Inside the War Room: Week 13
As the college football regular season wraps up, it is time to take a close look at some NFL Draft sleepers including Air Force wide receiver Jalen Robinette, Northern Iowa defensive end Karter Schult, Ball State linebacker Sean Wiggins and Simon Fraser linebacker Jordan Herdman. After we take a look at these underrated prospects for the final time this season, we list the top 10 performances from draft prospects in college football from last week. We then address what the possible team needs are for the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders. We wrap up this week’s article by listing the top senior linebackers in college football led by two SEC prospects.
- Last weekend, I took a trip up to Colorado Springs to scout the Air Force vs. Boise State game. The top prospect in this game was running back Jeremy McNichols, who other than a 56-yard run in the first quarter, was held in check by the Air Force defense. He did show nice quickness, though, and impressed me with how well put-together he is. A running back that McNichols reminded me of is current Denver Bronco Devontae Booker, and I could see him carrying a similar draft grade to Booker, who went in the fourth round this year. A player from Air Force who impressed me was wide receiver Jalen Robinette, who has already accepted his invite to the East-West Shrine game. Robinette has impressive size as he comes in at 6'4" and 215lbs and shows impressive athletic ability and speed for someone his size. The biggest downfall with Robinette is that he plays in an option offense, which doesn’t ask him to run pro-caliber routes and does not give him many opportunities to shine in the passing game. The only NFL team that had a scout at this game was the Carolina Panthers.
- For the second year in a row, California could have a quarterback drafted in the first round. In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Golden Bears saw quarterback Jared Goff go No. 1, and this year Davis Webb could hear his name called in the first round if he moves up teams' draft boards like I expect him to. Webb should see his draft stock improve at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Combine for a couple of reasons, including his outstanding arm strength. He throws a great deep ball and has one of the top arms in this year’s draft class. His size will impress teams as well, as he is one of the bigger quarterbacks in the class, coming in at 6'5" and 230lbs. He moves well for someone his size as well, which is another thing working in his favor. While his size and arm strength will surely impress scouts, they could have concerns about how long he hangs onto the ball in the pocket and how he will make some poor choices when throwing the ball.
- Sean Wiggins of Ball State might be one of the more underrated middle linebackers in this year's draft class. One of the reasons I am high on him is that he has outstanding size for a middle linebacker, listed at 6'3" and 232lbs by Ball State, which would make him one of the bigger middle linebackers in the draft. Another reason I am high on him is that, while he might not run the fastest 40-yard dash, he does have the speed to hold up in coverage and has the ability to chase down most run plays. The last reason I am high on Wiggins is that he keeps improving during his time at BSU. In 2015, he was named the team’s most improved player, and then this year lead the team in tackles with 109. Wiggins most likely carries a free agent grade with most scouts, but I would strongly consider taking him in the seventh round due to the reasons mentioned above.
- While Wiggins might be an underrated player at his position, the most underrated player in the whole draft is Northern Iowa defensive end Karter Schult, who was recently named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year. This season, Schult was able to lead Division I (both FBS and FCS) in sacks with 17.0 despite playing in the toughest conference in the FCS. To go along with his 17.0 sacks, he was also able to finish second in the FCS in tackles for loss. The main reason he is being underrated is that he lacks outstanding athletic ability and is on the shorter side, as he is listed at 6'2" by Northern Iowa. While he may lack the measurables to blow scouts away, I would be very surprised if he did not make a team due to the fact he is one of the more fundamentally-sound defensive ends in the draft and is also one of the hardest workers in the draft.
- Simon Fraser middle linebacker Jordan Herdman is an intriguing player to keep an eye on during the months leading up to the draft. When evaluating Herdman, several things stand out about him, including his production, strength, intelligence and work ethic. This past season, he set the GNAC career record with 428 tackles including 113 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss this season. His outstanding production allowed him to make the GNAC All-Conference team for three straight seasons including being named GNAC Defensive Player of the Year in both 2014 and 2015. When projecting him to the NFL, several things work in his favor. One of these is his impressive strength, as he holds up at the point of attack well and can use his strength to get off blocks. His strength is evident in the weight room also, as he is able to bench 225 pounds 28 times. To go along with his strength, he has the intelligence to play at the next level. He is rarely out of position on the field and does a great job of carrying out his assignment on a consistent basis. His high football IQ should not come as a surprise, though, as he is majoring in Biomedical Physiology Kinesiology and carries a 3.90 GPA. If this were not enough to get him a strong look as a free agent, his work ethic should, as he is one of the hardest workers on the Simon Fraser football team. On the downside, Herdman lacks great size and is a bit stiff, which hurts him in coverage at times.
- Next week, with the college football season over, we will go back to doing the Draft Stock Market, which profiles whose draft stock is rising and whose is falling. One player that would have made the "Stock Down" list this week is Washington State quarterback Luke Falk. Last week, I mentioned that it was in Falk’s best interest to return to school after watching him live against Colorado, and Falk again proved last Saturday why he is better off returning for his senior season. Against one of the top defenses he faced all year in the Washington Huskies, he threw 3 interceptions, which now gives him 4 picks in the last two games. While I think a quarterback-needy team could take Falk in the mid-to-late part of the first round, his footwork and the fact he comes from an Air Raid offense would make me put a second-round grade on him.
TOP PROSPECT PERFORMANCES FROM WEEK 13
Patrick Mahomes II, QB, Texas Tech
In possibly his last game at Texas Tech, Patrick Mahomes finished with an outstanding performance, as he threw for 586 yards and 6 touchdowns on the day. His strong day against Baylor allowed him to finish the season with 5,052 passing yards and 41 touchdowns despite playing with a messed-up shoulder most of the year. Even though Mahomes said in his postgame press conference that as of now he expects to return to Texas Tech, I could see that changing if he is projected as a first or second-round draft pick.
Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
Aaron Jones has quietly had an outstanding season this year after only rushing for 209 yards in an injury-riddled 2015 season. This season, he has rushed for 1,773 yards and 17 touchdowns, including 301 yards and 4 touchdowns last week against North Texas. His strong performance against the Mean Green allowed Jones to be highest-graded player by Pro Football Focus, as the site was impressed with how Jones forced 20 total missed tackles during the game.
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Deshaun Watson had his strongest game of the year last week against South Carolina when he posted season highs in touchdowns with 6 and in completion percentage, as he completed 82% of his passes. If Watson has a strong ACC Championship game, playoff run and NFL Combine, he should be able to reestablish himself as a first-round draft pick.
Amba Etta-Tawo, WR, Syracuse
One of the players to benefit the most from the graduate transfer rule is Syracuse wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawon. In his three seasons at Maryland, he only had 61 career receptions and 3 touchdowns, and in his one season at Syracuse, he was able to post more receptions, yards and touchdowns than he did during his entire career at Maryland. His outstanding senior season allowed Etta-Tawo to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl and should allow him to go from a free agent prospect to a player who will likely get drafted.
Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
Tedric Thompson is quietly having one of the best seasons of any safety in college football as he ranks third in the nation with 7 interceptions on the season. In his latest game of the season, Thompson picked off 2 passes and only allowed 2 receptions against him.
Billy Brown, WR, Shepherd
This is the second week in a row that Billy Brown has come out as the top-rated small-school performer in college football. This is also the second week in a row that Brown has come away with 3 touchdown receptions in a game, which gives him 20 touchdowns on the season. Brown is able to use his impressive size (6'4", 241lbs) to be a nightmare matchup for opposing Division II defenses. If he is able to show he has the speed to play wide receiver or strength to play tight end in the NFL, he could be an interesting Day 3 draft pick.
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Boston College junior defensive end Harold Landry posted his second best game of the year statistically against Wake Forest when he posted 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks on the day. He was also able to set a school record for sacks in a season with 15.0. If Landry enters the draft, he could go as high as the second round, but he may be better off returning for his senior season where he could earn a first-round draft grade if he has another outstanding year.
Collin Bevins, DE, Northwest Missouri State
Collin Bevins is a player that I highlighted in Week 8 of Inside the War Room as an intriguing 3-4 defensive end prospect, and his latest game against Emporia State showed why I am so high on this small-school prospect. Against ESU, Bevins finished with 8 tackles and 3.5 sacks on the day, which gives him 33.0 sacks for his college career, a Northwest Missouri State school record.
Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
Adoree' Jackson had an all-around outstanding effort against Notre Dame last week as he scored 3 touchdowns, including two on special teams and one on offense. On the negative side, he did give up a touchdown reception. The super-athletic junior defensive back was also named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year this week.
Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
Raekwon McMillan was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week last week for his strong performance against Michigan as he recorded 16 tackles on the day. If he decides to enter the draft, he should carry a late first-round draft grade.
- K.D. Cannon, WR, Baylor
- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
- Sam Rodgers, FB, Virginia Tech
- Greg Ward Jr., QB, Houston
- Dalton Crossan, RB, New Hampshire
- Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin
- Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Villanova
- Anthony Warrum, WR, Illinois State
- Derrick Craine, RB, Chattanooga
- De'Angelo Henderson, RB, Coastal Carolina
- Even though the Raiders are atop the AFC standings, their average-at-best secondary could be a concern come playoff time. The team currently ranks 28th in passing yards allowed, which should be a major concern when you have to go up against quarterbacks like Tom Brady in the playoffs. Due to these concerns, the team could look to find a starter to replace either cornerback DJ Hayden or safety Reggie Nelson in the draft. A cornerback who could make sense in the first round is Washington’s Sidney Jones, or if the team chose to add a safety in the first round, Ohio State’s Malik Hooker would be a solid pickup to go with last year’s first-round draft pick, Karl Joseph.
- The Packers are one of the most disappointing teams in the NFL, as they were predicted to go 12-4 on the season by USA Today, yet currently sit third in the NFC North and are pretty much assured of not making the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Part of the reason the team is seeing their worst season in at least eight years is due to a lack of offensive playmakers, which the team will need to address this offseason. The team’s biggest need when it comes to offensive skill players might be at running back, as no running back has over 400 yards on the season, and the team’s top rusher, Eddie Lacy, might not even be on the team next season. A player who would make a great selection in the first round is Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, as he would be a perfect fit in the Green Bay version of the West Coast offense. Cook can help in both the running game and be a good outlet receiver for Aaron Rodgers. The team could also look to address its need for the playmakers later in the draft by adding a tight end, and a player that I think would make sense on the second day of the draft is Arkansas's Jeremy Sprinkle. I would also like to see the Packers add a wide receiver who can actually get separation in the NFL, and the team would be wise to consider a prospect like North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer on Day 3 of the draft. Of course, the Packers have plenty of other draft needs, including on the offensive line and in the secondary, so they might not be able to add as many playmakers in the draft as I would like to see them add.
- The Philadelphia Eagles may have made the smartest move of the offseason last September when they traded quarterback Sam Bradford for a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick. While the trade was highly questionable when it happened, it now looks like one of the Vikings' biggest mistakes this decade. This season, Bradford is ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in quarterback rating with a 98.3 and does not look like the long-term answer for the Vikings, especially if Teddy Bridgewater returns from his injury next season. Another reason this is such a poor trade is that the Vikings will most likely have to rebuild this season, as their only proven playmaker, Adrian Peterson, is over 30 years old, has a large contract and is coming off of a season-ending injury. While this was a poor move for the Vikings, it should allow the Eagles to add another young building block in this year’s draft to go along with Carson Wentz, Jordan Matthews, Lane Johnson and Fletcher Cox.
- Last week, I talked about what the Cleveland Browns might do in the draft, and one option I forgot to mention is that they could take the top player in the draft and then trade the first-round pick that they received from the Wentz trade for a veteran quarterback. The quarterback who would make a lot of sense for this pick would be New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has done well in his limited playing time. In his two starts this season, he completed 70% of his passes and threw 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. He also had a quarterback rating of 117, which is the highest mark in the NFL this season. Garoppolo is a young quarterback, as he is only 25, which is another reason I would take him over any quarterback in this draft. The biggest problem with the Browns' possible acquisition of Garoppolo for the Eagles' first-round draft pick is that other teams like the New Orleans Saints have shown an interest in him.
TOP SENIOR INSIDE LINEBACKERS
The following list is a rating of the top senior inside linebackers in the 2017 NFL Draft. The class is led by Reuben Foster, who is also the top-rated overall linebacker on my board. While Foster should be a first-round draft pick, I don’t see any other senior middle linebacker carrying a first-round grade. A couple of players I am higher on than other people are include Cincinnati’s Eric Wilson, Wiggins and Herdman. On the other hand, a few inside linebackers that I think are currently being overrated are Keith Kelsey of Louisville, Hardy Nickerson of Illinois and Connor Harris of Lindenwood.
Reuben Foster, Alabama
Kendell Beckwith, LSU
Tanner Vallejo, Boise State
Riley Bullough, Michigan State
Keith Kelsey, Louisville
Ben Boulware, Clemson
Eric Wilson, Cincinnati
Sean Wiggins, Ball State
Ben Gedeon, Michigan
Hardy Nickerson, Illinois
Richie Brown, Mississippi State
Michael Scherer, Missouri
Michael Barton, Arizona
Kevin Davis, Colorado State
Chase Allen, Southern Illinois
Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, Maine
Brooks Ellis, Arkansas
Matt Galambos, Pittsburgh
Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
Xavier Woodson-Luster, Arkansas State
Connor Harris, Lindenwood
Jordan Herdman, Simon Fraser
Chad Geter, Gardner-Webb
Nyeem Wartman-White Penn State
Austin Calitro Villanova