’t for those two dropped passes and the interception in the third quarter that was a huge play to help Florida State make their massive comeback win.

  • Florida State defensive end Demarcus Walker could have been a second-day pick if he entered the 2016 NFL Draft, but he decided to return for his senior year. In the first half, Walker was a ghost as Ole Miss ripped the ball through the Florida State defense. Walker came alive after halftime when he beat the left tackle with a swim move to the inside and strip-sacked Kelly. Florida State recovered the ball at the Ole Miss 11-yard line. Shortly later, Walker beat the left guard with a swim move to sack Kelly again. Later in the fourth quarter, Walker combined twice with teammates to join in on sacks of Kelly. Walker then swam by the right guard to get another sack. He was absolutely dominating Ole Miss offensive line and this game will definitely help improve Walker’s draft stock.

    Texas 50, Notre Dame 47
  • During fall training camp, sources told WalterFootball.com that they saw a first-round talent in Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey. Last season, McGlinchey started at right tackle with Ronnie Stanley starting on the blind side, but with Stanley in the NFL, McGlinchey was moved to the left side for his senior year.

    McGlinchey played very well against Texas, and this was an impressive start to his final collegiate season. There were only two plays that he didn’t do well, but on the vast majority, he was very effective at executing his assignment. He was called for a holding penalty in the second quarter, but that was questionable. In the final frame, McGlinchey had his man blocked but the quarterback scrambled forward and the end was able to work back to the line to get in on a coverage sack. A Texas penalty negated the sack, however.

    As a run blocker, McGlinchey can get movement at the point of attack. He flashes heavy hands to push defenders out of their gap and open holes for his back. He is quick out of his stance and able to fire to the second level. McGlinchey isn’t just a finesse player and gets physical with defenders.

    In the pass protection, McGlinchey was impressive. He looked natural at left tackle and one wouldn’t have thought that he wasn’t playing the position last year. McGlinchey showed excellent feet to get depth in his kick slide and cut off speed rushers. He also had a nice ability to bend at the knee, and that in combination with his feet kept him from having to reach after edge rushers. McGlinchey was rock solid against Texas in an impressive performance. This tape was that of a future starting left tackle in the NFL and a first-round pick.

  • Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer had an impressive sophomore season in 2015, and he started this year with a tremendous game against Texas. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder has a strong arm with a fastball that can he fire into tight windows to beat good coverage, and he shows the ability to loft in accurate touch passes. Kizer had a phenomenal start to the season against the Longhorns.

    Kizer threw some beautiful passes including a 30-yard touchdown. He also had an impressive run on a zone read for a touchdown of 29 yards. He had another perfect pass in between three defenders with the pass rush bearing down on him, but a tremendous hit on Torii Hunter Jr. caused an incompletion in the end zone. It was still a beautiful pass from Kizer. He followed that up with another incredible touch pass while standing flat footed because of the pass rush, but it was still perfectly thrown to beat good coverage for a 17-yard score.

    Throughout the night, Kizer showed excellent decision-making while maintaing poise under pass rush. He protected the football and made extraordinary passes into tight windows. Kizer completed 15-of-24 passes for 215 yards with five touchdowns. He ran for 77 yards on 13 carries with another score. Kizer has the skill set to be one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.

    Georgia 33, North Carolina 24
  • This was an important game for Georgia junior running back Nick Chubb. Chubb dominated the SEC as a freshman and continued to tear up the competition before an ACL tear ended his sophomore season. Against a quality North Carolina team, Chubb showed NFL evaluators he is healthy and ready to roll this season.

    In the first quarter, Chubb immediately started ripping off yardage in chunks. He showed his quickness, power and cutting ability to move the chains. He had his 22nd-career rushing touchdown late in the first quarter from a couple yards out. Throughout the game, Chubb was running hard with his trademark ability to get yards after contact and break tackles from defenders. To close out the win, Chubb took off on a 55-yard touchdown run and showed his strength and balance to stay inbounds while a defender shoved him along the sideline. He totaled 222 yards on 32 carries with those two scores.

    Not only did Chubb run well, but he showed some nice blitz pick up at times. Chubb doesn’t quite have the full speed and explosion that he had before his knee injury. Considering it is less than a year since he was hurt, that is understandable and it should come back in time. Even at 80-90 percent, Chubb proved that he remains a devastating runner capable of dominating a defense. This game will definitely help improve Chubb’s draft stock with NFL teams.

  • North Carolina has some defensive back prospects for the NFL with cornerback Des Lawrence, cornerback M.J. Stewart and safety Donnie Miles, but this wasn’t a good game to evaluate them, as Georgia barely passed the ball. Between their two quarterbacks, the Bulldogs were 13-of-20 for 185 yards. They had a very conservative game plan, keeping the ball on the ground. Thus, those defenders will be better to evaluate in other games this season.

  • North Carolina has a power back of its own in Elijah Hood. He had a quality performance with 72 yards on 10 carries. He had a nice run of 32 yards in which he broke three tackles including two at the second level. Hood is a solid college back, but for the NFL he looks limited as he lacks a burst and first-step quickness. He needs three or four steps to get going and is only a north-south runner. He doesn’t have the feet to be elusive or run laterally. Hood looks like a day-three talent and rotational back for the NFL.

  • Last year as a sophomore, Dominick Sanders was a ballhawk with six interceptions and showed a lot of coverage skills. However, Sanders had questions about his tackling and run defense entering this year. Against North Carolina, Sanders didn’t show improvement. Early on, he took a terrible angle on a stretch run to let the back have an outside lane on a gain of 35. That play could have been about 30 yards shorter if Sanders took a better angle. Sanders then took a terrible lane on the opening kickoff of the second half and that allowed the returner to break down the field for a touchdown. Shortly later, he squatted on route but missed a diving breakup and tackle that allowed a big reception that set up a touchdown for North Carolina.

    Sanders did have one nice play in pass coverage to prevent a deep completion downfield, but the tackling and run defense issues look just as serious and this game will hurt Sanders’ draft grade.

    Clemson 19, Auburn 13
  • Most projections have Clemson junior quarterback Deshaun Watson as the top draft eligible signal-caller for the 2017 NFL Draft. While Watson didn’t duplicate the electric performance he had to conclude the 2015 season in the National Championship, he made enough plays to lead his team to a hard-fought win. Auburn’s defense played well and kept Watson from going wild.

    On the first drive, Watson made some good throws but also had a potential pick-six dropped by Auburn safety Jonathan Ford. Watson then stared down his target and that led the linebacker to get in the throwing lane and break up the pass.

    In the second quarter, Watson threw some accurate passes to produce points for Clemson. Watson later made a bad pass when he sailed a throw over his receiver and it was snatched for an interception. Watson came back to make a beautiful touchdown pass in the back of the end zone to Hunter Renfrow. The ball was perfectly placed to throw Renfrow open.

    Watson completed 19-of-34 passes for 248 yards with a score and an interception. He also ran for 21 yards on 11 carries. Watson was generally accurate and he managed the game well. The credit for his subdued performance is more deserving to go toward a good defensive performance by Auburn rather than Watson playing poorly.

  • Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams had a triumphant return to the field. A year ago in the season opener, he fractured his neck crashing into the goal post while making a leaping touchdown reception. That ended his season, but Williams picked up where he left off in 2014 with an impressive game minus a couple of hiccups.

    In the second quarter, Clemson got Williams involved and he had three catches for 51 yards with nice hands on a few plays including a sliding catch, back-shoulder grab, and a slant. Those receptions helped set up a short touchdown run. However shortly later Williams fumbled the ball away after getting stripped while fighting for extra yards.

    In the third quarter he made a tremendous juggling catch after Auburn’s Carlton Davis batted the ball. Early in the fourth quarter Williams continued to work the sideline and back shoulder routes, but he dropped an easy touchdown pass on a quick slant. Williams totaled nine receptions for 174 yards and was unstoppable on the sideline back-shoulder plays. If it weren’t for the fumble and dropped touchdown, this would be a major stock-up performance for Williams. Still, it was a net positive to see him be so effective in his first full game since the 2014 season.

  • Clemson junior tailback Wayne Gallman ran tough in the season opener despite Auburn’s defense playing really well. In the second quarter, Gallman banged the ball into the end zone on a fourth-and-goal for his first score of the season. Gallman had some clutch runs late in the fourth quarter to eat up yards and time off the clock. He totaled 123 yards on 30 carries with one reception for eight yards.

    One reason this game tape could help Gallman with the NFL is he had some excellent blitz pickups. Gallman showed a nice ability to diagnose the blitzes and execute blocks to give Watson some time to throw the ball. If Gallman continues to thrive in blitz protection, it will really help him to convince NFL teams that he has three-down starting potential as a pro.

  • The Clemson defense was superb to lead the Tigers to a road win in the season opener. One player who led the way was defensive tackle Carlos Watkins. The lone starter from last season’s defensive line who didn’t go to the NFL, Watkins was extremely disruptive at the point of attack. His stat line may not be huge, but he was showing a lot of speed and strength to get off blocks while causing problems in the backfield.

  • Auburn’s defense really played tremendously to limit the high-powered Clemson offense to less than 20 points. Senior defensive tackle Montravius Adams flashed well on some plays, getting close to sacks and showing more consistent hustle than he did last year. If Adams can maintain his effort and produce up to his talent level, he should improve his draft stock into the second-day territory.

    Defensive end Carl Lawson was quiet for a lot of the game, but in the the third quarter, Lawson beat the right tackle with a speed rush and that pressure helped produce an interception for Auburn. Lawson had a few other pass rushes in the fourth quarter that were impressive. He looked rusty to start the game, but Lawson is a talented athlete who could rise this season.

    Alabama 52, USC 6
  • During training camp, sources from multiple teams told WalterFootball.com that Alabama redshirt sophomore cornerback Marlon Humphrey was a high first-round talent. Hupmhrey was going to be challenged by a potential first-round pick in USC junior wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, a player Nick Saban compared to Dez Bryant. If one of those players got the better of the other, it would definitely help their draft stock.

    Humphrey quickly displayed his physicality as early in the first quarter, he flew up to make a bone-rattling hit on a jet sweep for a tackle for a loss. Humphrey then ran stride for stride down the sideline with Smith-Schuster to cause an incompletion. Late in the second quarter, Humphrey caught a deflected pass and returned it about 18 yards for a touchdown. In the second half, he continued to be active and provide good coverage. This was a good tape to start the season for Humphrey.

    Conversely, Smith-Schuster didn’t record his first reception until late in the third quarter. One of the questions about Smith-Schuster entering this season was if he had the speed to separate from NFL caliber cornerbacks. Against Humphrey and sophomore Minkah Fitzpatrick, Smith-Schuster was not getting open. Overall, this was a bad tape that could hurt Smith-Schuster’s draft grade.

  • Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen could have been a first-round pick if he entered the 2016 NFL Draft, but he decided to return for his senior year. Allen was superb against USC. At the end of the first quarter, a backup left tackle left Allen completely unblocked and it was an easy first sack of the season for Allen. Shortly later, Allen helped clean up a coverage sack for Alabama. He joined in other tackles for a loss and almost intercepted a pass. Allen was very disruptive, using his speed and strength to put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. He was very fast off the line scrimmage and caused lots of havoc. This tape illustrates why Allen is a first-round talent.

  • USC junior cornerback Adoree’ Jackson is a potential first-rounder, and he had a phenomenal start to the season. Jackson had an excellent game as he shut down Alabama star sophomore wide receiver Calvin Ridley. He held Ridley to only two receptions for nine yards on the night. In the second quarter, Jackson had tight coverage on Ridley running a deep post and Jackson was able to slap the pass away for an incompletion.

    Aside from shutting down one of the best wideouts in college football, twice in the game, Jackson showed his speed by chasing down a running back downfield and making touchdown saving tackles on long runs. Jackson also had a 40-yard kick return. While it was a rough night for USC, Jackson gave the NFL proof that he is a serious cover corner prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft.

  • With USC shutting down Ridley, Alabama junior wide receiver ArDarius Stewart took advantage of single and busted coverage as he totaled 113 yards on four receptions with two touchdowns. It was a breakout performance for Stewart in what could be a big season if defenses continue to neglect him.

  • Alabama senior tight end O.J. Howard had a nice start to his final collegiate season. He showed some improvement as a blocker. The Crimson Tide didn’t target him much in the passing game, but he caught three passes for 39 yards. Howard is in the running to be the top tight end prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft.

  • Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson is in the running to be the top tackle prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft, and he illustrated why against USC. In the ground game, Robinson was dominant, as he was getting a serious push at the point of attack. Robinson was pushing defenders around and getting movement with his power. In the passing game, it was a quiet night for Robinson, and that’s a good thing. He didn’t allow pressures on the quarterback and showed improvement in his technique. Robinson looked better bending at the knee and in his kick slide. This was a nice start to the season for Robinson, and sources that went to Alabama training camp practices said they liked what they saw from him.

    Texas A&M 31, UCLA 24
  • Texas A&M superstar edge rusher Myles Garrett was taking on a quality UCLA left tackle in Conor McDermott in this matchup. Garrett is a near lock as a top-five pick and McDermott has early-round potential. Star sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen was the hunted target, so this was a great test for the UCLA duo and Garrett.

    In the first quarter, Garrett got by McDermott with a spin move to put a hard hit on Rosen. Garrett then used power to shed McDermott and close on Rosen. Garrett was giving McDermott a lot of issues with his speed and some bull rushers. Late in the third quarter, Garrett bull rushed through McDermott to sack Rosen. It was an impressive play where Garrett showed his functional strength and had McDermott on roller-skates. The very next play, Garrett spun off McDermott to get a tackle for a loss. McDermott had Garrett blocked initially on that play, but Garrett’s motor didn’t quit and he made the play.

    Garrett didn’t make any other splash plays, but he was applying a steady stream of pressure on the quarterback. This game will only serve to confirm his status as a top-of-the-draft talent. I have Garrett second on my big board, but will probably move him to first and Leonard Fournette down to second.

    While McDermott had problems with Garrett, it wasn’t a meltdown performance for him. He had some solid plays against Garrett and didn’t get a lot of double team help. McDermott’s draft grade should hold steady after this game.

  • Garrett isn’t the only future NFL edge rusher for Texas A&M. Senior defensive end Daeshon Hall is a potential second-day pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. It was a bad start to the game as Hall had a bad late hit on Rosen. That helped set up a field goal for the Bruins. Midway through the first quarter, Hall was getting in on a sack of Rosen and forced him to throw a ball up for grabs that was intercepted. He followed that up with a tackle for a loss on a third-down draw. After a hot start to the game, Hall was quiet in the second half and in the fourth quarter when the Aggies lost their lead. Hall looks like a second-day or mid-round talent.

    Wisconsin 16, LSU 14
  • LSU superstar running back Leonard Fournette basically just has to stay healthy in order to be a high first-round pick. The freak athlete is considered to be a prospect on a par with Todd Gurley and Adrian Peterson according to NFL sources. However, Walter Football.com reported the day before this game that sources said that Fournette’s high ankle sprain he suffered in training camp was worse than LSU was letting on. That was given proof on Saturday as Fournette played well, but wasn’t quite as dominant as he was in 2015 action.

    In the first half, Fournette really did not look like himself as he totaled 35 yards on 11 carries. He didn’t have the same burst and was more tentative than how he looked in 2015. In the third quarter, Fournette got rolling with a couple of runs banging through defenders including a run of 30 yards that featured him running over a defensive back and trucking ahead for more yards. Fournette also ran a nice route to make a 31-yard reception with a safety bearing down on him right after making the catch. He continued to run well through the end of the game.

    Fournette totaled 138 yards on 23 carries with three catches for 38 yards. He showed his rare vision, power, body lean and natural running feel. The ankle injury seems to be robbing him of some of his top speed and explosiveness, but Fournette at 75 or 80 percent is still a tremendous runner. He is showing his toughness by playing at less than 100 percent and his team-first attitude by playing rather than protecting his draft status by sitting out. Fournette remains a top-of-the-draft talent.

  • Wisconsin running back Corey Clement missed most of the 2015 season with an injury, so this was an important game for him as he was going against an LSU defense with a lot of NFL talent. Clement had a solid return to the field with some impressive runs. In the third quarter, Clement was running hard and picking up yards after contact. That was seen on a touchdown run where he pushed through a few defenders to get to the goal line. Clement totaled 86 yards on 21 carries in quality start to the season.

  • LSU junior safety Jamal Adams is a consensus top-20 talent, according to NFL sources. Surprisingly, Adams had a bit of a quiet game against Wisconsin. Early on, he had a lowlight as Adams tripped in coverage and that allowed a receiver to get open for a 21-yard reception. In the first quarter, linebacker Kendall Beckwith made a nice play to cut through the line and start a tackle for a loss with Adams on a fourth-and-1 attempt.

    In the second quarter, Adams almost made a diving interception but he couldn’t hold onto the ball when he landed hard on the ground. He got in on some tackles and was sound in coverage, but he didn’t have a big presence against Wisconsin.

  • Last year, the NFL Draft Advisory Board gave LSU cornerback Tre’Davious White a report of a second-round grade and he decided to return for his senior year. White certainly started his final season strong against Wisconsin and this performance will help to improve on that second round estimation.

    White had tight coverage on a crossing route to slap a pass away early on. He later had blanket coverage on a receiver along the sideline. The quarterback threw a pass straight to White, and he ran across the field before turing up field on a 21-yard pick-six.

    On the next drive, White was Johnny on the spot as a Wisconsin receiver fumbled the ball away and White recovered it for LSU. White slapped another pass away on the next drive. It was a strong start to the season that will help White to grade out as a first- or second-round pick.

  • LSU wide receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre are both early-round talents who are held back by playing with a terrible quarterback. Dural played really well against Wisconsin. He had a corner beaten on a double move and drew a hold to prevent a long touchdown. In the third quarter, Dural caught a pass in the flat and juked a defensive back to dart into the end zone with 10-yard touchdown. Dural finished with five catches for 50 yards. Dupre didn’t play as well with some drops, and he caught three passes for 24 yards.

    West Virginia 26, Missouri 11
  • One of the most exciting edge rush prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft is Missouri’s Charles Harris. He flashed last season with 7.5 sacks and a ton of pressure off the edge. Many believed that Harris was poised for a massive 2016 season – Walt has him in the top 10 of his 2017 NFL Mock Draft – but Harris’ season opener was a big letdown as he was extremely quiet.

    In the pass rush, Harris was getting upfield but wasn’t not getting a ton of heat on the quarterback and didn’t record a sack. He was very quiet throughout the first half. Just before halftime, Harris had a nice speed to power rush to the inside that almost resulted in a sack. While Harris didn’t get to the quarterback, his pressure helped result in a fumble that Missouri recovered inside the West Virginia 10-yard line. That was his best play of the game.

    In the second half, Harris had a nice rush with a spin move to the inside that resulted in him hitting the quarterback just after the ball was released. That was about it.

    As a run defender, Harris had a few nice plays where he fired into the backfield to disrupt runs, but there were other plays where he was pushed around. His motor was unimpressive as well.

    For Harris to be a high first-round pick, he is going to need to turn things around dramatically in the games to come. This was a very underwhelming start to the season.

    Houston 33, Oklahoma 23
  • Oklahoma redshirt junior quarterback Baker Mayfield closed out the 2015 season in impressive fashion to become a Heisman Trophy contender, leading the Sooners into the playoff before they were dropped by Clemson. Mayfield is a good college quarterback who needs to develop his pocket passing. This game illustrated that Mayfield isn’t a finished product after this offseason. Mayfield started the game well, but got flustered by Houston’s pass rush and he held onto the ball way too long. He didn’t seem to trust his eyes and was too quick to scramble even when the pass rush wasn’t there.

    Mayfield threw some nice passes including when he lofted a beauty for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but he was rattled and running around too much in the pocket rather than hanging tough and delivering accurate passes. He completed 24-of-33 attempts for 323 yards with two touchdowns, but he didn’t play as well as the numbers suggest. In the games to come, improving his field vision, feel, and pocket passing is necessary for Mayfield to have any chance of being an early-round prospect. This performance looked more like a day-three quarterback.

  • Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (5-11, 185) isn’t a pro quarterback prospect as he is very undersized. He’s shown improvement of his passing ability since last year, but he still lacks the arm strength and size to be a pocket passing quarterback in the NFL. Ward is a dynamic athlete that should move to wide receiver or cornerback for the NFL.

  • Perhaps the best pro prospect in this game was Oklahoma junior cornerback Jordan Thomas. It was a quiet game for Thomas, but that was because he did a great job of shutting down Houston wide receiver Chance Allen. Allen is on the Senior Bowl watch list after a productive 2015 season. Thomas held him to one reception for five yards. Thomas was superb at blanketing Allen and preventing separation. In the second half, he had a nice play, beating a block and getting a tackle for a loss on a wide receiver screen. Thomas is an early-round talent who could rise high this season.

  • With Allen getting locked down, Houston junior wide receiver Steven Dunbar stepped up and had an impressive performance, taking advantage of a freshman cornerback. He broke tackles to get yards after the catch while also making some difficult receptions along the sideline. Dunbar did miss a big play when a diving reception went through his hands. He came back to move the chains with some tough, clutch catches and was very dangerous with the ball in his hands. Dunbar totaled 125 yards on seven receptions in what was a nice coming-out party for him.

  • Oklahoma defensive tackle/end Charles Walker had an impressive performance. He had some blistering hits on the quarterback and also got in on a number of tackles for a loss in the run game. Walker showed the strength to shed blocks and the quickness to close. This was a nice start to the season for Walker and illustrated why I have him going on day two in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft.

  • One of the stars of this game was Houston senior cornerback Brandon Wilson. He was solid in pass coverage and made a few splash plays that pushed Houston to his huge upset. The highlight that everyone will see is Wilson returning a 53-yard field goal attempt for a touchdown. He caught the ball in the back of the end zone and raced down the field. He hurdled his own teammate and kept his feet to finish off his tremendous return for what ended up being the game-winning score.

    Shortly later, Wilson recovered a fumble to set up more Houston points. Wilson then had tight coverage to slap a pass away on a two-point conversion attempt. It was a great game for Wilson and will definitely help his draft stock.

    Stanford 26, Kansas State 13
  • Last year, I thought that Christian McCaffrey deserved to win the Heisman Trophy over Derrick Henry because McCaffrey carried his team while Henry benefitted from a defense that was loaded with NFL talent. In this 2016 opener, McCaffrey picked up where he left off in the first half, producing some huge plays despite a defense selling out to stop him. In the second half, Kansas State mostly held McCaffrey in check, but he was able to clinch the game for Stanford in the fourth quarter.

    McCaffrey started the contest with a nifty kick return of 28 yards and that set the tone for his 2016 debut. He continued his impressive play with some nice runs and receptions. Midway through the first quarter, McCaffrey returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown, but it was called back by a questionable block in the block penalty.

    McCaffrey was too much for Kansas State in the second quarter. He started juking defenders left and right to rip off good yardage. To finish the drive, he ripped off a 35-yard touchdown run where he showed his great patience, vision, cutting ability and explosiveness.

    As mentioned, McCaffrey was locked down in the second half, as the Wildcats showed strong gap integrity and kept holes from opening up. McCaffrey, however, put the game on ice with a 41-yard touchdown run. McCaffrey ran for 126 yards on 22 carries with two scores. He had seven receptions for 40 yards with a 28-yard kick return and a 16-yard punt return.

    This game illustrated that McCaffrey is a diverse and dynamic playmaker. He has tremendous burst, vision, patience, elusiveness, and feel. He doesn’t have the size or power to get a lot of yards after contact, and in the NFL he may not thrive as a bell-cow back. However, there is no doubt that McCaffrey is a scoring threat, and this game illustrates that he’s an early-round talent.

  • Stanford senior wide receiver Michael Rector has the speed to be a vertical threat. Midway through the first quarter, he ran a go route down the middle of the field and burned the corner for a 40-yard touchdown reception. Rector finished with four catches for 73 yards. He’s a sleeper receiver to keep an eye on this season.

    South Carolina 13, Vanderbilt 10
  • One of the breakout players in the SEC during 2015 was Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham. He was a first-team all-SEC selection, and while NFL teams don’t care about conference all-star picks, they did notice Cunningham’s play and he is firmly on the radar entering this season according to sources. His showing against South Carolina gave evidence as to why as he had an excellent performance against the Gamecocks.

    Cunningham showed an excellent skill set with the speed to fly around the field. He was consistently showing good instincts to fire into the backfield to blow up plays or make tackles for short gains. He was a very physical tackler who put ball-carriers into the turf with authority, and he used his strength to take on blockers. Generally he was a reliable tackler and was rarely ever caught out of position. Only a few times did I see him bitting on play fakes.

    This wasn’t a great game to test his pass-coverage skills for the NFL because the Gamecocks didn’t have much of a passing attack or offensive talent. Against South Carolina, Cunningham totaled 12 tackles with three for a loss. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Cunningham has good size, speed, and athletic ability. He could fit well as a middle linebacker in a 4-3 or an inside linebacker in a 3-4. It was an impressive performance, and Cunningham illustrated that he is a potential starting inside linebacker in the NFL.

  • Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb totaled 97 yards on 20 carries. While Webb is a good, tough college back, he looks a little short on size and speed for the next level. Webb (5-10, 202) seems like a late-round candidate and potential NFL backup.

    Tennessee 20, Appalachian State 13
  • Entering the 2016 season, some draft pundits were pushing not to sleep on Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs as a pro prospect. With his showing against Appalachian State, feel free to take a nap. Dobbs really struggled to move the ball through the air throughout the opener and barely could engineer enough points to avoid a devastating and embarrassing upset. In fact, if App State’s kicker didn’t miss an extra point and field goal, Tennessee would have lost, and Dobbs would be the point man for the failure.

    Throughout the night, Dobbs showed some accuracy issues with poor ball placement and struggled to move the ball through the air. That tone was set by overthrowing wide open receivers, including the 6-foot-3 Josh Malone in the middle of the field. Late in the first half, Dobbs was forced out of the pocket, and he threw a terrible pass up for grabs downfield. Dobbs was throwing off his back foot to a receiver in double coverage and the ball floated down for an interception inside the 10-yard line. Dobbs later fumbled a shotgun snap and was lucky that Alvin Kamara recovered the ball.

    In overtime, Dobbs was leaping for a diving touchdown and fumbled the ball again, but he got lucky that a teammate recovered the ball for the game-winning touchdown. Against Appalachian State, Dobbs completed 16-of-29 (55 percent) attempts for 192 yards with one touchdown and an interception. This tape will definitely hurt his draft stock.

  • The player who recovered Dobb’s fumble for the game-winning touchdown was junior tailback Jalen Hurd. Sources have said they like Hurd’s physical running and think he could be a nice value as a second-day or mid-round pick. Hurd had some nice runs in this contest, but he didn’t dominate the defense. Hurd totaled 110 yards and 28 carries with a score.

    Hurd had a disastrous series in the fourth quarter with a fumble, a missed block that led to a sack, and a dropped pass. That trio speak poorly on three key evaluation points for the next level. In overtime, Hurd made up for it by recovering Dobbs’ fumble in the end zone, but overall, this performance was just rather average at best and it won’t help Hurd.

  • Tennessee has a lot of talent for the 2017 NFL Draft and the favorite to be the first one selected is defensive end Derek Barnett. Barnett has top-20 potential and he illustrated it with a strong performance. All night, Barnett was getting disruption into the backfield. He was abusing the right tackle with speed rushes and had a number of hits on the quarterback. In the ground game, Barnett was generally solid and contributed some tackles. He totaled seven tackles with a tackle for a loss. This was a nice start to the year for Barnett.

  • Tennessee cornerback Cam Sutton had an overall positive opener in his senior year. Early in the first quarter, Sutton muffed a punt and that set up Appalachian State in Tennessee territory for an easy score. He later made up for it when he did a great job of reading the quarterback and dropping into a throwing lane to make a leaping interception. It was a phenomenal play by Sutton in zone coverage to read the play and make a fantastic catch.

    Very late the fourth quarter, Sutton had a clutch open field tackle while keeping the ball carrier in bounds. Sutton then had a tackle for a loss on a screen pass and kept the player in bounds. That tackle basically sent the game in overtime.

    In the NFL, Sutton probably won’t be returning punts as a starting cornerback, but at least he brings that added value and flexibility to the roster. Overall, this was a good tape from Sutton that illustrates his starting potential as an outside corner for the pro game.

  • Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a potential day-two pick for 2017, but his season got off to a rough start. Reeves-Maybin made a couple of nice tackles on the first drive, but late in the first quarter he was ejected for targeting as he cleaned out the punt returner. The targeting ejection shouldn’t be a significant negative towards his draft grade.


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