Welcome to the Rough Draft! I’m checking in a day early this week so as not to interfere with NFL Preseason Week Four and roster cut-down discussions, and because of some weekend travel plans. Going forward, the goal will be to post this column on Friday mornings to get everyone prepped for the college football weekend. The first full slate of the season begins later tonight, and we’ll touch on some key matchups here in a few paragraphs.
Before we get the buffet, let’s touch on last week’s appetizer. Cal beat Hawaii by 20 (and the spread by 0.5) in Australia last Friday in the College Football Sydney Cup, and defending FCS champion North Dakota State eked out an overtime win over Charleston Southern. It wasn’t much, but it was just enough to get us geared up for 2017 NFL Draft Prep.
In the Spotlight
Vic Enwere RB Cal
This was my first look at the big junior, who Pro Football Focus listed among their "Top 25 Breakout Players of 2016," and while he touched the ball just 12 times, he left a lasting impression. Enwere was particularly strong down the stretch as Cal ran out the clock. Here, he showed off nifty footwork and terrific balance while stepping through and bouncing off of helpless Hawaii defenders.
A few plays later in the red zone, Enwere steadied himself through contact to turn a two yard loss into an 11 yard gain.
While he split carries evenly with fellow junior Tre Watson and senior Khalfani Muhammad, I hope to see Enwere’s workload increase as the season wears on. At this early stage, he’s the most intriguing pro prospect of the three Golden Bears runners.
Erik Austell OL Charleston Southern
Austell played left tackle Saturday at a listed height/weight of 6’4" 285 pounds. NFL scouts are going to want to see him add about 15 pounds, and considering he was listed at 6’3" a year ago, he’s surely going to be tested at guard (and maybe center) once he gets into his NFL workouts. At tackle last weekend, he was late out of his stance a couple of times in pass protection, but I only really saw him beaten once.
Otherwise, my notes on Austell were pretty favorable. He moves well, and was at his best pulling, and getting out to the second level in the run game. I wasn’t surprised to learn he’d played defense in the past. And it was entertaining to see footage of him running the ball in high school.
My biggest issue was Austell’s play strength. I’m not sure he has enough power to sustain blocks or move front seven NFL defenders with consistency. With time, players can add bulk and strength, but my first impression was that Austell is a developmental prospect. For what it’s worth, CBS’s Dane Brugler seems a little higher on Austell than I am.
4) The top senior NFL prospect I watched over the weekend? Charleston Southern OL Erik Austell. You'll hear his name again. #Promise— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 30, 2016
Box Score of the Week
Davis Webb QB Cal
38/54 (70.4%) 441 YDS 4 TD 0 INT 1 rushing TD
The graduate transfer from Texas Tech picked up where Jared Goff left off. Webb was Mel Kiper Jr.’s top-rated senior quarterback heading into the season.
Hot Take of the Week
I don’t know how hot this take is, but regardless, I don’t agree that focusing on a player’s weaknesses leads to more scouting "misses." This is a two-way street. In 2015, Minnesota running back David Cobb was generally praised by draft analysts for his ability to run with a low center of gravity and break tackles. Cobb was drafted by Tennessee a round or two later than these reports suggested, and one NFL season later Cobb has been waived by the Titans and unclaimed by the rest of the league. Seemingly, draftniks valued his strengths over average production (Cobb was a "volume" player who accumulated rushing stats while averaging just around five yards per carry [yes, that’s middling for college]) and low-end speed and agility. His profile didn’t set him apart from other mid-round backs, but at least one high-profile analyst ranked Cobb above David and Duke Johnson, who are now key cogs in their respective offenses.
This is one example. Lache Seastrunk, the former Baylor running back, is another. The guy could run fast and explode to the line of scrimmage, but had trouble finding a hole smaller than an interstate highway lane. I watched Jonathan Cooper go seventh overall in 2013 because he looked good pulling on tape, but that college tape could never outweigh the average athleticism and mental challenges he faced.
Will Fuller might turn out to be a good example to support @DraftMarvel’s tweet. People seemed to weigh Fuller’s dropped passes over his outstanding speed and production. I could probably come up with examples to back both sides for days. The point is, dwelling on one or two aspects of the evaluation - good or bad - will lead to "misses."
Oregon State vs Minnesota Thursday 9:00 PM ET
Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner has received some early buzz, even appearing in the first round of an early mock draft. He’ll be facing an Oregon State team that ranked 105th in scoring defense last season.
Kansas State at Stanford Friday 9:00 PM ET
Christian McCaffrey against a Big 12 defense should be good for about 400 all-purpose yards.
LSU at Wisconsin Saturday 3:30 PM ET
Running back Leonard Fournette takes on a defense that ranked fourth in the FBS against the run last season.
Georgia vs North Carolina (at Georgia Dome) Saturday 5:30 PM ET
Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb is set to return from a gruesome knee injury that cut his 2015 season short. He’ll trade blows with North Carolina’s own star runner, Elijah Hood.
Notre Dame at Texas Sunday 7:30 PM ET
Irish senior safety Max Redfield has been dismissed, but the real story here is that both teams plan on utilizing a two-quarterback attack. Notre Dame sophomore DeShone Kizer and junior Malik Zaire are both expected to take snaps, though Kizer is generally considered the better NFL prospect. It will be interesting to see if either player can create some space for himself in his ongoing competition.