Coming off of one of the most exciting opening weekends in history, we head to Week 2 — not loaded with the same marquee matchups at a team level but it’s always an important week for evaluations. Whether it’s simply keeping tabs on top players’ ability to dominate lesser competition or small-school prospects getting one of their few opportunities against big-name schools, every week counts in the overall draft process.
Here are the top prospects, prospects on the rise and matchups to watch heading into Week 2:
Prospects to watch:
1. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
Accuracy and decision-making are two key areas in which Mahomes needs to improve this season and he got off to a great start last week against Stephen F. Austin. The Texas Tech system certainly creates a number of easy throws, particularly against lesser competition, but Mahomes had one of the best games from Week 1 and he’ll have the ball in his hands quite a bit against Arizona State. Expect a Pac-12esque last-night shootout between the two teams with Mahomes being tested much more than he was a year ago. While his stats were great last year, he benefitted from the second-highest percentage of yards coming after the catch in the nation, and there were simply too many missed throws. It’s Mahomes’ first year playing only football – he previously played baseball at Texas Tech – so this is the first week we’ll see if the dedication to football has really helped polish his game.
2. Carl Lawson, Edge, Auburn
It may not be a marquee matchup as Lawson goes up against Arkansas State, but Lawson will be a weekly watch because it’s all about maintaining his strong play. He started out strong with one of the nation’s top grades last week, as he proved difficult to block as a pass rusher, but he had a similar strong first outing last year that turned into an injury-riddled, inconsistent season. If Lawson is going settle in that first round range, he must show that he can maintain his dominance on a weekly basis, and it starts right here against Arkansas State.
3. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia
A much-heralded recruit and early-contributor for Virginia, Blanding heads into this third year with high expectations. He’s already being noted at the top of draft boards, but I’d like to see better work in coverage where he surrendered the most touchdowns among the nation’s safeties last year with eight. There are few better tests for a safety prospect than going up against Oregon’s offense. We should see plenty of opportunities for Blanding to be challenged as an open-field tackler – especially against one of the most difficult running backs to tackle in Royce Freeman. In coverage, Oregon’s offense keeps safeties and linebackers on a string with their play action game, so Blanding will be challenged in all facets of his game.
4. Wyatt Teller, G, Virginia Tech
Liberty’s interior defensive linemen with no match for Teller last weekend and Tennessee’s defensive tackles should provide more resistance this week. Teller came into the season as one of the nation’s top guards and he finished last week with the top grade by a wide margin. Tennessee has two talented true sophomore defensive tackles in Shy Tuttle and Khalil McKenzie, so keep an eye on their battle as Teller looks to establish himself as one of the best draft-eligible guards.
Prospects on the rise
1. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
This should not be a surprise for those who watched the Texas game. Kizer is a couple plays away from being touted as the Heisman favorite, but Notre Dame was unable to pull the game out in overtime. Regardless, Kizer showed his potential in front of a national audience, making NFL throws – back shoulders, deep digs, post routes over linebackers and under safeties, wheel routes with touch – all over the field. One strong game does not completely undo the issues we saw last year, namely decision-making and taking too many sacks in the pocket, but last week was a great display of Kizer’s talent and what he’s capable of if he can put it all together. While the NFL draft hype machine is starting to pick up, we’d like to see improvement in those two key areas over a longer stretch of time before jumping on board.
2. Marcus Williams, S, Utah
Williams has been a solid safety for Utah the last two years and his playmaking ability was on display in Week 1. Ignore that it was against Southern Utah, finishing with an interception, pass defensed, and force fumble plus recovery on only 48 snaps is great at any level.
3. Jerome Lane, WR, Akron
A big-play threat last season, Lane continued in Week 1 with 10 catches for 196 yards. At 6-foot-3 225-pounds, Lane has mismatch-creating size and he showed the ability to make plays both down the field and in the short game picking up yards after the catch. He’ll put those playmaking skills on display this week against Wisconsin.
Matchups to watch
1. Forrest Lamp, OT, Western Kentucky vs. Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson, edge rushers, Alabama
With two strong years of grading under his belt, Lamp faces the biggest challenge of his career going up against Alabama’s plethora of talented edge rushers. He’s graded as a top-5 offensive tackle each of the last two years, but he doesn’t have prototypical tackle size and may be better suited for guard at the next level. Regardless, any time Lamp has a chance to prove himself against top competition, he has to take advantage of it. Last season, he held his own against LSU, but this week he’ll see plenty of Williams and Anderson who both played huge roles in Alabama’s decimation of USC last week.
2. Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State vs. Desmond King, CB, Iowa
One of the few bright spots on Iowa State, Lazard’s 6-foot-5 223-pound frame creates matchup problems for opposing cornerbacks. He’ll see plenty of reps against one of the best cornerbacks in the nation in King who excels in zone coverage and is one of the nation’s surest tacklers. Iowa is not known for tracking opposing wide receivers so expect King to stay in his natural right cornerback spot but when they are matched up, we’ll be paying close attention. Last season Lazard caught one pass on just two targets into King’s coverage with King getting his hand on the one incompletion for a pass breakup. Even if it’s only a handful of plays that we get to see this matchup, it’s great insight on both players.
3. Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech vs. Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee
One of the week’s best games also features one of the best matchups as two PFF College 101 players go head-to-head. Unlike King at Iowa, Sutton will flip sides so we may see a large number of head-to-head matchups with Ford. Last week, Ford did a nice job on vertical routes and back shoulders off those last week, and those contested catches have given Sutton problems in the past. Sutton took a step back in 2015 after an excellent 2014 season, but aside from a muffed punt return last week, he looked back to form. He sunk beautifully in zone coverage to make a diving interception against Appalachian State and that’s the kind of playmaking he can bring to the table.