Scout's Eye: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Week 8
Also,yet another SEC showdown with loads of NFL talent, an upset brewing in the AAC and more ...
NC State (5-0) at Clemson (6-0)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN), Memorial Stadium (Clemson, S.C.)
With both teams coming off of a bye, undefeated 16th-ranked North Carolina State travels into Death Valley to clash with No. 3 Clemson, also undefeated, in the annual Textile Bowl. Led by head coach Dabo Swinney, Clemson has won at least 10 games for seven consecutive seasons. During that time, 36 Tigers have been selected in the NFL Draft, including seven first-round picks. Last year, Bradley Chubb (Broncos) became the first N.C. State player selected in the first round since 2006. This year, quarterback Ryan Finley is considered by many to be a potential first-rounder. This game should be much closer than the 17-point spread that Vegas suggests in favor of the Tigers.
Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
ILB Tre Lamar, Clemson, JR (6-2, 255, 4.72, #57): A big, strong, explosive linebacker, Lamar possesses prototypical size, along with great athleticism and strength. His tenacious playing style fuels the Tigers' defense, as he plays physically and confidently. He leads the team with 41 tackles (3.5 for loss, two sacks). Lamar has made a conscious effort to improve his pass coverage and prove that he can remain healthy (he missed the final four games of 2017 due to a shoulder injury). He also has some football bloodlines that tie back to his uncle, Anthony Butts, who played for Mississippi State. The redshirt sophomore currently projects as a top 100 overall prospect, but if he has a strong second half and remains durable, his draft stock will continue to rise.
DE Austin Bryant, Clemson, SR (6-5, 280, 4.83, #7): The under-heralded Bryant has been productive, registering 5.5 tackles for loss this season, including three sacks. He generates great push and shows the ability to fight through the trash to make plays in the trenches. Bryant is bigger and not quite as explosive as some of his Clemson line mates, which causes him to be a bit late to the spot at times. This is also why at his size, he's best-suited as a 3-4 end in the NFL. His relentless effort and high motor should make him an early to mid-round draft target.
WR Hunter Renfrow, Clemson, rSR (5-10, 185, 4.54, #13): At first glance, you would never guess that the undersized, former walk-on is a football player, but Renfrow has continued to prove doubters wrong with big plays and clutch performances. Renfrow seems to rise to the occasion and has been one of the most influential performers in the short history of the College Football Playoff (had the game-winning catch in the 2017 national title game). Renfrow runs sharp routes, able to pivot and change directions quickly, which enables him to create separation. The Myrtle Beach, S.C., native was a triple-option quarterback in high school and has also been receiving reps in practice this season as the emergency backup. NFL teams may not be thinking about Renfro until Day 3 due to some of his physical shortcomings, but he can be an effective slot weapon at the next level and provide a boost to any offense.
OLB Shaq Smith, Clemson, rSO (6-1, 255, 4.74, #5): This season probably hasn't gone according to plans for Smith, who has been buried on the depth chart behind some highly talented players. He didn't see any snaps against Syracuse but did manage to get into the last game against Wake Forest for 19 plays. He's a phenomenal athlete who can cover lots of ground and possesses good size, along with the ability to help out in run support and pass coverage. A redshirt sophomore, the Baltimore native will eventually get his opportunity and is definitely a prospect worth monitoring. So far this season, Smith has recorded nine tackles through six games.
OLB Germaine Pratt, N.C. State, rSR (6-2, 240, 4.68, #3): Coming off an impressive performance in a victory over Boston College, Pratt collected a career-high 13 tackles (1.5 for loss and a sack) and a momentum-changing fumble. He underwent shoulder surgery in 2016, sat out the season and returned to make a position change from safety to linebacker -- he has gained more than 40 pounds since his freshman season. Pratt played well as a reserve at his new position, but has really stepped up his game this season, becoming a team captain and run stuffer on defense, leading the Wolfpack in tackles (49). He has been praised by the coaches for his ability to recognize disguised formations and make the correct pre-snap reads. Expect him to receive a Senior Bowl invite with a chance to move up the big board once we get into draft season.
Other NC State prospects to watch:
QB Ryan Finley, rSR (6-3, 210, 4.80, #15)
WR Kelvin Harmon, JR (6-2, 213, 4.54, #3)
TE Brandon Fritts, rSR (6-4, 250, 4.75, #82)
C Tommy Hatton, rJR (6-2, 300, 5.20, #52)
WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, rJR (6-0, 205, 4.52, #17)
OT William Sweet, rJR (6-6, 300, 5.15, #51)
DT Jeremiah Clarke, rSR (6-4, 315, #49, #49)
Other Clemson prospects to watch:
DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson, rJR. (6-4, 260, 4.78, #99)
DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson, JR. (6-3, 340, 5.27, #90)
DT Christian Wilkins, SR (6-3, 300, 5.04, #42)
OT Mitch Hyatt, SR (6-5, 305, 5.08, #75)
CB Mark Fields, SR (5-10, 180, 4.52, #2)
ILB Kendall Joseph, rSR (5-11, 225, 4.78, #34)
Michigan (6-1) at Michigan State (4-2)
Saturday, noon ET (FOX), Spartan Stadium (East Lansing, Mich.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
FS Tyree Kinnel, Michigan State, SR (5-11, 215, 4.56, #23): An even-keel player who keeps a short memory, Kinnel is excellent in dissecting the offense and making pre-snap reads. He possesses natural instincts and has really emerged over the past two seasons as one of the Wolverines leaders; he was named "Most Improved Player" as a junior and earned team captain distinction this season. He has been a big contributor on special teams throughout his career and has racked up 103 tackles over his past 20 games. Kinnel projects as a mid-round selection.
FS David Dowell, Michigan State, rJR (6-0, 196, 4.56, #6): It's a family affair at Michigan State for Dowell, whose competitiveness stems from his childhood with twin brother Andrew (linebacker) and younger brother Michael (safety), both of whom are also members of the Spartans football team. David has done a fantastic job manning the free safety spot and playing a nice centerfield. He also possesses great instincts (led the team with five interceptions in 2017). NFL scouts would like to see him bulk up a bit more and become more of a wrap-up tackler.
TE Matt Sokol, Michigan State, rSR (6-5, 260, 4.78, #81): The Spartans ask their tight ends to be well balanced in blocking and pass catching, and while Sokol has been streaky at times, his overall game makes him one of the top senior tight end prospects in the country. He possesses prototypical size and adequate speed, which has also helped him contribute on kickoff coverage. Sokol has just four catches on the season and has struggled with a bout of the dropsies, so a strong finish to close out the year would help solidify his draft stock; he holds a Day 3 grade.
Other Michigan prospects to watch:
DE Rashan Gary, JR (6-4, 281, 4.67, #3)
OLB Devin Bush, JR (5-11, 232, 4.78, #10)
CB Lavert Hill, JR (5-11, 177, 4.47, #24)
DE Chase Winovich, rSR (6-3, 253, 4.82, #15)
RB Karan Higdon, SR (5-9, 190, 4.50, #22)
QB Shea Patterson, JR (6-1, 193, 4.67, #20)
Other Michigan State prospects to watch:
RB LJ Scott, SR (6-0, 229, 4.62, #3)
DT Raequan Williams, rJR (6-3, 300, 5.05, #99)
QB Brian Lewerke, rJR (6-2, 212, 4.72, #14)
WR Felton Davis III, SR (6-3, 195, 4.60, #18)
Mississippi State (4-2) at LSU (6-1)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN), Tiger Stadium (Baton Rouge, La.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
QB Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State, rSR (6-4, 230, 4.59, #7): There's no denying that Fitzgerald is a great dual-threat college quarterback but many questions remain about his NFL prospects due to his lack of arm strength and accuracy (completing under 50 percent of his passes). He owns a laundry list of injuries dating back to high school, including a fractured forearm, a broken right leg and ankle, cracked fibula and more.
FS Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State, SR (5-11, 215, 4.57, #38): A physical enforcer in the middle of the defense, Abram has a presence about him that makes opponents take note, as he's one of the team leaders for the Bulldogs. He has done a nice job of covering tight ends and running backs coming out of the backfield. One concern is that his physical and violent style of play makes him vulnerable to injury; Abram can be reckless at times. The Mississippi native began his career at Georgia before transferring to Jones County Junior College, where he dominated for one year and eventually settled at Mississippi State. He possesses the versatility and experience to play either safety position at the next level.
OLB Michael Divinity Jr., LSU, JR (6-1, 238, 4.67, #45): After being suspended for the season opener, Divinity has returned to the team like a heat-seeking missile, generating 20 quarterback pressures in six games, while leading the team in sacks (four). His spin move has embarrassed some formidable SEC foes, as he has stepped up his game with a tenacious level of energy on every play. Coaches rave about his football IQ.
Other Mississippi St. prospects to watch:
DE Montez Sweat, SR (6-5, 241, 4.78, #9)
DT Jeffery Simmons, JR (6-3, 301, 4.98, #94)
C Elgton Jenkins, rSR (6-4, 313, 5.34, #74)
CB Jamal Peters, SR (6-2, 218, 4.55, #2)
OG Darryl Williams, rJR (6-2, 305, 5.20, #73)
DE Gerri Green, rSR (6-3, 245, 4.78)
Other LSU prospects to watch:
CB Andraez Williams, rSO (6-1, 182, 4.50, #29)
ILB Devin White, JR (6-0, 240, 4.64, #40)
OG Garrett Brumfield, rSR (6-2, 299, 5.14, #78) (injured)
QB Joe Burrow, rJR (6-2, 215, 4.76, #10)
Cincinnati (6-0) at Temple (4-3)
Saturday, noon ET (ESPNU), Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia, Pa.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
DT Marquise Copeland, Cincinnati, SR (6-2, 287, 4.97, #6): The Bearcats remain undefeated largely in part due to their stout defense, led by Copeland, who has been a stud this season playing up and down the defensive line. He projects as a 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end at the next level.
CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple, SR (6-2, 190, 4.52, #6): The Owls were the biggest beneficiary of Presbyterian College deciding to discontinue its football program, enabling Ya-Sin to transfer to Philly for his final collegiate season. The yoked-up corner plays a physical brand of football (he's averaging five tackles per game), possesses great size and thrives in man coverage. His outstanding performance against Buffalo wideout Anthony Johnson grabbed the attention of NFL evaluators. He needs to show more discipline and cut down his penalties, but it took just eight months for Ya-Sin to earn a single-digit number (single digits is a "Temple Tuff" designation reserved for the nine toughest players on the team).
DT Michael Dogbe, Temple, rSR (6-2, 280, 4.85, #9): One of the strongest players in college football, Dogbe benched-press 505 pounds during summer workouts, when he also did 37 reps of 225 pounds and squatted 685 pounds. In addition to being a physical freak, the New Jersey native has been a strong, physical presence in the middle of the defensive line, providing a run-stuffing presence. Dogbe has already set career highs with 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, along with 40 tackles, plus two forced fumbles, through seven games. He arrived at Temple as a defensive end before being moved inside by then-head coach Matt Rhule and earning jersey No. 9.
Other Cincinnati prospects to watch:
DT Cortez Broughton, rSR (6-2, 282, 5.06, #96)
WR Khalil Lewis, SR (5-11, 195, 4.50, #1)
Other Temple prospects to watch:
RB Ryquell Armstead, SR (5-11, 205, 4.56)
SS Delvon Randall, SR (5-11, 210, 4.60, #7)
WR Isaiah Wright, JR (6-1, 212, 4.50, #13)
DE Quincy Roche, rSO (6-3, 230, 4.65, #90)
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