We kick off the college football season this weekend, and with that, the scouting hat goes on full time so we can keep dynasty owners ahead of the game when it comes to their rookie drafts.
Whether you enjoy college football or just want to gauge the talent pool for next year, we’ve got you covered. The idea is to provide information that can help you better assess the trade value of your first or second rounders as the season progresses. This way when you make a trade that involves rookie draft picks, you have a better idea of what those picks are worth.
Here are a few players I want to highlight for the opening week of college football.
Though I may touch on players that aren’t draft eligible yet, the featured players will all be draft eligible (redshirt sophomores and up).
South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Player I’m watching: Marcus Lattimore, RB South Carolina
Coming off of an ACL tear, Lattimore missed the final six games of the season. Even with the injury, he’s still the top ranked running back prospect. He appears ready to pick up where he left off and reports are he’s been at full speed since the start of Summer. The thing I’m going to be looking for is whether he still has that devastating pivot-cut he uses to suddenly change direction – only then will I declare him to be back.
Texas A&M at Louisiana Tech
Player I’m watching: Christine Michael, RB Texas A&M
I want to get a real good look at Michael this season because after letting some tape digest I feel I may have underrated him a bit. He’s a guy who finished just outside of my initial top 12 rankings. Perhaps he deserves to climb higher, so I’ll be taking a good look starting this week.
Washington State at BYU
Player I’m watching: Marquess Wilson, WR Washington State
In case you haven’t heard, Mike Leach is the new head coach at Washington State. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of numbers a talented receiver like Wilson will put up in Leach’s dynamic spread offense.
San Jose State at Stanford
Player I’m watching: Stepfan Taylor, RB Stanford
Taylor is my sleeper running back of this year’s class. With Andrew Luck now playing on Sundays, Taylor has a great opportunity to establish himself as the go to weapon of choice for the Cardinals. Stanford’s head coach David Shaw recently said, “We have the most underrated running back in the nation with back-to-back 1,000-yard years and this is going to be a third straight.” I couldn’t agree more. He’s not a speed back, but his vision and agility is at a superior level.
Tennessee at North Carolina State
Player I’m watching: Justin Hunter WR, Tennessee
Few players excite me more than Justin Hunter this college football season. Unlike last season’s class, where I saw good, but no elite receivers, Hunter represents at least one WR1 talent. Coming off of ACL surgery (early in the season), reports are Hunter is 100% ready to go. Asked about his knee recently Hunter said, “For real, I don’t even think about my knee no more.” I can’t wait to find out how my preseason number one receiver prospect looks with my very own eyes.
Hawaii at USC
Players I’m watching: Robert Woods, WR USC and Matt Barkley, QB USC
Both Woods and Barkley are already household names to football fans, so they require little introduction. Both will be high draft picks but the question all season will be what kind of fantasy players will they be? What I’ll be looking for is if Woods’ ankle is fully healed and if he’s improved physically. His physical stature and style of play is one thing I dinged him on. He’ll need to show improvement in that area because I project it’s going to give him some problems at the NFL Level.
Barkley is a quarterback prospect I’ve already made up my mind on. He’s a polished West Coast Offense quarterback who will be a Heisman Trophy front runner. He’ll be a good pro as long as he remains in a West Coast system, but may not quite have the physical tools (adequate arm) to reach QB1 levels for dynasty owners. As a side note, I’ll also be keeping an eye on promising sophomore receiver Marqise Lee (not draft eligible).
Michigan at Alabama
Player I’m watching: Eddie Lacy, RB Alabama
Lacy is a player I couldn’t get a whole lot of tape on, so he’s a player I’ll watch closely this season. The junior running back is now the lead back in Alabama’s power running game now that Trent Richardson has taken his talents to Cleveland. I’m looking the speed and quickness to go along with his big body. From what I’ve seen so far I’m skeptical, but again that’s a very limited body of work.
Lacy is also coming off surgery which kept him from offseason workouts. Upon his return he suffered a sprained knee and ankle in a scrimmage. So the question instantly pops up whether injuries are going to be a theme with him or are these just a couple of minor incidents? Let’s just say I’ll be glued to this game to get a better feel for his ability.
I’ll keep an eye on Michigan’s Denard Robinson as well, but he’s not highlighted here because he’s a project. He won’t be playing quarterback at the next level because he’s less accurate of a passer than Tim Tebow, but he’s an explosive and dynamic runner.
Jacksonville State at Arkansas
Players I’m watching: Knile Davis, RB Arkansas and Tyler Wilson, QB Arkansas
This one won’t be much of a game, but the two story lines will be the return of Knile Davis from injury and Tyler Wilson in a new offensive system. If you want to see a special player run the ball, you need to turn this game on. When Davis is healthy, he’s one of the most exciting and explosive running backs to watch – I’m expecting a few highlight runs to come out of this game. I’m not looking to gain a whole lot from watching Wilson in this game other than a feel for what Arkansas is going to do from an offensive standpoint. The big question is how will Wilson develop as a passer and learn a new system?
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech
Player I’m watching: Logan Thomas, QB Virginia Tech
The spotlight will be on Logan Thomas on Monday night in the battle of the Techs. I’m looking to see if my preseason QB1 prospect does indeed develop as a passer this season. If you haven’t seen Thomas play, you should tune in because you’ll see a smooth, gifted playmaker in a similar mold as Cam Newton. He’s not quite “Newton good,” but you get an idea of the style of play.
I’ll also be looking at redshirt freshman running back Michael Holmes. Virginia Tech has been an NFL running back factory the last few years so I want to take a good look at the player that has replaced David Wilson.
Paymon Shokoohi can be found @setmyroster on twitter and in the forums as dlf_paymons.