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 6 in college football and previews who to watch in Week 7. 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.
Josh Doctson (WR, TCU):
A transfer from Wyoming, Doctson has worked his way up the ladder while at TCU, sitting out a season due to transfer rules. Once he was able to step onto the field, he has been TCU's leading receiver for the past two seasons. He has broken the single-season mark for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns as well as career touchdown receptions in TCU history.
At 6'3” and 195 pounds, Doctson has the size and athleticism to outjump and outmuscle most defensive backs in college football. Few players possess his rare ability to go up and high point the football and still come away with the tough catches in traffic. Doctson is able to contort his body in mid-air and adjust to come away with some jaw dropping receptions.
Against Kansas State this past weekend, he finished with eight receptions for 155 yards and two touchdowns. He was targeted a total of eleven times with an average distance of intended target 18 yards past the line of scrimmage. He had one drop and was able to force a Kansas State defender into a pass interference penalty. Though TCU runs a high-powered spread offense, they are able to take advantage of Doctson's speed to stretch the field and take the top off of most defenses.
Showing great awareness and football intelligence on a throw in the in the middle of the field that was late and high, Doctson turned into the defender while knocking the ball away from the defensive back's grasp. When plays break down, Doctson is good at making himself an available target in scramble situations for his quarterback.
It is evident that Doctson has a connection with his quarterback, Trevone Boykin, as TCU currently has the number three ranked offense in college football. Boykin and Doctson are able to communicate with one other at the line of scrimmage and trust one another when running option routes that vary depending on the defensive coverage.
While he might not possess the same career stats, Doctson plays the outside receiver position similar to former Vanderbilt star and current Philadelphia Eagles wideout, Jordan Matthews. There is still a long time between now and the draft but if Doctson is able to stay healthy and produce at the same level he will be the conversation as a first round pick.
Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State):
Bosa, the top ranked player on my Big Board and an All-American, was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year winner last year. The bar was maybe set unrealistically high for him this season; most offenses are sending two or three blockers his way on every play. It is a rare moment that he can get a one-on-one situation to beat his man. Ohio State does a good job of moving him along the line and putting him in different positions to attack opposing quarterbacks.
At 6'6” and 275 pounds, Bosa is best suited to play the traditional 4-3 defensive end position and he displays a rare combination of speed and power for a player of his size. For his career he has 22.5 sacks, which currently ranks him tied for fifth with Vernon Gholston in Ohio State's record book. Mike Vrabel has the top mark of 36 career sacks.
Against Maryland this past weekend, Bosa was a consistent disruptor in the backfield with one sack, four quarterback hits, and five quarterback pressures. His lone sack of the game came when he missed the quarterback on his first try and the pocket collapsed, pushing the quarterback into Bosa's grasp. His snap-to-sack time was 3.68 seconds, not an earth shattering mark, but it was only one play. His speed and quickness show up on his quarterback hit times against Maryland. The four quarterback hits came on an average snap-to-hit time of 2.62 seconds, the fastest registering in at 2.08 seconds. Maryland tried to block Bosa just using a tight end, which didn't work out too well in their favor.
When asked to slide inside and rush the passer from the defensive tackle position, Bosa was able to utilize his quickness to cross the face of the offensive guard and knife into the backfield. He was able to disrupt the timing of the quarterback and force an errant throw.
Maryland only ran towards Bosa's gap responsibility seven times this past weekend, gaining 52 yards, with an average of 7.5 YPC. On the first attempt, Maryland ran a zone read and Bosa took the outside runner leaving his inside gap containment and gave up a 17 yard run.
The talent level of Ohio State is almost unfair with a roster of 30+ NFL caliber prospects. On defense alone, almost the entire starting unit will have a shot of making an NFL roster over the next couple of years. Watch for Bosa to continue to put up more production and make more impact plays as the season continues. Bosa should have a few opportunities this coming weekend against Penn State, who has allowed 19 sacks this season, an average of 3.2 sacks per game.
Taylor Decker (OT, Ohio State):
Decker is a mammoth offensive tackle who stands at 6'8” and 315 pounds, almost the same size and weight as current Indianapolis Colts left tackle, Anthony Castonzo. A three year starter for Ohio State, Decker has been the key leader along the offensive line that was the team's foundation for their national title last season. Taylor has started 35 straight games during the past four seasons, logging in more than 2,700 offensive snaps during his career at Ohio State.
Despite playing a two man rotation at quarterback, the Buckeyes have had a consistent force along the offensive line. They finished as a top ten ranked rushing offense in 2013 and 2014 and are currently ranked 17th in rushing offense this season.
Against Maryland this past weekend, the Buckeyes ran towards Decker's gap responsibility 18 times, resulting in 103 yards, a 6.1 YPC, and two touchdowns. Decker is able to utilize his size and strength to drive his defender down the field. When Ohio State is in a short yardage situation, they look to run right behind Decker more often than not. He is able to consistently pave the way and open up running lanes the size of a jumbo jet.
Decker can struggle with getting too high in pass protection. He can lose the battle of leverage by standing too upright and not bending his knees. Against Maryland, he allowed one sack and one quarterback hit. Ohio State runs a lot of quick, short throws that take advantage of the speed and quickness they have on the outside. These short throws also ask a lot of the linemen to hold their blocks and, once the ball is gone, to kick outside and help block down the field.
Decker will have his hands full in the coming weeks, competing against some of the nation's top pass rushers. This coming weekend he will see Penn State's dynamic duo of pass rushers, Anthony Zettel and Carl Nassib. He will also face off against Shilique Calhoun from Michigan State and Willie Henry from Michigan.
Carl Nassib (DE, Penn State):
Nassib is a former walk-on and younger brother of New York Giants backup quarterback, Ryan Nassib. Carl Nassib is quickly making a name for himself in college football and in the scouting community as one of the country's top defensive end prospects. Coming into the season Nassib had not registered a career start in his career, college or high school.
With only two career sacks coming into the season, the odds that Nassib would be leading the country with ten sacks at this point in the season would be pretty long. Through six games he has 27 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, ten sacks, and five forced fumbles. At 6'7” and 272 pounds, Nassib has been a workhorse in the weight room improving his speed and transforming his body into an NFL caliber defensive end.
This past weekend against Indiana, Nassib had four tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He utilizes his long arms to get a hand on the quarterback as he collapses the pocket. His first sack came on a snap-to-sack-time of 2.94 seconds. As he came around the corner, he was able to simultaneously knock the quarterback down and force a fumble. His second sack came in at 1.81 seconds, it was a zone-read and Nassib was able to take down the quarterback and running back causing a fumble.
He showed great awareness to close off the backside and anchor his edge forcing the action back into middle of the field. He did this several times, forcing a couple of tackles for loss for the Penn State defense.
For a player who has seen limited playing time, Nassib's ability to shed blockers, use his frame and arm length to disrupt throwing lanes and be a factor on both pass and running situation is very impressive. He went from being a likely afterthought in most draft rooms to a player who has certainly earned his spot on a Senior Bowl roster and, in all likelihood, a selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.
He still has some work to do in terms of his pass rushing technique, but the skill set and physical abilities are there and there will be some NFL coaches who are interested in helping him continue his development. Sometimes it takes a player a year or two before they start to perform. Nassib has turned the corner and has developed into one of college football most feared pass rushers.
Players to Watch This Weekend:
Blake Martinez (ILB, Stanford):
It will be a prime time Thursday night matchup for Stanford taking on the UCLA Bruins. Martinez is currently tied for third in the country, averaging 12.6 tackles a game this season. In 2014 he led Stanford with 101 tackles, an average of 7.8 tackles per game. UCLA has a freshman quarterback in Josh Rosen and Martinez and the rest of the Stanford defense will be asked to take away Rosen's first read in passing situations. Most young quarterbacks have a hard time going through their full progressions. UCLA has a dynamic running back in Paul Perkins. Watch out for Martinez as he looks to plug the running lanes and shut down the Bruins rushing attack.
Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State):
Despite having one of the nation's top running backs in Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes offense is at its most dangerous when they are able to spread the field and let Michael Thomas go deep. Thomas is averaging 14.8 yards per reception this season, with over 27 receptions for 299 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Most defenses are concerned about stopping Elliott and are putting an extra defender in the box, allowing Thomas one-on-one situations on the outside. Facing the Buckeyes offense isn't a matter of slowing them down, but rather picking your poison.
Daniel Braverman (WR, Western Michigan):
A dynamic playmaker for the Broncos, Braverman has been one of the most consistent and effective wide receivers in college football for the past two years. Last season he finished with 86 receptions for 967 yards and six touchdowns. In 2015, he has 56 receptions for 658 yards and seven touchdowns. Going up against an elite Ohio State defense earlier in the year, Braverman had ten receptions for 123 yards and one touchdown. While he might only be 5'10” and 177 pounds, Braverman is quick, elusive and has the ability to make the catch during pivotal moments of the game. This weekend he will be going up against an Ohio University defense that allows 206 pass yards per game this season. Look for Braverman to have a big game against the Bobcats this weekend.
Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
: There has been a lot of talking in the NFL Draft community about Lawson being a potential first round pick. At 6'3” and 270 pounds, he has the size and athleticism to warrant such a selection. One thing that worries me about Lawson is he has never been a dominant defender for the Tigers. Though he played opposite of Vic Beasley and Stephone Anthony last season, Lawson only registered 3.5 sacks in 2014. This season he has 3.5 sacks and those sacks were registered against Appalachian State, Louisville and Georgia Tech. He was shut out against Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame's offensive left tackle and a sure-fire first round selection in 2016. Clemson will be facing a Boston College team that has a freshman quarterback and has failed to move the ball with any sort of consistency this season. Lawson should have a few opportunities to impress scouts this weekend and show that he is a viable first round talent.