Prospect Notebook: Week 2

Players on the rise and small-school stars under the radar

Week 1 had its share of stud performers and unexpected bust-out players, along with some disappointing showings. Either way, it's important to keep the evaluation process in perspective, as one week, or one game, doesn't define an entire career.

While acknowledging that there's plenty of football ahead, let's check in on who's rising, who's surprising and some names you need to know entering Week 2.

RIO BRAVO THE COLORADO GUNSLINGER: One quarterback with the potential to escalate draft boards is Steven Montez (6-4, 225, 4.78, #12, rJR) of Colorado. The rifle armed signal-caller has flashed superstar potential at times but streaky play has prevented him from being mentioned with college football's top-shelf quarterbacks.

He showed better touch and accuracy on his short-to-intermediate passes against Colorado State during Week 1, especially on the back-shoulder throws. Montez took full advantage of a porous defense, shredding the Rams for 338 passing yards and five touchdowns (he sat out the fourth quarter).

NFL scouts will be curious to know why he wasn't named one of the Buffs seven team captains.

In the meantime, Montez will be under the microscope this week, as the Buffs play at Nebraska, playing its first game under coach Scott Frost.

A DIFFERENT CLAYTON ON A PITCH COUNT: Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson (6-3, 225, 4.76, #18, rSR) was in the starting lineup for the season-opener versus Purdue, less than nine months since suffering a torn right ACL. The remarkable comeback featured one caveat, a pitch count.

While Thorson is not to be confused with Los Angeles Dodgers pitching ace Clayton Kershaw, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald said that the plan heading into the game was to limit the amount of Thorson's throws.

After marching the Wildcats down the field for a touchdown on back-to-back drives, the team captain gave way to backup TJ Green, as the duo rotated for the rest of the game. The strategy resulted in a victory, but the substitution patterns seemed to knock Thorson out of his grove, as he finished just 16 of 27 for 172 yards.

It remains to be seen how long into the season he'll receive limited reps, but it's a step in the right direction in his attempt to rebuild his draft value.

MONDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: There wasn't much to celebrate in the anticipated debut of Florida State head coach Willie Taggart, as the Seminoles were slammed 24-3 by Virginia Tech. However, there was one bright spot: DE Brian Burns (6-4, 235, 4.64, #99, rJR), who registered six tackles, including two tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one quarterback pressure.

Burns has bulked up 35 pounds over the past two years and should benefit greatly to FSU's return of a 4-3 base defense this season. Limber, lean and constantly pressuring quarterbacks like the lawn-mower man, he has earned a reputation for his football savvy and work ethic, while drawing comparisons by coaches to guys like John Abraham and Myles Garrett.

Look for Burns to be a potential first-round candidate should he decide to declare early for the draft.

A NEW MARSHALL ON THE TROJANS DEFENSE: There is much talk in the scouting community as to whether Iman Marshall (6-0, 205, 4.53, #8, SR) projects best at cornerback or free safety at the next level. He returned to USC in order to prove he can play a more polished brand of press man coverage and improve his overall footwork/technique, which he stated was a major focal point of his offseason.

The coaching staff praised his maturity and leadership coming into the year and it translated to the playing field in the Trojans' 43-21 win over UNLV, as we saw a much more aggressive player.

Smart, tough and physical, Marshall has struggled with injuries throughout his career, so he does need to prove he can stay healthy. However, his skill-set suggests he should be a top 50 overall selection come April.

Next up, a conference road game at Stanford in a key Pac-12 matchup.

FUTURE WATCH: Few observers are familiar with Rutgers running back Raheem Blackshear (5-9, 185, 4.45, #25, SO), but he is one of the most exciting, young playmakers in the nation.

The sophomore sensation isn't draft-eligible until 2020, but early glimpses of his game reveal a slashing runner who is also a weapon catching the ball out of the backfield. We saw that in the Scarlet Knights' Week 1 romp over Texas State, as Blackshear totaled 118 yards on 12 carries and seven receptions, while scoring one rushing and one receiving touchdown.

While he is shifty in the open field, he also runs much bigger than his size and possesses a style similar to that of LeSean McCoy (Bills). Once Big Ten play begins, look for the Blackshear bandwagon to get rolling.

ON LOCATION: was on location for a stellar small school matchup between Saint Francis at Lehigh, which featured a couple of prospects on the NFL radar.

Most notably was Saint Francis wideout Kamron Lewis (6-3, 195, 4.62, #2, SR.), who presents a nice tall target for his quarterback with his prototypical size/length. He was a total mismatch on this day due to his leaping ability, instincts and balance -- he adjusted to a couple of badly thrown balls in mid-air, which resulted in some big plays. While he made a pair of spectacular catches, he did have one pass bounce right off his hands. He finished with five receptions for 85 yards.

Surprisingly, Lewis earns a living in the slot for the Red Flash, although he possesses a frame that could allow him to play outside in the NFL. During the game, Lehigh running back Dominick Bragalone (5-11, 230, 4.67, #32, SR), another player scouts are keeping tabs on, rumbled for 137 rushing yards on 29 carries and three touchdowns, on his way to becoming the school's all-time leading rusher. Lehigh held on to win 21-19.

SMALL SCHOOL SPOTLIGHT: There's a bigger feel on the small campus of Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., these days.

During the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, offensive tackle Greg Senat became the first Seahawks player drafted in 53 years, when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens. Over the summer, the school hired eight-year NFL veteran Terrance "Pot Roast" Knighton to their coaching staff. It has resulted in more visits by pro scouts, as more than half a dozen NFL teams have already checked in this year to get an up-close look at running back Ryan Fulse (5-11, 200, 4.52, #3, SR). was in attendance at their season opener Thursday night to get a glimpse at the game-breaking runner. Fulse didn't disappoint, showing great patience, vision and burst, as he rumbled for 271 yards on 20 carries, including a pair of 77-yard touchdown scampers against Bowie State. He would visit the end zone three times on the night, sealing a 43-20 victory.

After a long drought, don't be surprised if Wagner sees another player drafted in 2019.

PARTING SHOT: The recent cuts of Paxton Lynch (first round), Christian Hackenberg (second round) and Davis Webb (third round), continue to show why quarterback remains the hardest position to evaluate when it comes to the NFL Draft. At this time a year ago, there were rumblings that Washington State quarterback Luke Falk could be a potential first-round pick. Now, he's waiting in the unemployment line.

UP NEXT: The Road Tour continues this week, as we travel to Philadelphia, Pa., to get a close look at talented Buffalo wideout Anthony Johnson (6-1, 207, 4.54, #83, rSR), who has drawn high praise from scouts.

The Bulls will face a fired up Temple squad, who is coming off a disappointing loss to Villanova of the FCS. The Owls, who had 14 players make NFL opening day rosters, have several more prominent pro prospects who we'll also examine.




Frank Cooney


Rob Rang

NFL Draft Scout