The road to the 2020 NFL Draft continues, but College Football Week 8 won’t knock anyone’s socks off. There are a few PAC-12 contests of note which could change the balance of power in the conference, including the 12th ranked Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies and the Arizona State Sun Devils vs. the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 South. In addition, Penn State tries to keep their faint playoff hopes alive when they take on the 16th ranked Michigan this evening.
External: Click here for the AP Top 25 Teams
As is the case every Saturday throughout the 2019 college football season, Pro Football Network will have you covered from Noon until Midnight ET with analysis, opinion, and some occasional breaking news in our CFB live blog. Keep up with stories and analysis from the PFN Draft crew daily here at PFN, and be sure to check out the PFN Draft Insiders Podcast with Andy Herman and me, where we provide the latest inside information from around the NFL and preview today’s action.
Alabama CB Trevon Diggs just put the nail in Tennessee’s coffin by returning that fumble for a touchdown. Diggs is an opportunistic and aware cornerback and he showed it on that play. He swarmed to that football right away once he saw it pop out.
Diggs is a lengthy, aggressive, and fast cornerback with eye-popping ball skills. Those traits together make him a slam dunk Day 2 draft pick with the ability to creep up into the first round as the process moves along. I currently have a 2nd round grade on him, and he has proven that right with multiple strong games this year.
And with that fumble return for a touchdown, it’s also going to put a nail in the coffin for this week’s PFN CFB Week 8 Live Game Day Blog. Thank you all for joining us for another great week. We’ll talk to you next Saturday from 11:30 AM – Midnight ET. NF
Utah State QB Jordan Love is having a very solid game today against Nevada. The stat line certainly will not give off that impression, as Love is 8 of 20 on the day for 94 passing yards and a touchdown, but Love has been on the dot tonight.
His improvisation skills, poise, and pinpoint accuracy have all been on display, but his receivers have dropped 5 passes thus far on the game. This is a game thus far that scouts should be able to point to and truly say Love can be among the top quarterbacks in the draft. NF
Arkansas State WR Omar Bayless continues to have a special season on the year in the Sun Belt. He leads the NCAA in yards per game with 140 yards per game, has caught 10 TD’s on the year, and he is now nearing 1,000 yards on the season with 993 receiving yards on the year.
Bayless casually had 150 yards receiving today. Bayless’ 6’3″, 207 lbs frame is well built and he can bully guys at the catch point. However, he has great fluidity and suddenness in his routes, especially at his size. I’m keeping my eye on Bayless, who I believe will be drafted as he continues to have big games week in and week out. NF
Alabama RB Najee Harris is running with a purpose tonight. He’s now up over 100 rushing yards on the day and with 2 TDs, he has been the heart and soul of this Crimson Tide offense tonight.
Harris is not a flashy running back by any means, but with that power, contact balance, and excellent vision, he has a place in the NFL. He reminds me a lot of Steelers RB Benny Sneel in the fact that he lacks the athleticism a lot of top-flight backs have, but he is a big, bruising runner that can set the tone for a team. He’s even shown off some soft, natural hands tonight. Some team is going to fall in love with Harris’ skillset during the draft process. NF
The latest on Tua Tagovailoa from our injury analyst, Duane Scotti, PT, DPT, PhD, OCS.
“Definitely medial ankle sprain at minimum of the deltoid ligament. Possible fracture. They will X-ray and if negative for fracture they will send him for MRI to see severity of ligament damage.
If it is a fracture, it will take 6 weeks to heal and 12 weeks for a return to football. No fracture is variable based upon the severity of ligament sprain. Could be as early as 2 weeks to as most as 8 weeks for grade 3.” NF
Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa is now out for the rest of the game with that lower leg injury he suffered in the first half. This is now the second straight year that Tagovailoa has had an unfortunate injury to his lower leg.
Tagovailoa was having a good night aside from his interception. That said, Tagovailoa needs to stop playing so much hero ball in certain situations and instead should just learn to eat some plays. He’s firmly the top QB on my board still, but there’s always work to do and improve on, even for the best of them.
Now, for all those who claim Tagovailoa is a system QB that benefits only from the talent around him – you are about to see just how much Tagovailoa matters with Tagovailoa now out. NF
SMU WR Reggie Roberson Jr. is one of the best-kept secrets in college football this year. He had a fantastic day today against Temple as he totaled 250 receiving yards and 3 TDs on 8 receptions.
Roberson is a natural field stretcher and showed that off today with a 75-yard touchdown and a 60-yard touchdown.
Roberson’s ability to gain separation with a vast release set and precise route-running skills are a big reason why his stock is flying up my board right now. Add in the fact that he is able to still go up and win above the rim in contested situations and you have a really nice wide receiver prospect. Look for Roberson to be an excellent Day 3 sleeper who could creep up as the process goes on. NF
Penn State WR KJ Hamler continues to be a big-play threat for Nittany Lions. He’s racked up 108 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on the night thus far. He’s displayed his route running ability and deep speed all night long.
Hamler is only 5’9″ and lacks the ideal size for an NFL wide receiver, but his skillset of route running, speed, and big-play ability will make him a valuable commodity in April. I currently have Hamler circled as a legitimate Day 2 prospect. NF
Eno Benjamin finished up with 104 yards on 15 carries for Arizona State but the Sun Devils fell to the Utah Utes. As mentioned earlier, the word is that Benjamin will enter the 2020 draft.
Central Florida receiver Gabe Davis, who I mentioned way back in September, continues to play lights out. He’s already caught 8 passes for 148 yards with 2 TD’s as the fourth quarter begins against East Carolina. As we look ahead to April 2020, word is that Davis is expected to enter the NFL Draft. TP
Continuing the day with defensive rankings, here’s my list of top ten outside linebackers. It’s an eclectic group of 3-4 OLB’s, traditional weakside 4-3 linebackers as well as the smallish, run and chase linebackers the league values so much these days. TP
Outside Linebacker Top 10
|3.92||2nd||Malik Harrison||4Sr||Ohio State|
|3.77||2-3||Curtis Weaver||4Jr||Boise State|
|3.67||3rd||Cam Brown||4Sr||Penn State|
|3.62||3rd||Akeem Davis-Gaither||5Sr||Appalachian State|
Though I’d like to see more production from Michigan Wolverines LB Josh Uche, I am impressed with his athleticism, quickness and explosion. He’s been credited with just a single tackle against Penn State, yet did make a nice play in coverage some 30 yards down field.
I spoke at length with Uche in the off season and found him to be a smart, well spoken gentleman. He’s the type of prospect who’ll need proper coaching and a bit of time to develop his game. However, Uche has a huge upside and could develop into a monster 3-4 OLB. TP
Arizona and USC are about to kick off out west. It’s another tough test for Wildcat cornerback Jace Whittaker, who’ll face off against Trojan wide outs Michael Pittman Jr. and Tyler Vaughns.
I graded Vaughns higher than Pittman entering the season and while the latter is having a terrific campaign, league insiders continue to tell me Vaughns will be the better NFL receiver, affirming my initial opinion. The reason is simple – Vaughns is quicker, faster and gets separation through his routes and burst which Pittman cannot do.
Expect Vaughns to go through the pre-draft process of getting grades and opinions at the end of the season to see where he may land in the draft. Following that, he’ll make a decision where he’ll be playing football in 2020 – on the college field or in the NFL. TP
Keep an eye on Wazzu right tackle Abraham Lucas, a redshirt sophomore.
He’s a big-bodied blocker who plays with solid fundamentals and outstanding power. He’s been controlling everyone he’s gotten locked onto tonight against Colorado, a trait he’s shown the since he was a freshman.
I stamped Lucas as a 5th round prospect coming into the season but I was purposely conservative as he has a great amount of upside I want to see attained before I rate him as a top 90 pick. TP
Carlos Basham Jr. of Wake Forest is a beast and is one of the most underrated pass rushers in the nation. Tonight, he’s putting on a show against Florida State.
He’s constantly penetrating the offensive line, forcing the action and making the quarterback uncomfortable. His quarterback pressure on that last series caused the interception which gave the ball back to Wake.
Basham was my highest rated Wake Forest prospect entering the season and I stamped him as a third-round prospect.
As I’ve previously reported, he is seriously considering entering he draft and will make the jump if he gets a second-round grade from the advisory committee or if he receives information he’ll be a second day pick. TP
When talking about Michigan’s struggles this season, the Wolverines offense and quarterback Shea Patterson are often first mentioned. But it’s also been a very disappointing season for defensive end/pass rusher Mike Dana.
Dana, a graduate transfer from Central Michigan, entered the season graded as a strong priority free agent by scouts yet he’s played more like a street free agent. During the Wolverines initial six games, Dana totals read 18 tackles and 2 sacks. He’s blank this evening so far during the first half against Penn State. TP
Last wee,k I mentioned I never bought into the Jake Fromm/first round hype. I think he’s a solid college passer whose accuracy and pass placement is too erratic for the next level, never mind the fact he’s a smaller signal caller that’s not athletic enough to be an RPO quarterback.
That being the case, Fromm’s receivers do nothing to help him. They cannot separate, struggle to get free, and rarely make their way back to the QB to help out.
Lawrence Cager, the 6-foot-3-inch, 215-pound transfer from Miami, has been especially disappointing. All too often he seems to stand around waiting for things to happen, rather than making things happen.
Five games into the season, Cager has recorded 19 receptions for 245 yards. TP
Yetur Gross-Matos is a bit undersized but he brings together an incredible combination of athleticism and fundamentals. He just displayed great hand technique on a third down play, keeping the blocker away from his body then quickly penetrating the line of scrimmage to record a tackle for loss. Gross-Matos will eventually fill out physically, but his sheer speed and basic fundamentals will help him succeed early in the NFL.
I grade Gross-Matos higher than A.J. Epenesa of Iowa, who some rank as a mid-first round pick, as I believe the PSU junior is a much more explosive and a much purer edge/pass rusher. TP
Keep a close eye on Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields during tonight’s all-important Big Ten matchup between Penn State and Michigan. His name is starting to build a bit of momentum in scouting circles as teams like his development, physicality, and size. TP
Yet another huge PAC 12 game is taking place today as Arizona State has taken a 14-0 lead over Utah at halftime. Both teams have similar 5-1 overall/2-1 conference records.
Eno Benjamin has just 28 yards on 8 carries in the game and his production this season has been nothing extraordinary. Even with that being the case, several sources told me last week Benjamin is expected to enter the draft, with one west coast source calling the pending decision a “definite.”
Benjamin was ranked as a potential second round choice by a few NFL scouts who graded some of the higher-rated junior. However, the middle (3rd/4th) rounds seem more likely at this point if or when he makes the jump. TP
It’s been a rather slow start for Laviska Shenault Jr., as the Colorado receiver is not having the season he expected or many thought possible, and a lot of this has been due to injuries.
Even with that being the case, everything I continue to hear leads me to believe the junior will enter the draft once the season is over. Shenault’s handlers are deep into the agent process, and though sources tell me no final decision on representation has been made, all signs point to the Buffalo wideout entering the draft. TP
Two QBs. Two future NFL starters. Eason and Herbert. This game is coming down to the wire, and this is the exact situation you want to see from QB prospects. How do they respond when the lights are brightest, and when the moments matter most? MV
The offensive line play in this game is excellent. Both teams have several players that will be drafted. From Oregon: LG Shane Lemieux, C Jake Hansen, RT Calvin Throckmorton. From Washington: LT Trey Adams, C Nick Harris. MV
Washington QB Jacob Eason may have the most gifted arm in the class. He makes deep passes look effortless, and when he’s in rhythm, his accuracy is elite. I have Eason with a high first-round grade currently, and it’s unlikely that changes this season. MV
Keep an eye on Washington Huskies defensive back Keith Taylor, #27. He’s lined up at both cornerback and safety, and teams love his size.
There have been a ton of people from the league calling me and asking my opinion on Taylor. This is usually a sure sign he is very likely to enter the draft. TP
The inside/middle linebacker position took a major hit when Dylan Moses of Alabama went down with an injury and was lost for the season. He was the only player at the position whose talent was comparable to Devin White or Roquan Smith – early draft selections the past few years. As is the case these days in the NFL, these linebackers offer versatility in a number of schemes:
Inside/Middle Linebacker Top 10
|3.74||3rd||Joe Bachie||Michigan State|
|3.70||2-3||Isaiah Moore||North Carolina State|
|3.62||3rd||Tuf Borland||Ohio State|
|3.55||4th||Mykal Walker||Fresno State|
Joe Burrow has made a few questionable throws early in this contest against Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs defense responded by keeping LSU out of the end zone.
As I previewed with Andy Herman during The Draft Insiders podcast last week, Mississippi State has a legitimate defense led by three NFL prospects in the secondary. Safeties Brian Cole and Jaquarius Landrews are graded anywhere from the 3rd round to the 6th round, while some scouts came into the season believing cornerback Cameron Dantzler was a potential first-rounder. TP
Jordon Scott of Oregon is probably the best pure nose tackle prospect few are talking about. He is an absolute wrecker in the middle of the line based on his ability to bullrush double team blocks and collapse the pocket. He has some limitations but really projects well as a two-gap nose tackle on Sundays.
They used to say defensive tackles in college should not be allowed to wear single-digit jersey’s, the way they stretched them out. Looking at Scott, I get the feeling he would be more comfortable in a triple-digit jersey based on his width. TP
Justin Herbert put on a clinic during the Ducks’ first drive, which resulted in a touchdown. He spread the ball around to all his receivers, improvised when plays broke down, and showed a lot of resilience when Oregon was backed up by penalties.
That’s Herbert at his best, and it’s why scouts love his potential – but let’s see if he can continue that pace or come through if the game is close. TP
There are several match-ups to watch when the 3:30 PM games kick-off.
Oregon travels to Seattle to take on the 25th ranked Washington Huskies, a game which will impact the PAC-12 and of course, features a match-up between quarterbacks Justin Herbert and Jacob Eason.
The Washington game from 2018 was the contest where Herbert really faltered and struggled to keep the Ducks in the game, which led many, including myself, to be concerned about his ability to come through in the big spot.
One of the more underrated contests from a scouting perspective has Temple traveling to SMU and taking on the undefeated Mustangs. This too will impact conference rankings but it also pits Owls receiver Isaiah Wright, who is gaining a lot of momentum in the scouting community, against a talented SMU secondary.
The two players to keep an eye on in the SMU secondary are senior safety Rodney Clemons, a late-round prospect, and graduate transfer Brandon Stephens, who has drawn late interest from scouts. TP
For almost everyone, Derrick Brown is the consensus IDL1. While I currently feel the same, every week, I feel as though Javon Kinlaw stands out more and more. He’s a freak combination of size and athletic ability. Brown’s body is closer to that of a 0 and 1-tech type defensive tackle, while Kinlaw translates more as a 3-tech. Kinlaw currently leads the SEC in sacks, and if his dominance continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was my highest-rated defensive tackle. MV
I mentioned my concern over the somewhat streaky play of Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina earlier today. Those are my exact feelings towards his teammate, D.J. Wonnum, times ten.
I stamped Wonnum with a PFA grade coming into the season in stark contrast to scouts who graded him as a third-round pick. This season Wonnum has 3.5 sacks to his credit, with three of them coming against Kentucky. He’s totaled 6.5 TFL’s, three which came against North Carolina and another three coming against Kentucky. Today against Florida, he’s totalled two tackles, one sack, and one TFL.
While Wonnum flashes pass rush skills, his consistency, and computer numbers (6-feet-5-inches, 250 pounds, 4.83s forty) are red flags for me. TP
Unlike the defensive tackle class, I see a good degree of depth at the defensive end position starting with the second day of the draft through the middle rounds. It’s basically Chase Young and everyone else, but everyone else can play at the next level. Here’s my top ten defensive end board:
Defensive End Top 10
|1st||4.25||Chase Young||Ohio State|
|1-2||4.03||Julian Okwara||Notre Dame|
|1-2||3.98||Yetur Gross-Matos||Penn State|
|2nd||3.84||Khalid Kareem||Notre Dame|
|3rd||3.65||Carlos Basham Jr.||Wake Forest|
What was a close game at the start has turned into a disaster for West Virginia, as Oklahoma continues their march in the attempt to reach the championship game, and they are running over the Mountaineers. Receiver T.J. Simmons has been one of the few rays of light today for WVU.
I graded him as a potential 4th round prospect before the season and Simmons has caught six passes for 74 yards with two TDs today. Except for a blip against Missouri, Simmons has been productive every game this season.
I feel he projects better in the NFL than former WVU receivers David Sills and Gary Jennings. TP
Another tight end whose game seems to be up the upswing is Brycen Hopkins of Purdue, a player I’ve noticed former New York Jets tight end Anthony Becht of ESPN has mentioned a couple of times today. Hopkins started the season strong with six receptions the first game of the season against Nevada, posted average production the following three games before hauling in 10 receptions last week against Maryland. Thus far today Hopkins has four receptions for 23 yards against Iowa.
While I would expect to see Hopkins at the Senior Bowl, he really needs to boost his production and become a bigger part of the Purdue offense, which likes to throw the ball. I disagree with Becht who said Hopkins will be a third-round choice, I believe he’s a last day guy.
I also disagree with Becht who said the New England Patriots are ripe to lose and will get beat by the New York Jets on Monday night. TP
After an uninspired start to the season, Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson, who I stamped as a potential 1st round pick over the summer, is starting to kick his game into gear. Ferguson caught four passes for 62 yards against Michigan State a week ago and has three receptions for 55 yards and one TD during the first half of today’s games against Illinois.
Part of the issue in Ferguson’s production has been Jonathan Taylor’s dominance on the ground, which has meant the passing game is not necessitated for the Badgers, a fact reflective in the team stats.
Regardless, Ferguson possesses the body type, pass-catching skill and blocking prowess to be a starting tight end on Sunday. TP
While South Carolina Bryan Edwards is a terrific pass catcher, you just witnessed my concern about his game, no deep speed. In the end, this will depress Edwards draft stock a bit and limit the types of offensive schemes coaches are willing to insert him into on Sundays. TP
I will be posting defensive rankings throughout the day and I’ll start off with my Top 10 defensive tackle list, a top-heavy group with seemingly little depth in the 2020 class:
Defensive Tackle Top 10
|2nd||3.99||Javon Kinlaw||South Carolina|
|4th||3.57||Justin Madubuike||Texas A&M|
|4th||3.55||Larrell Murchison||North Carolina State|
|4-5||3.50||Robert Windsor||Penn State|
While I’ve gushed over Derrick Brown of Auburn since last year, his teammate Marlon Davidson deserves a lot of credit. It’s easy for Davidson to get lost in the shuffle and some of his playmaking must be credited to the way opponents double and even triple team Brown, but he’s still coming up big for Auburn
In six games this season, Davidson has posted 24 tackles, 5.5 TFL’s and 3.5 sacks. During today’s contest against Arkansas, which is quickly becoming a route in favor of Auburn, he’s already been credited with two TFL’s, two sacks and forced a fumble.
Davidson was graded as a 3rd/4th round prospect by scouts entering the season, an opinion I agreed with, but that needs to be modified off his play this season.
Auburn has five games left with LSU, Georgia, and Alabama still on the schedule. Those three games will determine if the Tigers are in the conversation for the playoffs and championship game. TP
You have to admire the respect the Gator defense and secondary is showing South Carolina receiver, Bryan Edwards. They have consistently focused on the senior, having the safety bracket the wideout over the top.
Edwards has two receptions for 47 yards at the start of the second quarter, including a 41-yard bomb to start the game. TP
While Seth Dawkins/A.J. Terrell was the matchup I chose to focus on during today’s intro, don’t forget about Dez Fitzpatrick, who just made a terrific reception over Terrell.
Just a junior, I gave Fitzpatrick a 6th round grade over the summer, higher than the UDFA grade given to him by a handful of scouts who graded select underclassmen. TP
I want to like South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw but his streaky play and inconsistency scare me.
Kinlaw looks the part and often times plays to it, but he also disappears for stretches which is a concern. He’s not like Derrick Brown of Auburn, a constant menace for opponents that must always be accounted for. TP
That was a terrific interception by K’Von Wallace of Clemson in the end zone as he showed great focus as well as resiliency. But did anyone else notice Isaiah Simmons forty yards downfield working with Wallace to defend the pass?
That’s not only a testament to the athleticism Simmons brings but also his ball skills, something he showed as a redshirt freshman when he lined up at safety.
Simmons will be a top 20 pick if he enters the draft, something I expect he will do if Clemson makes a serious push towards the championship game. TP
Right from the get-go the match up we were keying on in the South Carolina – Florida game comes to fruition as receiver Bryan Edwards badly beat Gators corner C.J. Henderson deep for a big play.
Edwards is not a consistent deep threat receiver but always has one big play per game for South Carolina. You have to love the way he sold his route, which left Henderson confused and slow to react. TP
On Friday evening, we saw the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Northwestern Wildcats, 52-3. Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields led the way with 194 passing yards and four touchdowns. The game got out of hand early and by the fourth quarter, it was simply Ohio State just looking to run out the clock.
Here on Saturday, the top noon contest from a game day and scouting perspective has Florida traveling to South Carolina, who pulled off a huge upset and knocked off the formerly unbeaten Georgia Bulldogs in Week 7. Meanwhile, the Gators lost big to Joe Burrow and the LSU Tigers last weekend. As a result, LSU jumped to the number two spot in the AP Top 25 Poll, while the Gators fell to the ninth spot.
During the LSU content, UF lost defensive linemen Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard. Both players, projected as second-day draft picks, are listed as game-time decisions today.
The big match-up on the scouting radar is Gamecock receiver Bryan Edwards going head to head with Gator cornerback C.J. Henderson. Currently, I grade both players as second-round picks.
Edwards has been his usual reliable self, displaying solid pass-catching production. Henderson struggled early in the season with ankle issues but has his game headed in the right direction.
The other noon kickoff features Louisville, who has played good football this season, against the undefeated Clemson Tigers.
UL has an explosive offense balanced between the pass and run and while I don’t expect they will give Clemson much trouble, the matchup between Cardinals receiver Seth Dawkins and Tigers corner A.J. Terrell is another secondary battle to watch.
I stamped Dawkins as a sixth-round prospect coming into the season with Terrell a third-round pick. Dawkins has played better than expected in the first half of 2019 while Terrell has flashed brilliance but also displayed a lot of inconsistency. TP