2018 NFL Draft
Sam Darnold was and still is the best quarterback prospect heading into the 2018 NFL Draft (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

The information process continues as more and more clarity starts to get revealed. While the 2018 NFL Draft is a long ways away, it’s never too early to start scouting. Many pundits may have their rankings out already but, I find it foolish to make rash decisions based off of a week or two.

We have seen this already where nonsense media outlets constantly change their opinion from a week to week basis, but we will get to that later. On tap for this week in the scouting department was the UCLA vs. Memphis, Notre Dame vs. Boston College, Oregon vs. Wyoming, Clemson vs. Louisville, and Texas vs. USC game. Who stood out for better or worse as we get one week closer to the 2018 NFL Draft?

UCLA vs. Memphis

On the surface, most would think it would be a matchup of the five-star athletes vs. the walk-ons. In fact, it was quite the opposite as Memphis was by far the more physical opponent. Memphis not only dominated the line of scrimmage but also seemed to play with more hunger and fight.

The focus on this game was UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who I’ve compared to Eli Manning. Now, most pundits will look at the box score and figure Rosen is a bust because they lost to Memphis. That’s couldn’t be further from the truth because what any smart individual would do is look for the traits that are translatable to the NFL. Rosen has a bunch of them. Rosen appears to be a top 5 pick in the 2018 Draft. Don’t be fooled by the high turnover rate, that can be fixed with coaching.

Rosen has everything you look for in a franchise quarterback. He’s 6-foot-4 with perfect mechanics. He also has a good arm and is a better athlete than I anticipated. Rosen was a former highly recruited Tennis player and can move a little despite his reputation as being a statue in the pocket. In the clip below, make sure to watch for two things; His weight transfer as he throws the ball off his back foot and clean throwing delivery. By the way, it also helps when you can thread the needle between three defenders.

 

*Anthony Miller was a player that flashed while watching the game for Memphis. Is he a top 100 pick? Probably not, but if you’re looking for a slot receiver, Miller could be your guy. At 5-foot-11, 195, the combine will always be the determining factor for a small school guy’s draft position. He did do some damage against UCLA reeling in nine catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Remember, Isaac Bruce also went to Memphis so don’t count out Miller’s chances of making it.

Notre Dame vs. Boston College

I watched this game for one reason and one reason only; Could Harold Landry get the better of Mike McGlinchey and Notre Dame’s offensive line? Harold Landry not only didn’t record a sack but he only notched one tackle. In fact, Boston College limited his snaps for some reason and wasn’t on the field as much as I anticipated. For as bad as Georgia made the Notre Dame offensive line look, Landry didn’t have much of an impact.

Landry’s frame resembles Vic Beasley but I’m not sure he’s nearly as dynamic. Landry led the nation with 16.5 sacks a year ago and probably could have been a top 15 pick last year. There are some things to really like with Landry including his bend around the edge and quick get off. The hard thing was there wasn’t a whole lot to judge, more or less because he was stifled by McGlinchey on the left side and created some pressure on the right.

Oregon vs. Wyoming

Talk about another game that is almost impossible to grade. Wyoming was completely outmanned and outgunned. This is the last taste we get of Josh Allen against a premier team which hasn’t gone well thus far. Allen and the Cowboys got blasted in Week one against Iowa. The battle against Oregon had me turning off the TV very promptly.

Allen is a top-rated quarterback but he had a really bad showing. His box score line includes 9/24, 64 yards, and one interception. Allen has absolutely zero help but even he is to blame missing a bevy of open receivers. Oregon also got to him on more than one occasion which included a hit where I thought he tore his arm in half. Allen is going to be the most challenging quarterback to scout because it’s impossible to know what you’re getting at this point.

*Royce Freeman was a standout for Oregon. Yes, he’s already on my fantasy team and has been on my radar for quite some time. Freeman is the ultimate workhorse back totting the rock 30 times for 157 yards and three scores. The most impressive thing with Freeman is his lower half where he looks impossible to tackle. He is also really shifty for his size (5-foot-11, 238). Freeman has been Oregon’s starting running back dating back to when Marcus Mariota ran the show in 2013 and will go awfully high next year. After battling injuries last year, don’t sleep on Freeman who rushed for 35 touchdowns his first two years.

Clemson vs. Louisville

I’m out on Lamar Jackson. Well, if you read my column, I was out on him prior to his letdown against Clemson. Jackson is not an NFL quarterback, it’s that simple. It might be fair to say that he’s similar to Tyrod Taylor if everything goes well. Lamar Jackson isn’t anywhere close to as dynamic as Michael Vick, that part is clear. When Jackson faced the first real competition of the year, he folded. Jackson’s three touchdowns all came when the game was a foregone conclusion.

Clemson’s defense is brutal, but Jackson was just bad. Going 21-42 isn’t acceptable as his inaccuracy issues continued. I also saw from watching that he has absolutely no sense of how to read coverages and stares down his targets. If the first read isn’t there, Jackson will just take off and run. That’s not going to fly in the NFL. In the clip below, just pay attention to where Jackson’s eyes are. He stares his target down the whole way allowing the linebacker to slip in and snag the pick six.

 

*Mitchell Hyatt of Clemson. Keep his name in mind if your favorite team needs a left tackle. He has been the model of consistency for Clemson and could be one of the highest rated tackle prospects in 2018. He was terrific protecting Kelly Bryant against Louisville.

Texas vs. USC

The Canelo vs. GGG fight took away some of my attention towards this fantastic game that came down to the wire. I wish I would have just watched the football game the entire time after GGG was robbed of a victory but that’s a story for another day. USC won a thrilling game in double overtime 27-24. If we learned anything it’s that Sam Darnold’s clutch gene has been confirmed. He’s special.

Texas took a 17-14 lead with just 45 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. It took Darnold just three plays and no timeouts to go down the field and tie the game with a 31-yard field goal. Part of that drive included an insane jump pass. With a free runner in his face, Darnold stepped up in the pocket and delivered a strike. 99 percent of quarterbacks would have been sacked but not Darnold. That’s something you can’t teach and what makes Darnold the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall.

 

His tools aren’t the only thing to love when it comes to Sam Darnold. It’s the fact that he shows incredible poise facing pressure. It’s the fact that he was recruited as a linebacker and is incredibly tough. It’s also the fact that Darnold is money when the game comes down to the wire. Once overtime started, Darnold wasn’t messing around and threw a touchdown pass on the very first play.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the USC supporting cast on the offensive side of the ball. Ronald Jones, USC’s running back, might have the best pure speed of any of the running back prospects in the upcoming draft. Jones was a highly touted recruit and a member of my fantasy football team since his freshman year at USC. Jones has been on my radar for a long time and will be a fantastic running back in the NFL. Teams will also covet his pass catching ability hauling in a 56-yard score to close out halftime. Deontay Burnett, the wide receiver who caught the touchdown in overtime, is also shooting up draft boards.

*Connor Williams, the stud left tackle for Texas, tore his meniscus early in that game. Williams is one of the highest rated offensive linemen and will likely miss some time via the injury. While Williams was the focus for me coming into the game for Texas, another star emerged.

Prior to this game, I had no idea who Malik Jefferson was. Boy did he look like a freakish middle linebacker who can play on Sundays. Jefferson is Texas’ middle linebacker who looks like a freak athlete at 6-foot-3, 240. In that clip above, Jefferson was that free runner you saw almost get to Darnold as he was flying around the field all night.

Jefferson really looked like a complete linebacker who possed problems for Darnold in the passing game with plus coverage skills. He also has terrific speed with natural pass rush to him. Jefferson has definitely, been put on my radar list.