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 12 in college football and previews who to watch in Week 13. 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: Joshua Garnett (OG, Stanford):
The Stanford Cardinal's offense is steamrolling over opposing defenders, lining up eight and nine man fronts and just running the ball down the throat of their opponents. Defenses know that it's coming, yet they can't stop it; Stanford has one of the most demoralizing offenses to go up against in college football. The reason why they can dictate the tempo and pace of the game is because they have the best offensive line in college football, a unit led by offensive guard, Joshua Garnett.
At 6'5” and 325 pounds, Garnett is a senior offensive guard who has played in almost every game during his tenure at Stanford and has started the last 39 games. He is in charge of a unit that ranks 15th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 5.2 YPC and 228 rushing yards per game this season.
Against Cal this past weekend, Stanford went to a heavy rushing attack, finishing with 40 carries for 260 yards, a 6.5 YPC average and three touchdowns. On designed runs to Garnett's gap responsibility, Stanford had a total of 128 yards on 19 carries, a 6.7 YPC average, two touchdowns and nine first downs.
Garnett is able to get low at the snap of the ball and plays with great leverage and power to get underneath his opponent's pads and drive him down the field. He has the rare ability to sustain his blocks for a long period of time, driving his man down the field and sealing off running lanes.
Most guards are either power blockers or finesse blockers, Garnett is both and excels in both areas. Showing the speed to get outside and be a factor in the screen game, Garnett was able to pick up a key block that helped spring Christian McCaffrey for a 49 yard touchdown reception.
Garnett is by far the best interior offensive lineman in college football and will, in all likelihood, be a first round pick. He is the dominating guard that capable offenses can run behind and pick up key yards in critical situations.
This coming weekend, Stanford will take on Notre Dame in what will be a battle between Garnett and Notre Dame's defensive tackle, Sheldon Day. Both players will be first or second round picks and most scouts have been waiting for this matchup all season.
Hunter Henry (TE, Arkansas):
Despite playing in a predominantly run-heavy offense, Hunter Henry is the leading pass catcher amongst tight ends in the SEC this season. He is an instant mismatch where ever he lines up on the field. They will split Henry out wide to take advantage of his size against smaller defensive backs. When asked to block, Henry has little problem putting his hand on the ground and shutting down his opponent's pass rush moves.
At 6'5” and 253 pounds, Henry has the speed and quickness of a typical slot wide receiver. Defenses have a hard time finding a player who can match up with Henry's length and speed. He has superb hands and hand eye coordination. NFL coaches will be in love with the fact that Henry hasn't allowed a single drop all season.
This last weekend against Mississippi State, Henry finished the game with seven receptions for 129 yards, an 18.4 YPC average, and two touchdowns. He was targeted a total of nine times, with an average depth of intended target being 14 yards past the line of scrimmage. A skilled route runner, Henry had little trouble creating separation between himself and the defenders.
Henry had a total of 19 yards after the catch against Mississippi State. An ankle injury sustained in the first quarter limited his ability to run after securing the catch. A deep, downfield threat, Henry's highlight of the game came on a 39-yard touchdown reception when he was able to separate from the linebacker on a deep crossing route.
It is almost a rarity in college football to find a tight end who is a reliable and dangerous deep threat as well as a pass catcher and a quality inline blocker. Henry didn't allow a single quarterback rush or hurry against Mississippi State. On a handful of occasions he was able to neutralize a pass rusher, showing the ability to shut down an opponent's top pass rusher.
Henry could be the top tight end prospect in this year's NFL Draft if he declares. Still only a junior, Henry will have to decide if he wants to come back to school or make the leap to the NFL. This year's crop of tight end prospects will be deeper than last year's draft class in terms of overall talent. Henry should be at the top of his class whenever he declares.
Chris Jones (DT, Mississippi State):
In a young player's career, often times they can over power their opponent and rely on shear athletic ability rather than technique and wits to win battles. Chris Jones was a raw prospect when he arrived in Starkville in 2013 for his freshman season; Jones had three sacks, seven tackles for loss, and three pass breakups. He has improved each and every season, gaining a better understanding of using his size and strength to his advantage. Jones has improved as a pass rusher, opponents are starting to game plan against him, often sending two or three blockers his way on each play.
At 6'6” and 308 pounds, Jones is a perfect fit for a possible 3-4 defensive end spot in the NFL. Against Arkansas this past weekend, Jones and the rest of his defensive line held an Arkansas team to 73 rushing yards, an average of just 2.5 yards per carry, second lowest average of the season. Jones had three tackles, one TFL, one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.
On designed runs to Jones' gap, Arkansas had a total of 27 yards on ten carries, an average of 2.7 yards per carry.
Jones has the measurables that have attracted a lot of attention by NFL scouts this season. He has long arms, the ability to cloud a quarterback's vision and disrupt opponents timing on offense. In watching some of his game tape this season, Arkansas has played a heavy rotation of defensive linemen. Jones will play close to sixty percent of the defensive snaps throughout a game.
Being a playmaker on defense means you create turnover opportunities for your team and Jones has yet to record a forced fumble or an interception throughout his career. With 8.5 career sacks, he will provide the occasional pass rush and he excels at stopping the run.
Though he has the measurables which will surely get him selected higher than most traditional 3-4 defensive ends, Jones might be better served by returning to school and continuing to work on his craft. He has a made tremendous strides in his development over the past couple of seasons. With another season of experience and growth, I think Jones could be a potential first round pick.
Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State):
Some players get all the glory, accolades and attention by the national media and the general public. Other players do all the dirty work, take on two or three blockers, shut down an opponent's rushing attack, yet see little notoriety. Adolphus Washington might not be a household name, but he is the leader who has made the Ohio State defense become one of the more dominant defensive units in college football.
At 6'4” and 290 pounds, Washington possesses the size and strength to shed blockers when asked to attack opposing quarterbacks. Washington has developed from a raw talent who used to get tall at the snap and would lose leverage against his opponent. He has progressed into a smart, technically sound player capable of dominating opponents with strength and technique.
Against Michigan State this past weekend, Washington recorded seven tackles, one TFL, one sack, and one fumble recovery. A quick athlete for a player of his size, Washington's snap-to-sack time was 3.54 seconds. He showed impressive agility and power to take down the quarterback with one hand.
Washington took control of the interior defensive line. He excels at occupying blockers which allows star pass rushers Joey Bosa and Sam Hubbard to attack the opposing quarterback. Washington has been the a dominant defensive lineman for the Buckeyes this season with 47 tackles, seven TFL, four sacks, one FF, and one INT on the season.
Playing almost every snap against Michigan State, Washington rarely came off the field. The Spartans were without their senior quarterback, Connor Cook. They relied heavily on conservative offense with 51 rushing attempts for 203 yards, a 4.0 YPC average, and one touchdown.
Washington is considered by most scouts to be a late first round or early second round selection. He has all the tools needed to be a dominant defensive tackle in the NFL. Washington will most likely excel at the NFL combine, he has already shown the speed and quickness that few NFL defensive tackles possess.
Players to Watch Next Week:
Le'Raven Clark (OT, Texas Tech):
We had to throw in one prospect to watch for during Thanksgiving! While you're sitting around with your friends and family, you can impress them by telling them to look out for Clark. He is an outstanding pass blocker, capable of shutting down opponent's top pass rushers. At 6'5” and 316 pounds, he is a big body tackle with quick feet, most likely suited to slide over to right tackle in the NFL. He shouldn't have a problem stopping the pass rushers Texas currently has on their roster. This will be a big game for Clark and the Red Raiders, Clark is being talked about as a late third round or early fourth round caliber prospect. He will need to work on his ability to run block, something the Red Raiders offense doesn't do a whole lot of.
Kamalei Correa (DE, Boise State):
Correa hasn't lived up to a lot of the preseason expectations that were put on him coming into this season. Last year, Correa had twelve sacks and 19 TFL. So far in 2015, he has only registered four sacks and 6.5 TFL. He has still been disruptive, showing a wide variety of pass rushing moves and is still a playmaker on defense. Despite his drop in sacks, Correa still has two forced fumbles, the same number he had last year. At 6'3” and 248 pounds, Correa can beat tackles using his speed to get around the corner. This weekend Correa and the rest of the Broncos defense will be facing a San Jose State team who has allowed 31 sacks, an average of 2.8 sacks a game. Correa should have a few opportunities to impress scouts. Still only a junior, he might be inclined to come back to school.
Jayron Kearse (SS, Clemson):
Jayron Kearse is an intimidating, hard hitting safety who looks to lay the lumber on any receiver who dares to come into his area of the field. Kearse has been one of the leaders on a defensive unit that has at least four NFL prospects. Clemson is the nation's number one ranked team, with a dynamic offense capable of scoring almost at will and a defense that feasts on quarterbacks. Kearse is 6'5” and 220 pounds and has 42 tackles, 6.5 TFL, four PB, one FF, one INT, and one blocked kick. He plays in a similar to style to current Seattle Seahawk safety, Kam Chancellor. Kearse possesses the speed and agility to cover the slot receiver and tight ends. This is a big in-state rivalry game between Clemson and South Carolina. Kearse should have a few more opportunities to show why he should be a potential first round pick.
Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma):
Every so often we get a player in college football who jumps out on the scene and goes from a player who isn't considered a first or second pick to being someone talked about as the first overall selection. A few years ago, Cam Newton was a JUCO transfer coming to a new school with a new offensive coordinator. Robert Griffin III was recovering from a knee injury, then he was winning the Heisman trophy and the Redskins were giving up a king's ransom to select him in the NFL Draft. Mayfield would be eligible for the NFL Draft if he were to leave Oklahoma after this season. He has completed 68.7 percent of his passes, throwing for over 3,200 yards, 33 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He is still a raw prospect, he takes a lot more sacks than he should and he looks to extend plays when the smart move is to throw the ball away and go onto the next one. Mayfield is only 6'1” and 209 pounds, so he doesn't possess the frame of a Cam Newton, but he plays with the same punishing running style. Mayfield will be going up against an Oklahoma State team that has a number of NFL prospects along their defensive line. If Oklahoma has any shot of making it into the College Football Playoff, Mayfield will need to be at his best against the Cowboys.