Like we did last year, we will take an in-depth look at some of the most talked-about NFL draft prospects from each week. Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner recaps Week 13 and looks ahead to Week 14. As the season progresses, we will highlight prospects who are rising up the draft boards along with others who are starting to fall off the radar due to their poor performances.
Garrett Grayson (QB, Colorado State):
A handful of top NFL quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, were overlooked for various reasons during the draft process and have gone on to have successful NFL careers. Oftentimes these players are overlooked due to physical limitations (height, weight, speed, etc.) or by some outdated scouting profiles (arm strength, hip rotation, etc.). Colorado State starting quarterback, Garrett Grayson, might not be the top name on the draft boards this April, but I believe he could be the next premier NFL quarterback.
At 6'2” and 220 pounds, Grayson checks the boxes that most scouts like to see from a starting quarterback. A precision passer, he has completed 62.4 percent of his passes throughout his career. Showing improved consistency each season as a four-year starter, Grayson has mastered the Rams' offense with excellent field vision and decision-making abilities. He understands defenses, is patient in the pocket, goes through his progressions and puts the ball in the exact spot that allows his receivers to pick up critical yards after the catch or to avoid taking a big hit.
Grayson is currently 5th in the FBS in passing yards (3,413) and is tied for 1st
with Oregon's Marcus Mariota in yards per attempt (10.0). An efficient performer on third-down, Colorado State is currently 6th in the country in 3rd down conversion (52.4 percent) this season.
Grayson isn't like most college quarterbacks; he would rather stand in the pocket than tuck and run with the ball. Against New Mexico this past weekend, he was 23 of 29 for 389 yards with three TDs. Please note that New Mexico currently has the 90th ranked pass defense in college football, allowing on average 238.9 passing yards per game and opponents are completing 61.9 percent of their passes against the Lobos.
With a complete understanding of his own offense, Grayson was able to dissect the New Mexico secondary with precision accuracy rarely seen from a pocket passer in college football. Grayson's average snap-to-pass time for the game was 2.35 seconds, faster than Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
While Grayson doesn't take snaps from underneath the center, the Rams' offense isn't based on throwing screen passes. Grayson is awarded the opportunity to take deep downfield throws; his average depth of intended target was 10.2 yards past the line of scrimmage. A prototypical pocket quarterback, he only attempted one pass all game outside the tackle box.
Below is a breakdown of Garrett Grayson's pass attempts by yards thrown to the intended target:
Behind the line of scrimmage
: 3-4, 63 yards, 1 TD, 1 drop, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 1.27 sec.
0-9 yards downfield
: 13-14, 144 yards, 1 TD, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 2.29 sec.
10-19 yards downfield
: 4-5, 82 yards, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 2.59 sec.
20+ yards downfield
: 3-6, 100 yards, 1 TD, 1 drop, average snap-to-pass-time was 3.03 sec.
Garrett's ball placement on most throws allow for his receivers to catch the pass while in stride to pick up yards after the catch. For the game, Colorado State had a total of 190 yards after the catch, with an average of 8.3 yards per reception.
In some cases, young quarterbacks can look to just one side of the field and they get locked onto one target or don't trust their ability to throw the other way. Grayson spreads the ball evenly across the field and is not afraid to go over the middle. He attempted eight passes to the left side of the field, ten in the middle, and 11 to the right side of the field.
New Mexico tried to slow down the Rams' offense. When facing a pass rush of five or more pass rushers, Grayson was 9 of 12 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He can feel the pressure, doesn't lose concentration, steps up in the pocket and delivers the ball.
Scouts do not love Grayson's arm strength; they don't believe he offers the velocity that is needed as a top tier quarterback prospect. Some questioned if his stats are over-inflated because he doesn't play in one of the Power Five conferences.
Efficient, intelligent and effective are the three main traits that came to mind after Grayson's performances throughout this season. My hope for him, and the rest of the Colorado State team, is that they can play a top tier school in a major bowl game so the rest of the college football community can see what he does against so called “tougher competition”.
He might not be a first or second round prospect, but teams would be wise to consider jumping on Grayson early in the draft and work on building him into a future starter.
Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor):
Scouts and a few specific draft “experts” raved about the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and current Miami Dolphin, Dion Jordon, much the same way they talk about Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman.
Both are highly tuned athletes, who possess jaw dropping speed and quickness. Oakman, who stands 6'8” and 275 pounds, is a freakish specimen and while he might look the part, he has yet to live up to the expectations of a first round talent.
Oakman is third in the BIG 12 in tackles for loss (14.5) and in sacks (8.0) this season. With only two seasons of experience, he redshirted a season at Penn State, transferred to Baylor in 2012 and sat out a season.
This past weekend against Oklahoma State, Oakman was almost non-existent throughout most of the game. Only after the game was largely in hand for Baylor did Oakman begin to show up in the box score. He finished with six tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. His average snap to sack time was 2.92 seconds.
A liability against the rush, Oakman routinely fails to get off his blocks and is usually one of the last players out of his stance at the snap of the ball. Oklahoma State ran towards Oakman's gap on 17 carries, resulting in 89 yards, with an average of 5.2 YPC.
Oakman struggled mightily when opposing linemen were able to get their hands on him. Going against a freshman quarterback making his first start, I expected Oakman to be more disruptive. With a player of his size and stature, scouts will be asking why he only has one career batted down pass.
Scouts see the possibility in Oakman, but understand that he is by no means a finished product. Miami is surely having second thoughts about Dion Jordan who has failed to live up to expectations over the past two seasons. If Oakman were to declare for the NFL Draft after this season, he will likely shine at the NFL Combine.
Nate Orchard (DE, Utah):
Making the most of his final season in college, Utah's defensive end Nate Orchard has been one of the most dynamic playmakers on defense in college football this season. Coming into the season, Orchard had a total of 6.5 sacks, 17.5 TFL and five forced fumbles to his resume.
In just 11 games this season, Orchard has 17.5 sacks, 20 TFL, and two forced fumbles. Scouts have been flocking to Utah to witness Orchard demolish offensive tackles with his relentless pursuit of opposing quarterbacks. He is currently third all-time in career sacks (24) and second all-time in forced fumbles (7).
Going up against an Arizona offense, whose offensive strategy was to limit Orchard's effectiveness, the Wildcats ran away from Orchard while double teaming him and quickly getting the ball out of the quarterback's hands before he was able to get into the backfield.
Orchard finished with six tackles, one sack and two quarterback pressures. His lone sack came on a snap-to-sack time of 2.15 seconds, an impressive mark.
Arizona played into Orchard's tendency to over-pursue the ball carrier and lose gap integrity. Arizona had 12 designed runs to Orchard's gap, resulting in 88 yards and two touchdowns, an average of 7.3 YPC. Instead of staying in his lane and sealing off the backside of the play, Orchard was out of position, allowing for a wide open running lane on numerous occasions.
At 6'3 and 255 pounds and with a good arsenal of speed and power rush moves, Orchard is probably best suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL. I wouldn't be surprised if a team uses him as a situational pass rusher for his first couple of seasons as he continues to mature and understand the small technical details of the game. With his speed and quickness coming off the edge, Orchard can be a dangerous addition to most NFL defenses.
With his exceeding level of production this season, along with quality measurables, look for Orchard to be a possible late first to early second round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Who to Watch This Week:
Kevin Johnson (DB, Wake Forest):
The long and lanky defensive back for the Demon Deacons has been one of the most consistent lockdown defenders in the ACC this season. At 6'1” and 175 pounds, Johnson isn't the biggest cornerback in college football, but don't let his lack of bulk fool you. He uses his long arms and speed to stay right inside opposing wideout's hip pocket. Most opponents have shied away from targeting Johnson; even so, he has one INT, six PB, and 43 tackles this season. A willing tackler, especially in run support, Johnson isn't afraid to offer run support as is evident by his 3.5 TFL this season. Look for him to matchup with Duke's Jamison Crowder this weekend in a matchup of two future NFL prospects.
Paul Dawson (OLB, TCU):
A leader on the TCU defense, Dawson has been an integral part of the defensive success this season. In just ten games, he has racked up 105 tackles, 15 TFL, five sacks, five PB, two FF and three interceptions. Playing outside linebacker in college, he might be better suited to slide inside once he reaches the NFL. As a junior college transfer, it took Dawson some time to get acclimated to the rigors of major college football. He has been a consistent force for TCU during the past two seasons and one of the more vocal leaders on defense this season. With a possible spot in the College Football Playoff on the line against Texas on Thanksgiving Day, watch for Dawson to impress some NFL General Managers who will be on hand to witness some of the intriguing NFL prospects this game has to offer.
Bryce Petty (QB, Baylor):
The senior quarterback and the high powered Baylor offense rolls into Lubbock on their march to take hold of one the top four spots in the College Football Playoff. Petty has been on fire as of late. In his last two games he has completed 70.4 percent of his pass attempts for 649 yards and three touchdowns. Still playing his way back into form after a back injury early this season, Petty has the Baylor Bears pointed in the right direction during the final stretch of this year's college football season. Texas Tech has the 96th ranked pass defense this season and look for Petty to have a big game against a weak opponent. Scouts want to see Petty take better care of the ball on third downs; he has a completion percentage of 49.3 percent on third downs this year. With only two games left, Petty has little time to make improvements.