I would like to go on record as very uncomfortable with the reality that we are halfway through the college football season.
Halfway. That’s 50 percent. The amount of football that has already happened is the exact same amount of football that will happen, and then football will be done. Football is slipping through our fingers. What did we do to deserve this?
The only — the only! — good thing about the halfway point is it gives us a good opportunity to check in with the development of the Draft class as a whole. That’s why the ACC, SEC, Big 12, and Big 10 previews are already live.
And with that, the Pac-12 All Draft-Eligible Team.
Quarterback: Justin Herbert, Oregon
If you open my summer player profile on Herbert, you’ll see that I was apprehensive regarding his full picture coming into 2018. There were processing and pressure questions that held me back from unilaterally naming him QB1.
Herbert is unilaterally QB1 among all conferences now — there’s no question. But a lot of those concerns still remain for me: I want to see Herbert pressured, frazzled, and forced to hang in the pocket and make tough throws.
That said, his natural talent still shines above all others. That man good.
Up next: K.J. Costello, Stanford
Running back: Myles Gaskin, Washington
Our top running back from the class hasn’t shifted — in fact, the gap has widened. Stanford’s Bryce Love came into the season with all the headlines, but Gaskin is well on his way to four straight seasons of 1000 rushing yards for the Huskies.
Gaskin made my preseason RB1 because of his flexibility and fluidity as a between-the-tackles runner — he anticipates contact really well and always wiggles into space. I had concerns regarding his second- and third-level speed, but he looks quicker this season. Add in his pass-catching ability, and Gaskin represents a high-quality NFL prospect.
Next up: Bryce Love, Stanford
Again, we haven’t seen a shake-up in our top conference receivers; and again, the gap has only widened. Arcega-Whiteside is enjoying a national breakout campaign given his elite red zone ability. His post-ups will fill the highlight reels, but it’s his under-appreciated route-running that makes him a truly dominant NFL prospect.
While J-Jaw’s been breaking out, N’Keal Harry’s been thirsting for the downfield targets that fed his explosive 2017 campaign. Under new head coach Herm Edwards, Harry isn’t relied upon nearly as often for his incredible contested catches, and as such, has lost a step on the rest of the thick WR class.
Both receivers have huge testing questions. Arcega-Whiteside is a high-waisted bully ball player who may be lacking for quickness and flexibility; NFL teams seem to think Harry lacks the separation explosiveness required of NFL receivers. Given the stellar tape both have put out, their major questions must wait until February, at the Combine.
Next up: Dillon Mitchell, Oregon
Tight end: Kaden Smith, Stanford
A riser! I liked UCLA’s Caleb Wilson coming into the season, given his sharp route-running and large catch radius. Smith was a close second; now he’s a clear first.
The biggest issue with Smith’s tape was the small sample size: he basically ran seam routes or speed outs, nothing else; and he had around 20 catches to break down. He’s already bested last season’s number, and has seen more targets on quick underneath routes.
That said, Smith’s money is still made up the seam, and his body control when adjusting to jump balls or back-shoulder throws really impresses. It’s an elite ability that NFL teams will fall in love with — especially those who rely heavily on vertical passing attacks.
Next up: Caleb Wilson, UCLA
Shame that McGary’s running partner at Washington, Trey Adams, went down with a back injury early in the season. He was a potential early-rounder.
With that acknowledged, McGary’s always had a higher ceiling because of his athletic ability. McGary’s a true dancing bear, with a thick frame and long arms but great agility and flexibility. McGary struggles with outside speed, however, and those technical deficiencies keep him from reaching that potential stock.
Edoga is also a high-ceiling player. He has even better agility than McGary, but lacks the desired size, and struggles with power accordingly. Edoga’s footwork was a mess in 2017 however, and he seems significantly improved in that regard this season, which is only good news for his stock moving forward.
Next up: Andre Dillard, Washington State
Jake Hanson will be remembered among national viewers only for a key missed snap that helped spur on a legendary Stanford comeback. He should be recognized for powerful hands, a flexible lower half, and good tenacity as a pass-blocker. He’s a Top-75 player and potential early pick as a pivot for a man-blocking team.
Nick Harris will be remember among national viewers for…this.
— Jim Barrero (@jimbarrero) September 23, 2018
But he’s also an absolute brick house, with a squatty build and great power transfer through his hips. It’s his first season at center — he played guard before — so he has some nice versatility for NFL teams. While he’s generally under-appreciated now, I think he’ll be a riser as we get deeper into the process.
And finally, Casey Tucker. Really the ‘best of the rest,’ Tucker transitioned to guard after shaky tackle play for the Sun Devils. They do like him at guard better, however, because of how integral that guard position is on the inside zone reads for their rushing attack. Tucker’s a strong run blocker — really thick dude — but his pass-blocking leaves a good deal to be desired.
Next up: Brandon Fanaika, Stanford
Interior defensive line: Renell Wren, Arizona State; Leki Fotu, Utah
I don’t have a scouting report up yet for Fotu because Utah tape is painfully scarce — but from what I’ve seen, the promising sophomore of 2017 has taken a nice step forward in 2018. Fotu has a long and lean build, and he often wins early off the snap with explosiveness and length to disrupt centers right after the snap. He offers some pass rush upside, which is key to see for today’s NFL.
Wren is the headliner, who has burst onto the scene following his inclusion in Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list. He’s still an unfinished product in general: he’s upright off of the snap, exposing his large torso to strikes from shorter offensive linemen; he gives up his back in the running game as he overreacts to backfield action; he doesn’t often recruit his hands as a pass rusher.
But man! When he explodes into a gap off the snap, or rips through a block with violent hands, you can see the raw power and quickness. NFL teams will become enamored with athleticism come March.
Next up: Greg Gaines, Washington
Let’s start with Jelks, who was EDGE1 coming into the season. The entire idea was pretty plain: the 245-pound guy should be more successful as a 7-technique than as a 2-technique, which is where Jelks found himself in 2017.
That…has not come to fruition.
Firstly, Oregon is still playing Jelks mostly as a 4-technique or even further inside — especially on clear pass-rushing downs, on which he could really tee off with explosiveness. Secondly, Jelks seems stiff, and his hand usage hasn’t improved — so when he has an edge to attack, he doesn’t capitalize often. He’s still a high-ceiling player, but he’s disappointed thus far.
Anae is the opposite. He’s a low-ceiling player — a pedestrian athlete who seems to be lacking the requisite bend to be a high-impact EDGe at the NFL level. But he has improved this season in terms of hand timing at the top of the arc, and he may be a step more explosive as well. I’m still not bananas about Anae, but his production and practiced rush moves will attract teams looking for depth.
I wrote on Burr-Kirven earlier this week, because he’s been an absolute dog this season and received no love despite it. He’s a bit on the smaller side, and projects as a WILL ‘backer for NFL play. But he’s been a tackling machine with great anticipation, excellent physicality, and sideline range.
That physicality is what Dye is lacking, and it’s why he’s fallen behind BBK among Pac-12 LBs. His frame is more impressive — he has great length — but he’s actually only a bit heavier than Burr-Kirven, and given his length, that means he’s quite lean.
Accordingly, Dye can’t exchange power for power in the trenches; when climbers come to greet him in the second level, he tries to slip and dodge instead of stack and shed. I’d love to see Dye get more man coverage reps, to illustrate how incredibly athletic he is, but as of now, he labors to handle basic zone responsibilities.
Next up: Bobby Okereke, Stanford
I’m running Murphy and Holder on the outside, and I’m excited by the prospect.
Murphy plays more of a finesse game than Holder. From an off-alignment — with his hips toward the QB as a spot-dropping zone defender — Murphy’s been feasting all season. He’s uber-aggressive when attacking route concepts and running out of his zone, but his instinct for playmaking is unteachable and valuable for NFL teams that need turnovers from their defense.
Holder is a more traditional man corner who can play up into the line. He has great press technique, which is necessary given some of the stiffness in his hips — and even in catch-man technique, he recruits his length and size to redirect receivers through the contact window. He hasn’t received many tests this season, though — teams are going after redshirt sophomore Paulson Adebo instead.
Bryant plays the nickel for me, which is excellent news: I don’t know if any college player is any better from the slot than Bryant. He lacks size, but he’s wicked quick and an excellent space tackler. I’ve been impressed this season with an improved playmaking instinct to read short route concepts and overlap zones to make plays on the football.
Next up: Julian Blackmon, Utah
This close — thiiis close! — to putting Amadi above Rapp after the first half of the season. But I can’t fault Rapp for having fewer opportunities for splash plays simply by alignment.
Rapp is playing the high safety for the Huskies, which is a shame — he’ll be an interchangeable safety in the NFL whose best reps come from the box. With Washington, he isn’t getting aligned over slot receivers in man coverage or reading half a field as the split safety. He’s just playing centerfield and making tackles — at least that excellent tackling has impressed.
Amadi gets those slot coverage reps for the Ducks, and he’s leveraged those opportunities into a buoyed Draft stock. He leads the Pac-12 with three interceptions, and his explosiveness when breaking on the football deserves all the credit. He’s out of a cannon when he has a flat-footed read.
I love his body control and footwork in man coverage over quicker slots, though he sometimes gets too frenetic — and, like Myles Bryant, lacks ideal size. He profiles to a nickel/box safety hybrid player, though his inability to match-up on tight ends will hurt in that regard.
Next up: Evan Worthington, Colorado