TDN Friday Mailbag: CFB Playoff Talk, Workout Warriors & More

Photo: John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

The sweet aroma of a Friday morning must be accompanied by the reading of the TDN Mailbag. Doctor's orders. I mean, who doesn't want to start their weekend reading about the top prospects in the country, sleeper NFL playoff teams, the College Football Playoff landscape, potential workout warriors at next year's Combine and more?

Answer: It's hard to say where the NFL will fall on anyone this early on, but right now it feels like I'm higher on Florida State edge Brian Burns, Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss tight end Dawson Knox, Florida edge Jachai Polite and Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley. South Carolina's Deebo Samuel has had amazing tape prior to this season, so I may end up higher on him too if the NFL's recency bias is too strong.

Answer: Ideally I would love to have at least two seasons of heavy playing time on tape, but it's not the end of the world if that isn't the case. It just makes it easy as an evaluator to see what is improving and what isn't year-to-year.

With a guy like Mitchell Trubisky, the challenge was loving the toolset without knowing if that was all he could be or if he could improve on weaknesses. So there was more projection involved, which made me uncomfortable, but ultimately was a risk I took.

The important thing to remember is that landing spot is SO important for all quarterbacks, but it is infinitely more important for inexperienced quarterbacks that are selected high in the draft. Unless there is a plan in place for their development, chance of failure becomes much higher.

Answer: I think the options are between Miami DL Gerald Willis and Florida State edge defender Brian Burns. I'll go with Burns for now, as he plays the more valued position and Willis has more questions off the field. Lot of good prospects in this game though, especially on the defensive lines with Miami's Joe Jackson and Florida State's Demarcus Christmas in the fold as well.

Answer: Notre Dame is loaded with talent this year, especially on defense. Jerry Tillery is their highest player on my big board, but cornerback Julian Love made the top 75 as well. Linebackers Te'von Coney and Drue Tranquill are both draftable and get a lot of buzz, but Asmar Bilal may be the best of the trio.

I don't think any of them come out this year, but the Irish have three NFL-caliber edge defenders in Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes, all juniors. One of my favorite sleepers is Navy transfer Alohi Gillman, a junior safety who will also probably return to school.

On offense, quarterback Ian Book has a chance to build a resume for himself this season, but Alex Bars is probably their top guy despite his unfortunate injury. Brad Kelly just wrote a piece about their underrated offensive weapons, of which tight end Alize Mack has generated the most excitement for me. Center Sam Mustipher and guard Tommy Kraemer shouldn't be overlooked either.

Answer: Good question, just not sure I know the answer yet. We need more tape and more game situations to fully answer, but right now I would say Haskins needs a pretty quarterback-friendly system the allows him to get in a rhythm and get the ball out quickly. West Coast makes some sense, although there are so many variations to everything that it wouldn't and shouldn't be a traditional WC offense.

The scheme fit is less important for Haskins than experience, handling pressure, communicating at the line of scrimmage, recognizing coverages, handling adversity and identifying blitzes pre-snap. We'll see how Haskins finishes the season, but he's only a redshirt sophomore. If he doesn't excel, I think returning to school could very easily be the wise play.

Answer: Not sure anyone is a darkhorse that could still make the CFB playoffs, and I definitely don't think a team will swoop in out of nowhere. But Clemson better pray for losses for the other top teams, because even if they go undefeated, it'll be tough to justify their schedule.

It's unfair to Clemson that they could be punished for going undefeated and winning a traditionally strong conference just because the ACC is so pathetic this season. But the reality is that if Notre Dame runs the table, their early season slate was tougher than anything Clemson can offer. Alabama and Ohio State have a strong chance of going undefeated, and we'll know a lot about the Big 12's chances of having a representative over the next two weeks.

Clemson's best chance is for Georgia to drop a game in their upcoming murderer's row of LSU, Florida, Kentucky and Auburn beginning next week, and then following that up with a loss in the SEC Championship game. That would likely knock the Bulldogs out of contention, and from there Clemson has to pray Oklahoma and WVU each slip up once outside of when they play each other. An undefeated Tigers team would still get in over a one-loss Big 12 champ, even if that team's slate of games was harder.

For the NFL, I think the Bengals and Redskins would be my sleepers.

Answer: The issue is the same every year for UCF. They aren't getting in barring disaster across the board for many of the top teams. I think they're very talented, but they haven't played anyone. There are too many really good teams at the top with far more challenging schedules. If UCF wants into the playoff, their best chance is by getting it expanded to eight teams, which I am fully in favor of.

Answer: Rashan Gary is probably the best guess, although Dexter Lawrence could be in there too. Watch out for body beautiful guys like D'Andre Walker and Josh Allen too. It should be noted that Walker and Allen are risers for me, I could just see the NFL being obnoxiously high on the two because of how good they look in pads and their expected testing at the Combine.