Last week West Virginia quarterback Will Grier put on quite the show. On the road against Texas, Grier threw for 346 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and in heroic fashion was the late-game catalyst for the Mountaineers’ win.
After the game, as we wrote about his performance and what it meant for his potential draft stock, we identified how that game may have been his “signature game.” Signature games are individual performances that make it easy for NFL front office members, scouts and coaches to tell someone “pop in this tape” to see everything you want to see from a prospect they may be thinking about drafting.
If you’re considered a first round prospect, “signature games” aren’t necessary, but they certainly give those players a boost when it comes to how they fall on teams’ draft boards. You never want one performance to sway you more than overall game tape of a career, but having a game where you put it all together against a quality opponent in a meaningful situation gives NFL circles a visual to how you might do it for their team in the future.
So, with the college football season coming to a close over the next month, we’ve decided to identify the three games that we think will be the most impactful on the 2019 NFL Draft class, due to who is performing in them and where their stocks could rise or fall.
Oregon QB Justin Herbert vs. Utah, Nov. 10
Hopefully you’re reading this article right as it comes out because this one is being played this weekend.
To start the season, Justin Herbert threw for over 500 yards with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions in his first two games. After throwing three touchdowns and two interceptions the following week, Herbert has now gone six straight games without throwing three touchdowns in a singe performance, and has also failed to throw for over three hundred yards all but once. Herbert is also having the worst efficiency season of his career. His completion percentage is down and his interceptions are up.
At 3-3 in the conference, Oregon likely isn’t going to play for a Pac-12 Championship this season, and looking at their remaining schedule, Herbert has this week on the road against a good Utah team to prove his stuff or he really might not declare for the draft this year. Herbert not declaring — or not living up to what we hope he can be, in general — would be a big blow to this quarterback class and would really shake up the top of this draft overall.
The NFL not only needs Herbert to declare, but be worthy of it to avoid what might be a dry pool of quarterbacks to choose from come late April. He has to get that kickstarted against Utah or it just might be too late for 2018.
Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins vs. Michigan, Nov. 24
Following Ohio State’s victory against Minnesota in Week 7, Dwayne Haskins was on pace to throw the second most touchdowns in college football history, all while leading the undefeated Buckeyes as a redshirt sophomore.
Since then, the wheels have fallen off a bit.
Ohio State lost to Purdue the following week in a matchup where Haskins was not nearly consistent enough to keep up with the scoring pace that game. And the week after that OSU struggled to beat Nebraska while playing at home.
It’s been a major cool down over the last few weeks for Haskins, and keeping in mind that Herbert might not declare, Haskins not declaring either would then run this first round quarertback market pretty dry.
Haskins’ biggest test left on the schedule is their game against Michigan. Michigan’s defense is one of the best in the country right now, and after losing to their rivals so many years in a row, you know the Wolverines will be giving the game against OSU their absolute best.
If Haskins goes on a tear against Michigan and takes that momentum into the Big 10 Championship and CFB Playoff, he could declare as just a red shirt sophomore — and the reason he would is because of a likely first round grade.
If he doesn’t, that’s one less big ceiling to draft in 2019, and would likely cause teams to make major reaches in the first round for quarterback who likely don’t deserve it.
Alabama vs. Georgia, SEC Championship, Dec. 1
There really isn’t a singular player where this game means more to. There are so many future NFL stars on both sides that the game, as a whole, has to be mentioned.
I’ll start things off with Alabama’s defense. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is a legit threat to overtake Ed Oliver as the top interior defensive lineman in this draft. Though Williams doesn’t have the stats Oliver does, he’s bigger, just as freakish in his ability and has been playing against better competition. A strong performance on a big stage could make him a Top 5 player.
Next, I want to mention two more Bama players, linebacker Mack Wilson and safety Deionte Thompson. I have both of those players ranked in the Top 10 on my recent Big Board (as I do Williams), but both are underclassmen and are in their first years as starters. If they declare, we’re looking at a studded defensive class with those guys at the top. If they don’t, those positions get a lot more thin for teams in need. Take out LSU’s Devin White and these two are the only other first-round worthy players at their position, which would cause more reaching by teach, if they’re not there.
On the flip side, I think this game is biggest for Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker. Going into the season, I wondered if Baker had the speed to keep up with better, more athletic wide receivers — the kind he’d face every week in the NFL. So far, he’s eased that worry for me, but no test will be greater than wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs of Alabama. Both of those players are not only freakishly fast, but also freakishly quick. We’ll learn a lot about whether Baker can hang with their speed.
If he can, he likely jumps up to first-round CB status.