College News & Analysis

Top 10 performances from 2021 NFL Draft prospects in Week 6

Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Travis Etienne (9) leaps over Miami Hurricanes safety Gurvan Hall, Jr. (26) during the third quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Ruinard-USA TODAY Sports

Week 6 of the 2020 college football season was the week of the running back, as we saw a number of lights-out performances at the position. So many that we couldn’t even include guys like Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert, who put on a show against North Carolina.

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1. RB Travis Etienne, Clemson

This was a muscle-flexing type of performance from PFF’s RB1. He racked up 149 yards on 17 carries — including 110 yards after contact — and broke eight tackles in the process. He also hauled in eight passes for 73 yards on the day with two broken tackles after the catch, as well. It seemed like every time he touched the ball was a highlight waiting to happen.

That’s a special blend of burst, speed and power that will no doubt translate to the NFL.

2. WR Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU

We knew Terrace Marshall Jr. had a legit catch radius at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, but I’m not quite sure we knew he had wheels as he showed on Saturday.

Marshall was cooking all day long in LSU’s loss to Missouri. He finished with 22 catches for 236 yards and three scores. After some drop issues the first two weeks, Marshall didn’t let a single ball hit the ground Saturday and also broke two tackles. The receiver class is loaded, and I’m not sure he’s quite done enough yet to vault into the first-round conversation, but his size-speed combo will be intriguing on Day 2.

3. CB Derion Kendrick, Clemson

Kendrick’s stat line from this game — as well as his stat line from the season on the whole — is utterly absurd at the moment. Kendrick allowed zero catches from four targets and added an interception, bringing his stats for the season up to zero catches allowed from eight targets with a pick and two pass breakups. He has quite literally been a shutdown corner.

And it’s not like he’s only getting targeted downfield, either, as Kendrick even forced an incompletion on a screen pass Saturday night. After an up-and-down 2019 season that saw him earn a 66.6 coverage grade in his first year at cornerback after switching from wide receiver, Kendrick looks like the best cornerback in the country through three games this year. He’s an uber-physical tackler yet doesn’t rely on grabbing or mauling wideouts to stick with them in man coverage.

4. RB Michael Carter, North Carolina

Carter’s start to the 2020 season has been nothing short of special. He’s one of the “bounciest” running backs in the entire country and has broken 20 tackles on 40 carries so far, including eight on 17 carries this past weekend. He’s also got some pretty darn good juice behind him, as well.

At 5-foot-8, 199 pounds, he’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Pigeonholing him as a scatback would be doing him a disservice with how hard he runs, though. Carter is more than willing to run behind his pads and lower the boom against linebackers in the hole.

5. TE Kenny Yeboah, Ole Miss

Let me first say that Yeboah is yet another athletic big man who could qualify as a tight end in name only. He’s 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and has taken fewer than half of his snaps inline this season. What he did as a receiver against Alabama was still impressive, though.

He showed some legit speed for a tight end and adjusted to multiple passes outside of his frame to haul in all seven of his targets for 181 yards. Ball skills plus athleticism is a good starting point for a tight end. Now, can he get his play strength up to an NFL level for the position?

6. T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech

Darrisaw was a man possessed in the run game against Virginia Tech. Whether it was moving guys off the line of scrimmage or taking out linebackers at the second level, he did it all.

He plays with such easy power for an athletic tackle. Darrisaw has been starting for three years now at Virginia Tech, with his grade improving in each subsequent campaign. This year, his 94.3 overall grade is the highest of any tackle in college football. Don’t be surprised to see him sneak into the first round if we see this continue throughout the ACC schedule.

7. Edge Azeez Ojulari, Georgia

After a fairly impressive redshirt freshman campaign in which Ojulari racked up 38 pressures on 289 pass-rushing snaps, the edge defender looks like he’s taken the next step in 2020. Against Tennessee, he had a game-changing strip-sack where he dipped incredibly low to get around the edge.

That sort of bend is ideal for the position when projecting to the NFL. Ojulari now has 13 pressures through three games and looks like a difference-maker for the Bulldogs. It’s worth noting, however, that he’s still a tad undersized at only 240 pounds, so he’s no lock to declare this spring.

8. DI Christian Barmore, Alabama

After a tepid 76.4 pass-rushing grade in his debut against Texas A&M, Barmore looked 100% back from a minor knee injury this past week against Ole Miss. He racked up four pressures and earned an 86.5 pass-rushing grade on 26 pass-rushing snaps.

In what’s been a weak defensive tackle class across the college football landscape this season, Barmore’s outing was the most impressive one I’ve seen from a defensive tackle in 2020. He has the type of physical and technical skill set that can beat blockers any which way he wants. Even in the highlights above, you see quicks, power and hands all within the first three plays. It’s still early, but Barmore looks like he’s going to end up as DT1.

9. RB Najee Harris, Alabama

Harris would be even higher on this list were it not for a fumble he coughed up against Ole Miss. I’m not too worried about that, though, because it’s the only time he’s fumbled on 483 career touches. When he held onto the ball, Harris was his normal, untackleable self.

He broke 10 tackles on 23 rushes for 206 yards and shed five more on three catches for 42 yards. Harris also broke off the longest run of his career — a 39-yard touchdown to ice the game. Speed will obviously be his biggest concern, but there’s not too many more after that.

10. T Sam Cosmi, Texas

Texas has been airing the ball out like no other team this season, and Cosmi is a big reason why. On 70 pass protection snaps against Oklahoma on Saturday, Cosmi didn’t allow a single pressure or record a single downgrade. And 38 of those 70 qualified as true pass sets for us. That’s some impressive stuff from the redshirt junior left tackle, who now has an 89.8 pass-blocking grade on the season.

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