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 7 in college football and previews who to watch in Week 8. 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: Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor):
Most quarterbacks would be thrilled to have 16 passing touchdowns in a single season. Corey Coleman has that many receiving touchdowns in six games this season. In fact, he has more receiving touchdowns than 111 other FBS schools. Coleman has as many receiving touchdowns as Auburn, Michigan and LSU combined.
Someone might need to check what is in the water down in Baylor; they are able to produce NFL caliber wide receivers who have the speed and quickness to decimate and cripple opposing defenses. Coleman is listed with a team best 4.38 in the 40-yard dash to go along with a 45.1 inch vertical leap. A blend of speed and ability to out leap defensive backs for the ball make Coleman a deadly weapon for the high-powered Baylor offense.
Against West Virginia last weekend, Coleman had ten receptions for 199 yards, a 19.9 YPC average, and three touchdowns. It should be noted that West Virginia is without their All-American safety, Karl Joseph, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Even with Joseph, I'm not sure that Coleman could have been stopped. Coleman had three drops in the game, he will need to prove to scouts that he can maintain his concentration throughout the entire process of catching the ball.
Coleman finished the game with a total 96 yards after the catch. His average distance of intended target was eleven yards past the line of scrimmage. The West Virginia defensive backs had a hard time jamming him at the line scrimmage. When they missed, he was able to utilize his speed to run right past them. If the defensive backs played off and gave him a five yard cushion, Coleman was able to take a short throw and turn it into a big play.
Coleman runs a basic route tree, full of go routes, slants, curl, and screens. With the way the Baylor offense is set up, it spreads the defense out and takes advantage of one-on-one situations. With Coleman's athletic ability, he is consistently a target in these situations.
With 16 touchdowns on the season, and we are only at the halfway mark, Coleman already owns the Baylor single season touchdown record. He is on pace for 32 touchdowns, which would shatter the NCAA mark of receiving touchdowns in a single season held by Troy Edwards (27).
Coleman is a special talent who is shredding defensive secondaries as though he is playing against a high school JV team. Look for Coleman to declare for the NFL Draft after this season, and with the production pace he has currently set, he might be playing his way into first round consideration.
Leonard Floyd (DE/OLB, Georgia):
Blessed with the length and speed to disrupt opposing quarterbacks, Floyd has the athletic skill set of a sprinter combined with a ferocious pass rusher. Few players in college possess the rare combination of speed and power as Floyd does.
At 6'4” and 231 pounds, Floyd is long and lean coming off the edge. What he lacks in strength and power, he more than makes up for with his speed and quickness. A redshirt junior, Floyd has continued to develop and he currently has 15.5 career sacks.
Against Missouri, Floyd had five tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits and four quarterback pressures. On his lone sack, Floyd's time from snap-to-sack was 3.37 seconds. His three quarterback hits came on an average snap-to-hit time of 2.46 seconds.
Floyd's great speed rush and ability to dip his shoulder underneath the offensive tackles and use his long arms to take down opposing quarterbacks are what intrigue scouts the most. Against Missouri, he did a fantastic job of setting up the offensive tackle, showing an outside speed rush on multiple occasions. The tackle was trying to beat him to the corner cheated a little bit off the snap, but Floyd recognized this and came back inside with a spin move that forced the quarterback out of the pocket and into an incompletion.
With a true freshman quarterback and a number of inexperienced skill position players, Missouri had a difficult time getting anything going on offense. Missouri finished the game with 21 rushing yards. There were nine rush attempts to Floyd's gap, resulting in just 10 yards, an average of 1.1 yards per attempt average.
As an outside linebacker, Floyd is asked to put his hand in the ground and rush the passer, set the edge against the run or drop into coverage. Floyd is exceptional in all three phases and NFL scouts love his versatility and the fact that he can play in almost any defensive scheme.
Watch for how Floyd will test at the NFL combine, I'm going to guess that he will be one of the standout performers. In terms of talent and skill level, Floyd reminds me of a younger version of current New England linebacker, Jamie Collins.
Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA):
As a redshirt junior, Perkins has quickly made himself one of the top running backs in the country and a player who most scouts are starting to notice as a possible first round selection. Though UCLA came into the season with a true freshman quarterback and they have posted some big wins over Virginia, BYU and Arizona, Perkins has been the engine for the Bruins offense this season. Perkins was the Bruins bell cow last season with 251 carries for 1,575 yards, a 6.3 YPC average and nine touchdowns in 2014.
Going up against Stanford and their 39th overall ranked defense, Perkins was one of the few productive players for UCLA. Though he had an impactful performance, UCLA got behind early and went away from the run. Perkins finished with 14 attempts, 106 yards, a 7.4 YPC average, and one touchdown. His first rush attempt went for 43 yards.
An elusive runner, Perkins is capable of breaking arm tackles and defender's ankles with his ability to cut in the open field. He is perfectly suited for a zone blocking scheme as he is capable of hitting the cut back hole and quickly getting up field. Perkins finished with 54 yards after contact, an average of 4.2 yards per carry. He had a total of five broken tackles against Stanford.
The shiftiness and agility to go from a dead stop to full acceleration makes Perkins an intriguing talent. He has the ability to turn short gains into a breakthrough run. For his career, 16 percent of carries result in ten yard runs or more. 25 percent of his rushing attempts result in a first down.
A capable pass catcher out of the backfield, he has 61 career receptions, which is more than most first round caliber running backs have had in the most recent drafts. He has improved his ball security issues which plagued him last season, Perkins had four fumbles in 2014 while this season he has zero.
At 5'11” and 210 pounds, Perkins has the compact frame to take on blockers to go along with the speed to get right by would-be tacklers. He might not have the breakaway speed, but Perkins' style of play and production level matches that of current Atlanta Falcon, Devonta Freeman. Freeman's career YPC during his three seasons at Florida State was 5.6 and Perkins currently has a 5.6 average as well. Freeman looks like a steal with the Falcons taking him with a fourth round selection. If Perkins decides to declare for the upcoming NFL Draft, look for his stock to climb in the upcoming months.
Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State):
With rivalry games, sometimes you can throw the record books and game plan out the window and just plan on seeing the unexpected. By now we have all seen the wild finish that transpired in Ann Arbor last weekend. Michigan State had a projected win probability of .2% going into the final punt
. The final play might have made all the headlines, but it was the consistent play of Spartan's quarterback, Connor Cook, which helped them stay close to the final whistle.
At 6'4” and 220 pounds, Cook has the prototypical size and frame most NFL teams covet out of a starting quarterback. He has a 30-3 record as a three year starter and is the winningest active quarterback in FBS.
In watching Cook, it is evident how comfortable he is running and operating the Spartan's offense. He directs everyone on the field, gets his teammates properly lined up and understands the protection scheme. He quickly recognizes pressure and is able to get rid of the ball quickly to avoid taking a sack. According to ESPN, over the past two seasons Cook hasn't thrown an interception when blitzed.
A pocket passer, Cook will never be confused with the next Marcus Mariota or Russell Wilson. Instead, he side-steps traffic in the pocket to deliver a strike down the field. Against Michigan and the second ranked defense in the country, Cook was 18 for 39 for 328 yards, 8.4 YPA, and one touchdown. Michigan State wide receivers had a total of five drops in the game.
Being a quick thrower and showing good decision making abilities, Cook's average snap-to-pass time for the game was 2.29 seconds. In terms of Cook's ability to read a defense and get the ball out of his hands in an efficient manner, this is an NFL caliber average.
With most college football teams running a spread based offense, dedicated to throwing short, quick screen passes, Cook is awarded the opportunity to take deep downfield throws. His average depth of intended target was 13.1 yards past the line of scrimmage.
Below is a breakdown of Connor Cook's pass attempts by yards thrown to intended target:
Behind the line of scrimmage
: 2-5, -1 yards, 1 drop, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 1.36 sec.
0-9 yards downfield
: 6-10, 54 yards, 1 TD, avg. snap-to-pass-time was 2.21 sec.
10-19 yards downfield
: 6-13, 164 yards, 1 drop, avg. snap-to-pass time was 2.27 sec.
20+ yards downfield
: 5-9, 112 yards, 1 TD, 3 drop, average snap-to-pass-time was 2.41 sec.
Cook was able to fit the ball into small windows as the Michigan defensive secondary was providing blanket coverage throughout most of the game. Michigan State's wide receivers had a total of 92 yards after the catch, an average of 5.1 yards per completion. It was Cook's ability to thread the needle and deliver the ball in a picture size window which allowed Michigan States passing game to have success against Michigan.
Young quarterbacks have a tendency to favor one side of the field over the other; most of the time they will stare down their intended target and fail to look off opposing safeties. Cook is good at spreading the ball and taking what the defense gives him. His pass distribution was 13 throws to the left side of the field, ten to the middle, and 16 to the right side.
Michigan threw a full bag of tricks, bringing pressure from multiple angles and from different levels. Michigan rushed five or more defenders 17 different times and Cook was 6 for 15, for 92 yards, with four drops and was sacked twice. He was hit a total of four times and pressured on nine of these attempts. He was able to stay tall in the pocket and still deliver the ball to his receivers. The four drops really hurt Cook's overall efficiency numbers. Cook was sacked a total of three times against Michigan, the average snap to sack time was 3.17 seconds.
Scouts do not love Cook's arm strength; they don't believe he offers the velocity that is needed as a top tier quarterback prospect. He can make all the necessary throws, its Cook's ability to anticipate and his knowledge of the game that make him one of the top quarterback prospects in the country.
The Spartans don't get much a break for the rest of the season. With upcoming matches against Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State, Cook will have to play his best for the Spartans to run the table. If Cook is able to continue to play at an elite level and put his team in a position to win, look for scouts to cement his spot as a first round pick.
Who to Watch Next Week:
Maliek Collins (DT, Nebraska):
A number of scouts thought that Maliek Collins, and not former second rounder Randy Gregory, was the star to the Cornhusker defense last season. Collins had 45 tackles, 10.5 TLF, and four sacks last season. He was primed for a star performance this season, but unfortunately for scouts, Collins has not performed at the same rate as last season. He has 21 tackles, three TFL, and 1.5 sacks this season. Collins has made an impact in shutting down opponent's rushing attacks. Last season, the Cornhuskers were giving up 4.7 YPC, so far this season they are giving up 3.2 YPC, ranking them 20th in the country. Nebraska takes on a Northwestern team who runs the ball 63.8 percent of the time that they have the ball. Look for Collins to shut down Northwestern's rushing attack and make them one dimensional.
Germain Ifedi (OT, Texas A&M):
Despite having one of the top offensive line units for the last couple of years, the Aggies have allowed an alarming number of sacks so far this season. Ifedi is one of the top offensive tackle prospects, at 6'5” and 325 pounds, he has the size and strength to toss around defenders with ease. He is great at run blocking but loses his technique when he has to go against outside speed rushers. The Aggies have allowed 19 sacks this season, an average of 3.2 per game. They will be on the road this weekend to take on Mississippi who is coming off a tough loss to Memphis.
A'Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama):
Coming off a big game against Texas A&M, Alabama went into College Station and held the 31st ranked offense to 23 points. One of the main reasons why opponents are having a tough time against Alabama is the mammoth defensive tackle, A'Shawn Robinson. Opponents are averaging just 2.4 yards per carry and only have three rushing touchdowns against Alabama this season. Robinson is able to occupy blockers which allows Alabama's elite linebacker core to roam free and make plays. Tennessee rolls into town this week, watch for Robinson to shut down Jalen Hurd's ability to rush in between the tackles. Making Tennessee one dimensional will allow the vaulted secondary of Alabama to pick off Joshua Dobbs.
Hunter Henry (TE, Arkansas):
Arkansas had had a rough start to the season, losing four out of the last five games. Their offense has been hampered by injuries, most notably to their leading rusher from last season, Jonathan Williams, who sustained a knee injury right before the start of the season. The Razorbacks have one of the top tight end prospects in the country in Hunter Henry who is the second leading receiver on the team. Henry has 37 receptions, for 513 yards, a 13.9 YPC, and two touchdowns on the season. At 6'5” and 250 pounds, he is a big body target who is an instant matchup nightmare in the red zone. If Arkansas wants to keep their bowl hopes alive, they should look to target Henry early and often this weekend against Auburn.