Clay’s NFL Draft Cheat Sheet – Week 9

Clayton Smarslok with his weekly college football cheat sheet…

In week eight there wasn’t too much that caught the eyes of college football fans. Oh wait, except the number two team, Ohio State, lost to Purdue! That loss opens up room for a lot of teams that were looking for some. There are a few key games today with major implications on conference titles and possibly the playoffs as well. But don’t forget the players looking to build a resume for April’s draft. Here’s what to keep an eye on in today’s action.

Week 8 Top Performers

Offense: TE Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

As the weeks go on, the talk about the 2019 tight end class gets louder. There’s obviously Iowa’s Noah Fant at the top of the list but there are a few fighting for the second spot. The redshirt sophomore played a big role in the 65 point output by the Tiger offense last week, racking up 159 yards on only six catches, three of which just happened to be touchdowns. Usually you’d think tight ends are great red zone threats but all three of his touchdowns were over 20 yards, two of them over 40. Okwuegbunam was able to get wide open for all three thanks in part of the play calling but his play making ability at the position is still up there with the best of them.

Defense: EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky

Going into the 2018 season, many knew the Wildcat as, “the other Josh Allen”. But now he is making a name for himself getting the recognition he deserves. Last week in the 14-7 victory over Vanderbilt, Allen continued to show his versatility in any defense. Whether he was playing in space, setting the edge against the run or pinning his ears back to get after the quarterback, he was more than capable to do so. He racked up eight tackles in addition to two sacks, one of which being a strip. He has been the heart and soul of the Wildcat defense all year long and his play continues to get stronger as it goes on.

Week 9 Players to Watch

WR Collin Johnson, Texas (vs. Oklahoma State, 8:00pm on ESPN)

With Ole Miss’s D.K. Metcalf going down for the year with a neck injury, the other wide receivers in this draft class will need to step up and this lanky receiver has done just that. Standing at a listed 6’6 220, Johnson has an excellent release at the line of scrimmage, often times getting off the line clean. This is huge for him as his short area quickness could use some work. Johnson does a exceptional job using his big frame to get in a great position for the quarterback, helping him score in each of his last four games. Oklahoma State, and the rest of the Big 12, don’t have the greatest of secondary’s, so you can look for this particular Longhorn to really take advantage.

EDGE Anthony Nelson, Iowa (vs. Penn State, 3:30pm on ABC)

Having talked about many edge rushers since week one, Nelson is one name that has yet to be brought up. Nelson is different from the top guys in that he isn’t the most athletic at the position. Listed at 6’7 271, he is a bigger edge than most but he carries it very well. Rather than getting steeper angles he’ll battle the lineman upfront using very effective hand techniques in order to get to the passer or the runner. The motor is always going for Nelson so never consider him out of a play. Because Iowa is playing Penn State today, there are expected to be many eyes glued to the game, look for him to be one that stands out.

Week 9 Games to Watch

Florida State vs #2 Clemson (12:00pm on ABC)

May not be the greatest of games and will likely be a blowout but there is no way this game cannot be mentioned when it has two of the top three edge rushers. Florida State’s Brian Burns and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell have both had dominant seasons and this is a good opportunity to be able to compare the two. Florida State’s offensive line is far inferior to Clemson’s so we should see Ferrell get to Deondre Francois quite a bit in the game. And while the rest of their defensive line hasn’t shown the promise many had thought, it still is one of the best groups in the nation with Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins playing on the interior. When not watching the edge rushers, it should be Clemson’s junior cornerback Trayvon Mullen you should look at. Mullen has been a hot name the past couple of weeks getting first round buzz and rightfully so.

#7 Georgia vs #9 Florida (3:30pm on CBS)

With Florida already beating LSU, a win here can almost guarantee themselves a chance to lose to Alabama in the SEC title game. Georgia can almost say the same but a game at Kentucky is tougher than anyone the Gators have left. Either way the season is practically over for the loser of this game.

There are many legitimate NFL prospects on both sides but when Georgia’s offense is on the field you won’t want to change the channel. Florida will need Jabari Zuniga, Cece Jefferson and budding star Jachai Polite to rattle Jake Fromm’s cage a bit and make him throw off platform. Behind them it’ll be up to linebackers David Reese and Vosean Joseph to not let the dynamic backfield duo of Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift beat them.

On the flip side we can expect Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker to take away the top outside target, but Florida likes to rely on the running game with Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine. This will be a physical but fun matchup between the two SEC East teams.

Weekly Rankings

Top 5 EDGE

  1. Nick Bosa, Ohio State
  2. Brian Burns, Florida State
  3. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
  4. Jachai Polite, Florida
  5. Montez Sweat, Mississippi State