Monday morning series to get your week started off right! Each week I’ll be taking a look at five prospects who elevated their stock with a fine performance during the past weekend’s games, and five who struggled through disappointing showings on Saturday.
1. Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
This kid, man…Sternberger reminds me a lot of Vance McDonald, a good athlete with long speed who isn’t overly explosive, but is slippery in space and battles relentlessly after the catch. He was the best player on the field for Texas A&M this weekend, reeling in seven passes for 145 yards and a score.
Even those numbers don’t do the performance justice, however. He was sensational.
.@_Jstern continues to deliver for the Aggies!
— Texas A&M Football (@AggieFootball) October 13, 2018
Sternberger now leads all FBS tight ends in receiving yards (496) and touchdowns (6), while averaging over 17 yards per catch. Even in a potentially amazing tight end class, don’t sleep on him.
2. K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
There hasn’t been much buzz about any of the Ohio State receivers this season, but Hill’s performance on Saturday should change that. Nine catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns will do that. Hill made a number of outstanding plays, including a one-handed stab at a ball thrown behind him that he turned into a 36-yard catch-and-run for six.
"Odell Beckham Jr. would be proud!"
What a snag from K.J. Hill! pic.twitter.com/xwCmrGjrUl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 13, 2018
3. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
So Saturday was my first exposure to Hockenson, Iowa’s other tight end, and what an exposure it was. From pancaking guys in the run game to bullying everyone after the catch, Hockenson was an absolute monster all game long against Indiana. The redshirt sophomore reeled in four catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns, running his season totals to 22-394-3, while averaging almost 18 yards per catch.
With Noah Fant (who also went over 100 yards on Saturday) already expected to declare for the draft early, it remains to be seen if Hockenson would return for a 4th season at Iowa, with two years of eligibility still remaining. His production pace is on target to be amongst the top tight ends in the country, which could give him a tough decision to make in January.
4. Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon
Lost in the midst of an exciting wide receiver class has been the play of Mitchell, an athletic pass-catcher who has thrived as Justin Herbert’s top target this season. In the biggest game of the season for the Ducks, Mitchell was outstanding, catching eight passes for 119 yards and one touchdown where he juked out three defenders to get into the end zone.
At 6-2, 190 pounds, Mitchell’s frame and game need a little development, and he drops too many passes, but he possesses significant upside that will make him an interesting NFL prospect. He’s just a junior, but if Herbert makes the early leap to the next level, Mitchell may join him.
5. Jordan Ta’amu, QB, Ole Miss
Quite the performance by Ta’amu, who not only had to lead his team back from a big deficit against Arkansas, but also had to do it without help from his top receiver D.K. Metcalf, who left the game with a neck injury.
No problem for Ta’amu, who threw for 387 yards and two scores, while also rushing for 141 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. I thought he felt pressure wonderfully in the pocket, escaping sacks several times and showing toughness in the face of pressure. I really believe Ta’amu has played his way into a draft slot next April, as he’s been very solid all season and shows enough tools to earn a gig in the NFL.
1. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
This is one of the games where McSorley was supposed to prove why he deserved to be considered a legit NFL prospect, but instead he was inaccurate and erratic all day while the Nittany Lions offense struggled. I’m just not sure the tools or the polish are there for McSorley to project to success as a pro, as much as I may love his smarts and toughness.
2. Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
After starting the season off hot, Oruwariye has been struggling quite a bit over the past few weeks. Two weeks removed from surrendering a game-changing touchdown against Ohio State, Oruwariye looked completely lost in man coverage against Felton Davis down the sideline on Saturday, surrendering an uncontested back-shoulder throw and then failing to prevent the receiver from sneaking across the goal line.
Oruwariye has the size and length to be a press man corner, but his technique, body control and ball skills with his back to the quarterback just aren’t there yet. For a redshirt senior with long speed questions, it all adds up to a concerning profile.
3. Jalen Jelks, EDGE, Oregon
I know that Oregon doesn’t always deploy Jelks in the best spots, but he’s not showing much in their biggest matchups this year either. He got knocked off the ball a few times against Washington, and struggled to make an impact as a pass rusher. Jelks isn’t the most polished player for sure, but I’m not sure I see dynamic athleticism with him yet either, at least not in a way that translates to on-field success.
4. Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
Hardman is a true speedster that blocks like a much bigger receiver, so I’m a fan of his skill set finding a nice home in the NFL. That said, he is the rawest of Georgia’s route runners, and that was on display in most of his non-vertical patterns on Saturday. He struggled to create separation and was physically eliminated at the catch point with ease, while also fumbling a kickoff return.
5. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
I don’t know what to think about Gardner-Johnson, man. His athletic traits and stickiness in man coverage are enticing for a potential slot corner, and he has been more physical in spurts this year. But last year was a catastrophe in terms of effort, tackling and overall desire to put his face in the fan, and Saturday looked like more of the same.
CGJ had a shot at a ball carrier on a long touchdown for Vanderbilt and didn’t make much of an effort to make the stop. Later in the game a hold gave Vanderbilt a new set of downs. Last week it was sloppy open-field tackling. All that people will remember is the interception to seal the win though, for this week anyway.