Scout's Eye: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Week 12
Syracuse (8-2) at Notre Dame (10-0)
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET (ABC), Yankee Stadium (Bronx, New York)
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is looking to guide the Fighting Irish to their first undefeated season since Lou Holtz accomplished the feat in 1988 (12-0). During Kelly's tenure over the past eight seasons, the Fighting Irish have had 37 players selected in the NFL Draft, including eight first-round picks. Syracuse has only had a pair of seventh-round picks over the past couple of seasons, but the third year has been a charm for head coach Dino Babers. A Syracuse victory would give the Orange nine wins, which would be the most it has had since 2001, when it went 10-3. Notre Dame is favored by double-digits in this one but a "W" for the underdog should not be underestimated in what figures to be a competitive matchup in front of what is expected to be a sold-out crowd.
Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
DE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame, rJR (6-4, 240, 4.80, #42): While his sack total might not suggest it, Okwara has put opposing quarterbacks under constant duress with his quick burst and athleticism coming off the edge. He's known to have excellent stamina and has been timed running at 19.5 mph, per coach Brian Kelly. Okwara possesses great awareness and natural instincts, despite not playing football until eighth grade. He moved from Nigeria to USA in third grade and played tennis, soccer, along with swimming. In 10 games this season, Okwara has racked up a remarkable 21 quarterback hurries, converting three and a half into sacks, along with 9.5 tackles for loss and 34 tackles. Julian appears to be a higher-rated prospect than brother Romeo (Lions), who also played for Notre Dame. Should he decide to declare early, Okwara could be a dark-horse candidate to sneak into the first round as we progress through the draft process.
DE Khalid Kareem, Notre Dame, JR (6-3, 265, 4.82, #53): Kareem has emerged as one of the key components on the Fighting Irish's resilient defense, leading the team with 11 tackles for loss. He has incredible burst off the snap and possesses violent, active hands and long arms, which allow him to gain leverage to help shed blockers; he flashes a diverse pass-rush repertoire, including, rip, dip and spin. He's relentless in pursuit. The Detroit native was a swimmer, basketball player and a shot putter in high school -- he received more than 30 scholarship offers, including Harvard and Yale, as he also excels in the classroom.
DE Alton Robinson, Syracuse, JR (6-3, 249, 4.82, #94): A relentless pass rusher, Robinson shows nice bend and athleticism, along with his great length. He originally committed to Texas A&M as a senior but was arrested for second-degree robbery after stealing his girlfriend's cell phone in high school, twice. In both incidents, Robinson pushed his girlfriend down to the ground. Charges were eventually dismissed but his scholarship was rescinded. He played one season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, registering 14 sacks. He has 14 sacks in 21 career games with Syracuse, and continues to make big plays; he had two sacks (nine on the season), plus a fumble recovery, in last week's win over Louisville.
WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame, JR (6-3, 227, 4.59, #83): The first Canadian-born player on Notre Dame in two decades, Claypool hails from British Columbia and has modeled his game after Julio Jones. Strong, fast and physical, he checks all the boxes and is also a phenomenal blocker. Claypool is constantly running past defenders, in addition to running through would-be tacklers and he's a big red zone threat. Fellow teammate Julian Love, a potential first-round pick, credits Claypool as having the most tools of any wideout he ever faced. A high-energy player who was a special teams demon early in his career, he suffered a shoulder injury last season, causing him to miss the Citrus Bowl. He was still recovering from the injury heading into the spring, which has made his outstanding play even more of a pleasant surprise for head coach Brian Kelly.
OT Koda Martin, Syracuse, rSR (6-5, 310, 5.15, #75): Martin, a graduate transfer from Texas A&M, where he suffered from intense heat stroke (kidney failure) during practice, is also the son-in-law to head coach Dino Babers. He started at both tackle positions for the Aggies, in addition to having one start at tight end, and also played center. The athletic, strong Martin is noted to be a weight room warrior and has started every game at right tackle for the Orange this season. Playing against an opposing defensive line that features several notable prospects who will play on Sunday, Martin will have a great platform to showcase his skill-set and help solidify his draft stock.
Other Syracuse prospects to watch:
OT Cody Conway, SR (6-5, 296, 5.04, #60)
QB Eric Dungey, SR (6-3, 226, 4.67, #2)
DT Chris Slayton, rSR (6-3, 309m 5.225, #95)
OG Aaron Roberts, OG (6-4, 292, 5.10, #59)
WR Jamal Custis, rSR (6-4, 213, 4.62, #17)
DE Kendall Coleman, JR (6-3, 265, 4.78, #55)
WR Sean Riley, JR (5-8, 170, 4.45, #10)
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, 6-3, 225, 4.55, #81)
TE Alize Mack, rJR (6-4, 251, 4.73, #86)
RB Dexter Williams, SR (5-11, 215, 4.50, #2)
OLB Drue Tranquill, rSR (6-1, 231, 4.64, #23
C Sam Mustipher, rSR (6-2, 305, 5.19, #53)
Iowa State (6-3) at Texas (7-3)
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (LHN), Darrell K Royal -- Texas Memorial Stadium, (Austin, Texas)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
WR Hakeem Butler, Iowa State, rJR (6-5, 225, 4.59, #18): Butler, a rare athletic, physical specimen, is a premier playmaker capable of playing vertically, making outstanding one-handed catches and discarding of defenders like he was taking out the trash. He leads the nation in yards per catch (22.7), and eight of his 36 catches have been touchdowns. The Baltimore native moved in with his aunt and uncle in the Houston area after his mother died of cancer in 2012. His mom would be proud of his play, as Butler could ascend all the way into Round 1.
OLB Marcel Spears, Iowa State, rJR (6-0, 215, 4.77, #42): The big-play Spears has earned a reputation for making clutch plays when needed. He exploded onto the scene last year, racking up 107 tackles (8.5 for loss), with a pair of interceptions and one forced fumble. Spears, who was a three-sport standout in HS (wresting, track and field) has continued his momentum into this season with his quick twitch and athleticism.
DT Chris Nelson, Texas, rSR (6-1, 315, 5.15, #97): A three-year starter and team captain, Nelson has served as a staple of the Longhorns interior, serving as a run-clogger, while flashing his signature belly rub dance along the way. He's a big reason why the Longhorns have one of the top run defenses in the country, as Nelson is explosive off the snap and quick to shoot the gaps. The Florida native missed one game earlier this season due to an ankle injury, but his draft stock has climbed and Nelson should be a Day 3 consideration on the board.
Other Iowa State prospects to watch:
RB David Montgomery, JR (5-10, 216, 4.63, #32)
RB Mike Warren, rSR (6-0, 215, 4.47, #2)
TE Chase Allen, rSO (6-6, 240, 4.86, #11)
Other Texas prospects to watch:
CB Kris Boyd, Texas, SR. (6-0, 200, 4.50, #2)
WR Collin Johnson, Texas, JR. (6-5, 220, 4.59, #9)
WR Lil'Jordan Humphrey, JR. (6-4, 225, n/a, #84):
QB Shane Buechele JR. (6-1, 205, 4.78, #7)
OLB Breckyn Hager, SR. (6-3, 245, 4.79, #44)
WR John Burt, Texas, SR. (6-2, 200, 4.59, #1)
Duke (7-3) at Clemson (10-0)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN), Memorial Stadium (Clemson, S.C.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
ILB Joe Giles-Harris, Duke, rJR (6-1, 240, 4.83, #44): One half of the Blue Devils' dynamite duo in the middle of their 5-2-5 defensive scheme, Giles-Harris has shown a knack for making big plays, while flashing elite instincts. He does a great job diagnosing the play as it develops and covers a tremendous amount of ground sideline-to-sideline. He has been dominant at every level and had numerous Power 5 scholarship offers coming out of New Jersey powerhouse St. Joseph High School. He's a starter at the next level, despite his lack of measureables.
DT Albert Huggins, Clemson, SR (6-2, 305, 5.12, #67): It just goes to show how tremendously deep and talented the Tigers defensive line is, as they have backup players who possess NFL traits. A stout force and space eater, Huggins holds his ground well and wins the leverage battle on most occasions in the trenches. He used to sleep during film sessions and was undisciplined in the classroom early on in his collegiate career but has finished strong with his disruptive play. His athleticism and strength (can bench press over 500 pounds) makes him a late-round candidate.
ILB Ben Humphreys, Duke SR (6-2, 225, 4.64, #34): The other half of Duke's LB tandem, Humphreys lacks some of the instincts of his counterpart Giles-Harris but gets by with his savvy and smarts. He does a nice job in coverage and is excellent at getting off blocks to make the play. He endured an injury-hampered junior season and missed two games due to a leg injury. For his career, Humphreys has over 30 starts.
Other Duke prospects to watch:
QB Daniel Jones, rJR (6-4, 220, 4.77, #17)
CB Mark Gilbert, JR (6-0, 175, 4.40, #28)
WR John Lloyd, rSR (5-11, 190, 4.70, #5)
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)
CB Trayvon Mullen, Clemson, JR (6-1, 190, 4.49, #1)
WR Hunter Renfrow, rSR (5-10, 180, 4.54, #13)
CB Mark Fields, SR (5-10, 180, 4.52)
San Diego State (7-3) at Fresno State (8-2)
Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET (CBSSN), Bulldog Stadium (Fresno, Calif.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
WR KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State, rSR (6-1, 199, 4.57, #3): Playing on the west coast, Johnson has flown under the radar, but he recently broke Davante Adams' school record for catches and is the current FBS leader in career receptions (250). The Palo Alto native possesses tremendous ball skills, excellent ball range and is an advanced route runner who can create separation. Johnson is also a phenomenal leaper who comes down with the 50/50 ball the majority of the time. He has made plenty of acrobatic catches throughout his career and has 1,966 receiving yards, with 15 touchdowns, in his last 24 games. A former basketball standout, he admits that football wasn't his first love; it was his brother who got him interested in the sport. Now he is a bona-fide NFL prospect who projects in the mid-to-late rounds.
CB Anthoula Kelly, Fresno State, rSR (5-9, 185, 4.42, #6): The Texas native has come up with clutch plays in critical situations, including a key forced fumble (Minnesota), a game-clinching interception (Hawaii) and a big pick six (Idaho). Kelly has played himself into consideration as a potential late-round pick, leading the nation in passes defended (17), with three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) in 10 games.
K John Baron II, San Diego State, SR (5-10, 190, 4.94, #29): This kicker deserves some shine, as Baron II has connected on 49 of 57 field goal attempts for his career (86 percent), including a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond 50 yards (career high of 54). Aztecs head coach Rocky Long has praised the left-footed Baron for his focus and concentration, praising his ability to convert in stressful situations late in the game. Played soccer in HS.
Other San Diego State prospects to watch:
OT Ryan Pope, SR (6-6, 315, 5.20, #77)
RB Juwan Washington, JR (5-7, 190, 4.44, #29)
Other Fresno State prospects to watch:
ILB Jeff Allison, JR (6-0, 242, 4.84, #9)
OLB Mykal Walker, JR (6-2, 220, 4.75, #3)