2017 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps – Week 5

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.

By Charlie Campbell.
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Clemson 42, Louisville 36
  • Clemson junior quarterback Deshaun Watson entered the season in the running to be the top signal-caller prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft, but has been underwhelming to start the season. Watson has had issues with accuracy and ball placement. Those problems were seen against Louisville.

    In the second quarter, Watson went for a slant to Williams, but the pass was thrown behind Williams and picked off by the cornerback. It was poor ball placement, as Watson should have led Williams across the end zone.

    Watson got lucky that Louisville gave the ball back and he was able to make the Cardinals pay with a 33-yard touchdown pass. However, Watson had that throw behind his wideout Deon Cain, and Cain had to slow up to make the catch in front of some defenders before getting into the end zone. In the second quarter, Watson was running with the ball and had it stripped away by Louisville for the second turnover of the opening half.

    Watson bounced back to make a beautiful throw leading Cain into the end zone for a 37-yard score. That throw seemed to get Watson in rhythm as he fired some frozen ropes to rip the ball down the field and produce a short touchdown pass just before the half. That drive went 73 yards in just over 30 seconds, and Watson looked the best he has all year on that drive.

    At the very start of the third quarter, Watson had a pass dropped by a receiver and the Cardinals intercepted the deflection. Watson then rolled out and had a receiver streaking down the field with separation, but Watson overthrew his target for an incompletion. Early in the fourth quarter, Watson floated a ball to a blanketed receiver and sophomore cornerback Jaire Alexander picked off the ball for his second interception of the night. It was another poorly placed pass by Watson.

    After a long kick return, Watson connected with Mike Williams on a play-action slant for a 20-yard touchdown. Williams carried a defender for five yards before crossing the goal line. The two-point conversion attempt was tipped and intercepted by Louisville. Late in the fourth quarter, Watson hit his tight end Jordan Leggett for a short completion. Leggett broke down the field for a touchdown of about 30 yards. Watson connected on a jump pass on the two-point conversion attempt.

    Watson completed 20-of-31 for 306 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. This tape confirms the accuracy and ball-placement problems. If Watson doesn’t turn that around in the weeks to come, his draft stock is going to slide significantly. He already is undersized compared to your average NFL starting quarterback. On top of that, he plays in a college gimmick offense that doesn’t correlate well to the NFL. Watson may need to consider returning for his senior year if he doesn’t improve in the back half of the season.

  • Clemson running back Wayne Galman hasn’t been as effective in the early going of this season, but he had his best performance of the year against Louisville. Gallman started the game running well, using his quick feet to weave through defenders and make tacklers miss. He had a number of impressive runs showing his slashing running style with the strength to power through arm tackles. Midway through the second quarter, Gallman had a 24-yard touchdown run showing his burst while going untouched up the middle.

    Gallman ran hard all night, and the Tigers should have given him more carries than they did. He totaled 110 yards on 16 attempts. This tape will help Gallman to grade out as a second-day pick.

  • Clemson senior linebacker Ben Boulware had big stat line against Louisville, but this was a bad tape for the NFL. He did have around 20 tackles with a sack on a blitz up the middle, but Boulware had lots of problems in pass coverage, and he got washed out of his gap in the ground game on a lot of plays.

    Early on, a fullback lowered the boom on Boulware to open his gap and spring the back for a gain of 35 yards. Boulware missed a tackle going for a strip. Boulware then let tight end Cole Hikutini get vertical on him, and that went for a 28-yard gain to the Clemson 1-yard line. To finish that drive, Boulware was late to fill a hole on third-and-goal and that let Louisville get the first touchdown of the game. Shortly later Boulware was beaten by Hikutini again for a third-down conversion. However, Boulware helped make up for it by recovering a fumbled snap around midfield.

    There were plays when Boulware was run over and blocked to the ground. He did get into the backfield on a third-and-goal that caused Lamar Jackson to fall down and eat the play. Boulware was also called for a holding penalty in the fourth quarter, as Hikutini had him beaten and Boulware had to hold him from getting wide open.

    Overall, Boulware showed NFL teams he is not well suited for pass coverage in the NFL and he can get overpowered in the ground game. NFL linebackers like Derrick Brooks and Barrett Ruud taught me many years ago that a big tackle total doesn’t equate to a linebacker having a good game. They said there were games where they felt they played poorly with big tackle totals, and other games with small totals where they felt they played really well. This tape is going to hurt Boulware’s draft grade.

  • One Clemson defender whom sources have said is a potential first-round pick is Cordrea Tankersley. He had a strong performance against Louisville and its point-machine offense. The Cardinals generally avoided Tankersley and attacked other receivers.

    In the first quarter, Tankersley forced an incompletion with good coverage. Tankerlsey then downed a ball at the one-yard line on punt coverage. In the second quarter, Tankersley had a leaping pass broken up on a bomb in the deep part of the field. Tankersley did get away with a hold and was fortunate it wasn’t called. He didn’t need to hold the receiver, so Tankersley has some technique issues he can improve on. He had tight coverage on a third-and-goal to force an incompletion and a field goal for the Cardinals. There was one play in which Tankersley showed poor technique not to reroute James Quick, but other than that, Tankersley played very well. This tape should help his draft grade.

    Ole Miss 48, Memphis 28
  • Rebels senior quarterback Chad Kelly has found a degree of stability over the past two weeks after being up-and-down in games against Florida State and Alabama. Kelly cruised over a weak Memphis defense, completing 30-of-44 passes for 361 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

    While his numbers were good, Kelly had some things break his way. In the second quarter, he made a terrible pass right to a cornerback that was dropped. Kelly and his receiver weren’t on the same page about the route that was run. Kelly later threw a pass up for grabs in a crowd and it was picked off by Memphis. He had other passes in traffic that Memphis didn’t play well. Kelly also had some pretty throws showing his strong arm. Overall, this tape should serve to confirm Kelly as a potential second-day pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

  • Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram continued his fantastic senior year. In the second quarter, Engram used his size to shield a defensive back from the ball and snatched a pass along the sideline for a 39-yard gain. Engram then caught a quick pass and made a tackler miss to dart into the end zone for a 12-yard score.

    Engram finished with 82 yards on four receptions and a touchdown. He is such a mismatch weapon. Linebackers can’t keep up with his speed and Engram knows how to use his size to beat defensive backs. Being undersized and not much of a blocker may push Engram to the second round of the draft, but he could end up being a steal as a play-making weapon.

  • Memphis junior quarterback Riley Ferguson has had a strong start to the season as the replacement for Paxton Lynch. Lynch made a name for himself by leading a huge upset over Ole Miss last year, and Ferguson would need to put up points to give Memphis any shot to make it two years in a row.

    Ferguson made a poor decision in the first quarter, throwing a wide receiver screen that was well covered. A defensive back made an easy interception and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown. Late in the second quarter, Ferguson didn’t feel the rush as Rebel speed rusher Marquis Haynes burned the right tackle for a strip-sack that was recovered by the Rebels.

    Ferguson did have some nice plays including a gain of 41 with a well-placed pass downfield to the inside of the man coverage. He also threw well on the run to get an 18-yard completion on a roll out.

    In the third quarter, Ferguson rolled out and connected deep to set up a short touchdown run. He threw a nice pass of about 20 yards to a receiver streaking down the sideline. Ferguson capped the drive by running it in himself. Early in the fourth quarter, Ferguson was close to getting sacked and tried to force a pass to a screen that wasn’t open and a defensive tackle made a diving catch. He came back to get another rushing touchdown on a zone read run. Ferguson then threw too high in the middle of the field and a deflection led to an interception. Ferguson completed 30-of-46 for 343 yards with zero touchdown passes, three interceptions and two rushing touchdowns. Ferguson (6-4, 210) needs to improve his field vision for the NFL. He consistently locks onto his primary read and stares him down. When Ferguson rolls out of the pocket, his field vision improves and he looks beyond his first read. It isn’t surprising that Ferguson needs more development considering his limited playing experience, but based off this game he should return for his senior year to develop his pocket passing before going pro.

    Tennessee 34, Georgia 31
  • There were a number of prospects that unfortunately missed this game with an injury. That group was highlighted by Georgia running back Nick Chubb. Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeeves-Maybin and cornerback Cam Sutton were also out.

  • Tennessee defensive end Derek Barnett was phenomenal in the second half against Florida last week. Throughout the game, Barnett was doing a nice job of getting upfield, but Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason was generally getting the ball out quickly. Still, Barnett came through in the second half to once again lead a Volunteers comeback win defensively.

    In the third quarter, Barnett used his speed to run around the left tackle for a third-down sack. With the Vols down by three late in the fourth quarter, Barnett came through with a huge play. He beat blocks from the tight end and running back to cut to the inside and get a sack-fumble in the end zone that was recovered by Tennessee. Barnett came close to a sack on the next possession and his pressure helped produce an interception for the Volunteers.

    This was another good tape for Barnett that will help him to grade out as a first-round pick. Barnett looks extremely similar to Shaq Lawson and that could lead to Barnett also being a top-20 pick.

  • Minus one play, Georgia running back Sony Michel had an impressive game filling in for Chubb. In the first quarter, Michel had an impressive touchdown run, juking defenders at the second level to dart into the end zone. He also added a run of 22 yards weaving through the Volunteers’ defense. Shortly later, however, Michel was reaching the ball into the end zone, but had it slapped out. Luckily for Michel, Eason recovered it in the end zone for a touchdown. Michel totaled 91 yards on 16 carries with a score. Michel is a sleeper back who could be a steal because he hasn’t received as many opportunities to stand out.

  • Tennessee also has a tandem backfield of NFL talent. Junior Jalen Hurd is the feature back over teammate Alvin Kamara, but WalterFootball.com knows scouting sources who like both of them. In the second quarter, Hurd got open down the seam and made a catch a few yards in front of the end zone. Hurd kept his head to the inside looking at a safety and slowed up thinking he would coast into the end zone, but from the back side, Hurd got rocked and fumbled the ball. Georgia recovered in the end zone to take points away from Tennessee.

    In the third quarter, Hurd helped redeem himself by getting open after getting a block in pass protection. Hurd made a nice hands reception and darted into the end zone. After that play, Hurd left the game and it wasn’t clear if it was injury related. In fact it looked like he was just benched. Hurd totaled 42 yards on 10 carries with three receptions for 50 yards and a score.

    Kamara had a nice game with a few impressive runs, showing a burst and cutting ability. To start the fourth quarter, Kamara continued to show his good receiving skills. He lined up in the slot and ran a quick out. Georgia safety Dominick Sanders missed the tackle and Kamara darted into the end zone from 16 yards out. He caught three passes for 26 yards with 16 carries for 62 yards. This was a nice tape for Kamara, as he showed the ability to contribute as a runner, receiver and blocker. He could be a mid-round value with third-down potential for the NFL.

    Michigan 14, Wisconsin 7
  • Michigan has two defensive back prospects for the NFL in safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Both of them played well against Wisconsin.

    Lewis was very good in coverage all day, running the route and preventing separation. He had a pass breakup in the early going. In the fourth quarter, Lewis came over to make a critical open-field tackle on a third down to get his defense off the field. Lewis closed the game out with a leaping, one-handed interception to give Michigan the ball with 2:15 remaining. That ended any comeback hopes for the Badgers. This was a great tape for Lewis that showed his coverage skills for the NFL. He had four tackles, one interception and one pass broken up. Lewis looks like a future early-round pick with size being the biggest concern that might hurt his first-round hopes.

    Peppers had a quiet game against Wisconsin. The game really didn’t come his direction. He contributed some good run defense and had an impressive blitz with a hit on the quarterback. His pass coverage was sound as well. On special teams, Peppers came close to breaking a punt a long distance on a return of 13 yards. Wisconsin did a nice job of containing him on returns. Peppers looks like a future hybrid linebacker/safety and a future first-round pick.

  • Michigan defensive end Chris Wormley generally had a quiet performance. He was sound at the point of attack in the ground game. In the third quarter, Wormley ran by the right tackle with speed to the inside and chased down the quarterback for a sack. Wormley is having a quality senior year with improved pass rush and that should pay off with his draft stock climbing.

  • The other player who really helped himself in this game was Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt. He was active and around the ball all afternoon. Watt got in on run tackles and was consistently getting heat on the quarterback when he blitzed. He came close to a number of sacks.

    In the first half, Watt had a nice play where he came close to a sack, but the pass was gotten off while Watt was taking him to the ground. Watt later blasted into the right tackle to knock him off balance. Watt then cut to the inside to sack the quarterback on a third down. On a critical third down with only a few minutes remaining, Watt ran by the right guard and tackle to help clean up a sack that was started by a teammate.

    As a 3-4 outside linebacker, Watt is very good at setting the edge. He gets disruption in the backfield in the ground game and has the speed to hunt down the quarterback. As one might expect, Watt is very physical with a good motor and a tenacious style of play (it must run in the family). Watt is having a breakout junior season and definitely putting his draft stock on the map this year.

    Notre Dame 50, Syracuse 33
  • Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer is the consensus top quarterback prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft. Kizer showed a lot of the special arm talent against Syracuse that has him held in such high regard, but also illustrated that he has room for improvement. Kizer still dominated Syracuse and carried his team to a win.

    A quarterback can’t start any hotter than Kizer did. On the first play from scrimmage, Kizer delivered a strike to receiver Equanimeous St. Brown on an intermediate crossing route and St. Brown turned down the field for a 79-yard touchdown. It was a well-placed ball over two leaping defenders to hit his receiver in stride. On Kizer’s second pass, he slid in the pocket to avoid rushers, reset his feet, and lofted in a perfect bomb to lead St. Brown down the field on a 67-yard touchdown pass. Those two completions went for 146 yards and set the tone for the day for the Fighting Irish offense.

    Kizer continued to move the ball, scanning the field and finding open receivers. He added a short touchdown run before the half. However, Kizer missed an open tight end for a touchdown as he overthrew the ball through the back of the end zone. Late in the second quarter, Kizer took an unnecessary sack as he scrambled and held onto the ball way too long. Kizer’s next throw was a bad interception. He moved his eyes but didn’t see a defender dropping into his throwing lane.

    In the third quarter, Kizer bounced back, lofting in an easy touchdown pass to a wide open receiver for a 54-yard score. The receiver had to slow down by a stride, but it was still a quality pass from Kizer to get the ball to his play-maker and let him finish it off by coasting into the end zone.

    Kizer finished 23-of-35 for 471 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He showcased his accurate, strong arm with the ability to go vertical. This tape gives further evidence that Kizer has the pocket-passing skill set to be a top of the draft pick.

  • Kizer won’t be alone as a pick on Thursday night, as left tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quinton Nelson should join him. Both players had excellent performances. McGlinchey has quick feet, bends at the knee, and gets good depth in his drop. He looks like a future starting left tackle in the NFL. Nelson is well balanced with power in the ground game and the ability to pass protect. This tape will help both of them to grade out as first-round picks.

    Washington 44, Stanford 6
  • Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the top play-makers slated to be in the 2017 NFL Draft, but he was shut down by one of the best defenses in the Pac-12. Washington dominated at the point of attack and overwhelmed the Stanford offensive line. McCaffrey was held to 49 yards on 12 carries with five receptions for 30 yards. McCaffrey routinely tried to make something out of nothing and showed nice moves to fight for yards, but there were no openings for McCaffrey to get in any kind of rhythm as a runner.

    In the third quarter, McCaffrey had an impressive run of 14 yards, breaking tackles in the backfield before darting downfield. McCaffrey showed his special ability with a dump-off pass where he dodged two tacklers to convert a third-and-long. Those were really the only good plays from McCaffrey. With Washington building up a huge lead, Stanford wasn’t in position to run the ball as well. This game shouldn’t hurt McCaffrey’s draft grade.

  • Washington has two junior defensive back NFL propects in cornerback Sidney Jones and safety Budda Baker. They were seeing a receiver with some talent for the pros in Stanford’s Michael Rector. In this game, Baker had a bigger presence as he totaled six tackles and one pass broken up. In the first quarter, Baker had a nice tackle on McCaffrey on a run blitz to get through trash. He also helped tackle Rector in the open field to limit the reception to about six yards.

    Jones had a quiet game with one tackle on a receiver after a short completion. He had a superb play called back on a penalty. Jones was in the hip pocket of a receiver running down the seam and adjusted to the pass to snatch an interception in front of the wideout. However, Jones was called for a holding and there was a roughing-the-passer penalty to negate his pick. The officials made the right call on the hit to the quarterback, but there was no way that Jones held the wideout and the commentators believed that it was a different cornerback who was guilty of hold and the officials got the number wrong.

    This was a good tape for Jones, as he was sound in coverage. He didn’t allow separation and showed some quick feet and agility. This tape will help Jones and Baker to grade out as early-day selections.

  • Washington defensive end/outside linebacker Joe Mathis is on the Senior Bowl watch list, and he had an impressive game against Stanford. He notched two sacks with four tackles against the Cardinal. Mathis had some highlight-reel rushes where he used speed to power. In the second quarter, Mathis used his speed and dipped under the left tackle to get to the quarterback. He later had an impressive rush where he stood up over the right tackle. He used his speed to get upfield and dipped underneath the blocker before running through a block from McCaffrey to get a hit on the quarterback.

    In the third quarter, Mathis was able to trip McCaffrey while lying on the ground and that saved a touchdown inside the 10-yard line. Stanford actually had a hole open for their back. Mathis really put together an impressive tape and this will help his chances of getting an invitation to Mobile. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Mathis would be best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.

    Texas Tech 55, Kansas 19
  • Texas Tech junior quarterback Pat Mahomes has video-game-caliber production playing in the Red Raiders’ gimmick college offense. Everything is operated out of shotgun with lots of tempo, swing passes, bubble screens, and other plays that don’t translate to the NFL. That being said, Mahomes has some arm talent and there are some NFL sources that are intrigued with him.

    The Big XII is college football’s version of the Arena league with poor defenses and high-scoring passing offenses. However, Kansas has a legit prospect for the NFL with Kansas safety Fish Smithson. Thus, this was a game worth watching for 2017 NFL Draft considerations.

    In the first quarter, Smithson drove hard on a short pass to make a tackle for no run after the catch. Just before the second quarter, Mahomes threw a ball up for grabs to a receiver in double coverage. Smithson ran under it and leapt in front of the receiver for the interception. It was a bad decision by Mahomes as the ball was underthrown and poorly placed.

    Smithson made a few impressive tackles during the third quarter by flying to the ball on short passes. He also had a pass broken up after lining up as a nickel over the slot in off-man coverage and staying close on the in-cut to break up the completion.

    Against Texas Tech, Smithson didn’t get a lot of opportunities for big plays as the game went the other way mostly. Still, he displayed nice speed and instincts. Smithson played both free and strong safety, looking good in both roles in this contest. He is a nice second-day prospect for the NFL.

    Mahomes threw two easy touchdown passes in the first 5:15 of the game. One was a swing pass, and the other was to a wide-open back in busted coverage in the middle of the field. Mahomes’ third touchdown of the first half was a more impressive pass as the receiver didn’t have separation running down the sideline, yet Mahomes dropped the ball in over the head of the cornerback for a score. Just before the half, Mahomes threw a short touchdown pass.

    Mahomes took off on a run of 32 yards in the third quarter, but he didn’t slide and was tackled hard on his right, throwing shoulder. Mahomes had to leave the game and went into the locker room with the trainers, but the backup threw four touchdown passes as the Red Raiders coasted over Kansas. Mahomes completed 27-of-34 passes for 277 yards with four touchdowns and the one interception, which went to Smithson.

    This game wasn’t all that helpful for Mahomes in terms of NFL evaluation. So many of his throws were quick tosses and instants passes after the ball was snapped. Mahomes really didn’t drop back, work through progressions, and deliver the ball accurately into tight windows. Mahomes did seem to feel the rush at times and didn’t hang tough to complete passes when the rush was bearing down on him. When the rush starts to close, Mahomes looks down and doesn’t keep his eyes downfield.

    On the positive side, Mahomes has some arm talent with natural power. He has the ability to flip the ball and see it travel a far distance. Mahomes can also spin it with velocity. He has a nice build to him as well with some athleticism to move around in the pocket.

    For the NFL, Mahomes has legit arm talent to develop, but he is a big project. The Texas Tech offense is a folly for the next level. Mahomes is going to need to develop his ability to call plays in the huddle, take snaps under center, drop back from under center, read the defense, work through his progressions, and deliver accurate passes in the face of a pass rush. Mahomes is worth watching, but shouldn’t be expected to play quickly as a pro.


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