Week of the college football season didn’t quite have the big-time match-ups like Week 1, but there was plenty of NFL Draft prospects on display. For the sake of more brevity and more direct analysis, I will be positioning our takeaway in a Stock Up, Stock Down & Names to Watch article to give you a good idea of who is moving up and down the draft board. These are only taken from the games I watched for Draft Countdown, but we will discuss even more prospects on our Podcast. If you want to see where I think players are in terms of their overall stock, head over to my Rankings, and if you want more specifics, sent me a tweet @ShanePHallam
Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington
In a big loss to Michigan, there weren’t many bright spots for the Washington Huskies, but Cornerback Kyler Gordon flashed the physical talents that make him a Top 100 pick in the NFL Draft (with room to enter the first round). He had incredibly sticky coverage on an island throughout the game to rotate the defense to the other side, and Gordon didn’t disappoint. Fluid hips that allow him to turn and mirror the receiver plus good length to break up passes, Gordon was breaking up passes and making tackles when the offense gameplanned quick passes near him. An excellent performance for Gordon and a CB who shouldn’t get ignored due to Washington’s poor start.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh
It feels like Kenny Pickett has been in college for 20 years with the sheer amount of time he has spent starting at Pitt, but he has always showcased good arm strength and a veteran mentality. Going up against Tennessee this week (who has some talented defenders) was a make-or-break game for Pickett’s NFL Draft stock and he came through in a big way. Pickett looked sharp stepping up in the pocket against the rush and keeping his eyes downfield for accurate passes. When he was pressured, Pickett showed a good pocket feel to roll out and make key passes (including a touchdown). He even had a rushing touchdown on a QB Sneak (though he had a little bit of movement ability to take off and run as needed). Pickett put himself in the draftable conversation and could be one of those QBs that gets more buzz than expected.
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
An electric playmaker, Shakir has been the best weapon on Boise State for the past three seasons. He is tall with a bit of a thin frame that needs to be filled out, but he explodes off the line and is very difficult to man up with, as he showed in this past week’s game against UTEP. Shakir looks like he took a step forward, especially after the catch, where he was making defenders miss in space to create big plays. The Top 100 is definitely a possibility, especially if he keeps this up into the meat of Boise’s schedule.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
I have a man-crush on Daxton Hill. Kyle Hamilton is the toast of the Safety class, but don’t discount Hill’s athletic ability to be a jack of all trades safety who flies around the field and makes plays. The stat sheet is rarely lit up for Hill, but he was a major reason for Washington’s offensive confusion at times due to different formations of playing deep, close to the line or manned up with Washington TE Cade Otton. With good size and punishing tackling ability, Hill got into the backfield at one point and contributed to some run stuffing while being able to cover throughout the game. If his workouts hit their potential, Hill should be a Day 2 name who will be a future NFL starter.
Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa
It’s hard to place the #1 player at their position as a Stock Up, but Linderbaum was a road grader on Saturday. He was almost solely responsible for RB Tyler Goodson’s red zone rushing TD clearing two players out of the way for a clear line to the end zone. Linderbaum wasn’t perfect and had a few assignment lapses, but as a whole, his athletic ability and strength are unmatched in this class. He is the firm top Center and a first round pick.
Cade Mays, OT, Tennessee
A former 5* recruit who transferred to Tennessee from Georgia, expectations were high for Mays this season. Unfortunately, he did not show that elite ability against Pitt. He is an aggressive lineman, which can be beneficial at times, but it led to penalties after the whistle in this game and his discipline didn’t appear to be there. Even worse, Mays technique is very sloppy and it showed up this past Saturday. A wide base, weak knee bend and inconsistent hand placement doesn’t ever allow him to hit his physical potential. The upside is there, but he will have to improve to be on the draftable radar.
Kuony Deng, LB, Cal
One of the most experienced defensive players in the entire Pac-12, let alone on Cal, Deng was bolded on my list to watch against TCU. Going back to 2019, Deng was an elite reader of the offense presnap and being in position to make tackles and limit big plays. Unfortunately, that was not the case here in 2021 for whatever reason. Deng looked lost and slow to react to TCU’s run game not able to stack and shed blocks to make plays. Even when he had his chance, Deng was not physical enough to make good tackles, especially on TCU RB Zach Evans. It may have been a bad day and Deng can bounce back, but his stock is down right now.
Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State
After Purdy’s freshman season, I was convinced he was a future NFL QB. He was so good at ball placement and making quick decisions at such a young age. Unfortunately, Purdy has seemingly taken steps back every year and that has continued into 2021. With 3 interceptions against Iowa, Purdy didn’t seem to be able to place the ball where his receiver could only get it. Add in bad choices on who to pass it to while going through progressions and Purdy just doesn’t have it. It’s nice to see him trying to play within more of a pro-style, but he doesn’t perform particularly well in any of those skills. Even against Northern Iowa in Week 1, Purdy didn’t show NFL potential. He is off the board, likely for good unless something turns around quickly.
Ryan Bowman, LB, Washington
Washington’s offense is such a mess that the defense has to carry the load for now. This often leads to defenders trying to do too much or be perfect, which is what I saw from Bowman this week against Michigan. Bowman is a massive LB who can play multiple positions including EDGE and even on the defensive line. He has athletic ability for his size, but still is not enough to truly set the edge and stop Blake Corum and the Michigan rushing attack. He still intrigues me, but it wasn’t a great performance.
Names to Watch
Obinna Eze, OT, TCU
Eze was dominant against Cal blocking the way for Evans to have a huge rushing game. Long arms and an excellent push set Eze apart with those intriguing physical tools you want for a lineman. He wasn’t super on my radar before, but this performance makes him a real contender to be a decent draft pick.
Riley Moss, CB, Iowa
Moss had 2 interceptions against Indiana in Week 1 (both for touchdowns,) so I was eager to see him play against Iowa State. He did not disappoint. Though the big turnover plays weren’t there this week, Moss showed good press coverage and a physical demeanor to come up and play the run. When he wasn’t in position to stop a reception, receivers rarely got extra yardage after the catch. An intriguing name to keep an eye on as we go.
Tre’vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU
Hodges-Tomlinson is a smaller slot corner who was very good in coverage against Cal. Though TCU’s secondary had their lapses, Hodges-Tomlinson was by far the one that shined throughout the game. Though he won’t wow with size or physicality, he was always in good position to play the ball and broke up a well-placed pass at one point. He is a name I’m putting on my radar as a potential late round pick.
Jacob Cowing, WR, UTEP
Junior WR Jacob Cowing has been a shining star for the Miners since he came onto campus. Finally getting a chance to really dive in on him, I was impressed with the speed and versatility as a weapon getting separation against Boise. Despite Boise State winning in dominant fashion, Cowing’s explosiveness was on display. In today’s NFL, Cowing is the type of weapon that teams like to draft and draft fairly high. Though I doubt he declares this year, he is a name to keep on the radar for the future.