6-Pack Thursday: Dynamic WRs, Mack Brown at UNC and Conference Championship Predictions

The had news? Full slates of college football games on Saturday are over until next August. The good news? The most meaningful football games of the year remain to be played. With underclassmen declaring for the draft, the coaching carousel spinning and championship games on the horizon, there will be much to discuss in the coming weeks.

I hope that this column has become a staple for you each week, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related things that involve the NFL, College Football or NFL Draft.

Let’s crack this thing open!

P5 Conference Championship Game Predictions

It's that time of year, folks. The regular season is behind us and the conference championship games are all that stand in the way of determining which four teams will be in the College Football Playoffs. Except for Notre Dame, who will be comfy cozy this weekend having no conference affiliation while Georgia has to beat Alabama for a spot in the final-four. Oh, to rest in the laurels of Notre Dame's one-score wins over unranked Ball State, Vanderbilt, Pitt and USC...

Anyways, here's my best guess on what happens this weekend.

  • Pac 12: Washington vs Utah - The two matched up earlier in the season and the Huskies took care of business. They are the more talented team and I expect Washington to win again but maybe not as convincingly. Huskies 28, Utes 23
  • Big 12: Texas vs Oklahoma - The Sooners will be looking to not only atone for its loss to Texas earlier this season but secure a spot on the Playoffs. Sooners 45, Longhorns 31
  • SEC: Alabama vs Georgia - Georgia is one of the few teams in the nation that offer the ingredients to matchup and beat Alabama. The problem is they are cowards on offense and won't play more aggressively. Tide 34, Bulldogs 17
  • ACC: Clemson vs Pittsburgh - Clemson should cruise to a win over Pitt BUT the last time the two matched up, the Nathan Peterman-led Panthers beat the Deshaun Watson-led Tigers in 2016. In fact, Clemson has never defeated Pitt with the only other matchup taking place in 1977. Tigers 43, Panthers 17
  • Big 10: Ohio State vs Northwestern - The Buckeyes are highly inconsistent but I don't think the Wildcats have enough on offense to exploit a shaky OSU defense. Buckeyes 34, Wildcats 23

I'm Good With UNC's Hire of Mack Brown

There has been a lot of jokes cracked at UNC for hiring Mack Brown as its next head coach and quite frankly, I don't get it. The jabs generally stem from Browns age of 67 years young as if the Tarheels' brass was completely unaware of it. Surely it was a major topic of discussion and of high consideration to Brown and his wife. Oh, and he's the exact same age as Nick Saban.

Since Brown left UNC in 1997, the Heels have only finished ranked once - a feat Brown achieved in four of his last six seasons in Chapel Hill. UNC hasn't been a football powerhouse and a steady, experienced hand like Brown as its leader positions UNC to build a strong foundation both now and in the future. Brown enjoyed tremendous success at Texas and groomed numerous eventual head coaches including Major Applewhite, Bryan Harsin, Tom Herman, Mike Haywood and Will Muschamp.

Would UNC love to find a hotshot young coach to lead the program? Of course, and hiring Brown affords them that opportunity. It remains to be seen how long Brown will continue to coach but his proven track record in terms of building programs, winning and developing leaders comes at a great time for a Tarheels program that won five games total over the last two seasons.

Zach Allen's NFL Fit

I recently sat down to study Boston College DE Zach Allen's film to write his formal evaluation and he's an interesting player. His production, effort and processing skills are really exciting. He has a knack for finding the football, shedding blocks and finishing at a high clip. Some see Allen as a first-round caliber prospect but I'm not so fast to agree.

Don't get me wrong, I like Allen a good bit but there are limitations that must be discussed when forecasting him to an NFL defense. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, Allen offers the versatility to play numerous spots on the defensive line. With that said, he lacks the flexibility and juice to consistently beat tackles around their outside hip so his pass rush upside comes most favorably attacking interior gaps. As a run defender, I get nervous about how he holds up against drive blocks on the inside while he's a consistent edge-setter as 4-3 end.

Allen will be a high-quality NFL player that is a valuable piece of a defensive line rotation (probably as a starter), but he profiles more as a mid-Day 2 guy for me if his testing ends up where I think it will.

WR 1 Joins the Party

We've talked at length about how the rising draft class is lacking when it comes to worthy offensive prospects high in the first round and when it was announced that Ole Miss WR DK Metcalf would miss the remainder of the year with a neck injury, bad got worse.

As it would turn out, Metcalf recently declared for the 2019 NFL Draft and suddenly there's an offensive weapon worthy of a top-10 pick which is GREAT news for teams like the 49ers, Jets, Bills and Cardinals who are in that market.

As soon as the news broke that Metcalf was declaring, I took the time to evaluate his film and I like what I see. Pop on the tape and you will see that his traits are rare and special. His technique in his release, burst, size and length have me drooling.

While I don't envision any WR I evaluate for the rising class to challenge Metcalf to be my No. 1 receiver prospect, he does need to be more consistent at the catch point and prove he can run a more expansive route tree to dominate the NFL like I believe he can. Metcalf has just over 20 games of collegiate experience but his raw potential and flashes already at this point in his career are special.

UDFA WR Robert Foster Emerging

Foster only caught 35 passes across four seasons at Alabama but he has been a spark plug for the Buffalo Bills offense over the last two games. The Bills' offense has been dreadful at times this season but has suddenly scored 65 points in wins over the Jets and Jaguars in the last two games with Foster accumulating 199 yards on five catches and a touchdown.

Foster initially made the Bills 53-man roster but was released earlier in the season and placed on the practice squad. Since rejoining the active roster, Foster has provided Buffalo with a much-needed speed element to its receiving corps.

Despite clocking a 4.41 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds and coming from Alabama, Foster went undrafted. His ability to challenge defenses vertically vastly improves the Bills' offensive spacing and requires the defense to account for more of the field which opens up a world of possibilities.

According to Next Gen Stats, Foster has surpassed 20 mph 12 times in just 140 offensive plays this season. He was clocked at 21.11 mph on his game-breaking touchdown against the Jaguars.

Best Football Player I Watched Last Week: Marquise Brown

I traveled up to Morgantown, West Virginia to take in the WVU-Oklahoma game in person and OU WR Marquise Brown is so dynamic. Not that I am offering any new information, but getting a chance to see him live made me grow fonder of just how quick and explosive he is.

Brown hauled in 11 passes for 243 yards and 2 touchdowns and did so in a variety of ways. There were times where Brown got behind WVU's secondary with pure speed but also times where he created yards for himself by winning post-catch.

Listed at 5-foot-10 and 168 pounds, Brown has a diminutive frame but he's a polished receiver. While he can win on athletic ability alone, Brown is a gifted route runner, offers secure hands and tracks the ball extremely well.

As I wrote last week, the NFL is a copycat league and the production and utilization of Tyreek Hill in Kansas City is going to open so many doors for smurf wide receivers. Hill is 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds with 4.29 speed. While speed always gets the NFL’s attention, a diminutive frame like Hill’s is usually a turnoff.

Brown’s going to carry the “next Tyreek Hill” label and he’s going to make a lot of money because of it.


Written By:

Joe Marino

Chief Administrative Officer

CAO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Member of the FWAA.

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