NFL Draft Stock Report: Tar Heels' Trubisky emerging as a legit QB prospect
A look at NFL prospects who helped and hurt themselves this past weekend
Who helped themselves?
Mitch Trubisky , QB, North Carolina Tar Heels , rJR. (6-3, 220, 4.83, #10)
Spurning offers from Alabama Crimson Tide , Tennessee Volunteers and his home-state Ohio State Buckeyes out of high school, Trubisky arrived at Chapel Hill with plenty of hype that is now coming to fruition. After redshirting and not being able to beat out Marquise Williams the past two seasons, Trubisky entered this season as the clear No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart. He struggled in the season-opening lost to Georgia Bulldogs , but over the past four games, Trubisky has been near perfect, including an impressive performance at Florida State Seminoles . He finished 31-for-38 (81.6-percent completions) for 405 yards, four total touchdowns and no interceptions.
He makes smart, poised decisions from the pocket and delivers with outstanding ball placement, currently leading the FBS with 76 percent completions on the season. His downfield passes are still a work in progress, but he has outstanding chemistry with his targets, notably senior Ryan Switzer (5-10, 185, 4.50, #3), allowing them to catch the ball in stride and create. Only five starts into his career (against below average pass defenses), it is too early to say with any conviction whether or not Trubisky is a top-level quarterback prospect, but the early evidence has his arrow pointing north.
Jourdan Lewis , CB, Michigan Wolverines , SR. (5-10, 176, 4.43, #26)
While his astonishing one-handed interception to seal the win on Saturday over Wisconsin Badgers was the highlight, Lewis has taken the Michigan defense to another level since returning to the starting lineup. After missing the first three games due to injury, he returned last week against Penn State Nittany Lions and has showed why he is one of college football's best cornerbacks the past two games.
Lewis competes with an aggressive mentality for the position and not only looks to keep plays in front of him, but takes it personally if a pass is completed to his man. His combination of play speed, instincts and ball awareness are NFL starter quality, but the main issue is his lack of height and length, which will show on tape. However, the positive play far outweighs his size deficiencies, making him an interesting test case for the NFL Draft -- first day skills, but second day size.
Sidney Jones , CB, Washington Huskies , JR. (6-0, 181, 4.49, #26)
Washington has produced several impressive cornerback prospects in recent years, most notably Desmond Trufant and Marcus Peters . And Jones is the next in line to continue the Huskies trend of sending cornerbacks to the NFL. The Washington pass rush did a fantastic job getting home with the front four against Stanford Cardinal last Friday, but a substantial part of the Huskies' frequent visits to the backfield was blanket coverage from the secondary.
A starter since his true freshman season, Jones stayed glued to receivers in both man and zone coverage, using coordinated footwork, speed and ball awareness to stay within arm's length of wideouts on the outside. He did receive a defensive holding penalty that negated his second interception of the season, but the replay showed it was the incorrect call -- he did have a slight stumble in his transition, but quickly collected himself and showed the make-up speed to catch the receiver, get his head turned and make the interception. For a player with a skinny body type, Jones is also tough in run support, using field leverage and sound mechanics to be consistent in this area.
Joe Mixon , RB, Oklahoma Sooners , rSO. (6-1, 226, 4.52, #25)
Yes, Mixon will have to answer to NFL teams about his sketchy background that forced him to miss the entire 2014 season. But focusing strictly on his on-field ability, Mixon has difference-making talent. When Mixon touches the ball at least 12 times on offense, Oklahoma is undefeated this season. Less than 12 touches? The Sooners are winless. On Saturday against TCU Horned Frogs , Mixon rushed for 105 yards on 16 attempts (6.6 average), adding five receptions for 70 yards (14.0) as the Horned Frogs gave up 48 points to Oklahoma.
Sharing the backfield with Samaje Perine and Baker Mayfield , there are plenty of mouths to feed for Sooners offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. But Mixon needs to receive more action on offense, especially in the screen game where he can use his open-field vision to set up moves and bounce between open spaces. On the season, Mixon is averaging 7.7 yards per carry and 13.5 yards per reception, but has fewer carries than Perine and averaging only three pass targets per game - that needs to change.
Who hurt themselves?
Devonte Fields , DE/OLB, Louisville Cardinals , rSR. (6-3, 242, 4.72, #92)
The Louisville defense has been lights out this season, mostly due to an attacking front-seven that has given offenses fits. But against Clemson Tigers on Saturday night, the Arizona Cardinals didn't register a sack and couldn't put enough pressure on Deshaun Watson to get him uncomfortable.
A hybrid pass rusher in Louisville's 3-4 scheme, Fields was largely invisible throughout the contest, finishing with only two tackles and not making plays on his side of the field. He has the body flexibility to contort his way around blockers, but needs to keep his feet underneath him as Clemson blockers were able to displace him from his path and put him on the ground.
Fields lacks the upper body power to stack-and-shed at the point of attack and struggles to rip through blocks due to soft hands and an upright playing style. He has the lower body quickness needed for the next level, both as a rusher and when asked to drop in space, but he will struggle to find success in the NFL if he doesn't develop his playing strength or shed technique.
Other NFL Draft notes
- Saturday was a monumental test for Clemson junior QB Deshaun Watson (6-2, 210, 4.64, #4) and despite the win for the Tigers, it was a mixed bag from a scouting perspective. His poise and toughness down the stretch proved to be the difference, including two fourth-quarter touchdown passes that gave Clemson the lead and victory over Louisville. However, his ball placement was inconsistent throughout the game, finishing with three interceptions -- one came on a tipped pass, but two were due to inaccurate throws. There is so much to like about Watson from his physical skills to his mental make-up, but his development as a passer down the stretch in 2016 will determine whether or not he is No. 1 overall pick material.
- One more Trubisky stat: There are 76 quarterbacks at the FBS-level who have attempted at least 120 pass attempts and the Tar Heels quarterback, who has attempted 175 passes so far in 2016, is the only passer without an interception.
- Two prospects who are former "risers" in previous stock reports haven't slowed down. Syracuse Orange redshirt senior WR Amba Etta-Tawo (6-1, 204, 4.54, #7) notched his fifth straight game with 100+ receiving yards as the former Maryland Terrapins receiver is certainly making the most of his final collegiate season. Averaging 168 receiving yards per game, Etta-Tawo has been a fun surprise so far in 2016. Meanwhile, South Alabama Jaguars redshirt senior TE Gerald Everett (6-3, 240, 4.68, #12) entered the season with some hype and so far he has lived up to them. On Saturday against San Diego State Aztecs , the UAB Blazers transfer registered his first 100-yard receiving performance of the season with five receptions for 103 yards, including an impressive 79-yard touchdown grab. Everett continues to push for top-100 status in the 2017 class.
- Texas Longhorns A&M has some inconsistent tendencies on offense, but the defense is much improved from last season, especially on a talent-packed defensive line. As a team, the Aggies are averaging 10.0 tackles for loss per game so far in 2016, which will give A&M a legitimate chance in every game they play this season.
- The Big Ten's version of Christian McCaffrey , Ohio State junior running back Curtis Samuel (5-11, 200, 4.52, #4) doesn't receive the type of hype on a national level that his talent deserves. Sharing the backfield duties with talented redshirt freshman Mike Weber , Samuel is one of the most natural receiving backs I've scouted at the college level. He currently ranks second in college football with 345 receiving yards among running backs, adding 328 rushing yards (8.0 average) and five total touchdowns. Quarterback J.T. Barrett likes to spread the wealth with 15 Ohio State skill players registering at least one reception in 2016, but Samuel is No. 1 weapon on the Buckeyes' offense and continues to move up draft boards.
- Houston Cougars senior DE/OLB Tyus Bowser (6-2, 240, 4.67, #81) missed Houston's match-up last Thursday against Connecticut Huskies due to a mysterious undisclosed injury and now we know what happened. He was involved in a fight with teammate Matthew Adams last Wednesday night as tempers flared during a team competition. Bowser fractured a bone in his face, which will sideline him for several weeks, and the Cougars are still trying to determine if he needs surgery. The top senior prospect on the roster according to several NFL scouts, this is an unfortunate setback for Bowser and a big loss for the Cougars' defense.
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