Written by: John Stocco
Here we are. I can’t believe we’re a couple of weeks away from the last week of the regular season of this college football season. A couple of days ago I started writing up some preparations before I really dig into the tape and do some film sessions. As I was reading up on prospects, looking at big boards, and creating my own mock drafts, I started writing notes on some players and positions. Instead of keeping the notes in my scouting notebook let’s put the keyboard into some good use and share my notes with all of you. The best time of the year is here.
Quarterbacks: Loaded. This will ESPN’s favorite draft because of how loaded the quarterback position is, and the talk won’t disappoint. I put them in a category as the big five. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason, and Jordan Love. I’m willing to bet right here right now that all five of those quarterbacks get drafted in the first round. We all know how this plays out. It’s the quarterback position and that’s something your team can live or die by. There are going to be teams that love the tape, love the intangibles, love the arm strength, and love the interview at the combine, to justify picking all of these quarterbacks in the first round. Teams around the league are desperate to find that guy right now, or for the future, and this quarterback class more than any other class offers that for teams. Teams I expecting to take a quarterback in this draft as a whole: Bengals, Dolphins, Chargers, Bucs, Titans, Steelers, and with the recent news of Matthew Stafford fractured backbones I’d put the Lions in that mix as well.
Tua’s Draft Stock: Speaking of quarterbacks we have to put an emphasis on Tua Tagovailoa. Seeing him go down with that injury on Saturday truly sucked. The guy has been a superstar for Alabama. His arm strength is a thing of beauty, and the way he spots his receivers down the field carving up defenses is something that makes teams tanking for Tua seem justifiably so. Tua suffered a dislocated hip on Saturday against Mississippi State and it begged the question. Will it hurt his draft stock? If the medicals are a nightmare then of course, but not knowing the medicals I’m going to say no. Sure teams can be nervous about durability, but his talent, his ceiling, and his potential are too good to pass up. Think about Deshaun Watson when you think about Tua. Tua is a franchise-changing quarterback, and teams will be willing to take that risk when they’re drafting a quarterback. Drafting Tua will buy teams an extra year in their process. A team like the Dolphins who aren’t ready to compete with the way their roster is built now, can let Tua develop on the sidelines, learn from a veteran quarterback, and learn how to read NFL defenses. Does Tua really need it? No, but buying that extra to get healthy and learn the NFL without getting hit can’t be a bad thing.
Darkhorse Running Backs: It’s not the most star-studded running back class, but there will be some nice options down towards the depth of the draft. You have Jonathan Taylor, and D’Andre Swift who are your top two back. Travis Etienne, JK Dobbins, Chuba Hubbard, and Najee Harris that are a tier below them, and then you have the late-round wonders like AJ Dillon from Boston College, Zack Moss from Utah, and Cam Akers from Florida State. This is why I love studying running backs. I love finding the diamonds in the rough in rounds 4, 5, and 6, and those three will be diamonds at the next level.
The Never-Ending of Elite Playmakers: This wide receiver class is sick. I mean, so sick, that you go 15 deep down the list and you’re thinking about your team drafting a potential WR1 on day three of the draft. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Tee Higgins, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, Chase Claypool, Laviska Shenault, Michael Pittman, now of course they’re not all going to pan out and be Pro Bowl receivers, but when you watch the film you can’t help but feel excited that all of these receivers have high ceilings and massive potential at the next level.
Defense = The Class of Buckeyes: Chase Young is a top-three pick, Jeffery Okudah will be a top 10 pick, while solid corners in Damon Arnette and Shaun Wade will be a teams dream in the 2nd or 3rd round in the draft. It’s not that great of a defensive draft, and Ohio State is usually more known for their explosive offense, but their defense is elite and the prospects that they’re developing are being highly thought of by NFL teams and scouts around the league.
Draft Weaknesses: While looking into the film and the big boards I’m not digging the linebackers, and the offensive tackles in this draft. There isn’t that one dominant linebacker in this class. Roquan Smith, Devin White, Devin Busch, those were dominant elite level linebacker prospects. This year there really isn’t any of that. The closest guy to that that I can see being drafted in the mid to late first round is Isiah Simmons out of Clemson. When it comes to the offensive tackles, injury is the thing of concern. Walker Little has been sidelined all year with a knee injury, Trey Adams out of Washington has back injury history, and Trey Adams out of Tennessee would be a top ten draft pick if he didn’t have issues involving blood clots. I like Andrew Thomas, Lucas Niang, and the twins from Iowa Aleric Jackson and Tristen Wirfs, but there isn’t that one dominant franchise tackle in this draft.