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!
This week we welcome back the Big Ten, take a deep dive into the talented wide receiver class, monitor some of the latest transfer players making an impact and raising their draft stock, plus a look at some of the biggest ‘freaks’ in college football. Be sure to check back EVERY Monday for our latest scouting notebook!
OSU HAS A FIELD DAY
Ohio State junior quarterback JUSTIN FIELDS [6025/228] had just one incomplete pass in his season-opening victory over Nebraska, accounting for 330 yards of total offense and three touchdowns. If you are wondering what a potential Heisman Trophy candidate and possible Top-10 pick in next year’s NFL Draft might have for an afternoon snack after a performance like that, simple, avocado toast or maybe a tofu burrito if you have changed to a strictly Vegan diet the way Fields and several of his family members have transitioned to over the past few months. His trainers and teammates have noticed a guy that has leaned out, gotten quicker and faster while still maintaining a 6-foot-3, 220-225-pound frame. There are many who believe Fields can run in the 4.4-range at the Combine and against Nebraska he was the Buckeyes leading passer and rusher—his “Green” diet may result in him finding even greener pastures in the weeks and months to come.
OWLS SLINGER LETS IT FLY
Temple senior quarterback ANTHONY RUSSO [6031/235] did everything he could to keep the Owls in the game against Memphis. Entering the contest, he had just 72 pass attempts during his first two games; Russo nearly eclipsed that mark going 41-of-63 for 387 yards and four touchdowns. He did turn the ball over three times and suffer four sacks but overall he has improved his accuracy significantly in three early contests, up to over 68%, as opposed to under 60% during his first three seasons. Russo owns prototypical size and has the ability to drive the ball down the field but will need to improve his footwork, continue to get into better condition/shape and show he can make plays outside the pocket in order to become more than a PFA-type draft prospect.
TULSA RALLIES BEHIND ZACH ATTACK
Tulsa senior quarterback ZACH SMITH [6021/227] appears primed to heat up. After missing two weeks due to quarantine, Smith was a bit rusty in his first game back. However, he got back on track this past week against USF, completing 16-of-24 passes for 233 yards and one touchdown, while steering the Golden Hurricanes to their second consecutive victory. The transfer from Baylor has a live arm and was once a heralded recruit coming out of high school, before enduring some downtrodden times during his time with the Bears. Now, he has placed himself on the NFL radar, as he continues to make the most of his new opportunity.
FROSTED FLAKES NOT SO GREAT FOR THIS TIGER
Clemson senior running back TRAVIS ETIENNE [5096/210] missed time against Syracuse with what was described as “cramping” in the post-game, something that Etienne attributed to his choice of breakfast, which was Frosted Flakes, so I guess we finally found one “Tiger” who would not describe them as being “Great!!!” on game day.
NEXT MAN UP FOR BAMA WIDE OUT CORPS
Alabama wide receiver SLADE BOLDEN [5110/200] is a name to keep an eye on after the horrific injury to future first round pick JAYLEN WADDLE [5096/182]. The redshirt sophomore stepped in and had six catches for 94 yards against Tennessee and should now become a complimentary part of the Crimson Tide offense. Coming at just a hair under feet tall, Bolden has been timed in the 4.5-range, with a 36″ vertical jump and if he ever decided to change cleats and grab a glove, there’s a good chance he would have several MLB teams lined up to sign him. A tremendous athlete who played quarterback at Louisiana high school powerhouse West Monroe, watch out for Bolden, who should see his role increase, as he provide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian with another down field threat when the offense is in need of a spark.
FIGHTING IRISH WIDE OUT MAKING WOW PLAYS
Notre Dame senior wide out BEN SKOWRONEK [6032/220] introduced himself to Irish fans against Pittsburgh, scoring on both of his catches and gaining 107 yards in the process. A graduate transfer from Northwestern, the bog-bodied wide out appears to have 4.55 range speed, to go along with his long arms and sturdy hands. He’s not a total unknown, as he had a late round-to-PFA type grade following a career that included 110 catches for 1,417 yards and eight touchdowns during his time in the Big Ten. Skowronek has become a new favorite target with four catches in the past two weeks and will continue to see more opportunities in their upcoming games that feature match-ups with Clemson, Boston College and North Carolina.
UCF PLAYMAKER ASCENDING DRAFT STOCK
UCF senior wide receiver MARLON WILLIAMS [5116/215] continues to post video game type numbers in the Knights high octane offense. His latest performance came during the trouncing of Tulane this past weekend, as he registered 174 receiving yards and three touchdowns on nine receptions. He has now set career-highs across the board through his first five games with 54 catches, 753 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Williams who primarily lined up in the slot last season, has since moved outside for UCF, demonstrating the type of versatility that should appeal to NFL teams. He was viewed more as a free agent type prospect coming into the season but the Mobile, Alabama native is starting to state a strong case for having his name called at some point on Day Three based on his impressive strength, hands and yards after catch ability.
SPARTANS SPECIAL TEAMS ACE ALSO RELIABLE RECEIVER
One player to store in the memory bank is redshirt senior wide out BAILEY GAITHER [6000/180], who is still relatively unknown in the draft community despite a bust out season for San Jose State last year. The crisp route runner is off to a hot start again, making eight grabs for 110 yards, including a big-play 52-yard reception. Bailey is held in high regards amongst the coaching staff for his work ethic and character. He is known to have strong, dependable hands and owns deceptive speed, as he has been timed in the mid 4.4-range. He also plays all four special teams units, in addition to returning both kicks and punts. While Bailey may not hear his name called during the NFL Draft, this is one player who will be tough to cut once you get him to training camp.
MARSHALL OL IS BALL-ING OUT
Marshall senior offensive tackle JOSH BALL [6072/350] continues to play his way into All-American discussions, as their balanced attack gained nearly 400 yards of total offense and allowed zero sacks against Florida Atlantic. Ball began his career at Florida State before a pit stop at Butler Community College; he was rotated during his first season with the Herd but has since entrenched himself as their starting left tackle, earning the respect of area scouts on a weekly basis. He recently earned team captain status against Louisiana Tech and helped hold Western Kentucky senior edge rusher DEANGELO MALONE [6026/230] sack-less a few weeks ago. Ball is a noted hard worker with impressive length, 35″ arms, owns functional strength and his footwork seems to be improving. Still, he needs to develop into more of a finisher and scouts would like to see him get his pad level down in order to increase his draft status.
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WOLVERINES EDGE RUSHER IN LINE FOR A HUGE PAYE-DAY
Michigan kicked off their season with an impressive victory over Minnesota behind the defensive effort of pass-rusher KWITY PAYE [6026/272], who displayed a much more diverse pass-rush repertoire on his way to collecting a pair of clutch sacks. His newfound dedication to the film room has had a renowned impact on the maturation of his overall game, according to his coaches. The Providence native, who has packed on nearly 40 pounds since arriving to Ann Arbor, also played running back and was a state champion long jumper in high school with a personal best mark of 21 feet, 5 inches—a testament to his incredible athleticism. With his combination of speed (expected to time in the 4.6-range), quickness, balance and flexibility, Paye is a potential first round pick.
THAT BOYE DIFFERENT
Minnesota RS junior DE BOYE MAFE [6036/260] has the type of physical tools that will have scouts paying close attention to his film this season. A pair of tackles and sack against Michigan was still enough to give you a glimpse of how freakish his raw skills are, so even with just four and a half career sacks to date, Mafe can vertical better than most NBA prospects as he’s hit 40″ with ease and the school’s trainers have timed him between 4.55-4.58. When you add broad jumping to 10’6″ and 4.3 range short shuttle and mid-20’s on the bench press, you get a total package as an athlete and potential ascending pass rushing talent that could find a home in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. With pass rushers being a premium here is a lesser-known name who could develop into a Top-40 prospect in either of the next two drafts.
ZAVEN ZIGS, ZAGS UP DRAFT BOARDS
Tulsa junior LB ZAVEN COLLINS [6032/256] is creating a lot of noise he returned an interception for a touchdown, had six total tackles and a forced fumble against South Florida. He’s both highly athletic and a very versatile defender that can make plays as a blitzer (three sacks) and in pass coverage (two interceptions). Collins is on pace to eclipse the 85 and 97 tackle seasons he had thus far and is quickly becoming more of a household name among area scouts thanks to his size, long arms and burst of closing speed to the quarterback or ball carrier. He’s already a Top-100 prospect with a lot of room to continue climbing up draft boards.
FEROCIOUS FOGG ON THE BANKS
One of New Jersey’s best-kept secrets resides in Piscataway, as Rutgers senior team leader TYSHON FOGG [6002/240] starred playing in middle of the Scarlet Knights suffocating defense during their win over Michigan State. Fogg demonstrated his sideline-to-sideline prowess, swarming to the ball, while collecting 12 tackles, including a pair of backfield stops. The two-time team captain can often be seen calling out pre-snap reads and making sure teammates in correct alignment. This is a fundamentally sound player who shows excellent tackling technique and possesses all the intangibles to become a solid contributor at the next level.
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