NFL Draft Prospect Watch – Trending Up/Trending Down in Week 5

NFL Draft Prospect Watch – Trending Up/Trending Down in Week 5
Reading Time: 9 minutes.

Each week, @CFBBritBaller is bringing you ‘Prospect Watch’. The very latest when it comes to College Football’s offensive weapons who will be rookies in the NFL next season.

Keep up to date with all of the fantasy relevant positions that you’ll need to know before next year’s draft season. Who’s trending up/down and what round he’s projecting they will be drafted come the real NFL draft in Paradise, Nevada in April 2022.

Prospect Watch – Trending Up

QUARTERBACK

Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh Panthers
Kenny Pickett - Prospect Watch
Kenny Pickett: Prospect Watch. Image Credit: Pitt Panthers

Coming into the season, people were on the fence (pun completely intended) with what to think of Pickett. Is he good enough for the NFL? Will he step his game up in order to be a draftable prospect? 

Well, so far this season he’s answered those questions with a resounding yes! To date he’s thrown for 1,731 yards (346 yards per game average), has a 19:1 TD to INT ratio and has the 2nd highest passer rating in all of college football only behind Coastal’s Grayson McCall. 

Not only that, but he’s contributing with his legs more efficiently than ever before with a career high of 3.9 yards per attempt and is on pace to put up a career best in rushing yards to boot. Bottom line; Pickett has improved to a point where now he’s well and truly propelled himself into draft consideration.

Current NFL Draft Projection: 5th – 7th Round (Previous – UDFA)

Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati Bearcats

Ridder possesses a lot of favourable traits for the NFL. He’s got a decent arm, a good ability to read defenses and has elite level athleticism traits. The mechanics and accuracy issues that leak into his game occasionally can be coached at the next level, so Ridder will likely be an attractive prospect as a project backup with bags of potential.

This week he saw off a gritty Notre Dame defense and has guided the Bearcats to a 4-0 start with a very favourable schedule for the rest of the season. Thanks to his 261 passing yard per game average, 9 TD season and rushing upside, Ridder currently finds himself a well-deserved 3rd favourite for the Heisman Trophy.

Current NFL Draft Projection: 3rd/4th Round (Previous – 6th/7th Round)

RUNNING BACK

Isaiah Spiller – Texas A&M Aggies
Spiller - Prospect Watch
Isaiah Spiller: Prospect Watch. Image Credit: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

One of the key factors I look at when scouting running backs is what situation they’ve had to deal with in their college careers in regards to offensive lines and general offensive situations. If a running back has had a stellar o-line that creates huge gaps week after week for example, it’s easy for them to look good. 

The situation that Spiller has faced this year is that he’s a part of a terrible offense in general. The Aggies o-line is fine, albeit nothing flashy, and the remainder of the offensive weapons have been mediocre at best. Starting QB Haynes King is missing with a fractured leg and the offense has seemingly fallen apart as a result. 

But the glimmer of light for Aggies fans is the fact that despite all of the offensive woes, Isaiah Spiller still looks like an elite weapon. He has single handedly put the offense on his back and ran with it (pun not intended this time). He’s had 3 games over 100 yards rushing and currently sits with 551 all purpose yards and 3 TDs. His stock is remaining high and is only a few more regular endzone trips away from skyrocketing even further.

Current NFL Draft Projection: 2nd Round (Previous – 3rd Round)

WIDE RECEIVER

Drake London – USC Trojans

The Trojans star receiver is a human highlight reel. Some of the catches he makes are other-wordly. For me, London is the clear WR1 in the 2022 class and his performance last weekend versus Colorado left onlookers drooling. 

After 5 games so far this season, London has had over 130 receiving yards in 4 of them. He’s averaging just under 10 receptions per game and is by far and away the playmaking powerhouse of the coach-less SoCal team.

From one-handed grabs, to laying out in between 2 defenseman, London has all of the receiving tricks up his sleeve. He’s going to be a superstar in the NFL.  

Current NFL Draft Projection: Top-10 (Previous – 1st Round)

Jaquarii Roberson – Wake Forest Demon Deacons

The Demon Deacs may have one of the easier FBS schedules this season, but you can only play what’s in front of you. With this kind of schedule, it’s just as easy for a highly touted sleeper prospect to find himself trending down after a couple of sub-par performances, but Roberson fortunately hasn’t fallen into that trap. 

Granted he had a down game versus FSU in week 3, but other than that he’s been a consistent number 1 target for QB Sam Hartman. Roberson has now had 3 games with a yards per reception average of over 22.5 yards and is on pace to set a career high in receiving yards. 

The final 4 games of the season versus North Carolina, N.C State, Clemson and B.C will determine exactly what his draft stock will be in April, but if he can consistently deliver 90+ receiving yards per game, there’s no reason why Roberson can’t find himself taken late on day 3.

Current NFL Draft Projection: 6th/7th Round (Previous – UDFA)

TIGHT END

Sean Dykes – Memphis Tigers
Sean Dykes - Prospect Watch
Sean Dykes: Prospect Watch. Image Credit: GoTigersGo

Dykes is in his 6th season with the Tigers and by the time he gets to the NFL he’ll be having to eye up retirement! In all seriousness, Dykes’ experience is shining through this year in a topsy-turvy season for Memphis.

After breaking through to prominence last season, Dykes has continued to be one of the main go-to receiving options for freshman QB Seth Henigan. Averaging 17.8 yards per reception (391 yards off 22 receptions), only senior receiver Calvin Austin III has seen more targets and production. 

Dykes is currently the TE2 in the FBS in receiving yards and T-6th in touchdowns. Production like this will automatically get you recognised by NFL scouts despite age being a potential red flag. He might be old in college terms, but he’s proving himself to be a mature, safe and reliable weapon in the passing game.

Current NFL Draft Projection: 6th/7th Round (Previous – UDFA)

Honourable Mentions:

Jake Haener, QB – Fresno State Bulldogs, Austin Kendall, QB – Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Malik Willis, QB – Liberty Flames, Brian Robinson Jr., RB – Alabama Crimson Tide, Tyler Goodson, RB – Iowa Hawkeyes, Kenneth Walker III, RB – Michigan State Spartans, Mateo Durant, RB – Duke Blue Devils, Chris Rodriguez Jr., RB – Kentucky Wildcats, Calvin Austin III, WR – Memphis Tigers, Jalen Cropper, WR – Fresno State Bulldogs, Wan’Dale Robinson, WR – Kentucky Wildcats, Isaiah Likely, TE – Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Prospect Watch – Trending Down

QUARTERBACK

Jayden Daniels – Arizona State Sun Devils

Despite coming off his best performance to date this season in week 5, Daniels’ draft stock has taken a downturn since the off-season. Once considered a potential day 1 prospect, the Sun Devils’ QB has struggled to shine thus far. 

To be clear, I’m not slamming the guy and saying he’s undraftable, because I’m not. I’m just saying a player in his shoes needed to continue his impressive progression from the previous 2 seasons if he was going to continue rising up draft boards.

The very fact that his performances so far have been ranging from sub-par to okay doesn’t show any scouts watching that he’s in the elite group of this class. Before this weeks’ win against UCLA, Daniels had more INT’s than TDs (3:2) and a passer rating of 149.5, which was 45th best in the FBS. 

He’ll need to step it up in the remaining games this season if he wants to be back on scouts’ radars in the spring. Day 1& 2 QBs don’t step off the gas in their final season in College football.   

 Current NFL Draft Projection: 4th Round (Previous – 2nd Round)

RUNNING BACK

Kyren Williams – Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Kyren Williams' second touchdown of the day pads Notre Dame lead vs. Duke |  NBC Sports
Kyren Williams: Prospect Watch. Image Credit: NBCSports

As mentioned with Isaiah Spiller, I judge running backs on what they can do when they’re up against it. Last season Kyren Williams was behind arguably the best o-line in College football. He had the likes of TE Tommy Tremble plowing rushing lanes wider than the M25 for him to utilize. He put up great numbers and expectations were very high for the junior out of St. Louis. 

It’s all changed this year though. Other than centre Jarrett Patterson, the o-line is relatively new and has also widespread injuries. Maybe it’s a tad unfair to downgrade Williams because of this, but in my opinion, elite running backs should be able to succeed in almost any situation, just like Spiller is. 

Williams is averaging 3.8 yards per carry this season, a career low – and is also only on pace for 694 rushing yards. That’s a long way from last years’ 1,125 yard finish. Unless Williams’ form drastically changes, there’s only one way his draft stock is going to go. 

Current NFL Draft Projection: 4th Round (Previous – 2nd Round)

Ronnie Rivers – Fresno State Bulldogs

Another supercharged running back that’s disappointing fans so far this season is Fresno’s Ronnie Rivers. Ever since his freshman year, Rivers has sustained over 5.1 yards per carry average every season up until now. Of course there is still time for that to change, but at just 4.6 this season and almost 100 yards off where he was after this amount of games last year, it’s fair to say that the super senior is underwhelming in the running game so far. 

Not only have the yardage stats decreased, the more disappointing fact is the scoring. So far this season he’s found the paydirt just 4 times, quite a noticeable difference from the Ronnie Rivers we’ve seen in the past who has averaged no fewer than 8 TDs at this point in the season over the last 3 years. 

Current NFL Draft Projection: UDFA (Previous – 6th/7th Round)

WIDE RECEIVER

Ainias Smith – Texas A&M Aggies

Again, please refer to Isaiah Spiller’s blurb to see how bad all other skill positions have been for the Aggies this year. I sympathise a little for Ainias Smith, after all, he did lose his QB early on in the season. But again, like I said with Kyren Williams, elite players stand out even when the chips are down.

Smith has far from stood out so far this season. If you take away his 8 for 100 yard performance in week 1’s cupcake game versus Kent State, Smith has not seen more than 35 receiving yards in any game since. Also, more worryingly, he’s not recorded a single touchdown in that time either. 

The expectations in the off-season were that Smith was going to be peppered with targets out of the slot and wreaking havoc every week against defensive secondaries. But the reality is, Smith is just reeking out there. No havoc. 

Current NFL Draft Projection: UDFA (Previous – 4th/5th Round)

Romeo Doubs – Nevada Wolf Pack
2021 Mountain West Football Top 50 Players: #3, Romeo Doubs
Romeo Doubs: Prospect Watch. Image Credit: Mountain West Wire

Doubs is an excellent receiver that I fully expect to be drafted come April. However his stock has likely taken a hit thanks to his inconsistent performances over the season thus far. Just 1 game over 100 yards receiving and just 1 TD on the year isn’t what we were hoping to see from Nevada’s alpha wolf. 

Doubs has gone from a 111 receiving yards per game average last year to 76 this season. He could have been knocking on the door of the 1st round had he been able to continue last season’s scintillating form, however, for now it’s a slight downwards arrow. 

Current NFL Draft Projection: 4th Round (Previous – 2nd Round)

TIGHT END

Cade Otton – Washington Huskies

Tipped to be one of the better draft eligible tight ends in this years’ class, Otton so far hasn’t lived up to that hype. It started promisingly for him despite the Huskies surprise loss to FCS based Montana Grizzlies. In that game he had 8 receptions for 82 yards. 

However, since then in the two other games he played in, he saw a total of 5 receptions for 56 yards and 1 touchdown. Unfortunately Otton has missed the last 2 games due to contracting Covid-19, but Head Coach Jimmy Lake has said he’ll be returning after the Huskies bye in week 6 against UCLA.

It’s time for Otton to get back into a rhythm and start making a name for himself. His draft stock has plummeted for now, but can easily rise as fast as it fell.  

Current NFL Draft Projection: UDFA (Previous – 5th/6th Round)

‘Not so’ Honourable Mentions:

Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB – UCLA, Emory Jones, QB – Florida, Eric Gray, RB – Oklahoma Sooners, Zonovan Knight, RB – N.C State Wolfpack, Noah Cain, RB – Penn State Nittany Lions, Zay Flowers, WR – Boston College Eagles, Ty Fryfogle, WR – Indiana Hoosiers, Jalen Wydermyer, TE – Texas A&M Aggies, Brant Kuithe, TE – Utah Utes 

By Rob Grimwood – @CFBBritBaller

Thanks again to Rob from the team here at NinetyNine Yards for NFL Draft Prospect Watch. We look forward to continuing working together!

Featured Image – GoBearcats

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