Can you feel that? That electricity in the air? It’s time for the levees to break and waves of new football to wash over us. It’s Week 1 of the college football season, meaning (nearly) every single player we’ve been studying and speculating on over the course of the last four months is going to be stepping on the field for some key prospect match-ups.
Time to find out what you’re made of. This many games on the slate for the first time since, oh I don’t know, the last week in November of last year can be overwhelming.
Cue yours truly. I’m here to tell you who you need to watch this weekend and why. If you’re looking to watch high stakes football, #20 Virginia Tech @ #19 Florida State on Monday night, #8 Miami vs. #25 LSU on Sunday and #14 Michigan vs. #12 Notre Dame on Saturday are your best bets. Good talk, enjoy Week 1.
Well, now wait. Maybe you’d like to these games with an NFL Draft focus? If so, you’re in luck. Here are the five highest profile draft prospect match-ups to watch in Week 1.
Miami WR Ahmmon Richards vs. LSU CB Greedy Williams
Woah nelly. When people start talking about how the kickoff to the college football season is a holiday, this is the gift that’s hidden in the closet that your parents bring out after you think you’re all done.
It’s fitting that we have to wait until Sunday night for this game, for the sake of the comparison. There is simply no better one on one showcase that we’ll see as draft fans this weekend. Richards was cleared from a knee injury on June 6th and for the first time appears to be fully healthy entering a season at the college level.
I. Am. Excite.
Richards is my 3rd rated WR prospect in the country entering Week 1 of the season. With a terrific freshman season, Richards proved he had the physical tools needed to be an alpha pass catcher. Across the way is Greedy Williams, my top rated CB prospect from summer study.
This match-up should be a heavyweight battle, with each player getting their fair share of won reps. It’s also a game that is going to played and analyzed a million times over in February. Go ahead and get a jump on the crowd, tune in on Sunday night.
Florida State EDGE Brian Burns vs. Virginia Tech OT Yosuah Nijman
Burns has quickly become a darling of the community. For good reason, too. Burns is dynamic, explosive and plays equivalent to Gumby when trying to finesse his way around a Tackle’s pass et. Enter Nijman.
A long-armed tackle who is brimming with upside, Nijman has his fair share of fans amongst our peers. It’s a “prove it” year for Nijman, whose terrific athleticism was put to use as a track athlete in high school and has several impressive reported testing numbers (4.88 40-yard dash and a 36″ vertical in 2014) to his name. But from our eye at The Draft Network, Nijman needs polish to go with those natural gifts. And after starting 22 consecutive games at tackle for the Hokies, Nijman missed the final 5 games of the season.
Welcome back to the fray, now go block one of the most gifted EDGE Defenders in the country.
Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham vs. Washington S Taylor Rapp
Now, I will be the first to admit that I’m overly low on Stidham relative to some of my peers. Heck, as my preseason QB8, I have him four spots lower than my colleague here at The Draft Network, Joe Marino.
But Stidham was a coveted recruit who plays at a high profile program and has several abilities that will move the needle for NFL decision makers. And his cat/mouse game with Rapp this weekend will go a long way in deciding who ultimately wins the football game.
Rapp, my preseason S4, is an X-factor for the game given the way Auburn looks to stress teams with space. The questions about Rapp’s long speed and range will be tested in both run support and in coverage by Stidham’s big arm.
Here’s a hot take: if Rapp directly generates a turnover in this game, I think the Huskies pull out the ‘W’.
Florida Atlantic RB Devin Singletary vs. Oklahoma Defense
Devin Singletary rushed for 1920 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. THIRTY TWO! And in Lane Kiffin’s wide open offense, it’s a guarantee that Singletary is going to put up huge numbers yet again. But is he a legit NFL prospect? We’ll have a much more clear idea of who he is as the Owls take on the Sooners.
No, the Sooners aren’t renowned for their defensive prowess (they’ve given up 27+ points per game in each of the last two seasons), but they’re certainly the stiffest test on Singletary’s schedule this season.
Singletary is slapped together well and has success when he looks to find his way to the sideline. He’s difficult to tackle with a potent jump cut which he uses to break back against the grain and shows admirable contact balance. Oh, and his nickname is “Motor”, which I can get down with.
Louisville WR Jaylen Smith vs. Alabama FS Deionte Thompson
Big receivers who can get open deep will always command attention. That’s exactly what we have on our hands with Jaylen Smith, who is a listed 6-foot-4, 223 pound receiver who averaged 16.3 yards per catch last season with QB Lamar Jackson.
Against the Crimson Tide, Smith will have a significant test. Deionte Thompson enters the season as the top rated Safety prospect on three Draft Network analyst position rankings, mine included. Thompson has the range and burst to play center field and find himself in position to challenge Smith at the catch point. Who will come out on top of those battles?
Our looks at these two may be limited, as Alabama’s ferocious front seven will likely put Louisville’s new starting QB, Jawon Pass, under a lot of pressure. But Smith will certainly get a handful of targets. He’ll need to come down with a few if the Cardinals want to make this a game.