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 13 in college football and previews who to watch in 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.
Player of the Week: Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis):
As recent as a couple of years ago, NFL scouts and front offices were adamant that a quarterback who stands 6'6” or taller couldn't be successful in the NFL. Most of that reasoning was because a few guys who were 6'6” or taller were a complete bust (see Dan McGwire). But with the recent success of Cam Newton and the sustained success of Ben Roethlisberger, bigger stature quarterbacks are starting to leapfrog up scouting boards. This year, Paxton Lynch has taken the country and NFL Draft boards by storm.
Coming into the season, Lynch was one of the top rated quarterbacks in the country fighting for the top spot with Cal's, Jared Goff and Michigan State's Connor Cook. Through the last twelve games, Lynch has cemented his spot atop most draft boards as the nation's number one quarterback prospect.
At 6'7” and 245 pounds, Lynch towers over most of his offensive linemen while seeing the field with ease and delivering a nice catchable ball. The Tigers' offense isn't complicated and Lynch is tasked with making simple reads and to deliver the ball on time. This season Lynch has thrown for 3,670 yards, a 9.0 YPA average, with a 68.8 completion percentage, 28 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Against SMU last weekend, Lynch had a historic day going 9-14, for 222 yards with an incredible seven touchdown passes thrown. Memphis receivers had two drops in the game and they did have a total of 166 yards after the catch in the game.
Lynch isn't asked to scan the field and go through his progressions, he quickly locates his target and delivers the football. He will need to improve on looking off the safety and not staring down his receiver before he's ready to deliver the football.
Armed with a quick release, Lynch doesn't have a lot of wasted movement in his delivery. His average snap-to-pass time for the game was 2.31 seconds. Lynch will need to improve on his ability to read defenses and calling out the protection at the line of scrimmage, all of which are not currently asked of him at the college level.
Lynch's depth of intended target in last week's game was 11.4 yards past the line of scrimmage. Lynch was attacking downfield and SMU had a number of holes in their pass coverage allowing the Tigers to take advantage of these opportunities.
Below is a breakdown of Paxton Lynch's pass attempts by yards thrown to intended target from last week's game:
Behind the line of scrimmage: 2-2, 37 yards, one TD, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 1.76 sec.
0-9 yards downfield: 4-4, 104 yards, 3 TD, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 1.57 sec.
10-19 yards downfield: 2-5, 49 yards, 2 TD, avg. snap-to-pass time was 3.06 sec.
20+ yards downfield: 1-3, 21 yards, 1 TD, average snap-to-pass-time was 2.42 sec.
Lynch's season hasn't been so rosy when he has faced tougher defenses. Below is a breakdown of Lynch's quarterback performance when facing ranked and unranked opponents. He has garnered a lot of his statistical production and efficiency numbers going against weaker opponents.
Ranked: 110-161, 68.3 percent, 1,123, 6.97 YPA, 6 TD, and 3 INT
Unranked: 170-246, 69.1 percent, 2,547, 10.35 YPA, 22 TD, 0 INT
In going through Lynch's career numbers and efficiency metrics such as third down conversions and red zone numbers, he compares favorably to current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, Blake Bortles. Both players excelled against weaker opponents in college but saw a significant dip in their production when going against stronger competition.
Lynch lacks the mobility of Bortles, he is a bit stiff-legged and he won't be the fastest quarterback at the NFL Combine this year. He has been sacked 15 times in 2015, and a total of 55 times in his career, giving him a sack rate of 4.7% when he drops back to pass.
No quarterback enters the league as a complete and perfect player; they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Lynch has a number of positives in his scouting profile and he has made a number of NFL teams take notice and potentially consider taking him with their first round selection.
Desmond King (CB, Iowa):
Though most pundits didn't project Iowa to be a candidate for the College Football Playoff, they have successfully prevailed and marched through the regular season without a defeat. The Hawkeyes' offense isn't lighting up scoreboards like Baylor or Oklahoma, instead they grind you out and play a style of defense rarely seen in college football. The defensive backs for Iowa, Desmond King and Greg Mabin, are left out on an island and left to their own accord. King has been a shutdown corner since he arrived on campus, going against opponent's top offensive targets since day one.
At 5'11” and 200 pounds, King won't shy away from locking down an opponent's top wide receiver. While he doesn't play press coverage, he instead chooses to play a soft man coverage and he always keeps his eyes in the backfield. He is currently tied for the FBS lead with eight interceptions this season. Opponents were testing King earlier this season, but the number of targets per game has dropped considerably in the last half of the season.
Against Nebraska this past weekend, King was targeted nine times, allowing five receptions for 77 yards, an average of 15.4 yards per catch. He surrendered a total of 25 yards after the catch. King's average depth of intended target was 14 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Because King plays away from the line of scrimmage and he gives his opponents some space, they are able to take advantage of this cushion for small gains. One area of weakness for King is his tackling ability, or lack thereof. He is passive in his tackling attempts, looking to avoid contact and goes for the strip allowing significant extra yards after contact.
One area were King can provide an impact in the NFL is on special teams. He is an excellent returner, though he did have one fumble this past weekend on a return. He is quick to get up field and doesn't spend a whole lot of time waiting for his blockers. He makes his cut and looks to pick up extra yards.
If King decides to declare for the NFL Draft, teams will have to take into consideration the fact that it might be a difficult transition for him to play the nickel position. If King can only line up on the outside, he will have to prove to scouts that his abilities to read quarterbacks and become a true playmaker on defense are worthy of being a first or second round draft pick.
Bronson Kaufusi (DE, BYU):
The son of BYU defensive line coach, Steve Kaufusi, Bronson has been training to be an NFL player since he first put on the shoulder pads. He has quietly waited his turn, developing his technique and, most importantly, filling out his big frame. He is currently tied for 7th place amongst FBS players this season with 10.5 sacks.
At 6'8” and 280 pounds, Kaufusi possess the size and strength to overpower tackles and excels as a power rusher. With 25.5 career sacks, Kaufusi currently ranks sixth on BYU's all-time sack list, just a half-sack short of cracking the top five. The versatility to slide inside allows Kaufusi to utilize his speed against interior offensive linemen. He does an excellent job with his hands, swiping away an offensive tackles punch and using a swim move to break down an opposing quarterback's pocket.
Against Utah State this past weekend, Kaufusi officially recorded two tackles, one TFL, one sack, and two blocked field goals. According to Pro Football Focus, coming into last weekend's game, Kaufusi had a total of nine quarterback hits and 29 quarterback hurries on the season. He has been one of the most dominant defensive ends in college football.
Kaufusi's length and ability to disrupt a quarterback's timing and cloud a quarterback's vision in the passing lanes make him an excellent candidate to be a defensive end in a 3-4 defensive scheme in the NFL. Utah State ran a number of options and zone read plays throughout the game. Kaufusi was able to hold his edge and force the action back inside to his awaiting teammates. It won't always end up on the stat sheet but he was able to help neutralize a potent offense.
Kaufusi's size and athletic ability to get his large frame off the ground make him a playmaker on special teams. He currently leads the country in blocked kicks with a total of five so far this season; the next closest players have a total of three.
To start the year, most NFL scouts pegged Kaufusi as a possible fifth round selection. With the way he has played this season and the versatility that he could provide for most NFL defenses, he has played his way into the conversation as a third round selection. Watch for him to improve his draft stock at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. Kaufusi has the numbers and measurables to make an immediate impact next year in the NFL.
Kamalei Correa (OLB/DE, Boise State):
Playing a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position for Boise State, Correa is asked to take on a lot of responsibility and assignments. Whether it is putting his hand down on the ground and rushing the passer, dropping into coverage, or playing run support on the outside, Correa is one player who always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. Some scouts had pegged Correa as the next big pass rusher in college football. In 2014, he had a total of twelve sacks and 19 TFL.
Correa's numbers have dropped significantly this season compared to last season, posting just five sacks and 8.5 TFL this season. The drop can be attributed to the fact that Correa is only rushing the passer on roughly 39 percent of all passing situations according to Pro Football Focus. He is being asked to drop into coverage more often than last season which is taking away opportunities.
At 6'3” and 248 pounds, Correa lacks the necessary strength to drive his blockers backwards, he relies on his speed and quickness to get around blockers rather than through them. He is given the freedom to roam and attack opposing quarterbacks from different angles. Once a blocker is able to get their hands on him, Correa is neutralized and he has a hard time shedding blockers.
Against San Jose State last weekend, Correa finished with six tackles, two TFL, one sack, three quarterback hits, and two quarterback hurries. His snap-to-sack time registered in at 6.35 seconds, this goes down as a coverage sack. He did a nice job of making the play, but few NFL plays last over six seconds.
Only a junior, Correa has an opportunity to return to school. Though he will have a difficult decision on his hands in the coming weeks, I think it would be wise for him to return. He is a skilled player who shows a lot of promise, but doesn't excel or dominate in any one area. If he were to return, I think his ceiling could be similar to former BYU standout and current Detroit Lions OLB, Kyle Van Noy.
Who to Watch This Week:
Aaron Burbridge (WR, Michigan State):
Coming into this season, Burbridge's single season high for receptions was 29 set in 2014. This season he has been one of the best wideouts in the Big Ten, collecting 75 receptions for 1,158 yards and seven touchdowns. Burbridge is starting quarterback Connor Cook's favorite target and his go-to receiver in critical situations. He will be matched up against Iowa's top notch defensive secondary led by Desmond King. The winner of this game will likely go on to play in the College Football Playoff with a shot at the national title.
Kevin Hogan (QB, Stanford)
: With just thirty seconds left, all three timeouts, and needing about fifty yards, Stanford's starting quarterback was cool, calm and collected as he led his team to victory over Notre Dame last weekend. Hogan is efficient with the football, leading an offense with multiple formations and sub packages that cause confusion and chaos for most college defenses. He won't impress you with his arm strength or measurables, but he is one of the most talented quarterbacks in college football. Hogan's ability to call out protection schemes, make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, and the mastering the smaller details of the game make him one of the most interesting players in the upcoming NFL Draft. Stanford will be taking on USC, which has the ninth ranked pass defense in the Pac-12.
Matt Ioannidis (DE/DT, Temple):
The Owls boast the nation's 18th ranked defense, a unit led by their consistent and productive defensive tackle, Matt Ioannidis. With 3.5 sacks this season, Ioannidis isn't the classic pass rusher filling up the box score. He consistently applies pressures, specifically in key situations. This will be a great matchup between Temple and Houston, who boast one of the nation's top rated offenses. Ioannidis will have his hands full trying to slow down Houston's starting quarterback, Greg Ward III. If the Owls have any hope of winning this game, Ioannidis will have to make sure he contains Ward in the pocket and minimize his ability to scramble.
Marquise Williams (QB, UNC):
Though the odds aren't in their favor, UNC has a chance to cause some major chaos in college football if they are able to upset Clemson this weekend. If they have any hope of doing so, they will need starting quarterback, Marquise Williams, to have a near perfect day. Williams started off the season on a rough note, throwing four interceptions in the first three games. He has come on strong as of late, throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three games. He is completing 64 percent of his passes this season. It's Williams' ability to extend plays and scramble which causes defenses so many problems. He is averaging 6.3 yards-per-carry this season and has ten rushing touchdowns. Williams is a late round prospect who could shoot up some draft boards with a big time game this weekend.