Nearly four weeks into the college football season, we’ve seen our fair share of upsets, surprise standouts, and well, Alabama has proven to be Alabama once again. But here at The Draft Network, we always have our sights centered on the spring and the forthcoming prospect evaluation for our friends over at the East-West Shrine Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, and eventually, the NFL Draft next April. A class expected to represent one of the deepest in recent memory due to an extra year of eligibility, a handful of upperclassmen have jumped off the screen early this fall. In this senior-specific dive, here are five of the country’s most enticing collegiate veterans.
Dontay Demus Jr., WR, Maryland
Following a relatively quiet first three seasons in College Park, Demus has gotten off to a blazing start in 2021. Reaping the benefits of increased talent around him in signal-caller Taulia Tagovailoa and 5-star pass-catcher Rakim Jarrett, Demus has amassed 338 receiving yards in three weeks, including two 120-plus yard performances and two scores. “Built like a house,” according to fellow wideout Jayshaun Jones, Demus, a 6-foot-3 talent with excellent burst on the outside, has all the fundamental acumen scouts drool over in future boundary threats.
More on Demus from TDN’s Kyle Crabbs:
“Demus has a pretty startling blend of height, weight, and speed on the perimeter. I’m consistently impressed with how he utilizes his athleticism at the catch point and think he’s trending toward being one of those “better pro than college” receivers. He’d be a great fit in vertical passing offenses that like to push the ball into deeper portions of the field.”
Jordan Davis, IDL, Georgia
One of the largest men at any level of football, the way Davis plays is that of an individual of much smaller stature, a scary sight for opposing offenses. At 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, Davis is the anchor of a Bulldogs front that rivals the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa as the best in college football.
A dominant interior presence contains a priceless value at the pro level. With his ability to eat space and rush the passer, coupled with his relentless motor, Davis’ stock has skyrocketed early in his final season in Athens. Similar to Daviyon Nixon’s rise last fall in a rather weak interior defensive line class, Davis’ continued high level of play could see him rise even further up from No. 37 on our TDN top-100 list of 2022 eligible prospects.
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
With 91 tackles and 6.5 sacks as a sophomore in 2019, Lloyd initially penciled his name in as a prospect to place a red dot beside for upcoming campaigns. Fast forward to his senior campaign, and the MIKE linebacker in the Utes defense has progressed into one of college football’s most dominant second-level defenders. A two-time All-Pac-12 honoree, Lloyd is a modern-day linebacker littered with exciting traits and tools that will find him as the centerpiece of an NFL defense in due time. A sideline-to-sideline defender, Lloyd’s ceiling rivals that of any linebacker prospect in this year’s class.
Jermaine Waller, CB, Virginia Tech
The next corner in line from the defensive back factory that is Virginia Tech, Waller, a former high school quarterback, has recorded an interception in three consecutive weeks to start his campaign. A wiry corner with excellent instincts and an ability to work in both man and zone coverages, Waller missed most of 2020 due to an arm injury but looks to have not missed a step in returning as the Hokies’ top apex defender.
More on Waller from TDN’s Joe Marino:
“Waller starred opposite Caleb Farley in 2019 for the Hokies defense and was dominant. Injuries derailed him in 2020 but so far in 2021, he's building off that 2019 campaign. Waller offers an exciting blend of length, range, speed, ball skills, and coverage versatility. He's a universal scheme fit that has the makeup of a quality NFL starter.”
Mataeo Durant, RB, Duke
One of the most dominant backs in college football is Durant, a stoutly built ball-carrier who’s scored as many rushing touchdowns (seven) as Spencer Rattler, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and Carson Strong have passing touchdowns in three weeks. While he’s sure to come back to earth at some point, Durant’s workload and continued success have him on track to potentially slide into the later rounds if his production remains high.
While Auburn’s Tank Bigsby and Texas’ Bijan Robinson have many people projecting the 2023 RB’s class as the one to pick from, Durant’s arrival along with Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller, Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams, and Iowa State’s Breece Hall, among others, has offered optimism into this spring’s pool of ball-carriers.