Scout's Eye: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Week 2
Kentucky Wildcats (1-0) at Florida Gators (1-0)
Saturday, 7:30pm, ET (SECN), Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (Gainesville, Fla.)
While this isn't must-see TV, the matchup, featuring several highly rated prospects, should draw plenty of scouts to Gainesville. Florida has produced a whopping 45 players who made NFL 53-man rosters this week. Kentucky hasn't been churning out quite the same bulk (eight players currently on NFL teams) but there is more on the way. The Wildcats enter this game trying to end a 31-game losing streak to the Gators.
Five draft-eligible players to focus on:
CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida, JR. (5-11, 207, 4.52, #23)
Along with a new head coach and new defensive scheme, Florida defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson also has some additional syllables in is name, as he adopted his stepdad's last name during the offseason. He switched from cornerback to safety during his freshman season and will remain in that role, but he'll also handle some nickel back duties for the Gators.
A fast, tough, aggressive athlete, Gardner-Johnson displays an outstanding vertical game, possesses great ball anticipation and is a threat to score with the ball in his hands. However, he'll need to clean up some of his tackling technique and ability to bring down runners in the open field.
OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky, SR. (6-4, 260, 4.59, #41)
After back-to-back seven-sack seasons, Allen applied to the NFL Draft Advisory Board for evaluation. The feedback from scouts told him to stay in school another year and bulk up. The Montclair, N.J., native responded by adding 30 pounds during the offseason and is playing at 260 while maintaining his high-speed motor.
His new physique was on display against Central Michigan, as Allen collected 10 tackles, including three for a loss and one sack in his new "Jack" linebacker position, which features him in a more prominent pass-rushing role. Many have Allen pegged for the first round, but he must show he can do a better job getting off blocks on a more consistent basis and convert his pressures into yards for loss.
OT Martez Ivey Florida, SR. (6-5, 315, 5.04, #73)
One of the most experienced prospects in this year's draft class, Ivey has played 37 games, including 32 starts, and has been battle-tested playing in the SEC. His massive frame, violent hands and explosion out of his stance are some of his most appealing attributes.
His aggressiveness can get him caught out of position at times and scouts will want to see him do a better job getting a body on defenders in the second level. Ivey has shown his toughness, playing through multiple injuries during his career, including knee, shoulder and ankle ailments at different points in time. He has a naturally strong frame and would be an ideal power guard for a run-orientated team looking to add a mauler up front.
TE C.J. Conrad, Kentucky, SR. (6-4, 245, 4.82, #87)
A four-year starter, Conrad has been a streaky player for the Wildcats. When he's on and effectively used in the offense, Conrad serves as a lightning rod, able to bust through offenses for big plays -- he has six career touchdowns that have gone for 20 yards or more. At other times, it seems his name should very well be on the back of a milk carton. He endured a four-game stretch last season in which he failed to register a catch.
He needs to prove he can be a more dependable pass-catcher. Conrad has received some tough love from head coach Mark Stoops, who has criticized him for his drops but praised his toughness. An exceptional blocker, he can be used in-line, in the slot, or in the backfield, much like how the New York Giants use Rhett Ellison.
QB Feleipe Franks, Florida, rSO. (6-4, 227, 4.74, #13)
The sight of Feleipe Franks coming out cool, calm and collected for the Gators in their season opener gave Florida fans some renewed hope, while also opening the eyes of NFL talent evaluators. The transition under new head coach Dan Mullen has given Franks a renowned confidence, as he showed keen awareness and improved decision-making on his way to throwing for 219 passing yards and five touchdowns, albeit against Charleston Southern.
Franks has flashed a strong arm and ability to extend plays in the past but struggled to hold a firm grip on the starting job under former coach Jim McElwain last season. So far under Mullen, he has looked razor sharp in his abilities, looking off safeties and reading through his progressions. His early success will immediately be tested against Kentucky this week.
Other Kentucky prospects to watch:
RB Benny Snell Jr., JR. (5-10, 223, 4.56, #26)
CB Lonnie Johnson, JR. (6-2, 206, n/a, #6)
CB Chris Westry, SR. (6-3, 195, 4.57, #21)
CB Derrick Baity, SR. (6-2, 186, 4.52, #8)
Other Florida prospects to watch:
C T.J. McCoy, rJR. (6-1, 314, 5.26, #59)
RB Jordan Scarlett, SR. (5-10, 206, 4.58, #25)
DT Khairi Clark, SR. (6-1, 315, 5.29, #54)
DE Cece Jefferson, SR. (6-1, 242, 4.64, #96)
CB C.J. Henderson, SO. (6-0, 186, 4.48, #5)
USC Trojans (1-0) at Stanford Cardinal (1-0)
Saturday, 8:30pm, ET (FOX), Stanford Stadium (Stanford, Calif.)
Three draft-eligible players to focus on:
FS Marvell Tell III, USC, SR. (6-2, 195, 4.52, #7)
In addition to his great length and athleticism, Tell isn't afraid to lay the lumber when presented with the opportunity. He began his career starting at strong safety as a freshman, before making the switch to free safety, where he has become the ultimate centerfielder, displaying great ball awareness. One of the Trojans' four team captains, Tell self-admittedly returned for his senior season to help work on improving his speed, overall strength and football IQ. He grades out as the school's top-rated pro prospect and is a potential first-round pick.
RB Bryce Love, Stanford, Stanford, SR. (5-9, 196, 4.36, #20)
Heisman hopeful Bryce Love staggered out of the gates with just 29 yards on 18 carries against San Diego State last week. He'll have an opportunity to get back in the race should he be able to sustain his usual 163 yards per game success that he enjoyed last season. In addition to being one of the elite speed prospects in the nation, Love demonstrates next-level burst and vision. His lack of size will certainly be a topic of debate inside some NFL war rooms, but Love has proven capable of being an effective runner between the tackles. Look for him to get back on track versus USC.
OLB Porter Gustin, USC, SR. (6-4, 255, 4.80, #45)
This will be a telling season for Gustin, who has had to put all his pieces back together again like Humpty Dumpty. A broken toe and bicep injuries limited him to just four games last year. He underwent meniscus surgery in August after suffering a knee injury and putting his status for the first game in doubt. However, a sack on the third play of the game answered any short-term questions about his availability.
Gustin is featured in the "predator" role on defense, which enables USC to move him around like a chess piece and place him in a favorable situation to get after the quarterback. When healthy, the Utah native has shown the ability to take excellent pursuit angles, blow up the backfield and disrupt the quarterback, in addition to his stout play against the run. Much of his draft stock could depend heavily on how he checks out medically at the combine.
Other USC prospects to watch:
CB Iman Marshall, SR. (6-0, 205, 4.53, #8)
TE Tyler Petite, SR. (6-3, 250, 4.82, #82)
CB Isaiah Langley, SR. (5-11, 175, 4.56, #24)
ILB Cameron Smith, SR. (6-1, 250, 4.86, #35)
WR Tyler Vaughns, rSO. (6-1, 185, 4.47, #21)
Other Stanford prospects to watch:
OG Nate Herbig, JR. (6-3, 336, 5.47, #63)
OLB Joey Alfieri, rSR. (6-2, 241, 4.72, #32)
P Jake Bailey, SR. (6-1, 193, 4.90, #14)
OT A.T. Hall, rSR. (6-5, 297, 5.06, #75)
CB Alijah Holder, rSR. (6-1, 191, 4.56, #13)
OG Brandon Fanaika, rSR. (6-2, 315, 5.37, #71)
WR Trenton Irwin, SR. (6-1, 205, 4.47, #2)
C Jesse Burkett, rSR. (6-3, 304, 5.14, #73)
Georgia Bulldogs (1-0) at South Carolina Gamecocks (1-0)
Saturday, 3:30pm, ET (CBS), Williams-Brice Stadium (Columbia, SC)
Three draft-eligible players to focus on:
CB Deandre Baker, Georgia, rJR. (5-11, 180, 4.49, #18)
Blessed with excellent size, tremendous change-of-direction capability and extremely quick make-up speed, Baker possesses all the traits of a top cornerback. Amazingly, the shutdown corner didn't allow a touchdown all of last season. The Gamecocks will look to put that streak to the test with talented wideout Deebo Samuel. However, it should be noted that Baker doesn't switch sides of the field in the Bulldogs' scheme, so he won't be mirroring the top receiver at all times. Regardless, Baker is the type of corner that opposing teams have to account for during the week of preparation leading up to the game. Players like these are rare.
WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina, rSR. (5-11, 215, 4.50, #1)
It was an intense offseason for Samuel, who worked relentlessly to get back to full strength, after a broken left fibula ended his season before it could even begin last year. He was back to his old tricks in the season opener beat down of Coastal Carolina, making spectacular catches, including an impressive one-handed grab. He would finish with a team-high seven receptions, racking up 56 yards through the air and rushing for 11 more, while adding two kick returns for 45 yards -- accumulating 112 total yards on the day.
His power and explosion still seems spectacular, and Samuel has stated that he feels stronger and faster than ever, which is a scary thought for opponents. His in-game speed had been clocked at 22 miles per hour using the Catapult GPS system, prior to his injury. Samuel owns a sticky pair of mitts, but he needs to put it all together and prove that he can stay on the field if he aspires to be drafted come April.
WR Terry Godwin, Georgia, SR. (5-11, 185, 4.42, #5)
Godwin returned to practice this week after a calf strain. He had previously miss time due to a knee injury in the fall, so this will be his first chance to hit the field in 2018. The senior team leader is a solid route runner with dependable hands who brings experience and confidence to the entire offense. He displays natural football instincts, does a great job of locating the ball and quickly adjusts to the football.
His best trait might be his incredible body control, as his start and stop capabilities allow him to cut on a dime and adjust to passes thrown away from his body. Godwin possesses terrific hand eye coordination, along with top-end speed, elusiveness in the open field and the ability to score in a variety of ways (catch/run/pass), making him one to watch in this heated contest.
Other Georgia prospects to watch:
WR Riley Ridley, JR. (6-2, 200, 4.48, #8)
OLB D'Andre Walker, SR. (6-2, 240, 4.70, #15)
DE Jonathan Ledbetter, SR. (6-3, 277, 4.86, #13)
SS J.R. Reed, SR. (6-0, 195, 4.60, #20)
OT Kendall Baker, rSR. (6-5, 290, #65)
Other South Carolina prospects to watch:
CB Keisean Nixon, SR. (5-10, 193, #9)
QB Jake Bentley, JR. (6-2, 220, 4.81, #19)
Clemson Tigers (1-0) at Texas AM Aggies (1-0)
Saturday, 7:00pm, ET (ESPN), Kyle Field (College Station, TX)
Three draft-eligible players to focus on:
DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson, rJR. (6-4, 260, 4.78, #99)
It's always nice to get out to a fast start on the season, and Ferrell did exactly that, registering his first sack in the opener versus Furman. He possesses the size, quickness and flexibility to be a consistent double-digit sack master at the next level. A hard worker known for being a quick learner, Ferrell is a very mature player per his coaches. He demonstrates an explosive first step and incredible bend, which leaves opposing lineman perplexed on how to stop him.
His athleticism is impressive and he's proven that he can drop back into coverage -- even being used in the slot on occasion. His ability to rush the edge as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt or as a standup outside linebacker bodes well for his draft stock. Ferrell is in contention to be the top player selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson, JR. (6-3, 340, 5.27, #90)
While chipping in with just two tackles in Week 1, no one is going to question the value of Lawrence, another athletic freak on this extraordinary defensive line. He has been timed in the 4.9-range at 340-plus pounds and has just 18 percent body fat. He also recorded 32 bench-press reps of 225 as a freshman and can dunk a basketball.
Considered a high-character player, Lawrence demonstrates great balance, excellent hand placement and the keen sense to read and react quickly to plays. He also possesses great football instincts, has played on special teams and has helped pave the way for touchdowns on offense, lining up at fullback at times.
The light-footed dancing bear plays with an aggressive mentality but is described as a "teddy bear" off the field by his teammates. His footwork and polished technique, along with his experience has superstar written all over him.
DT Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M, SR. (6-3, 285, 5.23, #8)
At SEC Media Day, Keke talked about how excited he was to play Clemson because of how much he respected them, as he was anxious to see how he fared. Evaluators might feel the same way, as this contest will be chance to gauge his talents against an elite opponent. Tough, physical and agile, Keke is a hard-nosed competitor who is relentless in pursuit. The Aggies moved him to defensive end this season, but he could wind up being used as an inside/outside piece throughout the season, depending on matchups.
If you're looking for him on the field, take note that he dropped a digit and changed his jersey number from 88 to 8. He also dropped 20 pounds, according to head coach Jumbo Fisher, who stated that Keke will play at 285 this season, down from his playing weight of 305 a year ago. A strong performance against the Tigers could help propel his draft stock toward the day two range.
Other Clemson prospects to watch:
DT Christian Wilkins, SR. (6-3, 300, 5.04, #42)
OLB Shaq Smith, rSO. (6-1, 245, 4.74, #5)
DE Austin Bryant, SR. (6-4, 265, 4.78, #7)
OT Mitch Hyatt, SR. (6-5, 305 5.08, #75)
QB Kelly Bryant, SR. (6-3, 220 4.64, #2)
CB Mark Fields, SR. (5-10, 180, 4.52, #2)
WR Hunter Renfrow, rSR. (5-10, 180 4.54, #13)
ILB Kendall Joseph, rSR. (5-11, 225, 4.78, #34)
CB Trayvon Mullen, JR. (6-1, 190, 4.49, #1)
Other Texas A&M prospects to watch:
ILB Otaro Alaka, rSR. (6-2, 240, 4.78, #42)
DE Landis Durham, SR. (6-3, 255, 4.79, #46)
RB Trayveon Williams, JR. (5-9, 200, 4.47, #5)