Week 1 of College Football is officially in the books, and the unpredictable nature of the game again brought crushing victories, titanic tussles and chaotic finishes all around the USA. It was a weekend for the comeback and the upset, with Josh Rosen engineering a staggering fourth quarter win for UCLA when they had seemed dead in the water, and Liberty (who have recently declared their intention to vault to FBS level from the FCS) besting Baylor in statistically the most improbable victory in the past 10 years: until Howard defeated the UNLV Rebels 43-40 in Sin City mere hours later.
This is a new weekly column where I will be recapping the week’s action from an NFL Draft standpoint, looking at which players helped themselves and who disappointed of players eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft. So early in the season it is hard to make definitive statements on prospects, but that does not stop Twitter cranking out the Hot Takes and as a nugget of fun at the end of the article I will be including my #HotTakeOfTheWeek, which you are welcome to send me suggestions for on Twitter @hlc1221.
So without further ado, here are my Winners and Losers from Week 1 of College Football:
LOSERS: Sam Darnold, QB, USC; Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The pair of signal callers have been rather hastily anointed as QB1 and 2 by many of the high profile Draft Media members but both struggled somewhat in Week 1. Darnold is touted as a prototypical NFL quarterback with size, arm strength and sufficient mobility but has a wonky throwing motion and lazy footwork which can cause issue. Against a by no means fearsome Western Michigan defense Darnold was inconsistent: 23/33 for 289 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Not an awful stat line, but for a top-5 draft prospect you would expect more. The arm is there when he wants it to be, but I want to see the relatively inexperienced USC man show it more often. I like Darnold and think ultimately he ends up in the first round, but improvement is needed.
Allen is a polarising player: some are calling him the best quarterback since Cam Newton, others suggest that he shouldn’t even be discussed as a first-round player. He possesses a cannon for an arm and is a running threat, but makes poor decisions and can be inaccurate. Certain media suggested that if Allen (now a Redshirt Junior) had come out for the 2017 Draft then he would have been a Top-15 Pick, but I have huge reservations about Allen after his tape backed up his subpar statistics. Allen completed just 56% of his passes last season in the Mountain West, against non-Top Tier NFL talent. His game against Nebraska last season offered an opportunity to show his skills against a better defense, but Allen faltered with a 5 interception game. It is easy to see why some scouts have fallen in love by the Cowboys’ QB, with his ideal 6-foot-5, 233 pound frame, mobility and cannon arm. But to survive in the NFL Allen needs to prove he can throw accurately from the pocket and under duress, skills I have not seen enough of against high level competition. He thrives outside the pocket and looks like Aaron Rodgers at times with his ability to throw from atypical positions but doesn’t make solid decisions when doing so, leading to incompletions, interceptions and drives stalling. I no longer believe that QB Wins is a viable stat for determining NFL success but Wyoming lost a number of tight encounters last year where better decisions from Allen may have clinched them the game.
The week 1 encounter with Iowa was a crucial opportunity for Josh Allen. The Hawkeyes’ defense is well drilled and talented, and if Allen showed up in a big way he would automatically validate his draft stock. However, again he disappointed, throwing 2 interceptions, completing 23 of his 40 attempts for just 174 yards. Decision making was again an issue, and he tended to telegraph throws from the pocket. He doesn’t have great nous for throwing the football in structure, with most of his highlight reel coming from outside the pocket throws when plays breakdown. While I admit his weapons are not comparable to most other highly touted quarterbacks, I needed to see more from him. Right now, I wouldn’t consider him in the first-round, but he has all year to change my opinion of him.
WINNERS: QBs Rosen (UCLA), Jackson (Louisville), Rudolph (Ok. St.), Mayfield (Oklahoma), Falk (Washington St.)
After the aforementioned Losers, these are the most commonly discussed potential first round quarterbacks and they all had noteworthy games in Week One:
Rosen engineered that stunning UCLA comeback, going 19/26 for 292 yards and 4 touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. He is my favourite quarterback based on what he did as a freshman and last year even with a shoulder injury, and his fourth quarter validated that. However, his first three quarters were uninspiring, and there are questions around his political views and attitude to college. A clean mechanical quarterback with sufficient arm strength, when Rosen is on he is the best pure quarterback in the country, and his fourth quarter magic showed that but I want to see a complete performance in the coming weeks.
Jackson is the reigning Heisman winner, the most dominant dual-threat quarterback of the last few seasons and carries a Louisville offense with an awful line and limited talent at receiver. He again impressed on Saturday, and his arm and athleticism make him the most dangerous player in college football. But questions over his slight frame and spotty accuracy have caused some to question whether his NFL future lies at wide receiver. They are wrong. He is a Round 1 NFL Quarterback who could revolutionise the way the game is played at the highest level much like Michael Vick.
Rudolph, Mayfield and Falk are quarterbacks from spread, Air-Raid style systems and all thrive at the college level, producing gaudy numbers again at the weekend. I will get into each of there strength and weaknesses another time, but they should form the crux of the mid-round rated quarterbacks in next year’s draft: I don’t see a top NFL quarterback in any of them but think they can all start at the next level or at least be solid backups.
LOSER: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
I had high hopes for Williams entering the year, with the Left Tackle’s ability in pass protection and athleticism making him an intriguing tackle prospect. He was in the mix for me with Mike McGlinchey and Trey Adams as OT1, and I had hoped weight gained during the offseason would improve Williams’ strength against bull rushes and initial punch in the run game. In the Longhorns’ disappointing loss to Maryland though, Williams was called for two holding penalties and gave up pressure several times, including being driven back into quarterback Shane Buechele in the third quarter. Hopefully we see more from Williams as he rebounds from a hopefully anomalous first 2017 outing.
WINNER: Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin
I love Tight Ends, and 2018 is shaping up to be another strong class of intriguing options at the position. Mike Gesicki of Penn State is a tremendous receiver and solid blocker, Mark Andrews at Oklahoma is a big slot receiver with easy hands and Adam Breneman from the UMass Minutemen is a smaller-school prospect who will be coveted early with an outstanding blend of skills.
My favourite, however, is Fumagalli and I loved what he did in Wisconsin’s Thursday Night opener against Utah State. He showed his route running and hands alongside his ability after the catch, finishing with 5 catches for 105 yards. He also drove a defender into the dirt, springing outstanding freshman halfback Jonathan Taylor for a touchdown. The Badgers pro-style system asks their tight ends to block and Fumagalli shows consistency in this area: that is why he is my TE1.
OTHER WINNERS: WR Auden Tate (FSU), WR Calvin Ridley (Alabama), DE Hercules Mata’afa (Washington St.), LB Josey Jewell (Iowa), WR D.J. Moore (Maryland)
OTHER LOSERS: QB Deondre Francois (FSU, out for season due to injury), LB Malik Jefferson (Texas), OL Martez Ivey (Florida), QB Jake Browning (Washington), CB Anthony Averett (Alabama)
HOT TAKE OF THE WEEK:
This from Pro Football Focus, Bleacher Report and NDT Scouting’s Elliot Crist is my chosen take this week.
Hot take alert:
As of right now Baker Mayfield is a better QB prospect then Josh Rosen.
— Eliot Crist (@EliotCrist) September 2, 2017
This comes from before either played this weekend and is a bold statement. I don’t agree with Crist, but I can see his thinking with Mayfield’s dual-threat ability, high completion percentage and success in college. He is accurate but I have some concerns over his arm and the Oklahoma system he comes from. With a strong season, Mayfield can climb into first-round discussion but for now I like him on the second or third days of the draft, whereas Rosen is my highest rated quarterback.
Reminder to send any hot takes you find on Twitter or elsewhere to me @hlc1221 and feel free to follow me or send me feedback and thoughts. Thanks for reading and see you next week for more Winners and Losers.