Scout's Eye: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Week 13
Michigan (10-1) at Ohio State (10-1)
Saturday, noon ET (FOX), Ohio Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
This one is right up there with some of the greatest rivalries in sports. Michigan leads the series 58-49-6 but has been on the winning side just twice since the turn of the century. From 1985-2000, the Buckeyes won only three times. Over the past three NFL drafts, Ohio State has produced an astounding 10 first-round picks and 26 total selections. Michigan had a remarkable 12 players chosen in the 2017 draft, including a pair of first-round picks, but had just two draft choices in 2018. This contest features several prominent future pros, including a handful of projected first-round prospects. From Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes, to Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer, this has all the makings of a legendary matchup.
Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
RB Karan Higdon, Michigan, SR (5-9, 202, 4.50, #22): The brash running back made headlines this week, guaranteeing victory over OSU (what else was he going to say when asked a direct question?). And with the way Higdon has been running, who can blame him? The team captain has guided Michigan with his vision and patience, along with his ability to pick up chunks of yardage after contact. He missed the SMU game but enjoyed a stretch of seven consecutive games in which he rushed for 100 yards, on his way to becoming the first Wolverines running back to surpass the 1,000-yard barrier in a single season since Fitzgerald Toussaint (2011). The Florida native was able to graduate in three years, has a 3-year old daughter and has started a non-profit for underprivileged children. A downhill runner, Higdon has just one carry for more than 50 yards this season but should be viewed as an effective runner who would be a great smash complement to pair with a dash runner at the next level.
FS Tyree Kinnel, Michigan, SR (5-11, 215, 4.56, #23): The Ohio native grew up about an hour north of Columbus, so he's very aware of this heated rivalry. Kinnel played a key role in the Wolverines' win over Indiana last week with nine tackles, and he leads the team with 60 on the season, flashing improved speed and strength, to go along with great range. He does an excellent job of diagnosing pre-snap reads and communicates well on the field, making sure his teammates are lined up properly. The team captain has been praised by the coaching staff for his work ethic and has always played a key role on special teams, which bodes well for his draft stock. He projects as a mid-to-late-round prospect.
TE Zach Gentry, Michigan, rJR (6-7, 262, 4.82, #83): A big-time quarterback recruit out of high school, Gentry made the switch to tight end upon his arrival at Ann Arbor and has since bulked up 30 pounds. He presents a huge catch radius for his quarterback, standing at 6-7, but possesses enough athleticism to line up in the slot and be used as an effective pass-catcher. The New Mexico native is too tall for defensive backs and too fast for linebackers, often times making him a mismatch for the opposition. While Gentry isn't the flashiest player, his overall skill-set provides late-round value as a backup at the next level, as he projects as a potential Day 3 prospect at this point.
WR K.J. Hill, Ohio State, rJR (6-0, 198, 4.49, #14): A clutch performer, Hill has shined as the Buckeyes' most reliable receiving threat due to his sharp route running, toughness and clutch plays. His dependable hands have been on display all season, as he has made his fair share of momentum-changing plays, in addition to acrobatic catches and plenty of third down conversions. Hill can take bubble screen and convert it into a first down in the blink of an eye. He's also an outstanding blocker. He was limited during the offseason and missed all of spring ball due to offseason shoulder surgery. The Arkansas native was also a basketball standout in high school, which shows up in his agility, balance and leaping ability. With career highs across the board in receptions (62), receiving yards (772) and touchdowns (five), Hill could bolt to the NFL.
WR Terry McLaurin, Ohio State, rSR (6-0, 205, 4.53, #83): The Buckeyes' wideouts are a selfless group, and McLaurin probably defines that more than anyone. A two-time team captain, he was named offensive player of the game against Penn State despite not making a single catch, largely in part due to his fearless blocking. The speedster is quick to find the open seam and is difficult to track down once he accelerates -- his smooth pedal makes for deceptive speed as he appears to outrun defenders effortlessly. The Indianapolis native brings plenty of experience with over 40 games played and is averaging nearly 20 yards per catch, along with nine touchdowns and 579 receiving yards on the year.
Other Michigan prospects to watch:
DT Rashan Gary, JR (6-4, 281, 4.67, #3)
OLB Devin Bush, JR (5-11, 240, 4.78, #10)
DE Chase Winovich, JR, (6-3, 253, 4.82, #15)
QB Shea Patterson, JR (6-1, 193, 4.67, #2)
CB Lavert Hill, JR. (5-11, 177, 4.47, #24)
OLB Khaleke Hudson, JR (5-11, 220, 4.57, #7)
CB Brandon Watson, rSR (5-10, 204, 4.55, #28)
Other Ohio State prospects to watch:
OT Isaiah Prince, SR (6-6, 310, 5.16, #59)
OG Michael Jordan, JR (6-6, 310, 5.24, #73)
RB Mike Weber, rJR (5-9, 215, 4.52, #25)
WR Parris Campbell, rSR (6-0, 208, 4.39, #21)
WR Johnnie Dixon, SR. (5-11, 195, 4.54, #5)
OLB Dante Booker, SR. (6-2, 240, 4.68, #33)
Auburn (7-4) at Alabama (11-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS), Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
FS Deionte Thompson, Alabama, rJR (6-1, 196, 4.50, #14): When you talk about the prototypical safety in terms of size, speed, athleticism and physicality, Thompson checks all the boxes. His range and ball skills make him an instant plug-and-play starter at the next level. It'll be interesting to see how NFL teams view his pending assault charge stemming from a Texas incident in 2017, which was caught on video.
DT Derrick Brown, Auburn, JR (6-4, 325, 5.14, #5): A disruptive force on the interior, Brown possesses great size and athleticism, to go along with a mammoth wingspan (83 inches). He should test well in strength and speed, as he set a school record by squatting 590 pounds and has been timed as low as 4.95 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to coaches. His ability to gobble up double teams and his violent hands will make him a valuable asset at the next level. A blue chip prospect coming out of high school, Brown hails from Georgia but was actually born in Starkville, Miss. Known for his high character, the soon father-to-be projects as a first-round pick should he declare, which many assume.
ILB Deshaun Davis, Auburn, rSR (5-11, 233, 4.84, #57): The Tigers' vocal leader has been a run-stuffing machine, demonstrating cat-like instincts filling the gap and leading the team with 98 tackles. Davis does a nice job shedding/disengaging blocks and staying aggressive in pursuit. He projects as a two-down player at the next level due to his lack of athleticism and limitations in pass coverage. He carries a Day 3 grade.
Other Auburn prospects to watch:
QB Jarrett Stidham, JR (6-2, 214, 4.68, #8)
WR Darius Slayton, JR (6-1, 190, 4.42, #81)
DT Andrew Williams, rSR (6-3, 286, 4.96, #79)
CB Jamel Dean, rJR (6-1, 208, 4.56, #12)
Other Alabama prospects to watch:
DL Quinnen Williams, rSO (6-3, 295, 4.84, #92)
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)
Florida (8-3) at Florida State (5-6)
Saturday, noon ET (ABC), Doak Campbell Stadium (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
OLB Vosean Joseph, Florida, JR (6-0, 226, 4.58, #11): A fiery player, Joseph has been an enforcer for Florida, serving as the sheriff with big plays and hard hits. On the down side, his reckless style of play has resulted in costly penalties on numerous occasions. The Miami native is a great wrap-up tackler and shows a tremendous nose for the football. His closing speed is unparalleled; combined with his ability to dissect schemes and dedication to the film room, Joseph possesses first-round attributes. He takes great pride in his Caribbean heritage and visits Jamaica annually.
DE Jabri Zuniga, Florida, rJR (6-3, 257, 4.84, #91): The Gators' aggressive defense under DC Todd Grantham has been very beneficial for Zuniga, who has thrived as a chess piece, playing up and down the defensive line, in addition to linebacker. He primarily played defensive end during his first two seasons and struggled with consistency but has since developed into an every-down player. Zuniga possesses size, strength and an explosive first step. He also owns great lower-body strength (can squat over 500 pounds) and athleticism. He's a serious early entree candidate.
OLB Dontavious Jackson, Florida State, JR (6-3, 228, 4.65, #5): After earning a starting job in training camp, Jackson has been one of the Seminoles' best players on defense this season (second on the team with 69 tackles). His leaner playing weight has translated into improved athleticism and quickness, as he previously played at 249 pounds earlier in his career. The Texas native is on the radar for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Other Florida prospects to watch:
CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, JR (6-0, 208, 4.52, #23)
OT Jawaan Taylor, JR (6-5, 328, 5.46, #65)
WR Tyrie Cleveland, JR (6-1, 206, 4.54, #89)
Other FSU prospects to watch:
DE Brian Burns, JR (6-4, 220, 4.64, #99)
WR Nyquan Murray, SR (5-11, 192, 4.50, #8)
DT Demarcus Christmas, rSR (6-3, 308, 5.18, #90)
OT Derrick Kelly II, rSR (6-5, 323, 5.20, #74)
QB Deondre Francois, rJR (6-0, 215, 4.67, #12)
Tennessee (5-6) at Vanderbilt (5-6)
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET (SECN), Vanderbilt Stadium (Nashville, Tenn.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
TE Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt, rJR (6-4, 255, 4.78, #80): A skyrocketing prospect who has been linked to declaring early for the draft, Pinkney possesses the size, speed and hands to be one of the first tight ends off the board. He's a mismatch for linebackers and safeties, a big reason why he has six touchdowns this year. In addition to being a red zone threat, Pinkney can line up in the slot or out wide. The Georgia native endured a season-ending injury in the first game of the year during his freshman season. He's been an adequate blocker for the Commodores, while averaging 16 yards per catch and totaling 41 receptions for 658 receiving yards. He projects as an early Day 2 selection.
CB JoeJuan Williams, Vanderbilt, JR (6-2, 208, 4.58, #8): The physical, rangy Williams possesses excellent man coverage skills and came up with an interception, along with a big pass breakup on fourth down last week to seal the deal in a win over Ole Miss. The Nashville native was a blue chip recruit coming out of high school, where he also played basketball and track. Williams has made 22 consecutive starts and has already set career highs in tackles (54) and interceptions (four) this season. He has also been linked to reports of declaring early.
RB Madre London, Tennessee, rSR (6-0, 213, 4.67, #31): A big, strong runner with solid hands, London struggled with fumbles at Michigan State and found himself in a backfield committee situation. The graduate transfer has seen sporadic playing time for the Vols, making the most of his opportunities with 206 rushing yards and averaging 4.9 yards per carry playing in the SEC. He played HS ball at St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida.
Other Tennessee prospects to watch:
OT Drew Richmond, rJR (6-5, 316, 5.17, #51)
FS Nigel Warrior, JR (6-0, 188, 4.50, #18)
DT Shy Tuttle, SR (6-2, 300, 5.25, #2)
Other Vanderbilt prospects to watch:
QB Kyle Shurmur, SR (6-3, 225, 4.98, #14)
OLB Charles Wright, rSR (6-3, 240, 4.78, #11)