Welcome to Scouting The Nation, an exclusive report from the NFL Draft Bible scouting department that brings you the latest NFL Draft buzz. Be sure to check back every Monday for our exclusive updates and scouting notebook!
We are nearly two months into the college football season with plenty of movers and shakers on the big board, including several transfers who have made an impact with their new teams, an Alabama wide out who continues to roll, some under the radar prospects who have popped onto the NFL radar and the latest draft buzz!
STARKEL SPARKLES FOR SAN JOSE STATE
Last week, we discussed the big play prowess of San Jose State wide receiver BAILEY GAITHER [6000/180], who had another stellar week with 10 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown. But what about the quarterback delivering the ball? That would be none other than one-time heralded recruit NICK STARKEL [6030/218]. After earning the starting job as a redshirt freshman for Texas A&M, Starkel has since bounced around, transferring to Arkansas before landing at Jose State on a journey that has taken him through five different head coaches. Being on the move is nothing new for the Cali native; growing up as an Army brat, he lived in eight different cities across seven different states. Only time will tell if his early season resurrection is enough to land him on the NFL radar but his 467 passing yards, five touchdown (zero interceptions) performance against New Mexico was a nice reminder to scouts.
UCF DO-IT-ALL WEAPON MAKES MOST OF TOUCHES
Few players have done more with less than UCF senior running back OTIS ANDERSON [5112/174] (no relation to the NFL legend). Somewhat hidden in a heavy passing attack and buried in a committee-type backfield during the past several seasons, Anderson has certainly learned to make his opportunities count. He reminded us of that again this past weekend during the Knights convincing victory over Houston, exploding for 170 rushing yards and one touchdown on just 16 carries. A look at his career as a whole, Anderson is the definition of effective with his career averages, accumulating 1,975 rushing yards (6.2), along with 1,002 receiving yards (11.5) and 469 (12.7) punt return yards. His ability to make defenders miss in open space and versatility to line up at running back, slot receiver or return man, makes him a nice luxury piece for any contending NFL team looking to add an x-factor to the mix.
TERRAPINS STRUM UP A FUNKY TUNE
Maryland senior running back JAKE FUNK [5096/205] has been out of the picture for most of the past two seasons due to a torn left ACL, however, he was bringing the “Funk” against Minnesota, as he exploded for 21 carries, 216 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while adding three catches for 22 yards and an additional score. A rotational player early in his career, after being Gatorade Player of the Year in the state coming out of high school, Funk possesses a strong lower body and shows the ability to accelerate through the holes created by his line. It has been a long, winding road of two coaching staffs, long weeks and months of rehabbing and now what appears to be a new lease on life after sharing all of that blood, sweat and tears with his brother, Josh, who founded Rehab 2 Perform, where Jake spent countless hours the past two years, dreaming of nights like last Friday.
RUNNING RIVERS IN FRESNO
Fresno State senior running back RONNIE RIVERS [5075/179] was raring on Friday night, demonstrating an impressive run/catch dual-threat skill-set, totaling 164 yards (95 rushing; 69 receiving) and three touchdowns to help rally the Bulldogs with a come from behind victory over Colorado State. A compact back who runs tough, Rivers is difficult to bring down and accumulates plenty of yards after contact, something he did plenty of in this contest. A big element to his elusiveness is his ability to hide behind his offensive linemen due to his short stature and then quickly burst through the hole, as he rips off chunks of yardage. His father, Ron, who played seven years in the NFL with the Lions and Falcons, is also the school’s second all-time leading rusher (3,473). Ronnie, meanwhile has now scored in 10 straight games dating back to last season. He carries value as a change of pace runner in a committee situation at the next level.
DEVONTA SMITH GAINING TOP 10 BUZZ
It was just another day in the schoolyard for Alabama senior wide out DEVONTA SMITH [6005/175] who single-handedly took Mississippi State to the woodshed with his four touchdown performance. Smith rung up 203 receiving yards overall on 11 receptions and is quickly climbing up the school’s record books. He now ranks in the top five for all-time catches (174), receiving yards (2,868) and touchdowns (31). A two-time team captain, Smith possesses explosive burst off the line of scrimmage, to go along with impressive deep speed and ability to rake up chunks of yardage after the catch. At this stage, some NFL evaluators have Smith rated above both Jerry Jeudy (Broncos) and Henry Ruggs (Raiders), as he appears destined to be a top 10 overall selection.
BIG PLAY TE IS ONE TO WATCH FOR THE FUTURE
Texas A&M sophomore tight end JALEN WYDERMYER [6051/265] is a name to remember, as he’s quickly established himself as one of the best all-around prospects at his position, at a very early age. This past weekend, Arkansas had no answer for him, as he caught six passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a highlight reel, one-handed grab. Wydermyer possesses outstanding size and has the hops to be a standout rebounder if he played for their basketball team. His receiving skills, hand-eye coordination and ability to make plays down the field will allow him the chance to be the top-rated tight end in the future; he’s not eligible until 2022. He’s had strong efforts versus Alabama and Florida this year and has scored eight touchdowns on 57 career catches.
AZTECS BUILDING BLOCK LOOKS TO STONEWALL HIS WAY TO NFL
San Diego State senior offensive tackle ZACHARY THOMAS [6045/300] has had a very good start to his final college campaign, grading out as the club’s top performer along the offensive line the first two weeks. They have been nearly flawless in their run blocking, averaging 347 yards per game and seven yards per carry, which by the way has led to a resurgence for the much-traveled senior running back GREG BELL [5112/200], who had his first 100-yard game since his debut with Nebraska in 2018; he’s a back to keep an eye on the rest of the way. Meanwhile, Thomas took over the right tackle job last season after acting as more of a swing man earlier in his career. While he owns a great frame, he’ll need to continue adding weight and improve his play strength in order to compete at the next level. Thomas has hovered around the 290-300 pound range most of his career, so even though he has experience at guard it would be tough for him to survive against NFL caliber interior lineman at this stage. Expect him to find his way into a NFL mini-camp or training camp opportunity.
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DAELIN IS WHEELING AND DEALING FOR FIGHTING IRISH
Notre Dame senior defensive end DAELIN HAYES [6036/266] announced himself as a new play-maker among the Irish front seven, recording five tackles, two sacks and a pair of forced fumbles, including a huge momentum-swinging play in the second half after Georgia Tech had driven down into the red zone. Hayes has seen a fair share of action during his career but has also missed some time due to a shoulder injury. He owns very good power and can turn that into collapsing his side of pocket with strong hand use and good initial quickness off the ball. While not overly flashy, Hayes has been estimated in the 4.80-to-4.85 range, which would likely limit him to being seen as more of a late round/PFA type. However, he’s a team captain, watch list candidate for the Danny Wuerffel Trophy and with a few more productive games like this past weekend, he’s the type of all-out-effort player that NFL position coaches tend to really like. Hayes has the potential to develop into an effective rotational at the next level.
LONGHORNS PASS RUSHER LETS LOOSE
Texas junior edge rusher JOSEPH OSSAI [6031/245] had one of the best efforts by a defensive player this season against Oklahoma State, recording 12 total tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and did it all with some limitations, as he had sprained his left shoulder a week ago versus Baylor. Ossai also recorded a three-sack game against Utah in last year’s Valero Alamo Bowl. He appears to be a solid fit to play at the next level in a 3-4 scheme, showcases very good intensity and is not afraid to be his team’s emotional leader on and off the field. He was born in Lagos, Nigeria and has only been playing football for less than ten years, as he did not first see the game until he arrived in the USA with his family. Off-the-field he is highly driven and motivated by his own journey and development, studying Computer Science with an eye towards opening a center or foundation to help others who are immigrating into this country. His continued development as a pass rusher could see his draft grade improve above Top-75 status.
SNOWDEN CREATES AN AVALANCHE FOR UNC
Virginia senior outside linebacker CHARLES SNOWDEN [6062/240] chose a good game to have a career day, registering 10 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble during the Cavaliers upset victory over North Carolina. Blessed with great size and athleticism, the Maryland native covers a tremendous amount of ground in pursuit and has also proved capable in pass coverage, in addition to maintaining his special teams roles (FG/XP/PB). The coaching staff decided to move Snowden to the boundary side a few weeks ago in hopes of triggering some of his pass-rush potential. He has since responded by recording sacks in consecutive weeks and has now matched his career high (five) from a year ago. If he continues to produce at this level, Snowden stands a very good chance to hear his name called inside the top 100.
WADE GETS PLAYED; REBOUNDS IN TOP MATCHUP
Ohio State redshirt junior cornerback SHAUN WADE [6002/194] was exposed on several occasions against Penn State, as he was targeted several times when matched up one-on-one versus wide receiver Jahan Dotson, who got the best of him with several big-time catches. Wade responded with solid reps on two of the three following plays but also got beat off the line of scrimmage for a third catch. It has to be said that moving outside this season after playing primarily inside against the slot has given him some difficulties. Wade appears to have some struggles in finding the ball on some deeper throws and receivers who can avoid his initial jam are able to create space against a player that usually can make up for that thanks to his length and willingness to play physical. His versatility and toughness are still primary assets that will drive his stock as a defender, so this game can be a good learning experience against a player that just made a few really good plays. Still, Wade is the type of match-up defender that works very well in today’s NFL game and should compete to be off the board within the Top-20 overall picks.
COONEY PROVIDES BOOST FOR ‘CUSE
Syracuse senior punter/kicker NOLAN COONEY [6030/202] is leading the nation in total punt attempts with 49 but has also been recognized on the Ray Guy Award Watch List and is averaging over 45 yards per attempt. Cooney also serving as their kickoff specialist and during his career, he has been the team’s holder on field goals and extra points. He was named the Jim DaRin Courage Award winner as he is a cancer survivor who has gone on to become a four-time ACC Honor Roll selection and valuable member of their special teams unit. As we mentioned earlier, Cooney has already attempted 49 punts, Clemson and Notre Dame who face each other next weekend, have combined for just 45 total punts on the season.
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