NFL Draft Watch - Week 9 Football

Oklahoma Quarterback Landry Jones

NFL Draft Watch Week 9

The college football big picture is starting to paint itself as teams continue to separate themselves from the rest. Everyone is still chasing Alabama, but Notre Dame and Kansas State have turned some heads. Both of those programs will be put to the test this weekend in a pair of prime time clashes.

Game to Watch: Notre Dame at Oklahoma

When and Where to Watch: Saturday October 27th at 8 PM on ABC

Who to Watch: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma LB Tom Wart; Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o

What to Look For: This game is huge for both programs and has National Championship implications. Chances are this game is going to come down to defense, but you have to take the opportunity to study one of the nation’s best signal callers and a possible top 5 selection, against one of the most physical and talented defenses in the nation. So watch for Landry Jones. He has a chance to prove how talented he is. He has weapons around him, but Notre Dame is a different animal. Jones needs to prove that he can step up against the best defenses in the nation and still have success. He will need to show poise in the pocket as well as confidence. If Oklahoma struggles to move the ball at times, scouts will want to see that Jones is still confident and inspires his teammates to play better. Another aspect of Jones’ game to look at is his arm. Obviously arm strength is important, but playing quarterback is an art. The secret is accuracy. Jones will need to show that he has adequate arm strength, but the accuracy is the biggest thing scouts will be looking for. They will look for his short accuracy on routes like slants, bubble screens, and shallow crosses to see if Jones can put the ball in the receiver’s hands without having them slow down, change the route, or adjust to the ball. A perfect pass can beat perfect coverage and a perfect throw on a shallow route can be the difference between a short gain and a huge play.

Next and most importantly, look for the medium accuracy of Jones. This is anything from about 10-25 yards. These are considered the most difficult and important throws for quarterbacks to make. This is because the majority of passing concepts fall into this category and many times these passes need to be thrown into a small window. They take great footwork to drive the ball, great arm strength to throw it with enough zip that it gets to the receiver before a defender can make a break, and of course, great touch and accuracy to ensure that the receiver has a chance to catch the ball. Judge harshly on all of these throws. Check to see if his throws have the zip an NFL quarterback would display. Is he still accurate or do his wideouts need to make adjustments to the ball consistently. If he struggles with his medium pass accuracy, his draft stock will be affected in a big way. Lastly, scouts will check his deep accuracy. A great deep ball can catapult you to the top of some draft boards. It takes tremendous arm strength to make these throws and the accuracy can be difficult because they are thrown deep down the field, well before the receiver gets to the ball. These throws are typically thrown to a spot, rather than to the receiver, so timing is crucial. Jones may be under duress all day long as well, so look to see how he deals with the pressure and takes hits. He needs to be able to pick up on blitzes and find his hot read quickly.

Now this game will probably come down to the defenses, so it’s a great time to look at defensive players and the impact that they will have on the game. For Oklahoma their two most NFL ready prospects are linebacker Tom Wart and safety Tony Jefferson. When you watch Wart, the big thing to pay attention to is how well he tackles. Is he making solid tackles or are guys starting to slip away and he needs help to gang tackle them? Can he make tackles in open space or are guys getting around him and gaining extra yards? It is imperative that linebackers make solid tackles and do not let players gain those extra yards when they make a tackle. Another important aspect of Wart’s game to pay attention to is how well he covers. Teams want a linebacker who can run and cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. If he can match up with these skill players, his draft stock will be greatly increased, as he is an every down player and allows for a lot of flexibility in the defensive scheme.  Notre Dame’s tight end, Tyler Eifert, is a premier player at his position and poses a major threat to the Sooner defense.

Notre Dame standout linebacker, Manti Te’o, has gripped the nation. He has a great story and is a tremendous athlete. He is even being mentioned in some circles as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. He is going to be the top linebacker selected in the draft, barring any major injuries or surprise. He is the total package but has a chance to prove his worth against an explosive Sooner offense. He is the fight of the defense and the true leader of this team. That is not lost on scouts. He has great athleticism and does everything well. On Saturday look for him in coverage. He has shown the ability to cover and make plays against the pass, but has not faced an offense quite like this before. Oklahoma will challenge him with a spread attack complex passing concepts. How he responds to this challenge will be huge. The NFL runs very complex offenses so how he dissects and understands this Sooner offense could be telling. If he struggles, which would be a major surprise, his stock could take a hit. However I would expect Te’o to be just fine and be the leader of the defense, calling all the checks and alignments and ultimately give the Fighting Irish a chance to succeed.


 Week 9 Football - What to Watch For