The NFL preseason has come to a close, leading us right into a legendary opening weekend of college football.
Plenty of draft eligible prospects are hoping to get off to a great start by jumping right into the spotlight. I’ll outline who you should be watching in the key games and it’s never too late to dive into The Draft Network’s loaded database.
As for the dramatics, the Khalil Mack situation in Oakland doesn’t appear to be fading away anytime soon. The rumor mill is running wild as it’s time to address what’s real and what might lay ahead.
College Football Is Back: Who Should You Watch?
Football fans are spoiled more than ever for the next couple of days. With huge matchups scattered across Friday-Monday, it’s time to melt into your recliners and break out your watch list.
Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State vs. Utah State (Friday, 7pm ET)
If you’re a newcomer, Lewerke is a bit of a favorite here at The Draft Network. Our analyst Kyle Crabbs wrote an excellent feature on what makes him impressive here.
Some of the throws he made in 2017 were jaw dropping and he looks to build on that entering his junior year. Sure, Utah State is far from the toughest defense he’ll face, but consider him officially in the ‘competing to be QB1’ sweepstakes.
Bryce Love, RB, Stanford vs. San Diego State (Friday, 9pm ET)
Say goodnight to your wife (assuming she has not left you due to your love of college football) and jump right into the next game once Michigan State vs. Utah State concludes. Bryce Love makes for must-watch television, but he’s not just a fun college player.
After talking to scouts last year, many felt he would have went in the third round if he had declared. While undersized and curiously underutilized in the passing game, his vision, burst and elusiveness is top notch. He can build on a Hesiman finalist campaign from last year with a hot start against the Aztecs.
Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State vs. Oregon State (Saturday, 12pm ET)
Finally, the JT Barrett era has come to an end. It’s time for Haskins to take over for the Buckeyes and that’s something to be excited about. With a live arm and plenty of playmaking ability, he has all the tools to thrive in his first year under center at Columbus.
I expect him to dominate the Beavers secondary.
Taylor Rapp, S, Washington vs. Auburn (Saturday, 3:30pm ET)
There are a lot of reasons to watch this game from both a college fan perspective and NFL draft outlook, but Rapp tops the list for me. He’s physical, has range and even dominates on special teams. If he can grab a pick off of Jarrett Stidham, a player considered a top quarterback prospect by many, he’ll finally break free from being under-the-radar.
Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan vs. Notre Dame (Saturday, 7:30pm ET)
0-16. That’s Michigan’s record in their last 16 matchups on the road against ranked opponents. Ironically, their last victory on the road came against Notre Dame in 2006, who was the second ranked team in the country at the time.
Gary was billed as the best defensive line recruit in the country not too long ago. While he’s been quite good, he hasn’t lived up to the insane hype just yet. As he enters his junior year he can become the superstar, top-five pick many expected him to be. Living in the pocket and ruining Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush’s night would give him plenty of momentum.
Devin White, LB, LSU vs. Miami (Sunday, 7:30pm ET)
The hype bowl: Devin White, projected as the top linebacker prospect by many, against a Miami team with hopes to land in the college football playoff.
Travis Homer broke out for the Hurricanes last year as both a runner and pass catcher. It’ll be up to White to shut him down in what should be a very physical battle in the trenches all evening. NFL teams are looking for the next first round, three-down linebacker prospect. Can White show he fits the bill?
Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State vs. Virginia Tech (Monday, 8pm ET)
The 20th-ranked Hokies take on the 19th-ranked Seminoles in a tremendous Monday night matchup as the ACC bloodbath begins.
While Derwin James was the face of the Florida State secondary last season, cornerback Levonta Taylor often shutdown his side of the field.
The Seminoles had some injury misfortune last year, but they have the talent to exceed expectations this season. That starts with Taylor, who is always a threat to change the game with a turnover at any moment.
The Buzz: Khalil Mack Trade Turning From Fantasy To Reality
Two weeks ago in the On The Radar series, I broke down how the Raiders were not interested in offers for superstar pass rusher Khalil Mack. As nightmare became reality that he is not returning without a new contract, it appears their stance has changed.
Oakland is certainly fielding offers, but how serious are they? Is this a team gauging the market for what their superstar is worth, trying to get blown away by a package that can set them up for years in the new Jon Gruden era? Or are they serious about ending this stalemate between both sides, ready to take the best offer possible and move on?
In a shocking turn of events, I’m now officially siding with the latter. It appears it has become reality that Mack is not coming back to the team this year unless they give him the deal he wants. That kind of extension will hover around $20 million per year, with guarantees expected to run across at least the first three seasons.
That’s huge money. The type of contract that not a ton of teams are willing to take on when you factor in the package it will take to land him. Now what exactly is that package?
The hottest rumor around the league is that the Raiders will want two first round picks for Mack. I don’t see that happening, unless a team expected to pick very late gets involved. A lot of those teams don’t have the cap space to get the deal done. See the complexity of this deal?
The Packers have the draft capital after acquiring an extra first round pick by moving back in this year’s draft. Both New York franchises, the Jets and Giants, have been included in rumors as well.
With Green Bay the biggest question is, after an Aaron Rodgers’ extension, could they make the financial part work? The Jets don’t have a 2019 second round pick, but after acquiring an extra third in the Teddy Bridgewater trade they could get creative. It’s well known they have the cap space to get an extension done.
The Giants are clearly in ‘win now’ mode as the Eli Manning era reaches its final stretch, but after the Odell Beckham extension they are another team that doesn’t make sense financially.
The parameters of the deal are not simple, but the fact Oakland is willing to listen to offers is a colossal step in the summer’s biggest saga. One that I firmly believe could end with Mack in a new uniform.