In this week’s Inside the War Room I take a look at one of the top running backs in college football, a top-notch quarterback battle this weekend, and look at the top performers in college football last weekend.
Proving He Can Play with the Big Boys
This past weekend I got the chance to see one of the top performances I have seen from a running back in person when John Crockett of North Dakota State University rushed for 139 yards with an average rush of 8.1 yards, and three touchdowns. He also had one 79-yard rush called back due to offensive holding. This performance against a Power Five team showed he can hold up at the highest level of competition, and earned him this week’s Prospect of the Week.
When evaluating Crockett the first thing that stands out to me is that he looks like a prototypical NFL running back. He is listed at 6-0 202 pounds, and is a very compact runner. His size allows him to run with power, and he is more than capable of running over a defender. He has nice agility as well and made several tacklers miss with his quick cutting ability, and overall nice footwork. One other area I came away impressed with Crockett is his vision. He seems to be able to find the hole quickly, and also shows nice vision in the open field.
Corckett is a player that stood out to me with his outstanding character as well. He came across very humble, and charismatic in his post game press conference which impressed me especially after the game he had. I also talked to numerous North Dakota State media members at the game, and everyone raved about how good of a kid he was, and how hard he works both on the football field and in the classroom. His strong work ethic and outgoing personality should impress NFL personal in the evaluation process.
One area I would like to see Crockett improve in is his blocking. He is very rarely asked to pass block, and when he does he seems to lack that killer instinct I like to see in a blocker. I would like to see him more involved in the passing game as well since he only hauled in six passes last season. This is something NDSU looks like they are trying to do since they threw the ball his way twice against Iowa State. He was able to haul in one of these passes for 26 yards, and one pass the quarterback overthrew him on one.
Overall, Crock is one of the more underrated backs in college football evident by the fact CBS has him rated as the 43rd best running back prospect. I obviously disagree with this ranking, and I think he will compete with UNI’s David Johnson for the top small school running back spot in the 2015 NFL Draft. If he continues to have an outstanding season, and shows he has NFL starting RB speed look for him to earn a third or fourth round draft grade.
QB Battle Michigan State vs. Oregon
This weekend we will see one of the top quarterback battles of the season when we see Michigan State’s Connor Cook take on Oregon’s Marcus Mariota this Saturday. These two quarterbacks are both potential first round draft pick, and lead top ten teams who have a legitimate chance of winning the National Championship.
The Spartans are led by a pure pocket passer in Connor Cook who comes off a great performance against Jacksonville State. Against the Gamecocks he completed 92% of his passes for 285 yards, and three touchdowns. When scouting Cook the first thing that stands out is his great poise. He rarely looks rattled, and makes the correct decision most of the time evident by the fact he threw 22 touchdowns to only six interceptions last season. He also shows good arm strength, and is able to throw any offense in an NFL offense.
The Ducks are led by the top possible quarterback draft prospect in Marcus Mariota. Mariota is an extremely athletic quarterback who reminds me a lot of former 49er great Steve Young, in that he can make plays with both his arm and feet. He shows good arm strength and accuracy as well. He has also produced on the field completing 64% of his passes for 2,677 yards and 31 touchdowns. If he can stay healthy he should be able to top these numbers, but this is a big if with his playing style and injury history.
When the clock hits zero in Eugene I fully expect Mariota to be on the winning side of this battle, due to his great play and the overall team speed on Oregon’s roster. I also expect him to earn the higher draft grade when the 2015 NFL Draft rolls around if both players declare.
Week One Standouts
Starting this week Inside the War Room will highlight NFL Draft Prospects that had outstanding weeks. The first player that stood out was this week’s Prospect of the Week John Crockett. He rushed for 139 yards for an 8.1 average and scored three rushing touchdowns. He also had one 79 yard TD called back due to offensive holding. If that were not enough he also hauled in one pass for 26 yards.
Michigan senior QB Devin Gardner had an outstanding game as well completing 13 of 14 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns against Appalachian State. He was helped out by junior WR Devin Funchess who hauled in seven passes for 95 yards, and accounted for all three of Gardner’s touchdown passes. Another senior quarterback who impressed was Washington State QB Connor Halliday who went 40-for-56 for 532 yards, and had five touchdown passes.
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah rushed for 232 yards with an average of 11 yards per rush. His longest rush of the day went for 47 yards, and he also recorded one rushing touchdown. Central Connecticut State RB Rob Hollomon was another small school running back who looked impressive in week one. He rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns one which came with 36 seconds left in the game to pull off the upset vs. Towson. He also led the team with nine receptions, and in all-purpose yards with 280 yards.
One defensive player who had an outstanding season opener is UCLA MLB Eric Kendricks who recorded 16 tackles, intercepted one pass which he returned for a touchdown and forced a fumble vs. Virginia. This performance allowed him to be named Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week. Another defensive player was Tennessee LB A.J. Johnson who recorded nine tackles, one interception, one forced fumble, and one quarterback hurry. Yet another defender who stood out was North Dakota State DE Kyle Emanuel who recorded nine tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks, and a forced fumble vs. Iowa State.
A couple of juniors who had big days on Saturday were Georgia RB Todd Gurley, and Alabama WR Amari Cooper. Gurley rushed for 198 yards on 15 carries which averages out to 13.2 yards per carry. He scored three rushing touchdowns on his 15 carries as well, and returned one kickoff for 100 yards. Cooper hauled in 12 receptions for 130 yards vs. Clemson. His 12 reception performance is a career high, the second highest in Alabama history.
Ten Football Thoughts
- I think last weekend the FCS showed their top teams can compete with the Power Five teams. North Dakota State killed Iowa State, and several other FCS schools competed with other Power Five teams in games like Northern Iowa vs. Iowa, and South Dakota State vs. Missouri.
- I think one of the more disappointing performances of the week came from Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton who completed 18-of-35 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. He suffered a torn ACL last season, and looks like he still is not 100% healthy.
- I think Iowa State needs to use TE E.J. Bibbs more in their offense. The Cyclones lack offense weapons, and one of the few players who can make things happen is Bibbs. He has above average speed for a tight end, and can lineup out wide which should create mismatches.
- I think one receiver rising up my draft board is Rashad Greene of Florida State. He shows impressive quickness, and has very consistent hands. He has produced on the field as well, and could be FSU’s career leader in both receiving yards, and touchdowns after the season. My biggest concern is that he has a small frame, and is not very physical.
- I think it concerns me that three of Baylor’s top offensive players left the game vs. SMU. QB Bryce Petty suffered two cracked vertebras in his back that obviously affected him in the first half, before taking a seat in the second half. Petty said the back injury was minor after the game, but back injuries tend to linger so this could be an issue this year. WR Antwan Goodley aggravated a quad injury in the first quarter and missed the rest of the game, and WR Levi Norwood hurt his wrist in the game, and will miss at least three weeks of action.
- I think a practice squad pickups I like is the Steelers adding TE Rob Blanchflower to their practice squad. Blanchflower recorded 109 receptions in his time at UMass, and was my number eight tight end going into the 2014 NFL Draft.
- I think another practice squad signing I like is the Texans signing of MLB Max Bullough. He recorded 14 tackles this preseason, and one interception. I was high on Bullough going into the 2014 Draft and had him rated as my 11th best inside linebacker.
- I think one key matchup for an FCS player this week will be Lamar QB Caleb Berry vs. Texas A&M. Berry is a sleeper in this year’s draft and had a big game vs. Grambling State last week completing 60% of his passes for 389 yards, and five touchdowns. He will obviously be facing a tougher team this week, and will be on the lesser talented team but if he can have a solid outing look for his draft stock to rise dramatically.
- I think I am happy I went against the trend and had former Fresno State QB Derek Carr rated as the second best quarterback in the draft, even though he was the fourth quarterback selected. This week it was announced he will be the only rookie starting quarterback when the Raiders take on the Jets this Sunday.
- I think it is an interesting stat that 100% of first through fourth round draft picks, 89% of 5th round draft picks, 69% of 6th round draft picks, and 68% of 7th round draft picks made an NFL roster this season. This just goes to show how deep the 2014 NFL Draft was.
Iowa State C Tom Farniok suffered a twisted ACL last week. … Notre Dame S Austin Collinsworth will miss time this season due to a sprained MCL. … Nebraska DE Randy Gregory suffered a minor injury in the team’s win against Florida Atlantic. … Texas C Dominic Espinosa broke his ankle and may miss rest of the season. … William and Marry WR Tre McBride suffered an injury vs. Virginia Tech. … Iowa State junior WR Quenton Bundrage suffered a torn ACL, and will miss the remainder of the season. … Alabama WR DeAndrew White will miss two weeks with a separated shoulder. … Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo could miss three weeks of action with an MCL sprain. … Nebraska DE Randy Gregory may miss this week’s game vs. McNeese State due to a knee injury. .. Mississippi State WR Jameon Lewis missed some practice this week after his brother was shot and killed. … Alabama MLB Trey DePriest will play this weekend, after missing last week’s game due to an NCAA infraction. …
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