Damore’ea Stringfellow (Ole’ Miss #19) vs. Marlon Humphrey (Alabama #1)
Ole Miss transfer Stringfellow (6’2, 211lbs) is one of the potential enigmas of the 2017 NFL draft.
Formerly a Washington Husky, the big bodied receiver missed the 2015 season due to the NCAA’s transfer rules. Yet he comes into this year’s campaign with the expectation of taking over the number one receiver role from the Viking’s 2016 first round pick LaQuan Treadwell. This is not surprising as the two men share a similar skill set.
Stringfellow’s game, like Treadwell’s, is centred on making tough contested catches. His frame allows him to either box out smaller defensive backs or go over the top of them when out of position. Pair this with strong hands and he has the chance to be an evaluable asset in 3rd down and red zone situations. Possibly more exciting is the potential for Stringfellow to have a second gear that makes him a more consistent deep threat than his predecessor. However this has not come to light so far this season with his personal long reception being just 15 yards.
In fact, Stringfellow’s NFL viability is still very much in question. He had an ignominious start to the year with two bad drops, including one in the endzone, when Ole’ Miss succumbed to Florida State in week 1. This game also highlighted his lack of explosiveness off the snap. Several preplanned plays in his direction ended in a check down as he was unable to clear the corner before the safety was able to get over the top. This really highlighted how incomplete a player he is, and may give some credence to the rumours about his work ethic (or lack off).
Going up against Marlon Humphrey (6’1, 196lbs), Stringfellow has an ideal opportunity to show how effective he can be against someone who is undoubtably an NFL calibre talent.
Humphrey really has very little to prove about his game. Just a red shirt sophomore, he excelled in his freshman season with strong press play at the line of scrimmage and finger tight man to man coverage. If anyone doubted his position as a potential top 10 pick in next year’s draft, he took JuJu Smith (the current presumptive number one overall wide receiver in the 2017 class) out of the week 1 match up between the Crimson Tide and the USC Trojans.
Smith’s numbers for the game: 7 targets, 1 catch for 9 yards. Humphrey also picked up an interception for a touchdown off a tipped ball while covering Smith.
This means the onus is very much on Stringfellow to prove himself and it will certainly be a challenge. Unusually, he will not have a distinct physical advantage over his opponent. Humphrey’s length will prevent Stringfellow from easily reaching around his opponent so it will be an imperative that he wins the body positioning battle. Stringfellow also has a great opportunity to quiet down any speculation about the strength of his hands. Humphrey has shown an uncanny ability to break plays up so any 50/50 balls could turn into an epic struggle. Most importantly for Stringfellow, it will be his best chance to show that he has the true athleticism to trouble an NFL calibre athlete. He’ll need to get off the line quickly enough to get his opponent on the back foot and show that extra burst of speed to create the separation needed to be considered a viable target.
There is little doubt that it will be a big challenge for Stringfellow but one that has potential to be very rewarding. A 5 catch game, especially if one or two are in pressure situations, could see his stock sore. He may even be considered a top 100 player. However a poor display is going to add fuel to the fire that he has big bust potential. It’s going to be a huge game for the Ole’ Miss player.
Myles Garrett (Texas A&M #17) vs. Carl Lawson (Auburn)
Two of the premium pass rushers in the 2017 draft, Myles Garrett (6’5, 262lbs) and Carl Lawson (6’2, 252lbs) will be directly comparable in this SEC West match up.
So far, neither man has set the world alight with their sack totals but they have been the cornerstones of two defences that have already impressed this year. Garrett dominated the line of scrimmage in A&M’s upset win over UCLA. His credited stats total of 1.5 sacks, 3 quarterback hits and 7 pressures doubled the numbers put up by A&M’s second and third most effective lineman. This also gave him the highest PFF rating of his career. Lawson’s domination of number 2 Clemson’s offensive line was less impressive on paper (1 hit, 3 pressures) but much of this can be put down to DeShaun Watson’s play (the current presumptive number 1 quarterback in 2017). A more telling stat is that his first step penetration against tackle and guard saw him break the line of scrimmage 68% of the time. This means that on 2/3rds of every offensive play, Lawson was in a position to make a negative play on the offence.
(It should be noted that both players were involved in blow out games against inferior opponents in week 2 so both were rested for long periods)
Obviously there will be no direct competition between these men but this game will be a great eye test to monitor each player’s different style. Garrett may be the prototypical athlete to play defensive end but Lawson’s explosiveness off the line and ability to shake secondary blocks will provide interesting contrasting evidence on how twitched up Garrett is. Possibly the only potential issue that could see Garrett slide out of the top 3 in 2017. Lawson’s question marks revolve around his relatively diminutive length and discipline as a rusher. Both attributes that Garrett excels at. Once again, the cross comparison has the potential to be very revealing.
A great game from Lawson is unlikely to see him leap frog Garrett as the top rated defensive end. Garrett’s size, strength and discipline really makes him a unique prospect who should be comfortable as an end in either a 4-3 or 3-4 as well as a rushing DT in a 4-3 sub packages. However, if Lawson can look like Garrett’s equal then he’ll put himself in a position where he could be considered a top 10 pick for next year’s draft.
Baker Mayfield (Quarterback) & Samaje Perine (Running Back) (Oklahoma #14) vs. Ohio State Defence (#3)
Baker Mayfield is a polarising figure in draft circles. There is no doubt that the former Texas-Tech walk-on is a fearless thrower with dynamic movement but his lack of pocket presence and a noticeable requirement to only have half field reads makes him a very difficult player to project into the pro game. Samaje Perine is similarly vexing. He’s a true power back who can run over players and has a one-cut mentality that can often spring him into space. Yet he lacks breakaway speed and often chooses to plow into contact rather than try and gain a few more yards with avoidance tactics.
Both players are likely to march up and down draft boards come 2017.
This game against Ohio State may well be the foundation game on how they are judged. Only, no one really knows how good (or even great) this defence actually is. There is not one senior on the first string defence. In fact, only Tyquan Lewis (defensive end) and Raekwon McMillan (Inside linebacker) are returning starters from the Buckeyes 2015 opening day depth chart. Yet, many of these players are considered potential top draft picks. The aforementioned pair are certainly top 50 prospects as is Sam Hubbard, Ohio States other bookend lineman.
Then there is the question of the almost unseen defensive backs. Only Garry Conley played all 13 games last year and he was the only player to have more than 8 tackles coming into the season. They’ve started well securing 7 interceptions in the first two weeks of the season. However the general quality of the opposition (Bowling Green and Tulsa) means we still have little idea how they will hold up against 4 and 5 star talent. Yet the raw athleticism and natural ball hawking ability certainly suggests that they could be capable NFL player as soon as next season. Even if that means coming out as red shirt sophomores.
What does this mean for this game? Not a huge amount immediately. There is still too little information on the Buckeyes D to make an accurate or fair judgement on either side. However this game’s significance will only intensify as the weeks role on and, come draft season, it is almost certain to be one of the most re-watched games of the year.
Dalvin Cook (Florida State #2) vs. Josh Harvey-Clemons (Louisville #10)
In any other year Dalvin Cook (5’11, 206lbs) would be considered one of, if not the top, prospect at running back going into next year’s draft. The Miami native is an explosive athlete with tremendous cutting ability and fluid open field running. An increasingly patient runner, he also excels at finding space underneath on pass plays where his vision can be used to full effect. His 192 yards from scrimmage (91 running, 101 receiving) in the Seminoles 45-34 win over Ole’ Miss has already highlighted his potential to NFL scouts.
This will make him the perfect foil for Louisville’s huge safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (6’4, 225lbs) to prove his athleticism as a box enforcer.
Formerly a 5 star recruit at Georgia, Harvey-Clemons was dismissed from that program after violating team rules. This forced him to sit out the 2014 season as he transferred to Louisville. Yet his ability is there for all to see. He’ll interest many teams looking for a Kam Chancellor type big safety to fill the 8th man in the box role and possibly play some weak side linebacker in sub- packages. A consistent tackler with a better than average ability to shake off blocks, he has shown himself to be a ideal component in stuffing the run game. He also runs well with big receivers and has enough coverage skills to break up passes, even if his hands don’t make him a big turnover guy.
However the big question around Harvey-Clemons NFL viability is whether he has the pure athleticism to chase down fast break runners and if he possesses the appropriate foot movement to cover receivers breaking out of the backfield. As this is what Cook’s game is built around, Harvey-Clemons has a great opportunity to prove these doubters wrong. Importantly for Harvey-Clemons, this match up is only likely to happen 4 or 5 times during this game so his opportunity to excel is going to be limited. Even one misstep is likely to become a highlight play amongst scouts who already question this part of his game. Only watching the game film will identify if he passes this test.
Zach Banner & Damien Mama (USC) vs. Stanford’s Front Seven (#7)
Coming into 2016 both Zach Banner (Right Tackle, 6’9, 360lbs) and Damien Mama (Left Guard, 6’4, 325lbs) were supposed to anchor an unstoppable run game for the Trojans. Both projected as guards at the NFL level, it was believed that their high mass to dexterity levels would give them the ability to get a big push off the line which would force teams to overcommit to stopping the run.
This belief went badly wrong in week 1. USC only ran for 64 yards in their crushing 52 to 6 home loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Both players struggled with their opposite numbers, most notably Banner who looked on an island whenever Jonathan Allen attacked the weak side. The giant lineman was even forced back on planned run plays, giving up two tackles for loss.
After such a disaster, both men will need a big bounce back performance against Stanford’s undermanned three man front. Nose tackle Harrison Phillips is expected to miss the game after suffering a leg injury in the Cardinals opener with Kansas State which leaves undersize nose Jordan Watkins to fill in.
This injury combined with the numbers game should allow both men ample opportunity to get to the second level and show their credentials as mauling power lineman. Especially as all four of Stanford’s linebacker are dynamic going forward but have question marks around their relative size and if big blockers are going to be to pin them down. However, if both men falter again, their stock will slide considerably and they could go from boarder line 100 players to flyers at the end of the draft.