It’s a lighter slate this weekend as five of the top ten teams have a bye week. It’s a chance for us to take things easy before a monster week ten. Next Saturday, we get TCU/Oklahoma State, Notre Dame/Pittsburgh, Florida State/Clemson and LSU/Alabama.
Let’s not completely turn a blind eye to week nine, though. There are still some top-end devy assets on display.
In this series, we take a look at NFL prospects with a focus on the offensive skill positions to help those of you in developmental (devy) leagues. We’ll give you several games to watch, along with some key devy players who will be in action. For those in regular dynasty formats, this gives you a chance to start checking out some of the players who will be available in 2016 (and beyond) rookie drafts.
Wake Up and Watch: No. 19 Mississippi at Auburn (ESPN, 12:00)
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
Ole Miss heads to The Plains to take on Auburn in a battle of SEC disappointments this season. Putting Auburn and the Rebels in the same category of disappointment is unfair to Ole Miss, although the Rebels have gone 3-2 since winning at Alabama.
Mississippi may have righted the ship last week in a thoroughly dominating 23-3 win over Texas A&M. The return of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, a possible top-10 pick in the upcoming draft, ignited the Rebels, as Tunsil bottled up Aggies’ sophomore defensive end Myles Garrett in a matchup of two of college’s top NFL prospects.
As for devy assets, Ole Miss has one of the best in receiver Laquon Treadwell.
Treadwell will be one of the first names off the board in most 2016 rookie drafts. After ending last season with a gruesome broken leg, he has returned to his dominating form and really come on of late. He averaged just 66 yards per game through three games, but Treadwell has increased his per-game average to 93.1 over the last six contests. The average is bogged down by a 42-yard outing. Other than that he’s been over 100 yards five times in the last six games, and he’s scored five touchdowns this season.
Junior tight end Evan Engram is our No. 1 tight end for 2016. He’s made just 18 grabs for 196 yards, but at 6-foot-3, 227 pounds, Engram’s ranking is based more on potential. He flashes the agility and hands to be a receiving threat at the next level, although his blocking needs improvement.
Receiver Markell Pack is another Rebel to watch. Pack, a four-star recruit, is our No. 10 wideout for 2017. After a relatively quiet freshman year (14 catches, 173 yards), Pack has recorded 21 grabs for 256 yards and three scores. He’s likely a buy-low option in devy leagues as his numbers and value figure to rise if Treadwell departs for the draft after this season.
Auburn is among the most disappointing teams in college football this season. The Tigers started the year ranked sixth in the preseason poll, but they sit at 4-3 with a three-point win at Kentucky being their best victory of the season. In a division like the SEC West, every season a really talented team is going to have a down year. This year it’s Auburn.
Running back Peyton Barber has been one of Auburn’s few bright spots. Barber, a sophomore, edged out more highly-touted Roc Thomas for the starting role and has rushed for 787 yards and 12 scores on 174 attempts, averaging 110 yards per game. He had his best game of the year in last week’s four-overtime loss at Arkansas, totaling 120 yards and four scores, three of which came in the extra sessions.
Quarterback Jeremy Johnson, a darkhorse Heisman candidate coming into the year, has lost his starting job to Sean White (not Shaun White, that would be something). Receiver D’haquille Williams, who we have as our No. 17 wideout for 2016, has been kicked off the team. So, yeah, it’s been a rough year for Auburn.
Other teams in action around the noon hour, along with some players to focus on, include:
- South Carolina (Pharoh Cooper) at Texas A&M (Kyle Allen, Ricky Seals-Jones, Josh Reynolds, Speedy Noil, Christian Kirk), SECN, 12:00
- Syracuse at No. 17 Florida State (Dalvin Cook is out, Travis Rudolph, Jesus Wilson, Everett Golson, Ermon Lane, Auden Tate, George Campbell, Jacques Patrick), ABC, 12:00
Midday Marquee: No. 3 Clemson at North Carolina State (ABC, 3:30)
Two of the country’s top quarterbacks square off as Clemson travels to North Carolina State. The Tigers boast Deshaun Watson, our No. 1 signal caller for 2017, while the Wolfpack feature Jacoby Brissett, the No. 9 quarterback in the 2016 class.
We’ll start with Brissett, because he hasn’t yet been covered in this weekly article. A four-star recruit as a dual-threat quarterback, Brissett signed with Florida out of high school. He spent two seasons in Gainesville, throwing a total of 79 passes in limited action. Brissett transferred to North Carolina State, and he’s shown well with the Wolfpack.
Last season, his first as a full-time college starter, Brissett completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,606 yards, tossing 23 touchdowns to five picks. He added 529 yards and three scores on the ground. He’s upped his numbers this year, completing 67 percent of his throws for 1,322 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception, adding 111 yards and a touchdown with his legs.
At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, Brissett is similar to Colin Kaepernick, who was taken 36th overall in the NFL Draft. I’ll let you decide if being similar to Kaepernick is a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, Brissett’s combination of size, mobility and arm strength is very intriguing. He isn’t comfortable yet as a pocket passer, but he’s proven to be a good decision maker with just six interceptions in his 572 pass attempts since coming to North Carolina State.
Brissett will be looking to atone for his worst start from last season, when he completed just 4-of-18 passes for 35 yards in an ugly 41-0 loss at Clemson.
The Tigers have been rolling since a narrow two-point win over Notre Dame. Clemson is fresh off a 58-0 thrashing of Miami and looking to move to 8-0 on the year.
Watson has been superb for the Tigers. He’s completing 69 percent of his passes for 1,553 yards, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s added 390 yards and three scores as a runner.
Maybe the most impressive thing about Watson’s season is, he’s done this without Mike Williams, his top receiver. In Williams’ absence, sophomore Artavis Scott and freshman Deon Cain have emerged as perimeter playmakers.
Both Cain and Scott were highly-rated recruits Clemson was able to go pry out of talent-rich Florida. Scott is leading the Tigers in receptions (40) and yards (450). Cain has been a big-play monster, averaging 20.2 yards per catch and totaling 13 grabs for 263 yards. Cain was held out of the Miami win for what Clemson called a “coach’s decision.” He is expected to play against the Wolfpack.
Other teams in midday action, along with some players to watch, include:
- Colorado at No. 23 UCLA (Josh Rosen, SoSo Jamabo, Paul Perkins, Jordan Payton), PACN, 3:00
- No. 14 Oklahoma (Sterling Shepard, Joe Mixon, Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, Michiah Quick) at Kansas, FS1, 3:30
- Georgia (Sony Michel, Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall) at No. 11 Florida (Demarcus Robinson), CBS, 3:30
Primetime Play: No. 9 Notre Dame at No. 21 Temple (ABC, 8:00)
This is a matchup between two teams having impressive seasons. Obviously, anytime Temple cracks the top 25, it’s been a heck of a year for the Owls. It’s not quite as surprising to see Notre Dame in the top 10. However, when you consider the Irish have lost six starters to season-ending injuries, including quarterback Malik Zaire and running back Tarean Folston, Notre Dame’s 6-1 start is a lot more impressive.
This game nearly lost a lot of its appeal last week as Temple had to score a pair of late touchdowns to stave off East Carolina.
In terms of devy talent, the matchup slants heavily towards Notre Dame, but the Owls have two NFL prospects on the defensive side of the ball. Temple boasts Tyler Matakevich, who is rated as a top 10 linebacker for the 2016 class, as well as Matt Ioannidis, ranked as a top 10 defensive tackle. Those two are a big reason Temple is allowing just 10.7 points per game over its last four contests.
It would be a longshot for Temple to make a strong case for the playoff, but a win over the Irish would certainly help prove their legitimacy. Plus, Temple gets a shot at unbeaten and 16th-ranked Memphis in three weeks. If the Owls run the table, they’ll certainly get a BCS bid and at least be in the conversation for one of the top four spots.
The Irish are coming off a bye week, with their last game a 41-31 defeat of USC where Notre Dame scored the contest’s final 21 points. Last week, USC went and knocked off third-ranked Utah, making Notre Dame’s victory look even more impressive. This could be a trap game for the Irish, who are on the road at No. 23 Pittsburgh next week.
Sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer has stepped into the starting role and performed extremely well for a player who hadn’t taken a college snap prior to Zaire’s injury. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Kizer has the build and playing style of an NFL prospect. It appears Head Coach Brian Kelly hasn’t dumped too much on his young quarterback, but Kizer isn’t afraid to take shots down the field, especially to speedy wideout Will Fuller.
Kizer has completed 65 percent of his throws for 1,370 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. If he continues his solid play, it’ll be interesting to see what the Irish do next season. Zaire, a junior, beat out Everett Golson for the starting gig in the offseason. Zaire could follow Golson’s path and leave South Bend or come back and compete with Kizer for the starting spot.
Fuller, our No. 18 receiver for 2016, has improved his draft stock as much as any wideout this year with a superb start to his junior season. Labeled as something of a one-trick pony who specializes in the deep ball, Fuller has shown more route diversity this season, although his route running still needs some fine tuning. Fuller has 32 catches for 702 yards and eight scores, averaging 21.9 yards per catch. He finished 2014 with 15 touchdowns, eight of which went for 20 yards or more.
I may be higher than most on Fuller, but if Phillip Dorsett can turn a blazing 40-yard dash into a first-round selection, I think Fuller can do the same. Plus, Fuller has produced more than Dorsett ever did in college. In his last year at Miami, Dorsett only hauled in 36 passes for 871 yards. Not that college production is a be-all end-all. Martavis Bryant only recorded 61 receptions in his three years at Clemson.
Another Notre Dame skill position player to rocket up draft boards this fall is junior running back C.J. Prosise. A former defensive back, Prosise assumed the starting role when Folston tore his ACL in the opening week. Prosise has run wild with it, rushing for 969 yards and 11 touchdowns on 129 carries (7.1 YPC). He racked up 143 yards and two scores in the win over USC, and he hasn’t had a game with less than 100 total yards.
Procise, a patient runner whose style is in the mold of Arian Foster, Matt Forte and Le’Veon Bell, wasn’t a threat to leave early for the 2016 NFL Draft, seeing as he was purely a fringe prospect just a couple months ago. Now, he’s rated among the top 10 backs and is looking like he’ll fall somewhere in the middle rounds. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where his draft stock is, since it’s changed so much in a short time.
Other teams with evening games, along with some players to focus on, include:
- Oregon State (Jordan Villamin) at No. 13 Utah (Devontae Booker), PACN, 7:00
- Tulane at No. 16 Memphis (Paxton Lynch), CBSS, 7:00
- Tennessee (Alvin Kamara, Joshua Dobbs, Josh Malone, Marquez North, Jalen Hurd) at Kentucky (Stanley Williams, Patrick Towles), SECN, 7:30
- No. 8 Stanford (Kevin Hogan, Christian McCaffrey, Trenton Irwin) at Washington State, ESPN, 10:30
- Arizona (Nick Wilson) at Washington, FS1, 11:00