College football this past week was marred by COVID-19-related cancellations and some odd schedule quirks. But many games still went on and yielded some fascinating results, including some NFL draft prospects who fared well ... and a few who did not.
Here are this week’s NFL draft winners and losers:
Florida QB Kyle Trask
We’re about the 836th person to point this out now, but Trask’s statistics through six games this season (70.1 percent completions, 2,171 pass yards, 28-3 TD-INT ratio) almost mirror Joe Burrow a year ago (79.6 percent, 2,157 pass yards, 25-3 ratio).
It was hard not to come away from Florida’s blowout of Arkansas this weekend, hanging 63 points on the Razorbacks, impressed with Trask’s efficiency — and without the benefit of possible top-10 pick Kyle Pitts, who was out with injury. Trask was 23-of-29 passing (with two drops and a throwaway) for 356 yards, six TDs and no turnovers.
And just as there were doubters about the draft stock of Burrow, who entered last season earning Day 3 grades, there remains hesitancy with Trask. We placed him 20th overall in our initial 2021 NFL mock draft a few weeks back, and when we asked three NFL scouts to give it a quick glance and point out anything out of whack, two of them mentioned Trask not being a first-round talent.
We’ll see if that ends up holding up.
To the right team, he might be a first-round pick. Trask was slower in his reads last season, didn’t display great pocket movement and often played conservatively. We chalk some of that up to his stunning lack of game experience, having backed up D’Eriq King in high school and Feleipe Franks for parts of two years at Florida.
Now, we’re seeing a more decisive, stunningly accurate version of Trask — one that might land him in the top 50 selections of next year’s draft. He doesn’t fit the mold of the dual-threat quarterbacks who have taken the league by storm but could be a fit for a team such as New England or San Francisco looking to upgrade its QB room.
Trask isn’t perfect by any means, but he’s certainly fascinating. There’s appreciation in NFL circles of how he has developed despite an untraditional path.
Notre Dame QB Ian Book
Nearly a month ago, we sent out a few texts to NFL talent evaluators to get a sense of where Book was on the draft landscape. He’d received some mid-to-late Day 3 summer grades from our sources but had started the season with a handful of so-so passing performances.
The sense we got was that Book was likely to get drafted but that he hadn’t helped his cause much. One evaluator used Easton Stick as an example, pointing out that if Stick could be the 166th overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, then Book certainly could be drafted in a similar range.
Book has now strung together three strong games, including impressive victories over Clemson and Boston College, leading the Irish to 92 points in those two.
Book’s issue was consistency. The bright spots have always been there, but he could be maddeningly up and down, game to game, even series to series. That has started to change. He’s harnessing his impressive athleticism to create plays and is limiting his mistakes better.
In his past 12 games, dating to the end of the 2019 season, Book has thrown one interception and has fumbled only twice. He misfired on some throws against Clemson, but if you take away Book’s throwaways (amid heavy pressure) and dropped passes, his 22-of-39 passing line looks a lot better.
Book’s run-around, freewheeling style might limit his appeal but he has stepped up and played his best ball when it counts the most. The Irish are steamrolling toward a playoff spot, and Book has been a big reason why.
His draft allure is simmering nicely, and an early Day 3 landing spot wouldn’t be out of the question.
Notre Dame WR Ben Skowronek
Another Irish player on the rise is Skowronek, the Northwestern transfer who suddenly has been a big part of the passing game success.
Last year, Book started locking in more on Chase Claypool, as he was the Irish’s best target. Is Book starting to do the same with Skowronek? We’re fans of Javon McKinley, too, and believe he has the makings of a solid NFL wideout. But Skowronek’s emergence has helped his previously tepid NFL draft stock.
On Saturday against Boston College, Skowronek caught three touchdowns (two of them on jump balls in the end zone and one while he was interfered with), lost a fumble and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the first score in an eventful game.
The week prior against Clemson, Skowronek had a less successful outing, with only four grabs, another 15-yard penalty and a controversial fourth-down “drop” late in regulation on a play where pass interference was originally flagged and then picked up. On the positive side, Skowronek converted a big first down in the second overtime of that victory and blocked his tail off in the run game.
How high is Skowronek’s ceiling? He has good body control, excellent toughness, plus route-running ability and high-point skills that were on display in the BC game. What he lacks in suddenness, he makes up for with his skill for shielding defenders away consistently and attacking the ball with his hands.
Skowronek profiles somewhere on the Zach Pascal-Travis Fulgham spectrum as an NFL talent, but he could also take the Trey Burton route and add a little weight to become an H-back type of player.
Indiana WR Ty Fryfogle
Entering the season, the Hoosiers’ best senior NFL prospect was WR Whop Philyor — and that might still be the case. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Philyor has had a nice season for the top-10 Hoosiers.
But Fryfogle has been the big surprise to date. “TyFry” is the team’s leading receiver this season, and he had another huge day Saturday against Michigan State, hauling in career highs with 11 grabs, 200 yards and two TDs. This coming after his big game against Michigan the week prior, beating man coverage consistently to catch seven passes for a team-high 142 yards and a touchdown.
The 6-1, 206-pound Fryfogle entered the season with mostly UDFA grades. Now he’s making a strong case to be drafted, showing the ability to separate better and make plays downfield with his tremendous concentration and hands. He’s not a huge YAC threat or exceptional at breaking tackles, but Fryfogle has been markedly better in both areas this season.
Nevada WR Romeo Doubs
His performance this season has been nothing short of tremendous. Despite last season’s top target, Elijah Cooks, likely out for the season with a shoulder injury, Doubs (pronounced “Dubs”) has snatched that role. He’s topping what Cooks was doing last season.
Granted, Doubs’ production has come against a slew of lesser opponents (Wyoming, UNLV, Utah State and New Mexico), and of those, only Wyoming ranks in the top 90 defenses nationally. But he has already doubled his four-TD season in 2019 with eight scores in four contests, including three each of the past two games. Doubs caught five passes on Saturday for 172 yards and also returned three punts for 33 yards.
Here was one of the scores — and yes, Doubs was somehow inbounds.
The 6-2, 193-pound Doubs is a junior and could return to school to team up with sophomore QB Carson Strong as one of the best passing combos in the country. But if Doubs keeps up this insane production, even against a schedule of inferior defenses, it wouldn’t be stunning to see Doubs stick his toe in the NFL draft waters.
Miami EDGE Jaelan Phillips
Phillips crashed in on the first play from scrimmage Saturday to help bring down Virginia Tech RB Raheem Blackshear. Later, Phillips added a big sack on third-and-2 from midfield, another tackle for loss that lengthened a field-goal try by 4 yards (it missed) and about a half-dozen other plays before he helped make the game-sealing tackle as the Hokies tried to lateral their way to a miracle.
The former 5-star recruit once was rated higher than Chase Young and K’Lavon Chaisson coming out of high school, but Phillips’ path has been far different than both of theirs. After doing little in two years at UCLA, Phillips questioned whether he wanted to keep playing football.
He did, transferring to Miami, and it has been a tremendous rebirth for a long, athletic and gifted rusher. Phillips might not have one exceptional trait, and he might continue to refine his pass rush arsenal. But following his eight-tackle (4.5 for loss), 2.5-sack game on Saturday, playing 72 of the 75 defensive snaps, Phillips’ arrow is pointing way up.
Through eight games, the 6-5, 260-pound pass rusher has five sacks, three batted passes and an interception. He was ejected against FSU for receiving two personal-foul penalties (the game he had the INT), and Phillips has a long injury history that NFL teams must sort through.
Even so, his breakout season has his stock soaring. We’re not sure if Phillips will end up coming out in 2021, but it wouldn’t be stunning to see that happen if he keeps up his pace. He seemingly gets better and more comfortable with each passing game.
2 former Arizona linebackers
Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II both transferred from the Wildcats this offseason, heading to Texas Tech and West Virginia, respectively. Arizona’s losses have been the Big 12’s gains.
Schooler made a terrific stop at the goal line with Tech down two scores late in the third quarter, stopping Baylor QB Charlie Brewer in his tracks. Watch, too, as Schooler knocks the tight end out of the way first to make the tackle that ended up going viral.
It was a play that helped hold the upset-minded Bears to a field goal and allowed Tech to stay close enough to pull off the comeback. The 6-foot, 231-pound Schooler made 11 tackles (two for losses) and a sack, continuing his strong senior season.
Fields led the way for a Mountaineers defense that held TCU to six points and 295 yards of offense in a win Saturday. He had a game-high 14 tackles, plus a nice QB hurry to force an incomplete pass. The week before, the 6-1, 218-pound Fields suffered some missed tackles against Texas but cleaned up his effort in that department in this one.
Fields is considered the better NFL prospect of the two, and both are more likely Day 3 prospects. But each has stepped up his game under difficult circumstances this season after transferring and could be on the radar for the Senior Bowl, if that game can be pulled off amid COVID-19 concerns.
Oh, and Arizona without them? Well, its defense allowed USC to score two touchdowns in the final two minutes for a painful loss as the Trojans rang up nearly 500 yards of offense.
Colorado State QB Patrick O’Brien
It has been a tough start to the season for O’Brien and the Rams, who fell to 1-2 following a blowout loss to Boise State. There were a few ripples of buzz around the 6-5, 241-pound O’Brien this past summer as the former Nebraska transfer heated up late last season and formed a good passing game with WRs Warren Jackson and Dante Wright, and TE Trey McBride.
But Jackson opted out of the season, O’Brien barely won the starting job, Wright missed the opener and the coaching change to Steve Addazio has been anything but smooth. McBride has been good, but the rest of the Rams’ offense has been inconsistent, especially in pass protection.
In the loss to Boise, O’Brien ran for a score and connected on a few pretty passes to Wright. But O’Brien also missed McBride for what should have been an early touchdown, stared down McBride on a bad interception in the second quarter and nearly lost a fumble right before the half.
O’Brien was pulled late in the game once it was out of hand.
A lot of the offensive dysfunction is not entirely on O’Brien’s head. He’s being hurt by an unfavorable and awkward season. But O’Brien isn’t helping his cause for the 2021 draft, especially in a year when postseason all-star draft events are eschewing traditional games by the minute amid COVID-related concerns.
After entering the season with borderline draftable/UDFA grades, O’Brien has some work to do to rekindle his stock.
Michigan LB Cameron McGrone
There was a ton of buzz on McGrone leading up to the season, but he — like more than one Wolverine this season — hasn’t brought it yet during a lost campaign for Big Blue. He has an additional year of eligibility, and most scouts would advise him to return to school even though he was receiving some Day 2 buzz this past summer from some media.
McGrone has been sluggish in coverage (allowing a TD late in the blowout loss to Wisconsin on Saturday), hasn’t shown the same level of run-stopping proficiency as he did in 2019 and hasn’t been asked to blitz much this season, which appeared to be a sneaky good strength a year ago.
So some of this is coaching — insert “a Don Brown defense” one-liner here. But some of it is McGrone being stuck in neutral as a prospect.
Miami TE Brevin Jordan
I’m not quite as high on Jordan as some are in scouting circles, and yet he was off to a solid start this season before a shoulder injury sidelined him. The 6-3, 240-pound Jordan caught 18 passes for 243 yards and three scores in the first four games before missing more than a month of action.
Saturday was his return to the field, and Jordan was quiet: two catches on three targets for 22 yards against Virginia Tech, with a 19-yard grab coming on a schemed-up trick play on the second snap from scrimmage. He wasn’t targeted in the final 24 minutes of the game as the Hurricanes started throwing more and rallied from two scores down to win.
It wasn’t stunning that Jordan would be slow to return to form in his first game back. He started and played 64 of the Hurricanes’ 88 offensive snaps.
The problem is that Jordan was overmatched a few times when he was asked to pass block against the Hokies, a good reminder that it just isn’t what Jordan does well — even when healthy.
Some people believed Jordan could emerge as an Evan Engram type of prospect. The more I watch him, the more I see a Gerald Everett-type player. Everett is fine, but he has never matched the hype of being an early second-round pick. I wonder if Jordan will either, depending on where he’s taken.
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