Just before the start of the 2018 college season, all of us here at The Draft Network compiled our pre-season top 10 positional rankings. These ranks were a combination of summer film study and projection based on the conditions each prospect was returning to. Through the first few weeks, I don’t feel as though my rankings are too off the mark. Of course there’s a lot of jostling but this isn’t the time to be sliding players up and down rankings based off a single week. There are some early risers who deserve recognition, however.
With other players stumbling out of the gates, this exercise is meant to recognize five prospects who I would currently be slotting into my positional top-10s if I were to re-publish the rankings at this point in the season.
QB K.J. Costello, Stanford
Replacing: QB Deondre Francois, Florida State
Why replace Francois? Because the Seminoles offense is a hot mess and I’m not sure how many quality reps I’m going to get. Francois will be an incredibly complicated study when he comes out unless conditions there turn way around.
But what about Costello? Costello threw two interceptions early against UC Davis but rebounded well and played two strong games against San Diego State and USC to start the year.
Costello has a big, downfield arm and looks like a pitcher throwing off the mound in his delivery, he gets a lot of weight transfer to drive the football. I’m encouraged by his placement improvements this season and think he’s seeing the field very well.
RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis
Replacing: RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma
Why replace Anderson? Pour one out for Rodney, who suffered a knee injury and will miss the rest of the season. Anderson is still a top prospect, but it’s impossible to know whether or not we’ll see him in the draft pool after such an early injury.
Henderson, on the other hand, is a true junior who plays a big play brand of football. The Tigers space the field and Henderson consistently takes advantage, but he’s also a stout 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, flashing the ability to take punishment between the tackles.
WR Preston Williams, Colorado State
Replacing: WR Juwan Johnson, Penn State
Why replace Johnson? Johnson has All-American traits but in a season where he was supposed to put things together, he’s been marred with several of the same issues in his game (concentration drops, crispness in his routes). Johnson has logged just 8 catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns in 3 games, with the Lions averaging 53.0 points per game in those contests.
Preston Williams is the anti-thesis of Johnson as it relates to his productivity. Williams has stormed out the gates in his first season with the Rams, showing exciting contested catch ability and strength in his hands. Williams will need to continue to hone his skills, especially as a bigger receiver against press coverage. But Williams continues to be a focal point of the offense and figures to get ample reps to try to work through the finer points of his game.
DB Antoine Brooks Jr, Maryland
Replacing: DB David Dowell, Michigan State
Why replaced Dowell? Dowell was, through my summer studies, a solid but unspectacular prospect who doesn’t have a lot of splash traits.
In Brooks, the Terps have a flashy, versatile defender who is a low grade version of the Derwin James/Minkah Fitzpatrick prototype. Brooks was a man possessed against Texas to open the season, winning from the slot and in the box.
Brooks is a stout player as well at 210 pounds, offering impressive hitting power in short spaces.
QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Replacing: QB Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Why replace Stidham? He has shown no growth at all. Against tough defenses in Washington and LSU this season, Stidham has shown the same warts as he has all of last season: issues handling pressure and ability to utilize the full field of play. There’s still time and there will be plenty of tests to come, but right now he doesn’t move the needle for me.
Meanwhile, Haskins has played smart, disciplined football and makes the most of the space his athletes at Ohio State have afforded him. Haskins passed his first big test against TCU with flying colors last weekend. After a tough first half, Haskins persevered and landed several kill-shots on a game Horned Frogs defense.
Haskins will have the spotlight on him all season. We now know the moment isn’t too big for him after the showdown in Jerry-World.