Michigan 26, Iowa 0
There has been talk of Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy going in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, but McCarthy has not been consistently impressive this year, and that trend continued in the Big Ten Championship Game. McCarthy did not impress against Penn State, was better versus Ohio State, and did not thrive against the Hawkeyes.
McCarthy made a nice pass in the first quarter, throwing a dig route while stepping up despite the rush bearing down on him. Later, McCarthy took a terrible coverage sack after running around from side and side, and rather than get rid of the ball when he could have, he caused a negative play. Throughout the first half, McCarthy had some struggles sustaining drives, and the Iowa defense took away the deep part of the field. McCarthy struggled to move the ball, and the Wolverines’ points came from big plays on the part of the defense and special teams. He finished completing 22-fo-30 passes for 147 yards.
McCarthy has a quality arm and can throw the ball accurately. This season, he has been much better with decision-making and taking what the defense is giving him. McCarthy has shown growth with taking check-downs, underneath routes, and using his legs at the right time. McCarthy might be more of a game-manager as a pro than an elite playmaker, but he has starting ability and could be a first-round pick next April in the 2024 NFL Draft.
While the Iowa defense stifled the Michigan passing attack, Michigan had workhorse running back Blake Corum available to carry the load. Corum stepped up and did the heavy lifting, churning out tough yardage. He notched two short rushing touchdowns and helped the Wolverines win the time of possession battle. Corum ran for 52 yards and two scores on 16 carries against the Hawkeyes.
Corum looks like a potential starter for the NFL. He has good vision and the patience to let plays develop. With a strong build, Corum can pick up yards after contact and is able to push through tacklers. Corum will need work in pass protection and receiving for the next level, but he could be a starter and steady back as a pro. In the 2024 NFL Draft, Corum could be a second-day pick.
Florida State 16, Louisville 6
As we reported in the Hot Press, Florida State defensive end Jared Verse was not being graded as the high first-rounder like he was hyped to be by many in the media. Verse entered this conteast with seven sacks, and most of those sacks came against bad opponents. He had two-sack games against Virginia Tech and Wake Forest before recording 2.5 versus Florida. Thus, Verse needed use a game with more production to help make up for other quiet outings this season.
Verse started the ACC Championship well and was stout at the point of attack overall. Midway through the first quarter, Verse notched a sack after looping around the tackle on a stunt to collapse the pocket and take down McCarthy. After that, Verse was stout in the ground game and put some pressure on the quarterback, but did not come up with more splash plays.
For the NFL, Verse has the ability to be a starting end. He has some tightness, but he possesses strength and the quickness to close. This tape will help Verse’s hopes of being a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft becuase he was tough in the ground game and got after the quarterback.
Florida State wide receivers Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson will both end up as picks in the 2024 NFL Draft next April. This outing won’t help either of them, but it won’t hurt them significantly because they were playing with a third-string freshman quarterback who was making his first college start. In the second quarter, Coleman had to adjust to a pass behind him, but Coleman dropped the reception with defenders closing in on him. It was a catch that he definitely should have made and was a bad drop. Coleman (4-19) and Wilson (2-21) are size-mismatch receivers for the NFL with speed limitations. Coleman has a shot at the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. Wilson, meanwhile, will probably go in the mid-rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft after a disappointing 2023 season.
Alabama 27, Georgia 24
Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner is a speed-rushing prospect for the NFL, and Turner had a huge day to help the Crimson Tide. In the second quarter, Turner came up with a clutch sack on a third down that forced Georgia into a field goal attempt. Turner showed his speed to get upfield and the functional power to knock the left tackle backward before ripping Georgia quarterback Carson Beck down to the turf. The Bulldogs ended up missing the long field goal attempt, and the kick would have been good from closer yardage, so Turner’s sack ended up having a huge impact on the scoreboard and game.
For the NFL, Turner is a lightning-fast speed rusher off the edge. He has serious first-step quickness with a burst to close. Turner is a legit threat to blow by offensive tackles and make game-changing plays as a pass rusher. While Turner (6-4, 242) is undersized, he plays physical for a leaner player and is better than against the run than one would expect. Turner should test well before the 2024 NFL Draft, and he could end up going as a top-16 pick next April. Pro team sources have compared Turner to Carolina Panthers defensive end Brian Burns, and Turner could be a superb NFL pass rusher, just like Burns is.
Georgia tight end Brock Bowers is the consensus top tight end prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft and is likely to be a top-20 pick next April. He did not look like his normal self in this game, lacking his usual speed and explosion. Early in the game, Bowers contributed to the Bulldogs taking an early lead with a 23-yard reception. Alabama did a nice job of accounting for Bowers and not letting him produce big plays. However, his ankle injury from earlier in the year also held him back. Late in the fourth quarter, Bowers made a few receptions, including a 20-yarder to get Georgia inside the 10 yard-line. Bowers finished with five catches for 53 yards.
For the NFL, Bowers looks like a receiving weapon and a dynamic contributor in the passing game. He is superb after the catch, showing excellent feel, route-running, and recognition of coverage. While he isn’t the biggest of tight ends, Bowers is a tough competitor as a blocker. This tape will help him to be a first-round pick next April in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Alabama right tackle J.C. Latham was seeing some young talent with the Georgia defensive line, and he had an impressive performance. Latham was rock solid in pass protection, tying up edge rushers and keeping them from putting pressure on the quarterback. Throughout the evening, Latham showed impressive strength to sustain blocks and defeat second efforts. This too will help Latham’s draft grade as he was very effective taking on the Georgia defensive line.
The 6-foot-6, 326-pound Latham has a good skill set and a ton of upside. He did not give up a sack in 2022 and allowed very few pressures while manning right tackle. There is no doubt that Latham is a powerful prospect with the ability to generate movement at the point of attack. He makes winning blocks look easy thanks to serious strength and an ability to sustain. However, Latham is more of a right tackle than a left tackle for the NFL given his feet and movement skills.
Alabama cornerbacks Kool-Aid McKinstry and Terrion ‘Ghost’ Arnold have a shot at being late first-round picks next April during the 2024 NFL Draft. In the second quarter, McKinstry flew over in zone coverage and almost made a leaping interception, but the ball sailed through his hands on a difficult leaping grab. Around midway through the game, McKinstry left the field with an injury. While McKinstry has received high first-round hype, NFL team sources don’t project him there, with many having him as a second-round pick or late first-rounder.
Arnold is the more talented cover corner, but McKinstry has had more media hype. In the second quarter, Arnold was tested deep downfield, but he had blanket coverage on wide receiver Arian Smith in the end zone to help force an incompletion. Early in the fourth quarter, Arnold had tight coverage and slapped away a third-down pass, but a pass-interference penalty was called on Arnold. Arnold was too physical holding the receiver on the play. Late in the fourth quarter, Arnold showed his fearlessness when he fired into the backfield on a third-and-goal from the one to start a tackle for no gain.
Arnold is a good cover corner prospect for the NFL, but he has a concerning lack of speed for the next level. Arnold might be a pick in the back half of Round 1, but he will need to go to the correct scheme to help him pan out in the pros.
Georgia right tackle Amarius Mims is one of the physically gifted players in college football. He has a top-of-the-draft-caliber skillset of shocking speed, strength, athleticism and size. However, NFL team sources think Mims could go late in Round 1 if he enters the 2024 NFL Draft because he has not played a lot. He missed a chunk of time this year with a leg injury before playing well over the final month. This contest though will reinforce the concerns of evaluators. About midway through the first half, Mims went out of the game with a right ankle injury and did not return. Mims could be a first-rounder if he enters the 2024 NFL Draft and could be a high first-rounder in the 2025 NFL Draft if he dominates next season.
Texas 49, Oklahoma State 21
Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell could be a first- or second-round pick next April in the 2024 NFL Draft, and he showed why against Oklahoma State. Early in the first quarter, Mitchell helped put the Longhorns in front by getting open on an out route for a 10-yard touchdown. Mitchell showed his deep speed shortly later, getting open down the field for a 62-yard reception. Mitchell finished with three catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.
For the NFL, Mitchell has a big-time skill set and a ton of upside to develop. The 6-foot-4, 196-pounder possesses mismatch size and length, including a large catch radius. Mitchell has some straight-line speed, but lacks quick explosion and change-of-direction juice. He also needs to get stronger for the NFL. In the 2024 NFL Draft, Mitchell could be picked in the back half of the first round and probably won’t get out of the second round.
Mitchell could be joined in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft by teammate Xavier Worthy. Early in the first quarter, Worthy caught a little out route at the line of scrimmage before exploding down the sideline and cutting to the inside while ripping off a gain of 54 yards. Worthy showed his speed and physicality with a catch along the sideline bolting down the field and powering his way through a tackler at the goal line, but it was ruled that he stepped out of bounds at the eight yard-line.
Unfortunately, the speedster Worthy went into the locker room with an injury early in the fourth quarter. A defender rolled up on Worthy’s ankle while he was being tackled. Worthy was back on the sideline in an ankle boot and on crutches. He finished with three receptions for 69 yards.
For the NFL, Worthy is a speedster receiver who can challenge defenses vertically. He has easy speed to get vertical and can flat-out run past defensive backs. Worthy is a solid route-runner and shows toughness for a thinly built wide receiver. He looks like a potential first-round pick for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Texas tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders had a nice performance against Oklahoma State that illustrated his potential as a receiving weapon for the NFL. In the first quarter, Sanders got open on a wheel route flea-flicker play and was able to pick up a 24-yard touchdown. Late in the second quarter, he weaved down the field on a tight end screen for a gain of 26 yards. Sanders finished the game with four receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. He will need to improve his blocking for the NFL, but he could be a nice receiving weapon to help his offense and could be a pro starter.
Washington 34, Oregon 31
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has enjoyed a big year, leading Washington to an undefeated regular season and to the final Pac-12 game in history. Penix had a great start to the 2023, but in the back half of the year, he was not as sharp, showing serious accuracy and consistency issues. While Penix made some clutch plays against the Ducks, this tape again showed Penix having some problems with accuracy, mechanics and consistency.
Midway through the second quarter, Penix lofted in a deep ball to Jalen McMillan for a 45-yard gain. The pass was slightly underthrown, allowing the defenders to catch up to McMillan at the five yard line, but on the next play, Penix tossed a shovel pass that turned into a short touchdown. A bit later, wide receiver Rome Odunze ran a corner post route and Penix lofted in a 34-yard pass to him. That would set up a field goal.
Midway through the third quarter, Penix made a flat-footed pass in the face of a rush, and the poorly thrown ball floated into breadbasket of a cornerback. After a Bo Nix interception bailed out Penix, Penix had a critical fourth-down try with a receiver open for a first down, but Penix hesitated and held the ball too long, leading to an unnecessary sack that gave Oregon the ball back. The Washngton defense came up with a clutch stop, however, and Penix helped contribute to a scoring drive to take the lead.
About halfway through the fourth quarter, Penix was fortunate on an underthrown back-shoulder throw. The cornerback never turned around, so the pass went for a completion, but the catch was made thanks to a superb adjustment by the receiver. If the corner had turned around to locate the ball, he would have had an easy interception. To cap that drive, Penix found an open receiver for an easy short touchdown pass. Penix finished completing 27-of-39 passes for 319 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Penix has a quality arm capable of making all the throws for the NFL, but he has major accuracy issues. After a red-hot start to the season, he has demonstrated ball-placement flaws in the back half of the season. Penix has shown some issues passing in the face of the rush at times, and that can cause him to have some passes off the mark when he is thrown off rhythm. Penix needs to improve his mechanics. His footwork needs a lot of development for the pro game, as it can lead to him having passes spray off the mark. Penix needs to improve his feet and accuracy significantly to be an effective starter in the NFL. Multiple team sources have projected Penix to be a second-day or mid-round pick for the 2024 NFL Draft. However, Penix plays a position in demand, which obviously helps his draft stock.
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix will get drafted next April, and he was playing in his penultimate game of college football. Nix was solid, but continued to show that he needs development as a passer for the next level.
Late in the first half, Nix rolled out and lofted a two-yard touchdown pass to his tight end in the back of the end zone. Early in the third quarter, Nix missed an open receiver for a third-down conversion, and he lofted a pass inaccurately downfield for an incompletion. Later on the drive, Nix lofted in a perfect pass along the sideline on a wheel route for a 30-yard gain that set up the Ducks deep in Washington territory. Nix capped the drive by rolling out under pressure and throwing a dart into a tight window for a touchdown.
Shorty later, Nix made a terrible pass, rolling out and forcing it into double coverage that led to an easy Washington interception. Nix bounced back to scramble up the field on a play and found some blockers to dart down the field for a 44-yard gain. That helped set up points for the Ducks. Late in the fourth quarter, Nix hit a receiver on the run, who then exploded down the field for a long touchdown with a superb set of yards after the catch. Nix finished completing 21-of-34 passes for 239 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Nix looks like a mid-rounder for the 2024 NFL Draft who has some upside. He has running ability and enough arm strength to make the required throws. Nix could use development as a pocket passer because he has been a read-option quarterback in college while playing for both Oregon and Auburn. Pro team sources view Nix as a system quarterback. For the NFL, he might be a backup who has the upside to potentially be a starter if he develops well.