2017 NFL Draft: College Football Game Recaps – Week 8

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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Penn State 24, Ohio State 21
  • Early in the season, WalterFootball.com reported that NFL teams thought Ohio State redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker is a top-10 talent for the 2017 NFL Draft. Lately other draft media outlets have caught on to Hooker, and the freak athlete was going to have his run defense tested by stud sophomore running back Saquon Barkley and a running quarterback.

    Hooker was active from the start, coming over in zone courage to make an open-field tackle on a tight end and causing an incompletion covering the tight end along the sideline. After Barkley broke into the open field, Hooker made a good open-field tackle. He did have a play in the fourth quarter where he over-pursued, and that let Barkley get loose downfield. Hooker came back to burst into the backfield to pick up a tackle for a loss on a first-and-goal. That helped limit the Nittany Lions to a field goal. Against Penn State, Hooker recorded seven tackles with two for a loss and a pass broken up. Overall, this tape shouldn’t change Hooker’s lofty draft rating.

  • Ohio State junior cornerback Gareon Conley and redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore have played very well this year, but they each had some rough moments against Penn State junior wide receiver Chris Godwin. Just before halftime, Conley lost on a jump ball, allowing Godwin to make a leaping touchdown reception. Lattimore was challenged deep in the first quarter, but he had blanket coverage and slapped the pass away. In the fourth quarter, Lattimore lost his man in man coverage, and that allowed a 19-yard reception to Godwin at the goal line. Those were Godwin’s only receptions of the game, but they were very impressive against future NFL starting corners.

    Both corners each had some good plays in coverage as well, so their draft grades shouldn’t be hurt significantly. Conley had two tackles and a pass broken up, while Lattimore had three tackles and two passes broken up.

  • Ohio State wide receiver/running back Curtis Samuel is turning himself into an early round weapon. He is a lot like Percy Harvin, except maybe not quite as explosive. In the third quarter, Samuel showed his big-play ability by taking a handoff 74 yards for a touchdown. Samuel also helped move the chains as a receiver. The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder looks like a slot receiver and occasional halfback for the NFL. He could be a really good weapon as a receiving back and slot receiver in an offense like the New England Patriots. Samuel had two carries for 71 yards with a score and eight receptions for 68 yards. If Samuel enters the 2017 NFL Draft, he could be a first- or second-round pick.

  • Ohio State inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan had a mixed game. He was solid in run defense, making six tackles and being stout in the tackle box. The big question about McMillan is his ability function in pass coverage. In the first half, he lost a receiver in coverage to allow a third-and-long conversion, but he came back to have close coverage on Saquon Barkley to get a pass breakup in the end zone on a wheel route. In previous weeks, sources have said that McMillan’s pass coverage was disappointing them, so this game will make that evaluation more of a mixed bag. It can be hard for inside linebackers to be first-round picks, and McMillan is playing more like a second-day selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.

    LSU 38, Ole Miss 21
  • Entering this game, LSU running back Leonard Fournette was in the midst of a disappointing junior season involving an ankle injury causing him to miss multiple games, including the last two contests. Versus Ole Miss though, Fournette showed why he is a freak talent as he dominated the Rebels while being less than 100 percent. He looked better than he has all season and close to his 2015 form.

    Late in the first quarter, Fournette exploded down the field for a 59-yard touchdown. He came close to another long score on a check-down pass where he darted downfield and trucked through a tackler, but had a foot step out of bounds. It wasn’t long before Fournette struck again, gashing the Rebels for a 76-yard touchdown as center Ethan Pocic pulled to open a big hole for Fournette to sprint downfield. Early in the third quarter, Fournette ran behind the right side and stiff-armed a safety about 20 yards downfield to break down the sideline for a 78-yard touchdown.

    Against Ole Miss, Fournette totaled 284 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. This amazing performance on his part set a LSU single-game record. Fournette looked faster and more explosive than he has all season. He ran decisively with balance, vision and power. The blocking for Fournette was tremendous, led by Pocic, and it is worth mentioning that the Rebels; linebackers and run defense has been weak all year. Still, this tape will help Fournette to remain a high first-round pick despite his banged-up season. Both he and Pocic will have their draft grades benefit from this performance.

  • This game featured a great draft matchup with LSU safety Jamal Adams taking on Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. Adams is a talented safety, but he could really help his draft stock if he could show that he had the coverage skills to man up on a receiving tight end like Engram. This ended up being a win for Adams as Engram was held in check, and that was also in part because the Ole Miss offensive line was overwhelmed in the pass rush. Engram was kept in to block more than he typically is because the Rebels’ tackles were struggling. He struggled in that phase of the game.

    Engram was held to three receptions for 15 yards, and Adams contributed to that good coverage on the play-making tight end. On the day, Adams totaled five tackles with .5 for a loss and a pass broken up. He had a nice play where he combined with a teammate to take down Chad Kelly in the backfield on a third-down run. On a punt return, Adams liad a crushing block that took out two defenders, and he also downed a punt inside the 10-yard line. It was a solid game for the LSU junior safety that will help his draft grade.

  • Ole Miss senior quarterback Chad Kelly had an ugly performance, but it wasn’t all his fault as his offensive line really struggled. In the first quarter, Kelly tossed an easy touchdown in busted coverage. Early in the second quarter, he threw a bad pass that was way short of the receiver, who had a step on a defender running deep into the end zone. The ball fluttered short to the defensive back for an interception. Late in the third quarter, Kelly threw a terrible pass, rolling out of the pocket and forcing the ball to a receiver in double coverage that easily intercepted. Kelly finished 19-of-32 for 209 yards with a score and two picks. This tape will hurt his draft grade as he was rattled by the rush and continues to struggle in the face of adversity.

  • Another LSU player who played really well was defensive tackle Davon Godchaux. In the second quarter, Godchaux made an impressive play, firing through the line to notch a tackle for no gain on a second-and-goal. In the third quarter, defensive end Arden Key pushed Kelly up in the pocket, and Godchaux turned off his block to sack Kelly. Against Ole Miss, Godchaux finished with nine tackles and a sack. This tape will help Godchaux to grade out as an early rounder.

    Alabama 33, Texas A&M 14
  • There was a great draft matchup in this game with Texas A&M superstar defensive end Myles Garrett going against Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson. A week ago, Robinson had problems with Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, as he gave up a sack-fumble and some other pressures. He also had some wins against Barnett, but overall, that tape didn’t help Robinson’s draft stock. Robinson needed a bounce-back game and Garrett has been my No. 1 overall prospect since the beginning of the season. If Robinson could get the better of Garrett in pass protection, it would be massive for Robinson’s draft grade.

    Throughout the early going, Robinson was having a lot of success getting a push in the ground game. In the first quarter, Robinson had a nice play hand punching Garrett and stopping a move toward the inside to give Jalen Hurts time to throw. Garrett had a good goal-line stop going through a block from a running back, and he had a tackle for a loss going unblocked. Robinson showed nice quickness to hold up a Garrett speed rush on a deep drop for Hurts. Garrett then had a nice play, pushing Robinson into the backfield before making a tackle for no gain.

    In the third quarter, Garrett bull rushed Robinson close to Hurts, but Robinson held up Garrett enough to let his quarterback get out for a first-down scramble. Garrett then was virtually unblocked but couldn’t make the tackle on a back in the backfield. Garrett added another tackle for a loss in garbage time after firing his gap to the inside to swallow up the back.

    Overall, Robinson helped himself in this game by not allowing a sack to Garrett. It was a good bounce-back performance after struggling with Barnett. Robinson showed that he has the ability to block an elite pass-rusher on the edge. Robinson was his usual steady presence in the ground attack as well. This was much needed performance from Robinson to help teams to view him as a left tackle and not needing to move to guard or right tackle. This tape won’t help Garrett, but it won’t cause any drop in his draft grade for the NFL.

  • Alabama senior edge rusher Tim Williams and defensive tackle Jonathan Allen continued their impressive seasons. Early in the first quarter, Allen used a swim move to beat the left guard and then dived over a chipping back to get a highlight-reel sack of Trevor Knight. Shortly later, Allen followed that up by coming off blocks to stuff a run for no gain.

    Williams made his presence felt on a broken-screen play in the third quarter, as he sacked Trevor Knight for a loss of 14 yards. The very next play, Allen scored his second touchdown of the season. Outside linebacker Ryan Anderson forced the fumble in the backfield just after a zone read handoff. Allen scooped up the ball and rumbled about 25 yards for the score. Allen came close to other sacks, and when he was single-blocked, he was eating up the Aggies offensive linemen with his speed and strength. Williams added a sack in garbage time to pad his stats. This tape will definitely help Williams to be a first-round pick.

    Late in the fourth quarter, Allen was banged up and walked off the field with trainers, but he didn’t seem to be hurt significantly. This tape will help Allen to be a high first-round pick. His speed, strength, and technique were dominant.

  • Anderson definitely helped himself against the Aggies. In the first quarter, Anderson had an impressive tackle on a jet sweep to Christian Kirk. Shortly later, Anderson got off a block on a stretch run to get a tackle for a loss of a couple of yards. He had his forced fumble and was superb at setting the edge for the Crimson Tide. This tape should improve Anderson’s draft grade as a day-two prospect.

  • Alabama senior safety Eddie Jackson and redshirt sophomore cornerback Marlon Humphrey were tested by some good Aggies receivers, including sophomore star Christian Kirk. Unfortunately, Jackson suffered a leg injury in the second half and had to be carted into the locker room. He was in tears and the injury looked serious. If it does prove to be a significant injury, it could have a huge impact on where he goes in the draft.

    Late before halftime, Alabama was in zone coverage and Humphrey read the eyes of Trevor Knight to fall back and make a leaping interception in front of Aggie wideout Josh Reynolds. It was a superb play by Humphrey showing his intelligence, quickness, size and some ball skills. Humphrey has been great about being in good position all year, but has had issues playing the ball and this was a good sign of progress.

    Humphrey was semi-responsible for a reception of 33 yards in the third quarter. He was in good position to the outside on a post route, but Humphrey didn’t get the inside safety help on the receiver. Humphrey came back to rock Christian Kirk on a wide receiver screen for a loss of two yards. Overall, this tape should help Humphrey, as he showed some nice coverage skills in zone after thriving as a press-man corner throughout this season. Continuing to improve on playing the ball has to be the goal for Humphrey down the stretch.

  • Texas A&M has two safeties for the NFL in senior Justin Evans and junior Armani Watts. Both are having excellent seasons and made their presences felt. Early in the first half, Watts had a touchdown-saving open-field tackle and then some other tackles downfield that were clutch in helping the Aggies stop drives at field goals instead of touchdowns. Evans was quiet in the first half before making an interception on a Hail Mary on the final play before intermission.

    In the third quarter, Evans missed a tackle on a third down going for a knockout blow rather than wrapping up Jalen Hurts. That allowed Hurts to get a few more yards for a first down.

  • Alabama has had a hard time getting the ball to mismatch tight end O.J. Howard throughout his collegiate career, but this was a rare exception. Howard caught a short touchdown pass in the second quarter, running an out route from the h-back position. Throughout the first half, Howard was surprisingly used often with seven receptions for 59 yards. He finished with 70 yards on eight catches, but also did a decent job of blocking for the ground game. Howard is an early-round prospect.

    Wisconsin 17, Iowa 9
  • There were some good NFL talent in this Big Ten battle, led by Iowa senior cornerback Desmond King. Early in the game, King made a nice open-field tackle in zone coverage. King then made a physical third-down tackle on a jet sweep for no gain to force a Badgers punt. However, on the next possession, King had a terrible play. He was in zone coverage on a tight end who ran a dig route. Instead of going for a tackle, King tried to force a fumble and fell down. The tight end kept his feet and ran downfield for an additional 45 yards before he was tackled a few yards short of the end zone. However, King helped make up for it when he recovered a fumble in the end zone to steal points from the Badgers. King later set up his team for points with a 77-yard kick return. While it was too little, too late, it was still a great return for King.

    Overall, this was a good tape from King, minus the one very painful missed tackle. He was solid in pass coverage while showing that he is generally a very good tackler and a threat on special teams.

  • Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt continued his breakout junior season with a quality performance against the Hawkeyes. Watt was impressive in run defense all afternoon. He is strong to set the edge and hold his gap against offensive tackles. In the fourth quarter, Watt had an impressive pass rush as he bulled the left tackle into the quarterback and got in on a sack with a teammate. Watt could have day-two potential if he enters the 2017 NFL Draft, but he could be better off returning his senior year to improve and increase his chances of being a Thursday night pick.

  • Iowa senior defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson was impressive against Wisconsin. He is a well-built tackle who also has speed at the point of attack. In the third quarter, Johnson had an impressive rush where he bulled through the guard and then used his speed to get to the quarterback. On the very next play, Johnson fired by the guard to get in the backfield to add another sack. Johnson has a good skill set for the NFL. He needs to get more consistent and increase the tempo of his motor. In a number of ways, Johnson is a similar prospect to former teammate Carl Davis, who had first-round potential but slid to the third round in large part because of inconsistent effort. Overall though, this tape will really help Johnson’s draft stock as an example of his ability create an interior pass rush.

  • Wisconsin junior middle linebacker Jack Cichy is coming off a great game against Ohio State where he totaled 15 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble. Cichy continued his strong play as he did a nice job of defending the Iowa ground game. He also has quality instincts and is quick to read his keys to get in position to make tackles. The big question for the NFL will be if Cichy has the speed and athleticism for pass coverage. In the first quarter, Cichy made a nice open-field tackle in zone coverage. He had a good blitz up the middle, but didn’t wrap up C.J. Beathard and that was an ugly missed sack for Cichy. Cichy is a good run defender in the box, and showing more pass coverage skills as a senior in 2017 could help improve his draft stock.

  • Wisconsin left tackle Ryan Ramychk continued his breakout season for the Badgers. He was very reliable in pass protection and a tough run defender. Wisconsin does give tight end help to their tackles often, and Iowa doesn’t have an elite edge rusher. Ramychk could be an early-round selection if he enters the draft, but his best bet might be to return for his senior year to improve his chances of going in the first round in the 2018 NFL Draft.

    California 52, Oregon 49
  • Cal quarterback Davis Webb hasn’t gotten a lot of national acclaim, but he is a legit pro prospect who could be an early-round selection. Oregon isn’t as good of a team they have been in recent years, but Webb still has to produce a lot of points because Cal’s defense has problems stopping teams. It would be on Webb to win a shootout against the Ducks.

    In the first quarter, Webb made a pretty throw downfield but his receiver came up short in what could have been a touchdown. A NFL wideout probably would have made the play for Webb. Webb then had a wide-open receiver down the seam and the pass was too low to allow his receiver to run after making a shoe-string catch. If that pass were placed higher, it would have been a score. However, to finish that drive, Webb had a well-placed fade pass leading his receiver open in the back corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.

    Webb added a short touchdown toss on a zone read play-action fake and a 13-yard score in busted coverage. He did have a poor throw forcing a ball into a few defenders and an Oregon defender dropped an easy interception. Just before the half, Webb threw a beautiful pass to the sideline of the end zone for an apparent 15-yard score, but it was ruled to be incomplete as the receiver didn’t watch his feet along the sideline. Webb had a perfectly thrown pass on a roll out to the right where he lofted in a 14-yard touchdown pass to a well-covered receiver. Webb completed 42-of-61 passes for 325 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions.

    The Cal offense did a poor job of developing Jared Goff for the NFL, and that has been one of the reasons why Goff is stuck on the bench. Webb will have some of the same developmental problems. Like Goff, Webb will have to learn to call plays in the huddle. Footwork will be a challenge to learn to work under center and not operate exclusively out of the shotgun. Another issue is that the passing routes and playbook will be drastically different. Cal has a numbers-inflating system with a lot of bubble screens, quick passes, and spread-option plays that aren’t run in the NFL.

    Still, Webb has a quality arm and can make some well-placed passes downfield. He has good size and stands tall in the pocket. He shows some field vision to work through his progressions, but Webb doesn’t have mobility for the NFL. In terms of the critical characteristic of accuracy, Webb was impressive in this game, but the Ducks didn’t put much pass pressure on him and the Oregon secondary was nothing special. Overall, this was a good tape from Webb that illustrates he is an early-round prospect.

  • Oregon junior running back Royce Freeman is a talented tailback who could be one of the good values in a potentially special class of running backs. However, this tape is going to hurt Freeman’s draft grade.

    In the first quarter, Freeman showed poor vision and patience, and he made a bad decision to take a run to the outside for a loss when he had a better lane to go downhill. Oregon was having more success running with Brooks James, but still tried to get Freeman carries. Freeman wasn’t having success trying to run to the outside and needed to be getting more north-south. On a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, Freeman had a hole, but was slow getting there and that allowed him to be stopped short.

    Cal’s defense is not good and Freeman struggled to assert his will on them as he totaled only 10 yards on 15 carries, for an average of 0.7 yards per carry. This game will hurt Freeman’s draft grade compared to other running back prospects like LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Georgia’s Nick Chubb, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, and Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara.

  • Oregon senior tight end Pharaoh Brown had a quality game with three receptions for 53 yards and a touchdown. Brown is a quick, athletic receiver with some size to him. He could be a nice sleeper value as a day-three draft pick.

    Oregon junior wide receiver Darren Carrington had only one reception for 22 yards against Cal. In the first quarter, Carrington muffed a punt, but was lucky a teammate recovered the ball. Carrington should probably return for his senior year to improve on his draft stock before coming out.

    Virginia Tech 37, Miami 16
  • Miami junior quarterback Brad Kaaya is an early round prospect who needed a good game after underwhelming performances against Florida State and North Carolina. Unfortunately for his draft stock and quarterback-needy teams in the NFL, Kaaya continued his trend and didn’t impress against the Hokies. He showed some of the same flaws that have been haunting him all season.

    On the first drive of the game, Kaaya took a sack when he had the rush bearing down on him and needed to get the ball out faster rather than holding onto it so long. Shortly later, Kaaya had a similar play on which he hesitated to throw when he needed to get rid of the ball and then ended up taking a drive-killing sack. Kaaya then found tight end Davi Njoku wide open in busted coverage for a 48-yard gain late in the first quarter, but Njoku fell down when he could have run the rest of the field for a score if he had stayed on his feet. That set up a field goal.

    Early in the second quarter, Kaaya had a perfect pocket on a third-and-7 but forced a pass down the middle of the field into double coverage with zero opening for the receiver. The ball was batted by one defender, and another safety flew over to make a diving interception. It was a terrible decision by Kaaya to throw the ball into that crowd. On the next drive, he took a coverage sack on a third-and-3. He should have thrown the ball away, but no receivers were open.

    Before the half, Kaaya made a few well-placed passes to move the ball. He finshed that drive with a pretty play that saw him step up in the pocket and loft in a 25-yard touchdown pass to the front corner of the end zone between a few defenders. It was an excellent pass and play from Kaaya, but he needs to do that a lot more consistently.

    In the third quarter Kaaya made an excellent back-shoulder throw downfield to set up a big play down the sideline. A few plays later, Kaaya found his backup tight end wide open in busted coverage for a 35-yard score. It was an easy throw, but a good read by Kaaya.

    After that pass, Kaaya had a hard time getting anything going. Once again, he was getting a lot of pressure and taking too many sacks. Kaaya has a bad habit of looking down at the rush once he starts to feel pressure. That leads to him taking more sacks and not finding last-second passes. Kaaya finished completing 23-of-38 passes for 323 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

    Aside from Kaaya’s field vision, one of the bad flaws for the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is a lack of mobility. No evaluator is expecting Kaaya to be Cam Newton, but he needs to be Tom Brady in terms of moving in the pocket to avoid rushers. Kaaya has a lot of arm talent as a passer, but he isn’t dominating or playing like a high first-rounder. The way things have gone in recent weeks, Kaaya should return to school if he wants to have a shot at being a high first-round pick.

  • It is rare for a fullback to be graded as worthy of a draft pick, but Virginia Tech has one of those in senior Sam Rogers. He is a versatile weapon who can make plays with the ball in his hands as well as be a good lead blocker. He showed his play-making skills with a big impact against Miami.

    In the second quarter, Rogers showed his special ability by running down the seam to get open. He made the catch and broke three tackles while weaving around another defender for a 52-yard gain to set up a touchdown for the Hokies. Shortly later, Rogers ran a nice route with a shoulder fake on a linebacker to get open in a window for a reception with another 10 yards after the catch for a gain of 20 yards. In the third quarter, he took a run to the side and then threw a nice pass into the end zone for a 13-yard score.

    Rogers did a nice job of lead blocking as well. This tape will help him to get consideration in the fourth or fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

  • Another prospect who really helped himself in this game was Hokies junior tight end Bucky Hodges. At the end of the first quarter, Hodges was called for a holding penalty while blocking a cornerback on a wide receiver screen. Midway through the second quarter, Hodges got open on a crossing route for a short touchdown reception. He later added another short touchdown on an inside slant throw. Hodges used his size to shield defenders and quickness to get open on a number of other receptions. He was open for a third touchdown, but the pass was overthrown through the back of the end zone. Hodges totaled seven receptions for 66 yards and two scores.

    The 6-foot-7, 245-pounder isn’t a forceful blocker for the NFL, but he could be a bigger version of a Jordan Reed-like receiving tight end. He is a big target with the speed to get down the seam. Hodges has length and height to make him a real mismatch problem for defensive backs. If Hodges decides to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, he probably will get selected some time on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft.


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