Clay’s NFL Draft Cheat Sheet – Conference Championship Week

Clayton Smarslok with his weekly college football cheat sheet

The college football regular season may be over but we’re not done just yet. There are still conference championships to play for with the bowl season to follow. This is when you you get some of the best showdowns of the season, we can only hope that they all live up to our lofty expectations.

Week 13 Top Performers

Offense: WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina

There were way too many players to choose from this week with so many offenses decided to go off. There should be credit to players like Will Grier, Dwayne Haskins, Marquise Brown, Paris Campbell, as well as others, but it came down to Samuel for this week. Deebo started off a bit slow after returning from a season ending injury last season, but since the Florida game he looks to be getting back to what he once was. Against Clemson last week in particular, he hauled in 10 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns, including one for 75 yards.

Samuel has incredible quickness and a craftiness to him that allows him to get separation in his routes which puts him in the best spot, proving to be a wizard with the ball in his hands, often making a lot out of nothing. He is an older prospect, turning 23 in January, but he could fit into any offense whether he is lined up inside, moutside or maybe even a gadget.

Defense: EDGE Jachai Polite, Florida

Even with the high scoring offensive performances this week, there were many defensive prospects worth mentioning here too but Jachai Polite continued his fantastic 2018 campaign with a two and a half sack performance against the rival Seminoles. At the moment he has 11 sacks as well as five forced fumbles. Polite is a menace off the edge showing he can make an impact on any given play. To be fair, Florida State has struggled with protecting Deandre Francois all season long but this is what should happen with top talent, he dominated inferior competition. In a very talented edge rusher class it wouldn’t be crazy to see him be the second or fifth one, but he may have the highest ceiling of them all, outside of Nick Bosa.

Conference Championships

Rather than going over two players to watch, it might be best to just cover the players in the limited games on the schedule for today.

AAC: Memphis vs #8 UCF (3:30pm on ABC)

Probably the least exciting game of the day but a big conference championship nevertheless. In the rematch, UCF is without their star quarterback Mackenzie Milton, causing them to relegate to freshman Darriel Mack, who only has 43 passing attempts to his name.

With Milton out, the player to watch is Darrell Henderson. When they played earlier in the season I listed Henderson as a player to watch and he lit it up against the Knights going for 31/199/1 in October. Henderson has proven to be a legitimate running back prospect with top notch speed and explosiveness who Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller said could possibly go early day 2 in April’s draft.

ACC: #2 Clemson vs Pittsburgh (8:00pm on ABC)

The ACC wasn’t as good as most had hoped, only having two top-20 teams and with those two in the same conference, we only get to see one of them today. With Clemson being massive favorites, this likely won’t be a close game to watch. It will however be a good chance to focus on all of the draft eligible players Clemson will have on the field, unfortunately not including Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins.

The defense has the big names that have mentioned here before such as Trayvon Mullen, Dexter Lawrence and others. But the biggest of names is Clelin Ferrell who is easily on watch for the Jets. If they stay in the top four come draft time, they will likely only look at offensive tackle or edge rusher, and if it’s the latter Ferrell could easily be near the top of their list.

BIG 10: #21 Northwestern vs #6 Ohio State (8:00pm on FOX)

After the dismantling of Michigan last week Northwestern should be a walk in the park for the Buckeyes, right? Sorry, but even with that performance nothing is a cakewalk for these guys. They’ve struggled with multiple non-ranked teams including a loss to Purdue, making it very tough to crack the top four even with a blowout win.

This game, like the one above, really only contains prospects on one team. Sure, Northwestern has quarterback Clayton Thorson and linebacker Paddy Fisher but their stock have dropped from the beginning of the season. Thorson will participate at the Senior Bowl and Fisher should probably go back to school for his redshirt junior season.

Meanwhile for Ohio State, there are 2019 prospects all over the field. On offense alone they have possible QB1 Dwayne Haskins, running back Mike Weber, wide receivers KJ Hill and Parris Campbell, as well as a couple offensive linemen in Michael Jordan and Isaiah Prince. All of these guys could be drafted and that doesn’t even include the four or five draft worthy players on the defensive side of the ball.

BIG 12: #14 Texas vs #5 Oklahoma (12:00pm on ABC)

Red River Rivalry Part II. Texas took the first one and by taking the second they will secure their spot in a New Year’s Six Bowl game as well as ensuring that Oklahoma does not take part in the College Football Playoffs, making this a potential double whammy.

Just like I’m the first matchup, this should be expected to be a high scoring game again. If you want some potential Jets to watch just take a look on the outside. In terms of draft eligible players, junior wide receivers Marquise Brown, Collin Johnson and Lil’ Jordan Humphrey should steal the show. Brown is coming off a monster game last week, showing he is much more than a deep threat. However, speed kills in this league so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him be a top 15-20 selection come draft time.

SEC: #1 Alabama vs #4 Georgia (4:00pm on CBS)

The playoff game before the playoffs. A rematch of the championship game from last season but it’s tough to expect anything close to what that game was. This Alabama team is much improved with an experienced Tua Tagovailoa this time around. However, if this Georgia team pulls out the win here, expect to see a rematch in about a month.

As for players to watch, there are too many to count. The eyes will automatically go to Alabama’s defensive line with the second top prospect in Quinnen Williams with two other great linemen in Isaiah Buggs and Raekwon Davis by his side. If Williams and company can do what they’ve done all season long it should be an easy day for the rest of the defense. Jacob Fromm struggles with pressure in his face and that’s where they make a living. It will be fun these two teams battle it out yet, hopefully giving us a game in the fourth quarter.

Weekly Rankings

Top 5 Safeties

  1. Deionte Thompson, Alabama

  2. Juan Thornhill, Virginia

  3. Taylor Rapp, Washington

  4. Jaquon Johnson, Miami

  5. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida