Whether you enjoy college football or just want to gauge the talent pool for next year, we’ve got you covered. The purpose of this series 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 my notes from the prospects’ games I had the opportunity to watch.
* denotes player NOT eligible for 2013 draft.
Maryland at West Virginia
Player spotlighted: Geno Smith, QB West Virginia; Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia
At last we finally get a real game to measure Geno Smith’s performance. The creampuffs (Marshall and James Madison) and this fast break offense have made it impossible to evaluate the talent, so you literally have to ignore those games as part of the process. That’s not to say Maryland is something to brag about, but at least it’s legit NCAA level competition.
The 6’3” senior came into the game with an incredible 9-0 TD:INT ratio and an 88% completion rate. What would he do against better competition? He still put up some impressive stats. Early on, Smith looked sharp, throwing a touchdown dart on a 44 yard slant. The scoring drive took all of 31 seconds. A little later he threw his second touchdown pass on a 24 yard busted coverage play.
Again, the stats look great and will continue to look great. Let’s look at some history as to why. Any quarterback recruited into the Dana Holgorsen offensive system will put up the stats. Just recently, you can attach Holgorsen to the names of Graham Harrell and Case Keenum – these guys were college stars who couldn’t cut it at the NFL level. The system is designed to put up video game statistics. You must ignore the stats and evaluate the player. Easier said than done, but it must be done nonetheless.
Now Smith does have more tools than the above mentioned quarterbacks. He has a better arm, but it’s certainly not elite by any means. I’d say his arm is adequate to above average. I also wasn’t all that impressed with his pocket presence. To me, he’s a more of a project than Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and also has a lower ceiling. This is not my final analysis, but it is where I am today.
Smith’s game line: 30-43 for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns, no INTs
Tavon Austin is a speedster slot receiver with a very similar skill set as Colts rookie receiver T.Y. Hilton. He’s a solid route runner with quick cutting ability and is definitely Smith’s number one option. In fact, all three of Smith’s touchdown passes in this game went to Austin. His third touchdown was the most impressive. Austin lined up in the slot on a third and 16, streaked up the seam for a 34 yard score, leaving the defense behind.
I would like Austin to clean up his run after catch East/West running, though. Many of his moves won’t fly at the NFL level. He needs to learn to use his lateral quickness running up field in a North/South direction. That dancing in place will get you a seat next to the coach. Otherwise, Austin has legit playmaking ability and I feel his East/West tendencies can be coached out of him. He’s someone to keep an eye on.
Austin’s game line: 13 receptions for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns
Clemson at FSU
Players spotlighted: DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson; Andre Ellington, RB Clemson; Sammy Watkins*, WR Clemson
I purposely included Hopkins name first because he’s severely underpublicized. It’s understandable because we all know it’s because he’s on the same team as Sammy Watkins, but it’s time to give the 6’1” junior some overdue recognition.
Hopkins wasted no time getting in the action in the primetime matchup against the fourth ranked Seminoles. Showing his playmaking skills, Hopkins took a fly route to the house for 60 yards.
Later in the game, Hopkins did something that really impressed me on one of his routes. It was nothing highlight worthy, and in fact, you probably wouldn’t even notice he did anything other than catch a ten yard out route. On the play, there was very tight coverage by the defensive back. After cutting to the sidelines on the route, Hopkins stepped forward towards the pass and shielded the defensive back from being able to undercut the route. Most young receivers, even at the NFL level, tend to wait for the ball to come to them rather than making that little extra effort to protect their quarterback. It was a simple play that went unnoticed, but it showed me Hopkins has some good route running intelligence and that’s a much underrated trait.
Hopkins game line: 5 receptions for 88 yards and 1 touchdown.
Andre Ellington continued his strong season against a top tier defense. In the first quarter he took a screen pass for a 39 yard run down the sideline. Later in the same drive, Ellington then showed his power with a strong physical run at the goal line – punching it in from five yards out. The two plays illustrated he can be a versatile back if called upon to do so. His second reception of the game went for a 52 yard touchdown on a trick play. I’m still amazed at the drastic improvement Ellington has made to his game this year.
Ellington’s game line: 14 carries for 55 yards and 1 touchdown, 4 receptions for 87 yards and 1 touchdown
We’re all pretty much aware of Sammy Watkins, so I don’t need to say a whole lot. He is so explosive and can beat you from a variety of different ways. The guy can lineup anywhere on the field – whether it’s the slot, out wide, or even in the backfield. He gets the ball on reverses, end-arounds, and kickoffs – you name it he can do it. He even threw a touchdown pass that went for 52 yards to Ellington. And just to give an idea of what kind of playmaker we’re talking about, he’s the closest thing to Percy Harvin that I’ve seen yet as far as skill set goes – in short, he’s dangerous playmaker. It’s too bad we have to wait another year before he enters the league.
Watkins game line: 6 receptions for 24 yards, 5 rushes for 37 yards, 1-2 for 52 yards 1 touchdown
Maryland’s Stefon Diggs* is the first freshman receiver who’s caught my eye this year. He was the second ranked receiving prospect of the 2012 recruiting class. I like his size frame and ball skills and most importantly his upside. His line against West Virginia was 3 receptions for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. I look forward to watching his development.
I got a good look at Georgia freshman running back Todd Gurley* this week. I think I may have spoken too soon about the which freshman running back is the best pro prospect. He has an impressively developed body for a freshman. He has great size (6’, 205 lbs.), is a physical runner and his pass blocking is well ahead of his age. I love how decisively he attacks the hole and his change of direction is off the charts. There’s nothing he can’t do at an elite level – it explains why he’s Georgia’s starting running back as a true freshman.
On a side note, is there a petition we can start to get Michigan to go ahead and switch Denard Robinson to receiver? Selfishly, I wish we could see how he performs as a receiver the rest of the year since he clearly will not be playing quarterback at the next level.
Paymon Shokoohi can be found @setmyroster on twitter and in the forums as dlf_paymons.