Washington 52, USC 42
USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, but he has disappointed in a few games this year and has a unique personality. Thus, he needs to turn in some big performances over his final few games of college football to help draft stock.
Early against the Huskies, Williams juked Washington defensive end Bralen Trice to get around the corner for a nice gain and first-down conversion. Later in the first quarter, Williams used his legs and his size to go through a tackler at the goal line to get his 10th rushing touchdown of the season. Late in the half, Williams had a receiver get wide open in busted coverage off a flea-flicker, allowing Williams to lob in an easy 41-yard touchdown.
Williams had another superb play in the third quarter, scrambling before demonstrating his quick release by firing a bullet an across the field for a 25-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Williams worked the sideline of the end zone again, hitting an accurate strike on a 20-yard touchdown to his target’s back shoulder. The pass was perfect timing and anticipation between Williams and his receiver. However late in the fourth quarter, Williams had a wide-open receiver along the sideline on a fourth-and-4, but his pass was wildly off the mark for an incompletion that clinched the loss for USC. Williams’ other key error of the day was when he lost a fumble that gave Washington a short field.
Against the Huskies, Williams completed 27-of-35 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a score and lost a fumble. Williams showed off his athleticism, accuracy, arm strength, and ability to ad lib his team into big plays. This loss hurts Williams resume for the next level because he will not have led his program to a conference championship in his two seasons at USC. Still, Williams looks like a lock for a top-two pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is an ascending prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft, and he has been dominating college football this season. Penix has the Huskies in contention for the college football playoff, and he continued his superb season by leading his team to a tough road win in Los Angeles.
Penix took his opening possession down the field, moving the ball with some precision passes to set up a rushing touchdown for the Huskies. Later in the first half from the USC 22, Penix rolled out and then rifled a pass downfield, where his tight end Devin Culp made a superb leaping touchdown catch along the sideline of the end zone. Just before the half, Penix threw a laser to the back of the end zone for a touchdown that tied the game at 28-28.
In the third quarter, Penix laid out a great deep ball, but his receiver couldn’t hang onto the pass while diving. Later on the drive, Penix tried to fit a pass into a tight window, but the ball was deflected up in the air and a USC safety was able to catch the deflection in the end zone for an interception. Penix came back to lead a scoring drive and then used his strong build to score from a yard out on a quarterback sneak. Against USC, Penix completed 22-of-30 passes for 256 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Overall, Penix put together an efficient game against USC. While he did not dominate, he played well and made big plays that produced points and helped keep drives alive. The Washington ground offense, meanwhile, had a huge night with tailback Dillon Johnson (26-256-4). Penix was generally accurate against the Trojans, throwing the ball with good placement and precision. This tape will be a net positive for his draft grade.
Alabama 42, LSU 28
There was a great draft matchup in this contest with LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels and wide receiver Malik Nabers taking on a secondary of NFL talent, led by cornerback Terrion Arnold. Nabers and Arnold could both be possible first-rounders, and Daniels might go on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft. All three players flashed next-level ability in this rivalry game.
On his first drive of the game, Daniels lofted a perfectly placed deep ball to Nabers for a 46-yard touchdown. Lining up in the slot, Nabers plain out-raced Alabama safety Malachi Moore, blazing past him to get wide open for the touchdown. On the next drive, Daniels showed his speed and athletic ability by taking off on a quarterback draw for a run of 24 yards. Daniels used his arm to move the ball down the field on another drive and then used his legs to finish it with a short touchdown run to tie the game at 14-14.
Just before the half, Daniels took off on a scramble and ended up with a superb run for a 40-yard gain. After another good run, Daniels fired a bullet into a tight window to the 10-yard line. His receiver then finished the play for a 26-yard touchdown.
To open the third quarter, Daniels kept ripping the Alabama defense, and Nabers got open on Arnold while running a slant for a gain of 17 yards to convert a third-and-10. On the next play, Arnold made a superb tackle on Nabers that blew up a wide receiver screen. Daniels added another good run, and then lofted in beautiful pass to Nabers, who made a phenomenal hands catch along the sideline for a gain of 30 yards.
Daniels stared down a receiver on the first play of the fourth quarter, and Dallas Turner timed his jump to deflect the pass in the air. Arnold caught the loose ball to come down with his second interception of the season. Shortly later, Daniels took a hard hit to the head from Turner, which knocked the signal-caller out of the game. Daniels finished his evening having completed 15-of-25 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also turned 11 carries into 163 yards and another score.
Daniels generally helped his draft stock with how he performed against the Crimson Tide. He threw some excellent passes downfield and used his legs to make some big plays. While Daniels has a quality arm and can operate out of the pocket, his ball placement can be inconsistent from play to play. The pass will be perfect on one attempt and then the next one will be off the mark. Daniels has the skill set to start in the pros, and in the 2024 NFL Draft, he could end up as a second-day pick thanks to his potential to develop into a starting quarterback.
Nabers caught 10 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown against Alabama. He had a difficult-to-make catch – on a pass from backup quarterback Garrett Nussmeier – slip through his hands on a fourth-quarter fourth down, but aside from that blemish, Nabers was superb. This tape is definitely going to help his draft grade. Nabers showed off the speed to get vertical, smooth route-running, good concentration, and a thick pro build to battle defensive backs. For the 2024 NFL Draft, Nabers looks like a good pick for the middle to late portion of the first round.
Overall, this tape will help Arnold. He gave up some plays, but also did well on a number of others, including making a game-changing play with his interception. He also broke up some passes while being in phase and demonstrating tight coverage.
Arnold had a rough game against Texas early in the season, but he has bounced back since then and is turning in a quality year for the Crimson Tide. Arnold is a well-rounded player who has size, physicality, and good technique. His only real flaw is speed, and that presents some limitations for the NFL. He will need to be protected from being in man coverage against speed receivers. Still, Arnold looks like a good fit for a zone team and could end up as a first- or second-round pick next April in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Georgia 30, Missouri 21
There were a few future NFL defensive backs in this game, and both of were them taking on some quality receiving talent. Georgia cornerback Kamari Lassiter could be in the running to be the top corner for the 2024 NFL Draft.
In the fourth quarter, Lassiter possibly gave up a reception of over 20 yards when he let a receiver run behind him while while he looked back at the quarterback. Safety Javon Bullard was late coming over the top, which let the completion drop in. If the coverage called was zone, then the reception was Bullard’s fault. If the call was for man, then Lassiter blew the coverage by letting his receiver get open behind him. It looked more like zone given the way Lassiter didn’t run after the receiver made his break. Shortly later, Lassiter did a nice job of smothering an out route and slapping a pass away. However, he appeared to pull something on the play as afterward trainers gave him attention and took him out.
For the NFL, Lassiter looks like a starter and a player who could be a quality starter early in his career. While Lassiter is a good cover corner with quality size, speed and athleticism. That being said, he does not look as smooth and instinctive as say recent top-five corner prospects like Sauce Gardner and Derek Stingley. Depending on how Lassiter plays over the rest of this year and performs in the pre-draft workouts, he looks more like a prospect who could go as high as the middle of the first round and as low as the early portion of the second round, similar to Joey Porter Jr. Lassiter could be a quality pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Missouri cornerback Kris Abrams-Draine was taking on some talented Georgia receivers, but unfortunately, there were not a lot of matchups versus Bulldogs wideout Ladd McConkey. In the second quarter, Abrams-Draine made an excellent play in coverage, running with a receiver on a deep post, turning his head to locate the ball, and then using late hands to slap the pass away. Aside from that, Abrams-Draine wasn’t tested downfield. He was sound in coverage and also did well as a punt returner.
Abrams-Draine looks like a starting nickel cornerback for the next level. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 178 pounds, which would make him undersized to be an outside defender, and often the listed numbers are greater than the reality. Abrams-Draine is quick, fluid, instinctive and gritty. He could be a nice nickel corner candidate as a pro and could be a second-day pick in the2024 NFL Draft.
Texas 33, Kansas State 30 OT
There is a buzz in the scouting community about Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell, and he showed why while taking on Kansas State. In the first quarter, Mitchell ran a go route down the middle of the field, and the pass was lofted in to Mitchell, who trapped it against his chest for a 37-yard touchdown. Shortly later, Mitchell used his speed to get vertical and made a superb diving hands-catch for a 47-yard gain. Mitchell continued to make receptions that moved the chains by using his speed to get open and his size to present a big target for his quarterback. Versus Kansas State, Mitchell caught eight passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Mitchell has a big-time skill set for the next level and a ton of upside to develop. The 6-foot-4, 196-pounder has mismatch size and length, offering a large catch radius. What makes Mitchell unique though is the speed he combines with that excellent height. Mitchell is fast in the straight line, and he can flat-out race past cornerbacks. One can see why Mitchell was a top recruit at Georgia, and he was wise to transfer to Texas, where he is finally in an offense that features a passing attack and gets the receivers involved more. Mitchell looks like a future first-round pick for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Kansas State guard/tackle Connor Beebe looks like a future NFL starter, and he was seeing a pro-caliber nose tackle in Texas’ T’Vondre Sweat. Overall, Beebe was more effective in this game, contributing to protecting quarterback Will Howard. In the first quarter, Sweat shed a block and made a tackle to produce a third-and-long for his defense. Aside from that play, Sweat did not create a significant impact. Sweat looks heavier this season and is not moving as well as he did in 2022. Aside from the performance against Oklahoma, Sweat has not been impressive this year. Beebe is not a world-beater, but he looks like a safe pick to turn into a quality pro starter.
Clemson 31, Notre Dame 23
For NFL teams that want to find some linebacker help in the 2024 NFL Draft, the tape of this contest is going to see a lot of scrutiny from evaluators. Notre Dame’s Marist Liufau is having an excellent season, while Clemson’s tough defense is led by its combination of linebackers Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. Next April in the 2024 NFL Draft, Trotter will probably be the last of the three to come off the board, but on the day, he made the most impactful play.
Midway through the second quarter, Trotter intercepted Sam Hartman and returned the ball for a touchdown. Trotter read the Hartman’s eyes and jumped a short out route before making his return of about 25 yards for the score. Aside from that play, Trotter did a solid job in run defense, taking on blocks and getting in on some tackles. In the fourth quarter, Trotter notched a critical third-down sack that got his defense off the field and set up the offense just past midfield. NFL teams like Trotter as a run defender, but have concerns about him in pass coverage. His performances against the Fighting Irish, with its huge play in pass coverage, should help him in the eyes of the pros.
Carter had a solid game for Clemson, making some critical tackles downfield. He had a clutch stop of running back Audric Estime in the open field and got Hartman to the ground on a long run. For the NFL, Carter is a fast and explosive defender with decent instincts. However, he is small and there are times where he gets destroyed by offensive linemen defending the inside run. Carter struggles to get off blocks. He is a run-and-chase linebacker who would fit in an NFL sub package. As a result, Carter is more of a prospect for Day 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft rather than a first-rounder.
In the first quarter, Liufau got caught out of position after moving too far to the inside. Clemson took advantage by running Phil Mafah off the left tackle to explode down the field for a touchdown from about midfield. By the time Liufau tried to work back to the hash, it was too late. Over the day, Liufau made some tackles in the ground game.
For the NFL, Liufau is very fast and athletic. He is a very violent defender who can play traditional linebacker and also rush the passer. He looks like a first- or second-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
The top prospect from either team is Notre Dame left tackle Joe Alt. He had a good performance against Clemson, winning in pass protection and doing a nice job of pulling in the ground game. Alt pulled well to help spring Estime for some chunk runs, showing nice movement skills. Alt also was rock solid at protecting Sam Hartman.
Alt looks like a future NFL starter and a safe pick to turn into a quality pro. He is big with long arms, uses his hands well, has good strength in the upper body and has good technique. Alt has been consistent and productive for Notre Dame. However, he has issues with his anchor because he is stiff and doesn’t bend well. That lack of bend is a challenging issue given how tall Alt is. Sometimes, Alt will bend at the waist, which leads to him having some issues with sustaining some blocks. Alt has some physical similarities to former Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey. At the next level, Alt might be better off on the right side of the offensive line.