In the Spotlight
Just after lunchtime on Halloween, a report from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report crossed my twitter timeline, indicating that Washington State redshirt junior QB Luke Falk is preparing to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
Either Falk’s intentions are news to him, or he’s playing coy, because just two hours after the Bleacher Report tweet, Falk told reporters at a press conference that he didn’t know where the rumors started, and that, “If I were to make a decision right now, I’d say I’m definitely staying."
I don’t think either Miller or Falk is intentionally trying to mislead anybody here, but it makes sense that Falk has at least considered his professional prospects. He’ll turn 22 years old before the first of the year, is closing in on 10,000 career passing yards, has a 3.75 TD to interception ratio (4.77 over the past two seasons), and he’s led the Cougars to six straight wins heading into Saturday’s home game against Arizona.
Given his career resumé, I’ve kept an eye on Falk since summer time. He is coming off of his third 400-yard passing game of the season and 10th of his career, but he also attempts nearly 50 passes per game. Falk is tall and lanky - a build similar to last year’s top draft pick Jared Goff - and like Goff, Falk will have to convince NFL personnel types that he is capable of operating outside of the Air Raid offense. He has an average arm, but his ability to distribute and get the ball out quickly will have some appeal. It’s well know now, for example, that Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson favored Goff over Carson Wentz, and that Jackson liked Cody Kessler well enough to draft in the third round.
I don’t believe Falk will be in the running for the first overall pick, and unlike other analysts who’ve characterized this quarterback class as weak, I find this year’s crop more appealing than last year’s, depending on which underclassmen declare. If DeShone Kizer, Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Mason Rudolph all turn pro, Falk would probably find himself in a tier with the latter two prospects, projected somewhere in the mid-to-late Day Two range. With nothing left to prove at the collegiate level, that may be enough to sway Falk away from returning to school next season.
Long time readers and Draft Breakdown Podcast listeners know by now that I’ve never been fond of Jalen Hurd as a pro prospect. On the surface, a 6’3” 240-pound running back with sub-4.6 speed might seem appealing, but while I was consistently impressed with Derrick Henry’s size/speed/agility combination last season, I’ve found Hurd to be plodding near the line of scrimmage, slow to turn the corner, and incredibly frustrating in regards to ball security. When word surfaced early in the week that Hurd was leaving Tennessee, the spin was that he was never a fit for the Vols’ offense. But in 33 games with a running quarterback at the helm, Hurd managed only 4.5 yards per carry. As he battled through injuries this season, that number dipped to 3.7 yards. Uninspiring to say the least.
Now, an apparently frustrated Hurd has left his team midway through his junior season, and intends to not only transfer, but also move to a new position like receiver, tight end, or H-back. It’s not clear what sparked this bizarre decision, or where Hurd plans to go. He is not on track to graduate early, so if he chooses another FBS program, he’ll have to sit out a full calendar year. If he goes the FCS route, he’ll face a lower level of competition, but will be able to pick back up next season.
Whatever Hurd ultimately decides, he hadn’t been playing well, he’ll be scrutinized for walking out on Tennessee, and he’ll presumably need to quickly learn a new position. It’s a unique situation, and he will have a difficult time rebuilding his damaged daft stock.
Box Score of the Week
Dalvin Cook RB Florida State
19 ATT 169 YDS 4 TD rushing, 2 REC 15 YDS receiving
Hard to believe that after three early-season games I wondered if Cook had been permanently slowed by multiple shoulder surgeries. Since then, the Florida State junior has run for 841 yards on 128 carries, and scored 10 touchdowns in five games. Cook is also averaging over 16 yards per catch on 23 receptions this season, and his four TDs last weekend were a career high.
Jabrill Peppers LB Michigan
7 TKL 2 TFL 1 SCK, 5 ATT 24 YDS 1 TD rushing
Peppers had registered just 13 tackles and half a tackle for loss in four Big Ten games leading into last weekend, but his third rushing touchdown of the season, a key fourth-quarter sack, and his return of an errant option toss on a Michigan State two-point conversion attempt kept him in the conversation for a top-five Heisman finish. Among recent two-way collegiate players, Peppers is a better athlete than Shaq Thompson, and a healthier, more impactful performer than Myles Jack. Still, it’s difficult to pinpoint where Peppers - who effectively projects as a 215-pound linebacker - will be valued by NFL teams. My guess is he will come off the board within the 11th-20th overall picks.
Zay Jones WR East Carolina
19 REC 185 YDS 1 TD
Zay Jones has games with 22, 17, 18, and 19 catches this season. Only one game with fewer than 10. 114 receptions through 8 games for ECU— Justin Higdon (@afc2nfc) October 29, 2016
At 3-5, ECU has some work to do to become bowl-eligible. So, assuming they play only the four remaining games on their schedule, Jones is on pace to catch 171 passes and break the single-season record of 155 (set by Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes in 2009) and Justin Hardy’s career mark of 387. Jones is just the type of “mid-major” prospect who tends to gain momentum with draftniks during the all-star game circuit, only to fall into the late rounds in April. Despite a heavy volume of caches, he’s averaged just 10.2 yards per catch in his career, and has just 19 touchdowns in 46 games.
Hot Take of the Week
Look, we can argue about Bill Belichick’s drafts down in the comment section. I’m happy to engage. But regardless of whether we agree, or agree to disagree on BB’s track record on certain trades or draft picks, there’s no denying the heat on the fastball thrown by former Pro Football Focus employee Mike Clay. This take narrowly edges out Bleacher Report editor Ian Kenyon’s take that all candy is bad.
“Fam what,” indeed.
Wisconsin at Northwestern Saturday Noon ET
Oh hey, I’ll be in attendance for this game in lovely Evanston, Illinois. Both of these teams have given Ohio State a battle this season, and the Badgers are still hanging out in the top 10. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Wisky left tackle Ryan Ramczyk and running back Corey Clement, and Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. and receiver Austin Carr.
Nebraska at Ohio State Saturday 8:00 PM ET
The Buckeyes have their third primetime game in four weeks, but first at home. Their vaunted secondary will be tested by Nebraska receivers Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly, and their improvisational, if erratic senior QB Tommy Armstrong.
Alabama at LSU Saturday 8:00 PM ET
The obvious draw here is Leonard Fournette versus the fearsome Alabama front seven, a unit that includes potential top-five pick Jonathan Allen, pass rushers Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson, and linebacker Rueben Foster. Fournette was limited to 31 yards on 19 carries in a 30-16 LSU loss last season.