Scout's Eye: Top NFL Prospects to Watch in Week 9
Florida (6-1) at Georgia (6-1)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS), TIAA Bank Field, (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Still known unofficially as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party," the Florida-Georgia rivalry game has been played every year since 1926. The game moved to Jacksonville, Fla., in 1933 and has remained there ever since, with Georgia leading the all-time series 51-43-2. It also serves as an annual gathering of NFL scouts, as the teams accounted for 11 total draft picks in 2018 and both squads are stacked again with future draft selections. Each team is ranked in the top 10 and coming off a bye. It should be an extremely competitive contest with plenty of ramifications for the College Football Playoff hunt. One item of note; the team with the most rushing yards has won each of the past 12 matchups.
Five draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
SS J.R. Reed, Georgia, SR (6-0, 195, 4.60, #20): Reed has shown great versatility during his time in Athens, starting the past two seasons while lining up at safety, in the slot and playing the star position. His athleticism, speed and quickness are through the roof, and his physicality has been a plus for the Bulldogs' stout defense. He is enjoying another fine season with 33 tackles and one interception and is averaging over five tackles per game for his career. After suffering a torn ACL as a senior in high school, Reed landed at Tulsa, where he played for one season before walking-on at Georgia. The NFL bloodlines run deep for the Texas native as Reed's dad Jake was a 12-year NFL veteran, while his uncle Dale Carter played 13 years in the league. Now, J.R. is being sought after by the NFL as a projected mid-round draft pick.
DT Khairi Clark, Florida, rSR (6-1, 315, 5.29, #54): An anchor and team leader for the Gators, Clark is a sure tackler who creates enough push to be a backfield disruptor. He has shown improved conditioning after struggling with his stamina and battling weight issues in the past (he has ballooned to as much as 330-plus pounds). His strength and quickness remain two of his greatest attributes, and Clark has been an annual All-SEC Academic honoree. He has played for five different head coaches (including interims) during his time in Gainesville, totaling 55 tackles and three sacks in 30 games played. Clark holds value as a space-eater at the next level and projects as a late-round prospect.
TE Isaac Nauta, Georgia, JR (6-4, 246, 4.74, #18): Widely considered the top tight end prospect coming out of the IMG Academy a few years back, Nauta burst onto the scene with an impressive freshman season, catching 29 balls for 361 receiving yards; it appeared he was destined to be a future first-round draft pick. However, lackadaisical practice habits and Georgia's limited use of the tight ends in the passing attack had limited Nauta's opportunities. He has had a bit of a resurgence this season, showing much improvement in his pass protection, while once again becoming a pass-catching threat. He enters the game with 13 catches for 176 yards and one touchdown, while gaining an additional touchdown via the ground on a 31-yard score. His size, along with his improved ability to block and catch, will garner him an NFL look as a possible late-round target.
C T.J. McCoy, Florida, rJR (6-1, 314, 5.26, #59): Adversity is no stranger to McCoy, who has dealt with injury again in 2018. He was involved in a scooter accident when he was hit by a drunk driver prior to the 2017 season; he would then suffer a season-ending ankle injury (had plate inserted) later that year. He wound up at Florida as a transfer from North Carolina State in order to be closer to his family, as his father Tony, who played for the Gators and spent nearly a decade in the NFL, was battling cancer and eventually passed away. On the field, McCoy demonstrates great strength, especially in his upper body as he shows the ability to gain leverage with his athleticism and balance. Hopefully his luck turns around, as McCoy certainly possesses the traits to play at the next level. His medical report will most likely push him into the UDFA category.
OT Kendall Baker, Georgia, rSR (6-5, 305, 5.15, #65): Baker, a lunch-bucket player who is known for his competitiveness and worker bee mentality, bided his time for three seasons before winning a starting job last year. He originally arrived in Athens as a defensive lineman and was switched to offensive tackle during his freshman season, before kicking inside and finding a home at guard. Baker possesses value as a utility lineman at the next level, capable of providing solid play at four positions. He factors as a late round/priority free agent prospect.
Other Florida prospects to watch:
DE Jachai Polite, Florida, JR. (6-3, 254, 4.74, #99)
CB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, JR (5-11, 207, 4.52, #23)
OT Martez Ivey, SR (6-5, 315, 5.04, #73)
RB Jordan Scarlett, SR (5-10, 206, 4.58, #25)
DE Cece Jefferson, SR (6-1, 242, 4.64, #96)
QB Feleipe Franks, rSO (6-4, 227, 4.74, #13)
DE Jabari Zuniga, rJR (6-3, 246, 4.84, #92)
Other Georgia prospects to watch:
CB Deandre Baker, rJR (5-11, 180, 4.49, #1)
WR Mecole Hardman, JR (5-10, 183, 4.38, #4)
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)
WR Terry Godwin, SR (5-11, 185, 4.42, #5)
RB Elijah Holyfield, JR (5-10, 215, 4.55, #13)
Washington State (6-1) at Stanford (5-2)
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Networks), Memorial Stadium, (Berkeley, Calif.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
FS Jalen Thompson, Washington State, JR (6-0, 191, 4.52, #34): A playmaking safety with great instincts, Thompson possesses a true nose for the football and is excellent in man coverage, demonstrating the ability to play both safety and in the slot, where he has thrived. His fast, physical style of play allows him to make an impact against the pass and the run, something he has done since winning the starting job as a true freshman. Thompson morphed into a turnover machine during his sophomore campaign with four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He bulked up 10 pounds entering 2018, while maintaining his speed and quickness. He currently projects as a mid-round selection.
OT A.T. Hall, Stanford, rSR (6-5, 297, 5.06, #75): The Cardinal offensive line has been a bit shaky this season but Hall, a three-year starter at right tackle, has provided some stability with his solid play, while battling through injury this season. He worked on improving his hand and foot placement coming into this season and it has resulted in a more polished technique, especially in pass protection. Hall holds many interests outside of football, one of the main reasons why he chose to play at Stanford. His father Travis played in the NFL for the 49ers and Falcons.
CB Alijah Holder, Stanford, rSR (6-1, 191, 4.56, #13): A lengthy, athletic corner, Holder possesses prototypical size and has made big plays when healthy. The Polynesian Player of the Year candidate has persevered through his career, suffering a season-ending shoulder injury that limited him to just four games in 2016 and then sustaining a leg injury that held him out for the final month in 2017. A top 100 talent who could fall to Day 3 due to medical concerns.
Other Washington State prospects to watch:
OT Andre Dillard, rSR (6-5, 306, 5.23, #60)
ILB Peyton Pelluer, rSR (6-0, 225, 4.83, #47)
Other Stanford prospects to watch:
RB Bryce Love, SR (5-9, 196, 4.36, #20)
OG Nate Herbig, JR (6-3, 336, 5.47, #63)
OLB Joey Alfieri, rSR (6-2, 241, 4.72, #32)
South Florida (7-0) at Houston (6-1)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC/ESPN2), TDECU Stadium, (Houston, Texas)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
DT Ed Oliver, Houston, JR (6-2, 290, 4.92, #10): Currently the No. 1 overall prospect on the NFLDraftScout.com big board, Oliver enters the game listed as questionable because of a knee injury. The Houston native stated his intent to declare for the draft prior to the season, so this situation bears monitoring if the injury continues to persist. A sprained ACL caused him to miss four games in 2017 and the thought of calling it quits on his college career to concentrate on the draft could be an idea that crosses his mind. Oliver has 52 tackles for loss in 31 career games.
CB Isaiah Johnson, Houston, JR (6-2, 195, 4.56, #14): A tall, agile corner with speed, Johnson is a cerebral player who is able to read and react quickly. He made the switch to cornerback after spending his first three seasons in Houston as a wide receiver. Those close to the team say a renewed confidence in his game has elevated Johnson to a new level this season, along with a more physical approach in press coverage. The Texas native was a track standout in high school and could test faster than expected. Johnson is a candidate to join Oliver and declare early.
QB Blake Barnett, South Florida, rJR (6-4, 201, 4.84, #8): The former Alabama five-star recruit and Arizona State transfer has finally found a home in South Florida, guiding the Bulls to an undefeated record. Barnett has proved to be an accurate passer and quick decision-maker, while getting rid of the ball quickly. He has played well when the pocket collapses, which has been often at USF. Barnett has thrown for 1,810 yards.
Other USF prospects to watch:
RB Jordan Cronkrite, rJR (5-10, 207, 4.46, #2)
TE Mitchell Wilcox, rJR (6-3, 248, 4.78, #89)
Other Houston prospects to watch:
QB D'Eriq King, JR (5-11, 190, 4.46, #4)
C Will Noble, SR (6-3, 297, 5.20, #69)
Stony Brook (6-2) at James Madison (5-2)
Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET (MASN), Bridgeforth Stadium, (Harrisonburg, Va.)
Three draft-eligible prospects to focus on:
CB Jimmy Moreland, JMU, rSR (5-10, 172, 4.48, #6): Moreland, a four-year starter, has been a playmaking standout for the Dukes, while compiling a controversial and record-breaking career. Moreland was dismissed from the team in 2015 after he was charged with petit larceny of less than $200 not from a person. He would return in 2016 and help JMU win the national championship. Earlier this year, he had a consecutive three-game stretch with a pick six (six for his career) and has a school record 17 interceptions (318 interception return yards, also a school record). His great instincts and dynamic special teams ability to return punts and block kicks has landed him on the NFL radar.
RB Marcus Marshall, JMU, SR (5-9, 207, 4.58, #29): The compact Marshall runs square to the ground and shows outstanding cutback ability. He transferred from Georgia Tech, where he led the Yellow Jackets in rushing during both seasons, and he has made a smooth transition from the triple-option offense to a spread attack. The team captain also returns kicks and has strong family bloodlines. His father Warren (Broncos) is JMU's all-time leading rusher; his brother Keith (Redskins) was a standout runner at UGA. Marshall projects as a priority free agent with upside.
TE Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Stony Brook, rJR (6-5, 265, 4.89, #17): A top high school recruit, Wheatley Jr. spent three seasons at Michigan, where his father starred and went on to play in the NFL. The big-bodied Wheatley Jr. possesses a wide frame and is a solid blocker. He fractured his foot during UM spring practice this year and has just one catch on the season for the Seawolves as he continues to learn the new offense.
Other Stony Brook prospects to watch:
QB Joe Carbone, SR (6-2, 220, 4.80, #10)
ILB Shane Lawless, rSR (6-0, 220, 4.78, #35)
Other James Madison prospects to watch:
CB Rashad Robinson, SR (5-10, 182, 4.50, #22)
WR Riley Stapleton, rJR (6-4, 218, 4.58, #10)