Sink or Swim: Stock Report for Top 2016 NFL Draft Prospects
New segment for The Deep End! I, the underachieving, responsibility-shirking, lady-killing Brendan Haggerty have finally joined the staff, after many overtures, as a college football contributor. As such, expect to begin to see weekly articles (of words, not clothing; sorry, ladies) detailing which juniors and seniors are seeing their draft stock rise, and which are seeing their stocks crash like it’s 1929. Some of the focus will be on players Miami could conceivably be interested in, but the segment will also focus on which players in general are the greatest thing since sliced bread or the worst thing since brussels sprouts on a week-to-week basis (taking a page from Jacob Berkowitz’s book). Yes, it is possible to go from one to the other in a single play. Hopefully, unlike Texas’s season to date, this isn’t a weekly pit of despair.
Week 7 of the college football season gave us some amazing performances as well as some pretty terrible ones (looking at you, Michigan punter). With that being said, this week’s column will be a little different, as I intend to start off this series by looking back over the extent of the college football season, highlighting a couple of key players.. However, from here on out this column will mostly track players on a week-to-week basis. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
Rising to the Top:
CJ Prosise, RB, Notre Dame:
Before this season, it was highly likely that absolutely no one in college football outside of South Bend knew who CJ Prosise was. That, however, has changed. After starting his career at Notre Dame as a safety, then switching to slot receiver, Prosise was switched to the third-string running back spot this fall. However, after the departure of Greg Bryant and an injury to starter Tarean Folston, Prosise was handed the reins to the rushing attack and hasn’t looked back since. As his first year as a running back has progressed, Prosise has begun building a campaign that warrants outside Heisman consideration; that’s how good he’s been. He is currently sixth in the country with 922 rushing yards, and also ranks sixth in the country with 11 rushing touchdowns. He is also averaging 7.15 yards per carry, and almost 132 yards per game, both of which also rank in the top ten in the country. Remember, this is a player who hadn’t played running back at a collegiate level until this year, sans ten carries last year. The craziest part about Prosise is that he’s still improving every week. Since this is his first year on the job, no one knows how high Prosise’s upside is. He’s able to handle a full workhorse load with success, and also triumphs in catching passes both in the slot and out of the backfield. If he keeps improving at this rate, his draft stock will continue to rise, especially if the Irish keep winning. The Dolphins may be interested in adding another running back to complement Lamar Miller (or replace him as it is a contract year), and if they do, Prosise just might be the man for the job, due to his pass-catching skills and ability to withstand a high volume of carries.
Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan:
Jourdan Lewis had six pass breakups on Saturday night against Michigan State. Six. As the icing on the cake, his performance came against Aaron Burbridge, widely considered to be the best wideout in the Big 10. Those six passed broken up give Lewis fourteen for the season, which leads the nation. Although not nationally recognized before this game, Lewis is quickly becoming known among scouts as one of the best cover corners in the nation. At 5’10” and only 175 pounds, Lewis doesn’t seem to be that physically imposing. However, he was named the B1G Defensive Player of the Week two weeks ago, and his performance in a huge game against Michigan State did nothing but help his long-term drat stock. The Dolphins, on the other hand, have been looking for a dependable cornerback to start opposite Brent Grimes, as well as to take his place as the team’s shutdown corner in the potentially near) future. If given the chance to draft Lewis, they might stumble upon a gem in the secondary that would help them take a step in that direction. Lewis’ pass-defending ability is among the best in the nation, and he would make an outstanding addition to a currently struggling Miami defensive backfield.
Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor:
There were a number of different offensive linemen who could have occupied this spot, some of which I will highlight in future writing, but I felt that Drago is a great offensive line prospect to start out with. As the best offensive lineman for Baylor’s high-powered attack, Drango is absolutely dominant. He hasn’t let up a sack this year, and through most metrics has been the pre-eminent offensive lineman on a Baylor line that rates out to be one of the best in the country in both run-blocking and pass-blocking. As has been well-documented, the Dolphins’ current offensive line needs work. Drango isn’t the most athletic offensive lineman available, but at 6’5” and 315 lbs he is one of the most powerful, and has stellar technique. His stock is rising mainly because of the success of his team, but Drango’s impact on such a prolific offense cannot be denied. As an NFL lineman, Drango would be able to play tackle or move inside to play at either of the guard positions; This versatility also makes him a prospect whom Miami should strongly look into drafting.
Falling from the Top:
Jared Goff, QB, Cal:
Look at the box score from California’s 30-24 loss to Utah, and take note of which stat sticks out from all the others: 5 interceptions for Jared Goff. That’s right, 5 picks for a quarterback who so far has been the poster boy for stellar QB play, as well as had NFL scouts drooling through the first 5 weeks of the season. Goff’s substandard play against the Utes, however, is concerning. The worries regarding Goff stem from more than just box scores. Utah’s pass defense is ranked 95th in the nation, so the junior should have had no problem shredding the secondary. However, he struggled, and the road ahead is no easier. Goff and the Golden Bears travel to face a tough UCLA squad this weekend, albeit one without standout defenders Myles Jack and Eddie Vanderdoes. Also later on the schedule are home dates with USC and Arizona State, along with what could be a season-defining trip to Palo Alto on November 21. If Goff can step up in those games, this stinker against Utah could just be a bump in the road. However, if his struggles continue as the competition ramps up, his draft stock could continue to fall.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA:
I wouldn’t classify Myles Jack so much as a “faller” as I would as a cautionary tale. Let’s start with the good: Myles Jack is a freak. After deciding to focus on playing defense this year for UCLA, Jack confirmed that he can basically do anything. He can stop the run, rush the passer, or drop back into coverage, and even played nickel corner at times. The kid can play every position, which makes him a perfect fit for today’s NFL, which asks a lot of its linebackers. Now, the bad: Myles Jack has a torn meniscus, and will miss 4-6 months. With just a meniscus injury, it seems probable that Jack will be just fine. But there is also the slight chance that he won’t be able to return all the way to his former glory. A slightly hobbled version of Jack is still an extremely talented one, but injury concerns could be enough to drop his stock out of the first round. However, with great athleticism comes great results, and there is definitely a strong chance that Jack could be on the risers board again soon if he makes good progress in rehabbing the knee. For now though, watch out. Regardless of the injury, Jack definitely holds appeal for the Dolphins. Miami’s linebacker corps is notoriously weak, and an explosive playmaker like Jack could be just what the unit needs to take the next step forward next year.
Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State:
This one seems kinda obvious, doesn’t it? With the announcement this week that JT Barrett will take over quarterback duties for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Cardale Jones’s fall from grace is complete. The Buckeyes QB, who notably tore through the inaugural College Football Playoff last year, leading Ohio State to a national championship, has been flat-out abysmal this year. Most notable was a stinker against Northern Illinois (!!! They have a football team?!) in which Jones threw 2 interceptions in only 9 pass attempts, while completing 4 of 9 passes for 36 yards before being pulled for sophomore JT Barrett. After being pulled more recently in last Saturday’s game against Penn State, coach Urban Meyer announced the end of the Cardale Jones era (for now). With another change not looking likely anytime soon, Cardale Jones looks like he might be only at Ohio State to play school after all. Jones’ stock couldn’t be dropping any faster. Once projected as a first-round pick, the potential of Jones’ NFL career seems murky at best, and it doesn’t appear that it will improve any time soon.