2017 NFL Draft Week 1 Risers and Fallers

 Week 1 Risers and Fallers

The 2016 college football season got into full swing with top games scheduled throughout the Labor Day Weekend. And while the college football season is always greeted with great anticipation, this year was even more so as the powers that be realized that scheduling top 25 teams against each other would create more interest rather than just having the top teams scheduling cupcakes in preparation for their tougher opponents. 

And for those who evaluate the players, it is always better to see top players in competition against other top players to make a better appraisal of a particular player but even then it is a hazardous undertaking.   

And just to prove what a perilous job it is in projecting college players into NFL players, the recent cuts made by the 32 NFL teams emphasize how arduous it can be as certain high round draft picks got the axe.

The purpose in this Risers - Fallers treatise is mostly devoted to lesser known types who are showing  promise rather than point out the obvious, such as highly rated RB Nick Chubb of Georgia looking great in running for 222 yards in a win against North Carolina. And that Christian McCaffrey is a superb all-around great player with his running and receiving skills along with being a punt and kick returner.  One mention about McCaffrey is that as great as he is, NFL teams do have a concern about him in that he is only 200 to 205 pounds, which means that he may only be a bit player because his body wouldn't be able to take the pounding in the NFL. On the other hand, he does keep himself in great shape and like the energizer bunny, he just keeps going. The Fallers section will be mostly highly rated players as the lower rated players can't really fall as they are already lower rated players.

But back to Week 1, DeShone Kizer, QB of Notre Dame looked better than Deshaun Watson, the QB from Clemson who was every analyst's No. 1 QB heading into the season.  Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly didn't name Kizer as the starter until just before the game started as Kizer was in a QB competition with Malik Zaire. What sets Kizer apart, in addition to being able to make all of the NFL throws and his running ability,  is his ability to improvise in turning a broken play into a positive outcome.

And sticking with ND, I thought that LT Mike McGlinchey was clearly better than Tackles Conor McDermott of UCLA (who struggled against Myles Garrett, but who wouldn't); and Zach Banner of USC whose limitations were apparent against Alabama. So from my original  pre-season Tackle Board in the 2017 Draft Guide I have jumped McGlinchey above those two and also above Roderick Johnson of Florida State, so that McGlinchey would now be my 2nd rated tackle behind only Cam Robinson of Alabama.

And now for my original theme of pointing out lesser known players who have received scant attention or no attention at all but who have impressed during Week 1 of the 2016 college football season to possible rise in the opinion of NFL scouts. Only draft eligible players are considered.



(1)  CONNOR MAYES, who plays LG for Minnesota and has received no mention for any honors whatsoever, was outstanding in the Gophers opening game win against Oregon State. Not just his great size, listed at 6-5 and 330 pounds, but his charge off the snap, hip roll, nasty disposition and footwork were all things that NFL scouts would be impressed with. And he had good footwork, hand use and arm extension in pass blocking. His ability to also play center will help his evaluation as versatility plays a part in grading. So how does a kid from Van Alystne, Texas get to the Univ. of Minnesota when his father and grandfather both played at TCU?  Easy, his older brother played at Minnesota 2013 - 2015.

(2)  BRANDON HODGES, RT for the Texas Longhorns, listed at 6-4 310 and he played well in the 50-47 double overtime win against 10th ranked Notre Dame. Hodges went the JC route before landing at Texas where he was redshirted in 2015 to making his first start vs. ND.  Only a 3* recruit out of JC, he is very powerful and physical in the run game and efficient in pass protection. He really gets after his opponent and displayed the quick feet, strength and athleticism for the position to be on the radar of NFL scouts. His frame may dictate a move to guard once he matriculates to the NFL.

(3)  ISAIAH McKENZIE, a WR or Slot Receiver from Georgia was sensational in the Bulldogs win over North Carolina. He has received some acclaim for his work as a punt returner, but he only had 10 receptions last year as a substitute and wasn't listed as a starter for this year but led all Georgia receivers with 6 catches for 122 yards and a 20.3 average and 1 TD.  In addition, he was used as a runner on an end around (jet sweep) in addition to his duties as a punt returner and kick returner. Only a junior at 5-8 and 170 pounds and known as a "Human Joystick," he can now be considered as an offensive weapon that defenses will have to plan for.

(4)  PARKER COLLINS, Center; and COLBY GOSSETT, Right Guard, both of Appalachian State were instrumental in the Mountaineers near upset of supposed SEC power Tennessee. Observers of the game thought that Appalachian outplayed the Volunteers but came up short on the scoreboard (20-13 in overtime). Collins, at center, showed very good lateral mobility, good feet, leverage and stayed after his opponent, while Gossett displayed good hip roll and an ability to adjust to the defender's moves. I thought that they were both better than any of the offensive lineman on Tennessee, which might be the Achilles heel for the highly rated Volunteers.

(5)  RYAN BURNS, QB from Stanford. He was third string in 2015 with 0 pass attempts behind Kevin Hogan (now graduated), and Keller Chryst, Hogan's heir apparent and the apparent starter for 2016 until just a few day before the opening game. Coach David Shaw surprised many observers with his announcement that Burns would be the starter and the 6-5, 233 pound redshirt junior performed very well in defeating a tough and well coached Kansas State team. Burns was very efficient with his 14 of 18 passing for 77.8% and 1 TD with 0 Interceptions. His pocket awareness, field vision and ability to deliver the ball on time were impressive and has now ascended from lowly backup to an NFL prospect.

(6)  JAMES CONNER - RB - Pitt - deserves special mention.  After a sensational 2014 season of rushing for 1765 yards and 26 TDs and beating out Jameis Winston for the ACC Player of the Year Award, Conner went down with an ACL tear, which forced him to miss the 2015 season. On top of that he was diagnosed with Lymphomo which required chemo treatment. Now cancer free and rehabilitated from the ACL injury, he re-gained his starting spot and  in Pitt's first game against Villanova and showed some of his old form and scored 1 TD by running and 1 TD via a pass reception. Hopefully he can can build from that first outing and become the star that he was.



(1)  CHAD KELLY - QB - MISSISSIPPI - In the much anticipated matchup with highly ranked Florida State things seemed to be rolling Kelly's and Mississippi's way in the first half, but even when things were going well he didn't always appear to make sharp passes and then in the second half things fell apart. And though he made some good passes, he misfired too often and ended with three interceptions and one lost fumble. He didn't notice some open receivers and under threw some others. Kelly already starts at a disadvantage in that he is generously listed at 6-2, while the ideal NFL height for a QB is 6-3. And even though it is a long season and things can improve, I don't envision NFL teams considering him any more than a backup QB as his lack of a big arm, inconsistency and turnovers are a detriment to a head coaches job. Reportedly he has one of the strongest arms in the country, but it didn't seem that he had the big arm of Paxton Lynch, Connor Wentz or Jared Goff, the three first round draft choices from last year. Of course this assessment violates the rule that one should not pass judgement after just one game and that would apply more so here as it was the first game of the season and was against a quality opponent, so I will reserve final judgement until the end of the season.

(2)  RODERICK JOHNSON - LT - FLORIDA STATE - Highly regarded by most, he gets whipped too often on pass blocking and doesn't seem to have natural athletic ability. A first or second round draft choice (which he has been rated), has to be more dominant and more consistent than Johnson is. But again, it was the first game of the year and Florida State has at least 12 more games to play this season, besides which he is only a junior and may decide to stick around at Florida State for another season to develop his game. But for a 1st Team All-Conference player and winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy for the ACC, which means he was considered the best out of all the tackles, guards and centers on 14 teams, one would expect more.

(3)  GAVIN ANDREWS - GUARD - OREGON STATE - After starting 10 games in 2014, he went down with an injury which kept him out for the 2015 season with an expected return in 2016. Based upon what I saw in 2014, I listed him as a sleeper at the guard position on my 2017 Pre-Season Position Draft Guide but in the Beavers first game against Minnesota it was obvious that his overall foot speed was inadequate to make an NFL team.  He was never a really quick footed player, but was a power blocker at 6-6 and 330 pounds with adequate foot quickness and an ability to adjust. It would seem that his injuries have taken a toll.

(4)  T. J. NEAL - LINEBACKER - AUBURN - After a fairly successful career at Illinois where he had 109 total tackles with 12 tackles for loss in 2015, while making Honorable Mention All-Conference in the Big Ten, he transferred to Auburn as a grad transfer where he expected to build on his portfolio and have a better chance at an NFL career. It may be that he should have stayed at Illinois as Neal is listed on the second unit on the depth chart and did not get to play in Auburn's first game, to which he expressed his disappointment.



2017 NFL Draft Guide