Rivalry Weekend in college football is a great chance to see players butt heads. Look no further than last night’s Egg Bowl between Mississippi and Mississippi State. It’s also a great time to finalize the shuffling of the conference standings. But for some, it’s a last hurrah: the final chance to lace up the pads for your school before shipping off for the NFL. For some 2019 NFL Draft prospects, we’ve made it: the finish line of the 2018 CFB regular season. Now that we’re on the cusp of a full twelve game slate, we can begin to speculate on who might be joining the class with extra eligibility. We already know that Houston’s Ed Oliver, is in the mix. But what other Group of Five prospects might be joining him?
Here are three Group of Five underclassmen who, if I had to guess, we’d see enter the 2019 NFL Draft player pool.
Colorado State WR Preston Williams – Mountain West Conference
Why declare? Well, it’s hard to imagine Williams’ stock getting much hotter than the mic-drop he just put on Air Force. His line?
12 receptions, 248 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns
His final line for his 12 game season?
96 receptions, 1345 yards and 14 touchdowns…plus a game-winning Hail Mary from last week pulled off the board because he stepped out of bounds. My thoughts? He good.
Williams isn’t an exceptionally polished route runner but his athletic tools are something coaches will marvel at. A size/speed mismatch, Williams has the “uncoachable” qualities. That was apparent all the way back in high school, when Williams was a four-star recruit. Williams committed to the University of Tennessee in the fall of his senior year of high school (2013) and played with the Vols for two years before sitting out 2017 in order to transfer to Colorado State.
Big fish, meet small pond. The end result for Williams has been mostly positive. And with a coaching change, plus a quarterback change, in the cards for the program in 2019, the unknown may just be the push Williams needs to make the leap.
Florida Atlantic RB Devin Singletary – Conference USA
Why declare? Running backs don’t have a great shelf life in the NFL. And Singletary has done just about everything there is to do at the college level. His career production is…something.
67 career touchdowns in 37 career games. I’m not quite sure how that’s possible, but yet here we are. Singletary is a challenging study, however. His production isn’t matched with traits on the field, so there’s some gray area with his game that scouts and coaches will have to interpret.
I personally believe Singletary would be a fine piece to an NFL backfield, not as a bell-cow or featured player but as a part of the rotation.
Singletary’s Owls need a win on Saturday against Charlotte to secure Bowl eligibility this season, which is promising…considering Charlotte is 0-5 on the road this season.
With that in mind, we may not find out much about Singletary’s intentions for another month. Yet when the decision is made, I’d guess he’s on to the next level.
Buffalo QB Tyree Jackson – Mid-American Conference
Why declare? Because this quarterback class sucks, that’s why.
Jackson isn’t a finished product…not even close. But we’ve seen NFL teams fall in love with toolsy quarterbacks in recent years (hello, Josh Allen) regardless of their readiness. Take Tyree Jackson’s best 20 throws from the 2018 season and you’ll have to pop your eyeballs back in more than once.
This season was Jackson’s most productive to date: he set career bests in literally every passing category with the exception of completion percentage (55.2% this year) and yards per attempt (7.7 this year). Jackson’s biggest box to check this year was to stay healthy and play the full slate.
Guess what? He’s starting game 12 of 12 this weekend against Bowling Green. Hopefully the team will be able to rebound from the shellacking they took at the hands of Ohio last weekend. Jackson, like Singletary, won’t be done after this weekend. A win against Bowling Green secures a spot in the MAC Championship next weekend against Northern Illinois.
Should Jackson and the Bulls run the table, they’re likely facing a date with the winner of this weekend’s game between Troy and Appalachian State (which will decide the Sun Belt Group A) in the Dollar General Bowl.
That isn’t exactly a hallmark game, but it will be a big piece of Jackson’s perception going forward. Each of these final games will be, especially after Jackson has faltered the last two weeks (16 of 37 passing for 227 yards vs. Kent State and Ohio combined).
But at the end of the day, Jackson has terrific tools and has the chance to jump into a shallow pool of quarterbacks. That’s a tempting proposition.