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 4 and looks ahead to Week 5. 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.
Player of the Week: Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia):
Built with prototypical size and speed at 6'1" and 226 pounds, Gurley plays with an aggressive, physical style that is rarely seen amongst today's college tailbacks. While he doesn't possess the same knee-high running style of Earl Campbell, his desire to run over or through defenders is reminiscent of the former Houston Oiler.
Running with such balance allows Gurley to plow through defenders, showcasing the strength to stiff-arm would-be tacklers
and pick up large chunks of yards. Rarely does he go down on initial contact; Gurley is constantly fighting for extra yards.
Against Tennessee this past weekend, Gurley had 28 carries for 208 yards and two TDs. More impressive were his 118 yards-after-contact and 10 broken tackles. Using a more subjective stat, he gained 97 yards-after-significant contact. 17 of his 28 carries were designed runs in between the tackles. Gurley only had two runs with negative yards during the entire game.
As a physical runner and someone looking for contact, Gurley has a history of good ball security. He has lost only two fumbles on 509 career carries.
What makes Gurley a complete tailback is that he can be a weapon in the passing game. A quality pass catcher, he does a good job of catching the ball away from his body. With the ball in his hands, Gurley instantly looks to get up field and pick up extra yards.
Last week, Gurley had four receptions for 30 yard; three of his receptions were screens passes. He was able to show patience, allowing his blockers to get into place and he followed their lead downfield.
A willing participant in pass protection, Gurley has to work on his technique as he is more likely to meet a defender standing straight up versus getting low and using leverage. He did not allow a QB pressure or sack this week, but scouts will need to see him improve in this area of his game to be a three down back in the NFL.
If he declares for the NFL Draft in 2015, Gurley will be the best tailback to come out of college since Adrian Peterson in 2007. Gurley is built for both traditional power running schemes or zone blocking schemes. A dynamic kickoff returner, Gurley has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in his career.
While I don't usually advocate a running back being selected in the first round, Gurley is a special player who can be an instant upgrade to any offense. He will surely be talked about as a possible top-10 pick.
Antwan Goodley (WR, Baylor):
Though the high powered Baylor Bears offense has seen some impressive wideouts during the past few seasons, their best one yet might be senior wide receiver, Antwan Goodley. A three year starter, Goodley has missed the first three games due to a hamstring injury he sustained in training camp. Seeing his first real action of the season against Iowa State this past weekend, Goodley was able to knock off some of the rust and show why he was an All-American last season.
A powerfully built wide receiver at 5'11” and 220 pounds, Goodley doesn't go down on first contact. A speedster, he can quickly get up the field and take the top off any defense. Playing in the Baylor high powered spread offense, Goodley has made the most of his opportunities with a career mark of 96 receptions for 1,650 yards, 17.2 YPC, and 15 TDs. If he can maintain his production, Goodley will finish in the top five in every major receiving category in school history.
Against a beleaguered Iowa State defense, which ranks 92nd in the Prediction Machine Power Rankings
, Goodley was able to slowly work himself back into the Baylor offense. He was targeted 11 times, with six receptions for 114 yards. All six of his receptions resulted in a first down. His average depth of target was 16.4 yards past the line of scrimmage. Goodley finished the game with 52 yards-after-the-catch with an average of 8.6 yards per reception.
While not as developed as former Baylor wide receiver and first round draft pick Kendall Wright, Goodley could develop into a solid number two receiver in the NFL. A physical runner with the ball in his hands and with the size to hold up over the middle, Goodley's future could be as a slot receiver in the NFL.
Jordan Jenkins (DE, Georgia):
A much improved Georgia defense is led by defensive end Jordan Jenkins. This Georgia defense is giving up 4.7 yards per play, a drop from 5.4 yards per play last season. Jenkins lines up either at LDE or RDE and more often from a three-point stance.
At 6'3” and 252 pounds, Jenkins is a bit undersized for a traditional 4-3 DE role in the NFL. He has yet to have a dominant season, producing five sacks each of the past two seasons.
Against Tennessee this past weekend, Jenkins started out slowly while consistently getting stonewalled by his opponent and failing to get into the backfield during much of the first half. He had difficulty disengaging from his man, on a couple of occasions he was brought to the ground. On designed runs to his gap, the result was 54 yards for Tennessee, with an average of 7.7 yards per carry. Jenkins showed good inside quickness, which was utilized to register his first sack of the game. His snap-to-sack time was 2.66 seconds.
Jenkins finished the game with one quarterback pressure and four quarterback hits. His average snap-to-hit time was 2.69 seconds. Including his sack, all of his times were below three seconds which is an impressive feat for a young pass rusher.
Jenkins showed that he can manhandle and overpower running backs and tight ends in one-on-one situations. Always tracking the ball carriers and running down plays, he looks to consistently stay involved in the action even if the ball goes away from him.
While he might be better suited to stay another season, the call of the NFL might be too loud to ignore if Jenkins can produce at a high level this season.
Steven Nelson (CB, Oregon State):
It is almost a rare occurrence to find a corner in college football who can play press man coverage and play it well; Steven Nelson can do both. The physical, outside cornerback for Oregon State has made an immediate impact in his first season and a half playing for the Beavers.
At 5'11” and 195 pounds, Nelson is pure muscle and doesn't back down from jamming his opponent at the line of scrimmage. He uses his hands and has great technique at locking his opponent at the line, is able to quickly turn his hips and run with his man down the field.
Nelson is quickly shutting down opponent's top offensive weapons and opposing quarterbacks are not even looking to throw to his side of the field. Against USC this past weekend, Nelson was targeted seven times, and gave up six receptions for 35 yards. Two of the receptions allowed were screen passes, he was able to fight through a blocker and make a tackle for a two yard loss on one of the screen passes.
A JUCO transfer, Nelson has eight career interceptions in 14 games. It is rumored that he was able to consistently give former teammate and 2014 NFL Draft first round pick, Brandin Cooks, fits in practice last season
A hard hitting tackler, Nelson shows a willingness to put his head down and get involved in the action. He is able to break down the ball carrier and follows through with excellent technique at wrapping up.
While he can't do anything about his size, Nelson's ability to play a physical style at the corner position will get him noticed by a lot of coaches. Few players exhibit his level of abilities at playing press corner in college. He might not match his interception total from last year, but his prevention of big plays is what will separate him from other cornerbacks in the next NFL Draft.
Players to Watch This Week:
Sammie Coates (WR, Auburn):
A speedster on the outside for the Auburn offense, Coates can leave defenders in the dust if they give him too much space at the line of scrimmage. He has missed one game this season and saw limited action in another due to a leg injury. He was third in the nation in yards per catch (21.5) last season. At 6'2” and 201 pounds, Coates can physically overpower smaller defensive backs. Scouts will be watching Coates and his matchup against LSU's top defensive back, Jalen Mills. Mills has the speed and acceleration to stay stride for stride with Coates. Mills is an aggressive defensive back who won't back down from the challenge of shutting Coates down. If Coates is fully healthy, watch for him to have a breakout game this week at home against LSU.
Austin Hill (WR, Arizona):
Not a the speedster like Sammie Coates, Hill is more likely to outjump his defender for the ball than run past them. At 6'2” and 208 pounds, he has the long arms and natural hands to snatch the ball at its highest point. This week Hill will go against the top defensive back in the country, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, when Arizona travels to play Oregon on Thursday night. Hill has improved his route running ability and it will be put to the test in his matchup against Ekpre-Olomu. With 15 receptions for 263 yards and three touchdowns this season, Hill is the Wildcats' primary target in the red zone. Watch for this matchup down in the red zone to see who comes out ahead. A willing run blocker, watch for Hill to spring a few key blocks as Arizona looks to maintain an active rushing attack against Oregon.
Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State):
With one of the nation's top defensive secondaries behind him, Shilique Calhoun is rewarded with a few extra seconds to rush the passer. These extra seconds are the reason why he had 7.5 sacks last season and has added two more sacks this year to his resume. At 6'5” and 256 pounds, Calhoun is a load to handle coming off the edge. He possesses the strength to take on blockers, toss them aside and attack opposing quarterbacks. Calhoun and the rest of his Spartan teammates will be going up against the University of Nebraska, who have only allowed three sacks all season. This is a home game for Michigan State and Calhoun, who does an excellent job of anticipating the snap count and should be able to get a quick jump this week. Scouts will be watching for how Calhoun maintains his gap integrity while minimizing opportunities for Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah to bounce it outside.