Like we did last year 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 covers Week 1. 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: Montravius Adams (NT, Auburn):
I must admit I owe Adams an apology for leaving him off my pre-season defensive tackle watch list
. That was a serious oversight on my part. Not only should he be on the list, but he would be one of the top defensive tackles after his performance this past week against Louisville.
Former Florida head coach Will Muschamp took over the defensive coordinator position for Auburn this year and from the initial results, I would say they are off to a solid start. One of the key reasons was Montravius Adams' dominating presence on the interior front of the defensive line for the Tigers.
At 6'4” and 296 pounds, Adams displays the quickness and speed to attack gaps and get into the backfield. When speaking with a current NFL GM about Adams, he compared him to Dominque Easley, a former pupil of Will Muschamp at Florida. Adams has a lightening quick first step; he routinely was one of the first linemen, offense or defense, off the line of scrimmage.
Adams finished with seven tackles, one forced fumble, one TFL, and one sack. His snap-to-sack time was 4.47 seconds. He had two quarterback hits which came on an average snap-to-hit time of 2.27 seconds. Adams caused an unofficial forced fumble that came when he was able to knife into the backfield and disrupt the handoff between the quarterback and running back. His teammate, Justin Garrett, was able to scoop up the loose ball and return for a touchdown.
One area of weakness for Adams last season was his play against the run. Against Louisville, there were fourteen designed runs to Adams' gap resulting in 44 yards, an average of 3.1 YPC. Not a great average, but better than last season.
If Adams is able to stay healthy and be a consistent pass rusher up the middle for the Tigers, he will get some very long looks from NFL front offices. Few college defensive tackles possess the speed and quickness for a player of his size. Watch for Adams' draft ranking continue to rise if he is able o repeat his performance from last week throughout the season.
Tyler Matakevich (OLB, Temple):
A tackling machine who had 311.5 tackles and 25 TFL coming into the 2015 season, Matakevich picked up right where he left off against Penn State this past weekend. He has been the Owls' leading tackler for the past three years and helped build one of the nation's top defenses. Last year Temple had the 13th ranked pass defense, giving up only 6.1 yards-per-attempt.
At 6'1” and 235 pounds, Matakevich is a bit undersized to play the outside linebacker role in the NFL and will most likely have to slide inside. He shows good instincts and play recognition but lacks the straight line speed to track down ball carriers in the open field. Against Penn State, he allowed a number of big runs to the outside because he took a bad line to the ball carrier.
Penn State had ten designed run plays to Matakevich's gap responsibility resulting in 93 yards with an average of 10.3 YPC and one touchdown. He allowed two runs of greater than 30 yards.
Even with his subpar performance in the run game, Matakevich was a factor in collapsing the pocket and coming up with a few big plays as a pass rusher. Temple finished the game with ten sacks and Matakevich contributed to three of them. He was unblocked on all three of his sacks, two coming on a delayed blitz that brought more pass rushers than the offense could block. His first two sacks came on a snap-to-sack time of 2.5 seconds. The third and final sack had a snap to pass time of 3.98 seconds.
NFL scouts will be looking for Matakevich to prove that he is more than a mid to late round NFL prospect, that he is capable of being a leader and making defense play calls and adjustments. He will need to work on improving his pass rushing technique and showing more than a basic bull rush.
While he can take down a ball carrier once he gets his hands on them, Matakevich will have to prove to scouts that he can plug the running lane and minimize big running plays. If Matakevich can't improve in these areas of his game, he might be regulated to a back-up and special teams role in the NFL.
Deonte Booker (RB, Utah):
As the focal point of the Utah offense, wherever Booker goes, the defense is surely to follow. The Utes used Booker as a decoy throughout most of the game. When he did get the ball in his hands, he made a number of critical plays that helped propel his team to victory over Michigan. A three down running back, Booker is a force in the run game, as a receiver and in pass protection.
Against Michigan, Booker had 22 rushing attempts for 69 yards, and one touchdown. He had 34 yards after contact, an average of 1.55 YPA. Fifteen of his runs were in-between the tackles; he a physical runner who isn't afraid to go inside. On a ten-yard run early in the game, he showed patience and the vision to wait for his running lane and cut it back inside. Booker displayed an excellent jump cut when hitting those back side running lanes and scouts will love that, especially the scouts who work for NFL teams that operate a zone blocking scheme.
It usually takes multiple defenders to bring Booker down. He won't go down with just an arm tackle, it usually takes two or three guys to wrap him up and bring him to the ground.
The passing game is where Booker separates himself from other running backs in college football. He finished with seven receptions for 55 yards. He excels at making guys miss in the open field. He had two drops in this game, he took a couple of big hits and was still able to hold onto the ball. He will need to work on his concentration and watch the ball all the way through his catches.
Last season, Booker had six fumbles and a fumble rate of 2.1%. He will need to show scouts and NFL personnel that he is isn't a liability with the ball in his hands. You can tell he worked on his ball security this offseason, he had two hands on the ball when going through traffic.
As a JUCO transfer, this is Booker's last season in college to prove to scouts that he is capable of being an every down back in the NFL. His running style and tenacity to take on would be tacklers reminds me of a young Curtis Martin. Watch for Utah, and specifically Booker, to have to big games this season once they get into their conference schedule.
Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan):
There is no escaping the fact that leading up to 2015 NFL Draft, both Paul and I were big fans and supporters of Corey Davis' older brother Titus. Titus Davis went undrafted, signed with the San Diego Chargers but was unable to make it onto the 53 man roster. Just like his older brother, Corey has been widely productive and has dominated the college ranks for the past couple of seasons.
Last season Corey Davis had 78 receptions for 1,408 yards, 15 touchdowns and averaged 18.1 YPC which was an all-around great performance from a true sophomore. This season Davis is expected to do more and with his performance against Michigan State and one of the nation's top defenses for the past couple of seasons, we can all expect him to surpass his production last season.
Against Michigan State, Davis had ten receptions for 154 yards, 15.4 YPC average, and one touchdown. At 6'3” and 205 pounds, he is a physical, wide-body receiver who seems to always be open even when he is covered. Using his long arms and proper technique, Davis is able to catch the ball away from his body and pluck the ball right out of the air.
Davis was targeted 20 times; three of the targets were called back due to offensive penalties, three were drops and four were uncatchable. His average depth of target (air yards) was 13.4 yards past the line of scrimmage. He had a total of 65 yards after the catch to go along with three broken tackles.
Being able to perform against top level competition will help Davis in the eyes of scouts. He will have another opportunity to show the NFL front offices what he is capable of when Western Michigan plays Ohio State on September 26th.
Players to Watch Next Week:
Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee):
Sutton will have his hands full in trying to shut down the Sooners passing attack. Watch for the matchup between Sutton and Oklahoma's top wideout Sterling Shepard. Shepard led the Sooners last season with 51 receptions for 970 yards and five touchdowns. One of the top shutdown corners in the SEC, Sutton had three interceptions last seasons. Look for one of these players to make a couple of big time plays as NFL scouts will be watching this matchup.
DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon):
With the loss of Arik Armstead to the NFL, Buckner is poised to lead a revamped Oregon defense against a senior laden Michigan State offense. The Ducks' defense needs a better performance this week than they had against Eastern Washington, surrendering 42 points to an FCS school. At 6'7” and 290 pounds, Buckner is the tall, big body defensive lineman the Ducks are starting to become known for (Dion Jordan and Arik Armstead). Buckner will have his hands full in going up against Jack Conklin (OT, Michigan State), a standout prospect in his own right.
Tyler Johnston (OT, Oregon):
When the Ducks have the football, all the attention goes towards the skill position players. The highest rated NFL prospect on the Ducks offense is along their offensive line in left tackle Tyler Johnston. He will be going up against former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award winner, Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State). Both of these players are considered first or second round prospects and should give scouts plenty to watch for this weekend.
Will Redmond (CB, Mississippi State):
This will be LSU's first game of the season since last weekend's game against McNeese State was cancelled due to weather conditions. Redmond will be matched up against junior wideout Travin Dural. Dural averaged over 20 yards per reception last season. Scouts will be watching to see if Redmond has improved on his ability to jam opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage. Both Redmond and Dural have the speed to stay with one another; look for some deep shots early and often in this game.