Scout's Eye: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Week 11
Clemson (9-0) at Boston College (7-2)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (ABC), Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, Mass.)
Chestnut Hill in November is a great place to be -- even more so this year as Boston College ranks 17th in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Eagles host No. 2 Clemson, which has had 18 players selected in the NFL Draft over the past three years. Boston College is loaded with some top prospects, too, as it looks to turn back the clock. From 1999 to 2012, Boston College enjoyed tremendous success in the NFL Draft, producing 10 first-round picks. Since then, none of its 14 players selected in the draft has been taken higher than the third round.
A win by the Eagles would not only shake up the College Football Playoff but also put them in the driver's seat in the ACC Atlantic. The Eagles are getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment from Vegas in this matchup -- no respect -- as the Tigers are favored by three touchdowns.
Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
DE Zach Allen, Boston College, SR (6-5, 285, 4.92, #2): This is an impact player that offenses have to account for before the ball is snapped, as Allen is a menacing force and constantly in the backfield. He can rush the quarterback when lined up on the edge, using a variety of pass-rush moves. And he has kicked inside, serving as an effective run-plugger in the Eagles' 4-3 defensive scheme. The Connecticut native takes great pride in his technique, demonstrates a high motor, is relentless in pursuit and possesses excellent athleticism for his size.
ILB Kendall Joseph, Clemson, rSR (5-11, 225, 4.78, #34): When Dabo Swinney goes on record and calls you as good of a linebacker that he has ever coached, draft observers take note. Smart and instinctive, Joseph is an excellent form tackler in the open field and takes good closing angles in pursuit. He is averaging over seven tackles per game over the past three seasons. Joseph suffered a groin injury that held him out of action for one game earlier this season. The South Carolina native was a three-time state weightlifting champion in high school and also played basketball and ran track. While he lacks prototypical size, Joseph possesses the skill-set and versatility to play MIKE or WILL at the next level.
CB Trayvon Mullen, Clemson, JR (6-1, 190, 4.49, #1): A long, quick corner, Mullen possesses great recovery speed, which allows him to play one-on-one man coverage with just about anyone. A great athlete, he has a true nose for the football and can be an effective return man on special teams at the next level. He led all defensive backs on the team with 42 snaps played last week and has been one of their top performers over the past two seasons. His size, athleticism and speed (was reportedly timed at 4.37 in high school) make him a potential CB1 at the next level and potential first-round pick. Mullen also has strong bloodlines; he is the cousin of 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson.
OT Mitch Hyatt, Clemson, SR (6-5, 305, 5.08, #75): The blind-side protector is coming off a big game, breaking the Clemson record for most snaps played (3,361) and making his first career reception against Louisville. Hyatt is highly athletic and excels in pass protection, possesses a fundamentally sound kick-slide and has great bend, which shows up on film when engaging pass rushers. The three-time first-team All-ACC selection shows impressive speed for his size and is efficient in space when seeking out secondary defenders. Hyatt could use to add roughly 10 pounds to hold up against the bull rush; he is more of a finesse blocker who out-positions his man, as opposed to driving him out of a play. When he steps onto the field against Boston College, it'll be his 52nd career start, which will tie the school record (kicker Chandler Catanzaro). Hyatt will continue his family's legacy into the pros; his uncle Dan Benish played for the Tigers' 1981 championship team.
FS Lukas Denis, Boston College, SR (5-11, 188, 4.55, #21): A playmaker with the ball in his hands, Denis recorded seven interceptions as a junior, averaging 26.4 return yards per interception, and he had a 59-yard pick-six earlier this season. He possesses natural instincts when jumping the receiver's route; Denis was originally recruited as a cornerback but was switched to safety due to lack of depth. While he lacks size and elite speed, he does possess extremely quick feet (he was jumping rope like Muhammad Ali by the second grade, according to legendary Massachusetts high school coach John DiBiaso). You would like to see Denis be a more fundamentally sound tackler, but he does play a nice centerfield and his ball skills allow him to thrive in zone coverage. He could very well be one of the first safeties off the board come April.
Other Clemson prospects to watch:
DE Clelin Ferrell, rJR (6-4, 260, 4.78, #99)
DT Dexter Lawrence, JR (6-3, 340, 5.27, #90)
DT Christian Wilkins, SR (6-3, 300, 5.04, #42)
DE Austin Bryant, SR (6-4, 265, 4.78, #7)
WR Hunter Renfrow, rSR (5-10, 180, 4.54, #13)
CB Mark Fields, SR (5-10, 180, 4.52)
OLB Shaq Smith, SO (6-1, 245, 4.74, #5)
Other Boston College prospects to watch:
OG Chris Lindstrom, SR (6-3, 305, 5.17, #75)
DE Wyatt Ray, SR (6-2, 250, 4.84, #11)
TE Tommy Sweeney, rSR (6-4, 255, 4.86, #89)
ILB Connor Strachan, rSR (6-0, 230, 4.76, #13)
OG Sam Schmal, rSR (6-6, 310, 5.43, #73)
QB Anthony Brown, rSO (6-0, 210, 4.72, #13)
WR Jeff Smith, SR (6-0, 190, 4.49, #6)
Mississippi State (6-3) at Alabama (9-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS), Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State, SR (6-5, 241, 4.78, #9): A menace who is constantly disrupting the backfield, Sweat has been downright dominant at times this season, thanks to his speed, power and athleticism. He possesses a diverse pass-rush repertoire, while playing defensive end and outside linebacker in the Bulldogs' hybrid defensive scheme. The Georgia native was a basketball standout in high school. He played his freshman season of football at Michigan State, then a season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, before landing at Mississippi State. Coaches say he has shown a new maturity during his time in Starkville.
CB Jamal Peters, Mississippi State, SR (6-2, 218, 4.55, #2): It's been a year filled with adversity for Peters, who missed a month of the season due to a leg injury. He has since returned to action, demonstrating his athleticism and natural instincts, along with his great length. Peters missed the bowl game last season due to a death in the family and had just seven career starts entering the season, so finishing up strong would bode well for his draft stock. He began his college career at safety before making the switch to cornerback as a sophomore. His versatility, size and quickness will certainly generate plenty of draft interest.
OG Lester Cotton, Alabama, SR (6-3, 324, 5.32, #66): The big-bodied Cotton may surprise you with his ability to get down the line and seal off the block on pull plays. He's tough in the trenches and has battled through a sprained ankle for much of the season. Cotton missed the national championship last year due to a knee injury. There's no doubt he possesses impressive discipline with his ability to multi-task, balancing school, football and fatherhood.
Other Mississippi State prospects to watch:
DT Jeffery Simmons, JR (6-3, 301, 4.98, #94)
OG Darryl Williams, rJR (6-2, 305, 5.20, #73)
C Elgton Jenkins, rSR (6-4, 313, 5.34, #74)
FS Johnathan Abram, SR (5-11, 215, 4.57, #38)
SS Mark McLaurin, SR (6-1, 215, 4.62, #41)
Other Alabama prospects to watch:
OT Jonah Williams, JR (6-5, 301, 5.02, #73)
DE Raekwon Davis, JR (6-6, 303, 5.07, #99)
ILB Mack Wilson, JR (6-1, 231, 4.73, #30)
OLB Anfernee Jennings, JR (6-2, 265, 4.79, #33)
DE Isaiah Buggs, SR (6-4, 292, 4.94, #49)
RB Damien Harris, SR (5-10, 216, 4.55, #34)
DL Quinnen Williams, rSo (6-4, 295, 4.82, #92)
California (5-4) at USC (5-4)
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN), Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
WR Michael Pittman Jr., USC, JR (6-3, 215, 4.54, #6): The playmaker possesses great size and strength, which enables him to get off the line of scrimmage cleanly. Pittman Jr. is a deep threat due his acceleration and ability to come down with the jump ball -- he loves to run the fade. He was a special teams sensation as a freshman, making seven tackles on coverage, forcing a fumble, blocking a punt and returning kicks. There are some durability concerns that will make NFL teams wary. He battled an ankle injury for the majority of the year last season and suffered a shoulder injury last week, which prevented him from finishing the game. He also had a broken collarbone in high school. His father, Michael Sr., who has been openly critical of the Trojans on Twitter, played a decade in the NFL.
RB Patrick Laird, California, rSR (5-11, 200, 4.55, #28): A former walk-on, Laird is now a team captain who runs hard, breaks tackles and is an exceptional pass catcher out of the backfield (83 receptions over his past 20 games). He also possesses surprising athleticism and agility (he can do a front flip and a back flip). Off the field, Laird is fascinated with reading books and hosted a Summer Reading Challenge for students that attracted over 4,000 kids. On the field, he is on his way to a second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season (currently has 703 rushing yards) and is one score away from matching last season's touchdown total of nine.
ILB Jordan Kunaszyk, California, rSR (6-2, 235, 4.77, #59): A tremendous team leader and captain, Kunaszyk (kuh-NAW-shick) has been able to play at a high level due to smarts and instincts. The transfer from American River College lacks prototypical speed but has improved his athleticism under the new strength and conditioning unit. A projected priority free agent, Kunaszyk is part of the Christian leadership group, Athletes in Action, which helps those who are less fortunate.
Other California prospects to watch:
ILB Evan Weaver, JR (6-3, 235, 4.75, #89)
FB Ray Hudson, rSR (6-2, 250, 4.86)
Other USC prospects to watch:
FS Marvell Tell III, SR (6-2, 195, 4.52, #7)
OLB Porter Gustin, SR (6-4, 255, 4.80, #45)
TE Tyler Petite, SR (6-3, 250, 4.82, #82)
CB Isaiah Langley, SR (5-11, 175, 4.56, #24)
Florida State (4-5) at Notre Dame (9-0)
Saturday, 7:30 pm ET (NBC), Notre Dame Stadium (Notre Dame, Ind.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
RB Dexter Williams, Notre Dame, SR (5-11, 215, 4.50, #2): The Notre Dame "Juice Man" has been a battering ram for the Fighting Irish since returning from a four-game suspension to begin the year. Williams brings the energy that sparks the Notre Dame offense with his great cutback ability, burst and speed; he can take it to the house on any given play (eight touchdowns in five games played) and is able to break tackles for yards after contact. The Florida native served as a reserve the past three years and was often subbed out due to poor pass protection, but he has made huge strides in that department this year, earning himself a draftable grade. His mom is currently battling two terminal illnesses.
OT Derrick Kelly II, Florida State, rSR (6-5, 323, 5.20, #74): A tall, strong, athletic big man, Kelly II has been a valuable asset for the Seminoles with his ability to play multiple positions. He has started at left guard and left tackle during the past two seasons; he started at right tackle in 2015 before an injury ended his season prematurely, while an ankle injury caused him to miss a pair of games earlier this year. In addition to durability issues, Kelly II has struggled against speed at times and is best suited at guard in the pros. He projects as a Day 3 candidate.
OLB Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame, rSR (6-1, 231, 4.64, #23): The do-it-all Tranquill has played safety, rover and "BUCK" linebacker positions for Notre Dame, flashing great instincts and smarts, along with his versatility. The fifth-year senior and team captain tore his ACL during his freshman and sophomore seasons and is already married; he'll be a 24-year old his rookie. He is currently battling through an ankle injury.
Other Florida State prospects to watch:
DE Brian Burns, JR (6-4, 220, 4.64, #99)
DT Demarcus Christmas, rSR (6-3, 308, 5.18, #90)
WR Nyqwan Murray, SR (5-11, 176, 4.50, #8)
C Alec Eberle, rSR (6-3, 294, 5.21, #54)
Other Notre Dame prospects to watch:
DT Jerry Tillery, SR (6-5, 306, 5.32, #99)
CB Julian Love JR (5-11, 193, 4.50, #27)
WR Miles Boykin, rJR (6-3, 225, 4.54, #81)
TE Alize Mack, rJR (6-4, 251, 4.73)
OG Alex Bars, SR (6-5, 312, 5.27, #71)
C Sam Mustipher, rSR (6-2, 305, 5.19, #53)