Offense: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
College football fans knew who Joe Burrow was over the last few years, if not because of his prominence as an option at QB for Ohio State, and then his high-profile transfer to LSU. But did NFL fans know who he was a year ago? A month ago?
Nobody has as firmly planted themselves in the early-round conversation as Burrow has in the 2020 class, parlaying a new offensive ideology, improved aggressiveness, and a talented corps of targets into a piece of the Heisman pie and uproarious buzz in NFL Draft circles. Burrow has yet to hit a challenge he couldn't steamroll, which included the Utah State defense, which he toasted to the tune of 344 yards and 5 touchdowns on 38 attempts -- with a rushing touchdown to boot.
Joe Burrow's performance in the first third of the season demands a long look by the Senior Bowl, and if he continues this caliber of play, he'll be almost impossible to invite -- and for Burrow, accepting should be a no-brainer. He can only continue rising in what is a thick class of top-flight QBs, and for evaluators, checking Burrow's arm strength and movement skills against his competitors is also necessary to gut-check his stock.
Defense: Joe Bachie Jr., LB, Michigan State
Joe Bachie Jr. grabbed mixed reviews from our staff across the course of summer evals, which is a large part of why Bachie -- a Big-10 first-teamer and two-year starter at MIKE -- decided to return for his senior season with the Spartans. There was room to grow in his NFL draft evaluation.
One game does not an improved stock make, but Bachie had an impactful performance in a losing effort against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday night. While one quarter of offensive explosion was all it took for Justin Fields and the Buckeyes to outdistance Brian Lewerke and the anemic Michigan State offense, Bachie paced the Spartan defense with 11 tackles, including 2 sacks and 2 for losses.
Bachie's burst and closing speed are key parts of his evaluation indeed, as teams wonder if Bachie can survive for three downs at the NFL level. Tracking Justin Fields across the field and closing for multiple sacks helps to alleviate that concern, as Bachie continues to campagin on improved athleticism as a reason for an inflated stock. Senior Bowl reps could be huge for Bachie, as he'll be tested in one-on-one coverage against running backs, to see just how athletic he is in space.