Guess who’s back! Last year’s NFL Draft Cheat Sheet was a big success and a lot of fun, so we are officially back for year number two. We are starting a week late because Hurricane Dorian gave a little bit of a scare and was originally supposed to hit us last Saturday, but the storm is in the past and we move on! (Side note: All of my thoughts and prayers go out to those in the Bahamas and anyone else affected by the storm).
For those that need a reminder, each week there will be a highlight of last week’s top offensive and defensive players or groups, next week’s players to watch, what games to watch and then a small rankings, positional or overall. And none of these will include players that are not draft eligible, so we’ll have to wait one more year for Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields, unfortunately. So without further ado, welcome to the first edition of the 2020 NFL Draft Cheat Sheet.
Week 1 Top Performers
Offense: QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Jalen Hurts has been through it all. In his time at Alabama, he was a two year starter that led the Crimson Tide to back to back National Championships. After losing the first one to Deshaun Watson, he came back for his second only to be replaced by Tua Tagovailoa and never step foot on the field as the starter again. He was the ultimate professional from the time he was first benched all the way through the 2018 season. Now in 2019, he comes in as the guy in a system that has now taken two quarterbacks and made them not only Heisman Trophy winners, but the first overall picks in each of the last two drafts.
After leaving Alabama, nobody really expected Hurts to become a quarterback on the national radar for the NFL.
But once entering Lincoln Riley’s system, it’s going to be hard not to second guess that opinion, especially now with his first performance as a Sooner in the books. Against the Houston Cougars, Hurts was both efficient and overly productive. He was 20/23 on his attempts, passing for 332 yards and three touchdowns. Not to mention, he ran for another 176 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. It was a performance he will never forget. He was accurate, precise, smart with the ball and just looked like a completely different quarterback than the one that went 26-2 in his two years in Alabama, which is a really good thing. He won’t be going against the greatest of defenses in the Big 12 but it will be exciting to see how he fares from here on out in a system that is one of the best, if not the best, in all of football.
Defense: EDGE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State
The leader of the Spartan defense that helped hold the Tulsa offense to not 73 but NEGATIVE 73 rushing yards in the season opener. I know rushing stats take a nose dive because sacks go against the stat in college football, but that is an absurd number nevertheless. Willekes is a fifth year senior edge rusher that returns from a broken leg injury from late last season. He came back with something to prove after holding off his NFL dream for one more season.
Granted, Tulsa is nothing too special but to dominate the way that he and the Michigan State defense did is always great to see. He is a KD with a relentless motor and in this game he showed strength, very active hands, secondary rush moves and the ability to get leverage. Willekes stood out in a major way with his 1.5 sacks with an additional tackle for loss and two fumble recoveries. It will be a little bit until he faces off against some real competition but this way one heck of a way to start off the 2019 campaign.
Week 2 Players to Watch
HB Anthony McFarland, Maryland (vs. Syracuse, 12:00pm, ESPN)
It’s been well known for quite some time that the running back class of 2020 was going to be one to remember. You have names like Jonathan Taylor, Travis Etienne and D’Andre Swift of course, but there are still the players like McFarland who could be a decent mid round pick for some team next year. In a dominant 79-0 win over Howard last week, almost everything went right for Maryland. Everything except for McFarland’s production in the ground.
He could not get anything going last week, outside of two touchdowns within six yards each. Taking those two runs out of the equation, he only ran four times for 10 yards. Now it’s possible he just couldn’t get into a groove with such limited touches in a blowout but in a game like this, he will get a very good opportunity. The redshirt sophomore will line up across two good edge rushers in Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman. While he may not get one on one chances against these guys, we already know scouts will keep an eye on this game, meaning you should as well.
WR Tyler Vaughns, USC (vs. Stanford, 10:30pm, ESPN)
This game could be tough to watch for a couple different reasons. First, the game starts closer to midnight than dinner time. Second, both starting quarterbacks are to be held out of this game. Stanford’s KJ Costello left in the middle of last week’s game with a head injury, one that’ll cost him maybe another week or so. As for USC’s JT Daniels, he tore his ACL meaning his season is over, but the junior receiver still needs to make a name for himself and no better time than against arguably the top corner in the country. It’s doubtful that Paulson Adebo follows any one receiver so he won’t go against him every play but it is bound to happen in more than its fair share of snaps. Vaughns won’t be a high profile name but here is a chance to build a resume. Right now, I see a player that tracks the ball really well all over the field, with good hands but he does not create much separation. Adebo won’t be too kind in Vaughns getting over this but better competition should only help. Keep an eye on this matchup, if you are awake.
Week 2 Games to Watch
#1 Clemson vs #12 Texas A&M (3:30pm, ABC)
Easy pickings here. The top team in the nation going against the number twelve team should be a lot of fun to watch. There is NFL talent obviously on the Clemson side with some but not as much on the Aggies sidelines. Going against an SEC defense, Etienne should have at least a tiny bit more trouble finding room to run than his last game where he went for 205 yards on only 12 carries. One of the guys standing in his way will be Justin Madubuike. The three hundred pounder is probably the best player on the Aggie defense that will need to be at his best if they stand any chance on the road. Speaking of players who need to play their best, look no further than quarterback Kellen Mond. Mond had an impressive start against Texas State last week, looking more like a quarterback with NFL aspirations. Going against a defense led by Isaiah Simmons and AJ Terrell will no no easy task, but one that could boost his stock, win or loss.
#9 Texas vs #6 LSU (7:30pm, ABC)
Only week two on the schedule but this will by far be the best regular season matchup all year long, non-conference of course. After years of mediocrity, the Texas is finally “back”. An offense led by quarterback Sam Ehlinger and wide receiver Collin Johnson, they are in for a treat against the LSU defense. They were able to beat Georgia last year in the Sugar Bowl but this will be the biggest test yet, with the likes of safety Grant Delpit, cornerback Kristian Fulton and lineman Rashard Lawrence, just to name a few. These are three guys that could have gone in the first two rounds of last year’s draft if they declared or were eligible. Johnson lining up against Fulton will be the best matchup of the night as each of them are easily NFL talent.
On the other side of the ball, you have arguably the best safety tandem in college football residing in Austin, Texas. Caden Sterns (true sophomore) and Brandon Jones will get the chance to slow down quarterback Joe Burrow after having one of his best performances last week against Georgia Southern, throwing for more touchdowns than incompletions (five to four). Luckily, this is not just a matchup of two prestigious football programs, there will be multiple draft eligible players to keep an eye on any given play.
Top 10 Big Board
WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State
OT Tristen Wirfs, Iowa
S Grant Delpit, LSU
QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
EDGE AJ Epenesa, Iowa
HB D’Andre Swift, Georgia
OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
WR Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma