The most important tape for NFL evaluators will always be the most recent tape. We've seen time and time again that it doesn’t matter if a prospect has shown flashes in the past if he also looked like a liability in his final college season.
Take this past year as an example, as you would be hard-pressed to find a 2020 preseason draft board that didn’t include Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses and Florida defensive tackle Marvin Wilson. Yet, both went undrafted in 2021.
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Rattler’s inclusion on this list is about expectations. He hasn’t played particularly poor football, as evidenced by his 84.8 overall grade, but Rattler was the No. 1 overall prospect on PFF’s preseason draft board.
While he still has that kind of talent, the way in which he’s playing the quarterback position is worrisome when it comes to projecting his fit in the NFL. He already has six turnover-worthy plays to his name through four weeks, but, more egregiously, he also has no big-time throws. Rattler is now the only quarterback in the FBS who has dropped back to pass at least 75 times yet not managed to record a single big-time throw. That is the definition of not going above and beyond in an offense.
Spencer Rattler vs. first-round picks since 2017: Lowest Turnover worthy play rate & corresponding big-time throw rate in final college season
|Name||Season||Turnover-worthy play %||Big-time throw %|
While Lincoln Riley’s offense schemes up a good deal of layups for his quarterback, simply operating that system isn’t nearly enough to make someone a first-rounder.
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QB Kedon Slovis, USC
Slovis has served as the Trojans signal-caller ever since his freshman year when he took over for an injured J.T. Daniels. And while he has been an accurate quarterback over the past two seasons, that accuracy hasn’t been a cure-all.
Over his first two years, the USC quarterback displayed quite the knack for making disastrous decisions with the football on a near-weekly basis. We’d hoped that would change heading into Year 3, but it may have gotten worse. He now has six turnover-worthy plays in only three games and risks losing his job to backup Jaxson Dart.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Williams' situation has been all sunshine and rainbows at Notre Dame, as his offensive line has given him less than one yard before contact per rush attempt this year. However, one would hope that a potentially high draft pick at running back would be able to overcome a poor offensive line in an adequate manner. Instead, he’s managed only 239 yards on 64 carries so far — 3.7 yards per carry — and 94 of those yards came on two runs. That, of course, means that he has averaged a gruesome 2.3 yards per pop on those 62 other runs.
Kyren Williams: PFF rushing stats and rank among 379 college football players with 20 or more carries this season
|PFF overall grade||68.8||223rd|
|PFF rushing grade||65.4||303rd|
|Yards after contact per attempt||2.77||228th|
|Missed tackles forced per attempt||0.23||167th|
|First down/touchdown %||10.9%||371st|
The Texas A&M offense has been difficult to watch this season, and Wydermyer hasn’t helped matters. He’s already set a single-season career-high in drops with three on 16 catchable targets this season. He’s hauled in only 13 of his 28 targets for 159 yards with no scores.
The junior who started the season as PFF’s TE1 has also failed to break a single tackle after the catch. But maybe most concerning is that Wydermyer’s run-blocking grade has dropped from 70.2 in 2020 to 59.1 this season.
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Walker is one heck of a physical specimen at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds. He’s got the feet of a man 100 pounds lighter, but even after four years at Penn State, we still haven’t seen that in pass protection. He was nothing short of a problem at left tackle in games against Wisconsin and Auburn this year. His 63.6 pass-blocking grade is even lower than his 67.9 in 2020 — and that’s the wrong direction to be going as we head into the draft.
Nelson has taken his lumps over his career. He was thrust into action as a true freshman and allowed a ridiculous 12 sacks that season. Still, all that seasoning led to growth in Year 2, as Nelson saw his pass-blocking grade jump from 46.8 in 2019 to 78.7 in 2020.
A similar leap in 2021 could have put him in the mix for OT1 with his movement skills at tackle, but that hasn’t been in the cards. He’s allowed nine total pressures against the three FBS teams he’s faced this season, and it’s not like he faced world-beaters either, as he put up a 49.2 overall grade against Michigan State.
Overshown already had a hill to climb as a mold-breaker type of linebacker, as very few 6-foot-4 and 223-pound guys have been able to stick it at linebacker in the NFL.
Unsurprisingly, the physicality of playing between the tackles has been an issue for him this season. He’s missed seven tackles on 39 attempts and earned a putrid 43.9 run-defense grade. While his length still plays in coverage, he’d be a liability as a traditional linebacker in the NFL today.
EDGE Xavier Thomas, Clemson
Thomas' inclusion isn’t particularly limited to 2021 because he has failed to deliver on expectations for a few years now after one of the best freshman seasons we had seen from an edge rusher back in 2018.
That year, Thomas racked up 26 pressures on 150 pass-rushing snaps alongside three other first-rounders on the Clemson defensive line, and the consensus five-star recruit looked nothing short of a future top-10 pick.
Xavier Thomas: Pass-rush stats since 2018
|Pass-rush win rate||20.7%||11.4%||17.0%||7.9%|
He saw his overall grade fall to a 69.8 as a sophomore in 2019 as the Clemson defense underwent some schematic changes to the vaunted 3-1-7. Thomas then had adverse side effects from COVID-19 that limited him to only 119 snaps in 2020.
Many hoped he’d recapture that freshman form upon his return in 2021, but it hasn’t come close to happening. Thomas’ 63.4 pass-rushing grade through four games is now the lowest of his career.
Joseph first got the starting nod for the Wildcats as a redshirt freshman in 2020 when he racked up six picks in only nine games to tie for the most of any safety in the country. While picks can be flukey, Joseph’s range at least hinted that there was some playmaking ability to tap into. That’s not been the case whatsoever, unfortunately, as he’s already allowed 10 first downs in his coverage, the third-most of any safety in the country. Having only faced Michigan State, Indiana State, Duke and Ohio, Joseph’s results so far have been very surprising.
WR Ty Fryfogle, Indiana
Fryfogle racked up big yardage on the vertical route tree for the Hoosiers last season. His back-to-back 200-plus-yard receiving games against Michigan State and Ohio State was one of the most impressive stretches from a receiver all year. And with Fryfogle the unquestioned top dog in the Indiana offense heading into 2021, we were hoping to see that on a more regular basis this season.
That hasn’t come close to happening. Not only was he pretty much taken out of the game when he faced Ahmad Gardner, who could match Fryfogle’s size (he tallied only 13 yards vs. Cincinnati), but he has also struggled with drops. He has already dropped as many balls this season (five) as he did in his entire Indiana career before 2021.