The college football season is underway, and here are a few takeaways from Week 1 and what it means for the 2017 NFL Draft:
Arguably the top 1-on-1 matchup of the week was Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett vs. UCLA left tackle Conor McDermott. The point goes to Garrett, almost overwhelmingly. The junior edge rusher had three tackles and a sack in the game, which is impressive considering how frequently UCLA ran plays away from him.
Against McDermott, Garrett showed a variety of moves. He nearly got a first quarter sack thanks to a fancy inside spin that came after he worked the edge. McDermott's strength held up decently against Garrett, who excelled using speed and leverage. Garrett has unique movement skills for a 6’5, 270-pound junior. A spot in the top five in the draft is waiting.
Garrett set a goal of hitting 20 sacks this season, but Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker might beat him to it. Against Ole Miss on Monday, Walker had 4.5 sacks and can create pressure from the inside and outside. This swim move was especially effective:
The 2017 draft is going to be loaded with pass rushers, and Walker will be right in the mix for the first round. At 280 pounds, Walker is a bigger defensive lineman, but his first step is good and he looks like the leader of Florida State's defense.
In that game, we saw the good and bad of Ole Miss senior quarterback Chad Kelly. When he was on – typically when he involved tight end Evan Engram – Kelly looked like a toolsy quarterback with good potential. When he was off, he was way off. Kelly threw three interceptions, and should have had a fourth if not for a heady play by a wide receiver who beat a defensive back for the ball for a touchdown. On Kelly's interceptions, he stared the receiver down and put the ball in bad positions.
There is a lot to like about Kelly, the nephew of NFL great Jim Kelly, but his flaws are concerning. If the rest of Kelly's season is similar to Monday night, it will be hard to justify a high pick on him. But if he improves and gets a Senior Bowl invite, his stock could rise quickly.
Get to know how to say and spell the name Chidobe Awuzie. The Colorado senior cornerback had himself a game in the Buffaloes’ 44-7 rout of Colorado State. Awuzie had a team-high eight tackles, but his second quarter interception is what stands out:
Awuzie read the quarterback perfectly and stepped in front of the route to get the ball. He had a similar play at another point in the game that led to a pass breakup. NFL teams will covet those instincts and ability to read the play. Being listed at 6’0 by Colorado is just an added bonus. Remember his teammate Tedric Thompson as well. The senior safety had his own athletic interception on Saturday.
Azuwie isn’t the only cornerback who stood out in Week 1. Tre’Davious White of LSU is a proven man coverage corner, but he showed off his big play ability against Wisconsin. White almost brought the Tigers back by himself on Saturday intercepting a pass in the second half and then grabbing a fumble recovery on the next drive. On the game, White allowed just three catches. LSU still lost, but for NFL fans they’re arguably the team loaded with the most eligible prospects.
Speaking of LSU, we may not know how good wide receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre can be until they get to the NFL. The quarterback play at LSU is consistently average, but Dural and Dupre are talented wide outs and likely top-75 picks when they go pro.
Georgia’s Nick Chubb showed that he’s not only fully healthy, but that he belongs in the discussion with Leonard Fournette of LSU and Dalvin Cook of Florida State as the top running back prospects. Returning from a severe knee injury, Chubb looked fully healthy rushing 32 times for 222 yards. He saved his best for near the end of the game with this 55-yard run in the fourth quarter:
North Carolina was coming on an all-out blitz and the junior ran right past it, breaking a couple tackles along the way. He’s not a pure force of nature like Fournette or as good of a receiver as Cook, but his vision and speed puts him in the discussion with both of them.
Another player returning from injury was Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams. The Tigers were inconsistent on offense against Auburn, but Williams looked good. Williams was injured in the first game of last season, and caught just two passes. Against Auburn, he pulled in nine for 174 yards and many of them were in spectacular fashion. The easy comparison for Williams is Dez Bryant because he’s a big receiver who knows how to use his body to create separation.