Week 7 of the college season had some big teams come in and dominate as expected, as well as some exciting new, young players getting a shot. As always, some players have their stock up after their performance while others have their stock down after struggles. There are also a few names to know that should sneak into the Top 100 of the draft that aren’t on people’s radars yet.
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia
Dean was masterful for Georgia against undefeated Kentucky. Though the stat sheet may not show anything eye popping (7 tackles including 1 TFL) Dean was a central cog in the Georgia domination. He played back in coverage often as a zone defender tasked with covering the middle of the field. One key pass in the red zone, Dean was in position to force an incompletion shutting down a Kentucky drive. He rushed the passer, countered outside runs, and more.
Dean is playing himself into the top LB and first round conversation.
Ochaun Mathis, EDGE, TCU
Oklahoma rookie QB Caleb Williams was the talk of this game, but Mathis made his life difficult in the backfield. Primarily going up against Tyrese Robinson, Mathis showcased a natural bend around the edge. He was simply too athletic for Robinson and showcased some NFL pass rushing talent.
Mathis’ 2 sacks and additional TFL helped put Oklahoma in some tough offensive situations and boosted his NFL stock.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
Another week, another Pickett Stock Up. As the buzz continues to grow for the long time Pitt starter, Pickett puts up big game after big game. Virginia Tech had shown themselves to be a tough defense (see their Week 1 game against North Carolina,) but Pickett picked them apart. Though he had his lowest completion percentage of the season, Pickett took more shots down the field late and didn’t put the ball in danger.
Pickett has the traits to be an NFL QB. Good arm, can move around in the pocket (he had a rushing TD in this game) and has improved every season. With a high floor as a solid back-up and the upside of a starter, early Day 2 draft capital is very possible.
Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama
Tolbert remains a highly underrated NFL Draft asset who continues his ascension into the 2nd Day and possibly higher. With 3 years of consistent production (and not always the most consistent QB play) Tolbert has the size and hands to be an NFL outside WR. He gets to top speed fairly quickly as well.
If Tolbert had an SEC or Big 10 team’s logo on his helmet, most would accept him as a top WR in this class, but a stigma of South Alabama is what holds him back. Georgia Southern isn’t the best defense in the world, but Tolbert was on another level hauling in 11 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown.
Look for Tolbert to be a major player in his hometown at the Senior Bowl and becoming a major name in the NFL Draft.
David Bell, WR, Purdue
The Purdue/Iowa game wasn’t on my list for Draft Countdown, but I watched it and had to highlight David Bell. He absolutely dominated the #2 team in the country with 11 catches for 240 yards and a touchdown. With Iowa CB Riley Moss out, Bell was able to do some damage in the short, medium, and deep passing game.
Bell has good size and great ball tracking ability. He is one of the best contested catchers in the class. Though he doesn’t get separation often, he makes the most of his opportunities. The question mark for him will be athletic testing, but he should be squarely in the Top 50 and considered by teams who need pass catchers.
Will Putnam, G, Clemson
Clemson had another rough outing squeaking by Syracuse with a 17-14 win. The Clemson offense in general was mediocre all around, but one of my top interior linemen in class was beaten consistently in this game. Last year, Putnam showed some good balance and movement, but he looks absolutely sluggish so far this season. A key play early in the game was a DL blowing right by him for instant pressure which had me shaking my head.
Putnam’s technique looks like it has gotten sloppier as he is playing upright and not reacting as well as he has in the past. There are still some bright spots pulling for the run game, but it has been a rough season. He has tumbled down my list, and isn’t doing the Clemson offense any favors.
Nik Bonitto, EDGE, Oklahoma
Bonitto has had a very hot and cold season so far. In certain games, he has been a dominant pass rusher. In others, he has overpursued, gotten stonewalled, and missed opportunities to make big plays. The game against TCU was one of his cold ones.
Going up against RT Andrew Coker for most of the game, Bonitto struggled to get around the edge or find his way around the lineman. Even when he had success, Max Duggan was able to move away (and even outrun) Bonitto at times.
He is a tough prospect to evaluate for this reason. Some teams may love the athleticism and upside, while others may cross him off the board.
Warren McClendon, OT, Georgia
Georgia was fairly dominant again, but their young RT had his struggles in this game. As I will lay out in the next section, Kentucky EDGE player Josh Paschal had his way with McClendon throughout the game. The Bulldogs adjusted, moving their offense to the other side and using different players to help block, but McClendon didn’t process the ways to stop the pass rusher.
McClendon is only a redshirt sophomore and is unlikely to declare this year, but he will need to get more athletic and natural at the position to become a true stud on the Georgia Offensive Line.
Names To Know
Josh Paschal, EDGE, Kentucky
Paschal is a long armed, big bodied pass rusher who needs to be more known. A potential Top 100 pick, Paschal gave Warren McClendon problems all game. Though he didn’t get to the QB, he found ways to utilize a variety of pass rush moves to get pressure or block gaps in the run game. It got to the point that the Bulldogs were running plays away from him.
The combination of size and athletic ability pops off when you focus in on Paschal. He could be the next in line of the Kentucky defenders who rise up boards quickly after workouts (like Jamin Davis last year). If you haven’t watched Paschal yet, get beyond the box score and check him out.
Martin Emerson, CB, Mississippi State
Alabama had their way with Mississippi State, but the passing targets for the Crimson Tide were interesting. They kept picking on Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes as John Metchie got 7 catches, while the primary Alabama WR Jameson Williams was held to only 2 catches. The corner on him, Martin Emerson, had a really solid game against this tough competition.
Though Emerson did allow a comeback route that Jameson took to the house, he locked him down for the rest of the game. A smooth athlete with good mirror skills, Emerson needs to on the national radar as one of the top CBs in this class.
Jerome Ford, RB, Cincinnati
Ford rumbled for a huge game against UCF and is establishing himself as an NFL Draft presence. The former 4-star recruit who transferred from Alabama has been a major piece of the Bearcats offense. Averaging nearly 9.5 yards a carry, his 189 yards and 4 TDs set the tone.
Ford has good size and seems to bounce off potential tacklers in traffic. He also has been showcasing more long speed than he ever showed at Alabama, so he continues to improve his game. Though he isn’t used much as a receiver, Ford could be an intriguing complimentary NFL piece.
EJ Perry, QB, Brown
I finally got my shot to watch the Brown QB Perry, and he was impressive. Facing Princeton, Perry was under duress consistently and was carrying the offense on his back to stay in the game. He was booting out of the pocket, taking off on the run and slinging the ball downfield. I haven’t quite seen a performance of a QB who was trying to forcibly uplift the talent around him to compete.
Perry won’t be drafted, but he will find himself in an NFL camp. The combination of traits, experience, and character all culminate in a fun player to watch. He could find his way into a back-up role at the next level.