Want to know what offensive players to keep an eye on for draft season? @CFBBritBaller has you covered with his weekly ‘Prospect Watch’ series. With each article, he will be keeping you up to speed with the draft-eligible offensive skill position players that are either trending up or down on a week-to-week basis in college football.
Using his own bespoke grading system he’ll also tell you what current draft grade he has on each player.
Prospect Watch – Trending Up
Sam Howell, North Carolina Tar Heels
I might sound like a broken record considering Howell has hit this section 3 times this year, but as the season progresses I can’t help but love Howell more and more. It certainly helps that the other first-round consideration QBs are either dealing with minor injuries or just flat out stink, but the Tar Heels’ signal-caller, for now, is my QB1.
But, just because he’s currently atop my QB prospect rankings, doesn’t mean I think he’s ready to step into the NFL day 1 and light it up. I think there’s still plenty of areas that need refining before he’s a household name at the pro level.
One of the reasons other college football/draft analysts are down on Howell this season is that he doesn’t look as impressive passing the ball compared to last season. However, Howell is averaging 267 passing yards per game. That’s only 31 yards per game less than last season. He’s also throwing 2.22 TD’s per game as opposed to 2.5 last season, so the numbers aren’t a million miles away. Why exactly his draft stock has seemingly taken such a hit is baffling to me.
Don’t forget that all of this is without his devasting weapons from last year in Dyami Brown, Dazz Newsome, Michael Carter, and Javonte Williams too. Not only that, but the ability he’s showing with his legs as a rusher this year is very impressive. His rushing yards per game have risen from 7.2 yards per game throughout the 2019 and 2021 seasons to 77.7 per game this year.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: Top-10 (Previously mid/late 1st Round)
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Despite being an ND fan, I was very reserved about Williams heading into this season. That wasn’t because of his natural talent. It was because I wasn’t sure what the new look, freshman heavy offensive line would look like. Especially since Tommy Tremble who plowed lanes the size of an airport runway for Kyren last year moved on to the NFL last spring.
In a way, I was right about that. To start the year the ND offensive line looked shaky and wasn’t giving Williams any gaps to exploit at all. In fact, he only broke 80 yards rushing once in the opening 5 games. However, since the loss the Cincinnati in week 5, Kyren’s season has been much more fruitful.
From week 6 onwards, Williams hasn’t had a game under 80 yards rushing and has multiple touchdowns in all but one of those games as well. After a scintillating 2020 season for the Irish, it’s great to see him bounce back to those levels after a mediocre start to the 2021 season.
Not only has Williams proved his talent can overcome running behind a weaker, less experienced o-line, he’s also continued to be one of the best pass-blocking RBs in college football. He has a fantastic ability to pick up blitz plays, something that will definitely impress the NFL scouts.
For these reasons, Kyren Williams has edged his way up my draft rankings. There are a few really talented backs emerging in this draft class (Isaiah Spiller, Kenneth Walker III, and Breece Hall), but maybe surprisingly for some, Williams is currently my RB1.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 2nd Round (Previously 3rd Round)
Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State Spartans
6 months ago you wouldn’t have been mistaken for not knowing who KWIII was. He had a pretty productive 2020 for Wake Forest, but he wasn’t on draft radars per se. Yet all of a sudden 2021 rolls around, Walker transfers to the Spartans, and WHAM, a few unbelievable performances later and he’s a household name.
Walker is currently leading the FBS in rush yards (1,340) and has 16 combined TDs on the season thus far. He has had as many games (3) over 150 yards rushing as he has under 100 yards. He became the first RB in history to score 5 rushing TDs against rivals Michigan. With all of these current accolades comes draft buzz and a well-deserved second favorite to win the Heisman in December.
Walkers draft stock has skyrocketed.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 3rd Round (Previously 6th/7th Round)
Jahan Dotson, Penn State Nittany Lions
Dotson has been ever-present for the Nittany Lions over his college career. Year after year he’s improved to the point where he’s elevated himself into one of the top tiers in this years’ draft class. Currently, through 9 weeks, Dotson has 932 receiving yards with 9 TDs. He’s the stand-out receiver for Sean Clifford and has found himself peppered with 109 targets so far this season.
This past week against Maryland, Dotson broke a Penn State record when he recorded 242 receiving yards from 11 receptions. Thanks to 4 games over 100 yards and scoring in all but 2 games, Dotson isn’t far away from being in serious consideration to be selected as one of the first receivers off the board.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: Late 1st Round (Previously 2nd Round)
Deven Thompkins, Utah State Aggies
You won’t find many draft projections for Utah State’s Deven Thompkins. After all, he is an undersized receiver from a small G5 college. At 5’8″ and 155 lbs, Thompkins is often compared to the Rams 2nd round pick from last year, Tutu Atwell. Not just because of the similar size and stature, but also because like Atwell, Thompkins is lightning in a bottle.
However, Thompkins is balling out in this senior year in a big way. Through 10 weeks, Thompkins has more receiving yards than any other receiver in the FBS with 1,314. He’s also averaging just under 1 TD a game. With stats like these, you’re going to get recognised by scouts from the next level. If Thompkins is able to keep this pace up, undersized or not, he’ll have a good chance of being drafted.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 7th Round (Previously UDFA)
Bailey Zappe, QB Western Kentucky Hilltoppers – Kenny Pickett, QB Pittsburgh Panthers – Breece Hall, RB Iowa State – Tyler Badie, RB Missouri Tigers – David Bell, WR Purdue Boilermakers – Jarreth Sterns, WR Western Kentucky Hilltoppers – Calvin Austin III, WR Memphis Tigers – Drake London, WR USC Trojans – Trey McBride, TE Colorado State Rams – Cole Turner, TE Nevada Wolfpack
Prospect Watch – Trending Down
Jayden Daniels – Arizona State Sun Devils
It has not been the season Jayden Daniels would have wanted. After being touted as being a potential top-5 pick in the 2022 draft, I was expecting to see Daniels blow the doors of this season. Instead, it’s been sub-par and mediocre. Daniels featured in an earlier edition of Prospect Watch, but at that point of the season, he still had time to turn it around. But after 10 weeks, unfortunately, the trend has continued to point down.
His current TD to INT ratio is 7:7. That’s 7 passing touchdowns in 9 games. I appreciate Daniels has never had the reputation of being a big arm, hyper-productive passer. But there is a baseline that top draft picks need to hit, and 209 yards per game with 0.77 TD per game average is not it. Add to that the fact Daniels has an all-time lowest QB rating, a career-high in interceptions, and a career-low adjusted passing yards per attempt (7.6), the draft outlook for Daniels looks bleak at best.
Fortunately, his downfall has been overshadowed by the likes of Spencer Rattler and Kedon Slovis who, like Daniels, were supposed to be early picks. They’ve both also had horrendous seasons, but at least Daniels hasn’t been replaced… yet. At this point, it’s hard to see Daniels declaring for the draft. He still has 1 year of eligibility left at college and in my opinion, like Rattler, he’d be foolish not to use it.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 6th Round (Previously 4th Round)
Jerrion Ealy, Mississippi Rebels
Ealy had by far his best week of the season this past week versus Liberty (115 rush yards, 2 TDs). Unfortunately though, these performances have been few and far between thus far. This was only 1 of 2 games where he’s had over 100 yards rushing this season. In fact, more alarmingly, Ealy has had 5 games under 50 yards rushing.
Once considered a potential top 5 RB in this class, Ealy’s value has slipped throughout this season. To be a day 1 or day 2 pick as a running back. you need to be putting up impressive numbers and/or make NFL level defenders look silly week-to-week. Ealy simply hasn’t done that this season. He might choose to stay another year, but if he decides to declare for the draft he’ll need to blow up the combine if he’s going to be anything more than a day 3 pick.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 6th Round (Previously 3rd Round)
Justyn Ross, Clemson Tigers
Ross’ mediocre season has, unfortunately, been a result of an unusually poor Clemson offense. The Trevor Lawrence hangover at Death Valley has been the theme of their season, and whilst performances remain sub-par, all of the draft-eligible players’ stock will be affected.
It was vital for Ross to have a bounce-back season after missing all of 2020 due to a serious spinal injury. But, with only 484 yards and 3 TDs in 9 games, Ross hasn’t impressed enough to live up to his day 1 projection from the off-season. There’s no doubting Justyn Ross is an exceptional talent, but after no elite production for 2 seasons, I doubt NFL teams will be willing to invest their premium draft capital.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 4th Round (Previously 2nd Round)
Ty Fryfogle, Indiana Hoosiers
Fryfogle is another receiver that hasn’t been able to hit his off-season hype. Heading into the season I had him slated as a solid day 2 pick with upside to go even higher. The super-senior came into this year on the tails of a 90 receiving yard per game average in 2020.
Unfortunately though, like Ross, lackluster QB play has hindered him from reaching his ceiling. The mix of Michael Penix Jr. and Jack Tuttle for the Hoosiers has been nothing short of dreadful. For Fryfogle, not even being the leader receiver on his team has nuked his draft stock, and unless he breaks all sorts of league records over the remaining games, he’s likely not going to be on draft radars.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: UDFA (Previously 4th Round)
Spencer Rattler, QB Oklahoma Sooners – Kedon Slovis, QB USC Trojan – Ainias Smith, RB Texas A&M – Zonovan Knight, RB N.C State Wolfpack – Eric Gray, RB Oklahoma Sooners – Max Borghi, RB Washington State Cougars – Zay Flowers, WR Boston College Eagles – Jalen Wydermyer, TE Texas A&M – Cade Otton, TE Washington Huskies
Feature Image Credit: SportingNews.com