Written by Zachary Gartin
Well, the College Football regular season is over.... Finally. It’s been a tough year for everybody, so props to all the student-athletes who made it through. And then the College Football Playoff Committee did something that doesn’t really matter in the long term but made me frustrated. So before we get to prospects, I’m going to talk about it.
First off, the Final Four (Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, & Notre Dame) is what I expected. Anybody placed in the #4 spot was basically doomed to get boat raced by the Crimson Tide, and I don’t expect Ian Book and Notre Dame to be the exception here. I will say, I’m super excited for Clemson v Alabama IV. But now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of my complaints. Oklahoma and Florida over Cincinnati are just inexcusable. If you want to argue an eye test, good for you, we can go back and forth about it (that Cincinnati team has quite a few NFL caliber players on it, mind you.) But if we argue resume, teams that lost to LSU (5-5), Texas (6-3), and Kansas State (4-6) should not be above an undefeated Conference Champ. Hell, Texas A&M has one good ranked win. Group of 5 schools was completely disrespected in this final poll and it’s showing over and over again that schools like Cincinnati, UCF, and Boise State simply won’t be considered for the playoff in any year, no matter how well they play.
Ugh, it was good to get that out of my system. We can move onto some happier things now, like the Heisman Trophy and how it should go to a non-quarterback for the first time in a while. To put it simply, there are three players I’d consider for the Heisman Trophy this year. DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, and Trevor Lawrence. Trevor Lawrence, while dominant for a majority of the time he was on the field, missed key games this year that will hurt his resume, so that brings the list down to two in my eyes. DeVonta Smith has been utterly unguardable this season, quietly putting up one of the greatest receiving seasons in college football history. Meanwhile, Najee Harris has become a touchdown machine, putting up 27 total touchdowns this season. I would personally give the award to Smith, possibly due to my bias towards WR’s. But if you gave the award to any of these three, I would not be angry at all. Now if it ends up in Trask’s hands…
Ohhhhh, and I can’t forget. THE JETS WON A FOOTBALL GAME!!! Meaning they may lose out on Trevor Lawrence… Well, if that’s the case, we may as well take a look at one of the guys they may consider drafting at #2 overall in 2021. Let’s dive in.
Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)
Watched: Auburn, Cal, Colorado, USC, Utah
First things first, Sewell may be the best pound-for-pound athlete in this class. A 6’6”, 325-pound man shouldn’t move like a TE, but Sewell does with ease. He consistently reaches the second level with ease and cuts off LBs and DBs angles of pursuit. The former Duck has insane upper body strength to tie with his quick and nimble feet, allowing him to manhandle people in the run game and recover quickly in pass pro. His quick feet allow him to pace his pass sets, and his eyes and patience are fantastic. Sewell is never rattled or confused about stunts. Overall, Sewell’s a special player who is absurdly polished for his young age. His great ability in pass pro is only matched by his elite run blocking.
While there isn’t much to complain about his game, there are certain things that Sewell can fix. Sewell can overextend himself on his punch at times, giving way to a quick inside move. His hand placement is a bit inconsistent and some coaches will not like Sewell’s usage of a two-hand punch. But Sewell has quick enough feet that allow him to recover any time he gets overextended. Sewell’s anchor can be a bit better at times, as pass rushers can push him back into the lap of the QB every once in a while. Sewell’s game is very good, and there aren’t a ton of flaws. He’s so good that this entire paragraph just feels like nitpicking.
Sewell is easily one of the best players in this draft. He will probably come into the NFL and perform well right away due to his athleticism and relative polish. He wins with his athleticism and strength at the point of attack. Sewell makes football look easy and will continue to make football look easy in the NFL. He is as much of a Top-5 lock as anyone else (looking at you, Trevor Lawrence) and his athletic profile will make NFL coaches drool. He’s going to be a day one starter, and he could be a consensus top-5 OT in year three.
Rashawn Slater (OT/OG, Northwestern)
Watched: Stanford, Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois
Rashawn Slater is a very interesting evaluation. His smooth movement skills, power, and great footwork all stood out on film. He consistently got to the second level with ease, whether is was as a puller or as a combo blocker. His strong hands, base, and upper half allow him to have a great anchor and drive blocker. The Northwestern products a smart run and pass blocker, always taking the correct angles and handling stunts well. Slater is very polished technically and is a solid hand fighter with a great anchor against power rushers.
Technically, Slater is very polished, the questions come from things that he can’t really control. Length is the first one. His shorter arms give him problems against lengthy pass rushers and can cause him to lunge at times. His hand placement can be a bit inconsistent and his punches can be slow at times. Slater also has some small lateral quickness concerns, which gives him issues against inside moves. I’ve also seen some concerns about his bend or flexibility, and while they didn’t jump at me in his tape, I can understand where they come from.
Overall, Rashawn Slater is a good prospect. His movement skills and footwork, especially when working downfield. Slater is a very powerful blocker with OG/OT versatility. His length, slower hands, and possible lateral quickness issues give me some concerns about his ability at OT. Slater was a blast to watch working to the second level, and I think he would fit perfectly at OG in the NFL. I think he has the potential to be a very good OG in the league and I gave him a late 1st round grade.
Jay Tufele (DT (3-Tech), USC)
Watched: Fresno State, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA
Tufele was a surprisingly good athlete for his 6’3”, 305-pound frame. The 3-tech is an exceptional mover for his size, showcasing burst and lateral agility on a consistent basis. This athleticism serves him best as a pass rusher, where his burst and violent hands allow him to use his signature club-swim move to beat offensive lineman consistently. His upper body strength and violent hands allow him to win one-on-one battles against the run and make plays in the backfield. Tufele’s motor is non-stop and he will save touchdowns and catch ball carriers from behind.
Tufele can sometimes struggle against double teams and combo blocks due to a narrow base that forces him to play high. He can get a bit overzealous when penetrating against the run, losing gap integrity and not getting TFL’s to make up for it. The former Trojan’s pass rush move set is also rather limited, as he only uses a club-swim and bull rush. Adding more moves will make him much dynamic as a pass rusher. He also only played as a 3-tech in college, so whether he can play other spots on the defensive line is in question. Overall, he lacks variety in his game that I think could be fixed with more time and experience.
Overall, the USC product is a very fun prospect who’s athleticism alone should push him into the conversation for a top 100 pick in the 2021 NFL draft. He’s violent and fast in his pass rush, consistently pushing the pocket and forcing the QB off his spot. And while he struggles against double teams and combo blocks, when he is one-on-one against the run, he can destroy blocks, free up linebackers, and make plays in the backfield. After all that, I found myself really enjoying the value Jay Tufele could bring in the draft. He could step in and produce as a rotational 3-tech for any team. Tufele earned a mid-2nd round grade from me.
Jhamon Ausbon (WR, Texas A&M)
Watched: Clemson, Alabama, Mississippi State, Georgia
Ausbon is a good route runner who will probably be your starting QB’s best friend on third downs. The Texas A&M product has very strong hands and improvises really well once the QB breaks the pocket. Ausbon is technically sound in his breaks, has a varied release package, and is physical within his routes. All of this allows Ausbon to create separation very successfully in short and intermediate routes. One other thing Ausbon does very well is read leverage and coverage, so I expect him to be great on choice routes in the next level. Ausbon has a lot of the skills you need to be a good possession receiver in the NFL.
And while Ausbon has the skills, I’m not sure he has the tools to match the skills. Overall, Ausbon isn’t a great athlete. His burst and overall speed are lacking, which causes him to struggle to threaten DB’s vertically. His overall lack of athleticism also hurts him in YAC situations as well. He isn’t great in jump ball situations either, but he also wasn’t afforded as many opportunities in those situations. His blocking isn’t great either, as he struggles to stay in front of defenders. The lack of tools really limits his overall ceiling.
Jhamon Ausbon’s game reminds me of a budget store version of Michael Thomas. He wins with great underneath and intermediate route running and his strong hands, but struggles as an athlete and his deeper routes lack refinement. His ceiling is most likely a productive WR3 for a team, but that’s probably where his ceiling stops. I’d give the former Aggiea late 5th round grade.
Kary Vincent Jr. (NCB/S, LSU)
Watched: Texas, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma
Vincent Jr. is an exceptional athlete in space. He moves smoothly in and out of his cuts and rarely false steps, a sign of his very good footwork. Vincent Jr. has very good deep speed and fluid hips, allowing him to transition easily from his backpedal to sprinting. This athleticism and movement ability allow Vincent Jr. to mirror receivers well in space and shows flashes when in man coverage. He also flashed some ball skills in college.
What Vincent Jr. has in athleticism, he lacks in processing. He tends to be a step late on his reads and reacts slowly when a route breaks in front of him. He simply needs more reps in coverage to get his mental speed in line with his physical speed. In the run game, Vincent Jr. struggles to tackle and doesn’t take great angles (in coverage or against the run.) His lack of size (listed at 5’10” and 185 lbs but probably smaller) causes him to struggle against physicality and to get off of blocks.
There’s a lot to like from the LSU product when you first put on the tape. Vincent Jr. is one of the more fluid corners I’ve watched in the class and his hips are as smooth as butter. But his mental processing really holds him back and the fact that he struggles with physicality also limits his potential. I expect him to struggle early and be limited to special teams, but eventually, Vincent Jr. could grow into a really solid nickel cornerback. As the definition of a late bloomer, I gave the former National Champion a 6th round grade.