With the third week of the 2017 college football season complete, we take a look at a number of quarterbacks and defensive lineman that saw-for better or worse-a change in their 2018 draft stock.
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State (Up)
A redshirt junior that stands 6’5,” 230 pounds and is in his second season as a starter, Fitzgerald is a legitimate dual-threat prospect fresh off guiding the Bulldogs to LSU’s worst loss in program history. He’s been the catalyst for offensive fireworks from now-17th ranked Mississippi State, while simultaneously displaying his NFL potential and equal arm talent. Fitzgerald is adept at recognizing coverages post-snap with an understanding of the leverage points he can attack, and such arm talent is highlighted by engaging from his core down to generate the required RPMs on opposite-hash throws. Keep an eye on Fitzgerald and Co., and don’t be surprised if the quarterback’s play continues to elevate that of his teammates’.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville (Down)
Jackson began the 2017 campaign at a mind-numbing level that rivaled the manner in which he began last season, but Saturday’s performance against Clemson was less than ideal. Conversely, Jackson’s play has been both elite and chalk-full of plays that point to his NFL potential, so his stock being down relative to his prior success keeps him squarely in the top quarterback discussion. His accuracy was noticeably worse as he consistently struggled to place the ball at the optimal spots on intermediate routes, while his level of eye-manipulation was lower than what’s we’ve become accustomed to. Hopefully his performance was just an aberration, albeit one that still posted an impressive stat line.
Luke Falk, Washington State (Up)
The Cougars find themselves at number 18 in the Associated Press poll with a thrilling, three-overtime victory over Boise State followed by their recent thrashing of Oregon State. Falk opted to return for his senior season in an attempt to boost his overall draft status as one who sparks an intriguing debate regarding his overall level of talent similar to that of Mason Rudolph. After first being pulled for a short while against Boise State and leaving the game altogether in the fourth quarter to injury, Falk rebounded in a big way against the Beavers on Saturday. He was in complete command of the offense by efficiently working through his progressions, attacking all levels of the field with touch and maintaining a sufficient level of general accuracy to allow his weapons to work after the catch. Continue to watch for Falk to guide the Cougars to (potential) new heights.
Josh Allen, Wyoming (Down)
The redshirt junior has fallen off in a big way, and it exactly been fair to him considering the level of expectations heaped upon him. Allen has done very little to suggest hes’s worthy of being a first-rounder let alone 2018’s top selection in his first three games and was out-dueled by Oregon’s Justin Herbert. While his athleticism and arm talent are at an NFL level, Allen lacks the nuance and refinement in the desired areas of the position to suggest he’s currently anything other than a developmental prospect.
Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State (Up)
Although he’s just a sophomore, Simmons has been an absolute terror with consecutive SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week awards. The young interior defender has generated pressure from multiple spots along the Bulldogs’ line and his blend of athleticism and quickness off the ball have proven to over-power blockers. Keep an on eye on Simmons’ growth throughout the season and expect to become a notable name entering the 2018 season.
Clelin Ferrell, Clemson (Down)
The Clemson Tiger is loaded yet again, and the combination of Ferrell and Christian Wilkins continues to give offensive units. Against Louisville, however, Ferrell did not play up to his usual level of talent and I felt it slightly affected his ultimate draft position. He’s still developing a threatening array of pass rush moves to win reps up the arc and when double teams defeated him early, he visibly struggled to recover. Much like Jackson, Ferrell is a great talent and this performance is an aberration that we won’t see much of.
James Hearns, Louisville (Up)
For as much as both Louisville units struggled, Hearns unquestionably separated himself from the rest of his defensive teammates as indicated by his massive performance. From a two- and three-point stance, Hearns capitalized on his athleticism and quickness to make tackles pay for shallow sets while displaying his continued growth as a hands-rusher. Expect the Cardinals to turn to Hearns to lead their pass rushing efforts as he looks to string together a productive 2017 campaign.
Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State (Down)
A popular name prior to the 2017 season, Lewis has been rather underwhelming in his final season. Against Army this past Saturday, Lewis consistently struggled to locate the ball on developing perimeter runs and was defeated by double teams at an alarming rate. The questions regarding his skills as a pass rusher remain and his ability to defend the run was absent, so Lewis has some work to do before he’s considered a top-tier prospect.