The Big Ten is back, and with it came nearly all the top pass-rushing talent in the country. There are a number of players with freaky physical tools to rush the passer residing in the conference, and a few have already flashed enough to make this list.
1. ED Kwity Paye, Michigan
Paye topped my preseason list of draft prospects who needed a 2020 season the most. Blessed with elite physical tools, Paye had shown zero refinement as a pass-rusher in his first three seasons for the Wolverines. On Saturday, he looked like a different player entirely.
Kwity Paye was simply unblockable against Minnesota, really impressive start to his 2020 campaign pic.twitter.com/29O4IZwHUy
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) October 25, 2020
His 89.8 pass-rushing grade on the day was far and away a career-high, and he’d only ever had one other game over 80.0. He returned to school because he was likely a fringe first-rounder based on 2019 tape. But if we see the guy we saw against Indiana on Saturday for the rest of the season, don’t be surprised if he’s the first edge off the board in April.
2. LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame
JOK has continued to bring the weekly splash plays for the Notre Dame defense in 2020 but also eliminated a lot of the negatives from his 2019 tape. On Saturday, he wasn’t downgraded once on 38 snaps and had one of the most impressive interceptions you’ll see all year from a college linebacker.
S/LB with size, speed, athleticism, ball skills
Big reason why I expected Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to be one of the biggest Draft risers through the 2020 season pic.twitter.com/zviN9Ff5T4
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 24, 2020
That playmaking ability and coverage versatility are almost assuredly going to get JOK drafted in the first round next April.
3. RB Javonte Williams, North Carolina
That makes it back-to-back weeks for the Tar Heel running back, if you’re keeping track at home. This one may have been his opus. Williams broke 17 tackles — the most of any running back in a game this season — on only 19 carries. He finished with 160 yards and three scores on the day.
— Stadium (@Stadium) October 24, 2020
The 5-foot-10, 220-pound running back looked like a hot knife gliding through N.C. State’s buttery defense. His combination of explosiveness and elusiveness at that size is going to put him firmly in the Day 2 conversation.
4. ED Jayson Oweh, Penn State
Oweh is a two-time member of the top 10 on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list, yet he hadn’t even been a starter for Penn State until Saturday. While he may not have stuffed the stat sheet, Oweh certainly made his presence felt. He finished with three hits and six sacks on the day to go along with two run stops.
Jayson Oweh (9) & Shaka Toney (6) had 15 QB pressures between them in @PennStateFball OT loss to Indiana
Oweh will be a riser in #2021NFLDraft throughout this season… Only 1 start coming into 2020
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) October 25, 2020
With top-10 type physical tools for the edge position, what he did to Indiana was similarly top-10 type tape.
5. C Landon Dickerson, Alabama
Dickerson is about as well-traveled an offensive line prospect as you’ll see in college football. He’s made starts at every single offensive line position in his career after three years at Florida State and now a year and a half at Alabama. He earned a career-high 93.1 overall grade this past week against Tennesee while playing two different positions!
Every game. Never fails. It’s like where’s Waldo…Alabama guard Landon Dickerson is going to find someone. pic.twitter.com/aDtvMKOzEx
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) October 25, 2020
He played 32 snaps at left guard and 47 at center in the Tide’s road win. In it, he notched an absurd five big-time blocks — the second-most by an offensive lineman in a single game this season (Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw had six against North Carolina).
6. ED Kingsley Enagbare, South Carolina
With only 32 career pressures in two seasons for the Gamecocks, Enagbare wasn’t on too many radars heading into this season. Through five games so far this season, however, the 6-foot-4, 270-pounder looks like a different animal. His 84.3 pass-rushing grade through five games is the highest of any starter in the SEC.
Against LSU this past week, he didn’t get many opportunities to attack, but he made the most of them when he did, notching three pressures on 11 pass-rushing snaps. The rep below of him rushing over the left guard is one of the most impressive I’ve seen all season with the violence in his hands and burst to finish.
7. LB Olakunle Fatukasi, Rutgers
If you read my article on the top prospect for each Big Ten team, you should already be familiar with the Rutgers linebacker. He did a little bit of everything to fuel the Scarlet Knights to their first conference win in three years.
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) October 26, 2020
He finished with five stops on the day and added a forced fumble, as well. He showed off an ability to close quickly on ball carriers in space, as only one of his five catches allowed resulted in a first down.
8. S Yusuf Corker, Kentucky
Corker was a tackling machine for the Wildcats' defense Saturday. Unfortunately, Kentucky’s offense couldn’t hold its end of the bargain in a 20-10 loss to Missouri, but Corker did his best to keep it close. He racked up nine defensive stops and allowed only two catches on four targets for 14 yards.
He’s a long, physical safety who’s one of the better tacklers at the position in the country. His stick on tight end Niko Hea below was absolutely textbook.
9. ED Shaka Toney, Penn State
The Penn State edge duo had itself a day against Indiana. Toney had two sacks, a hit and two hurries as well as three run stops for the Nittany Lions.
Shaka Toney takes some of the tightest corners in college football pic.twitter.com/pcT9xdhG7G
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) October 24, 2020
Toney has been productive as a pass-rusher in his Penn State career whenever he’s been called upon. He’s earned pass-rushing grades of 88.4, 75.5, and 79.9 in his three seasons. At 6-foot-3, 252 pounds, Toney is on the smaller end for the position but has enough juice and pop in his hands to make it work.
10. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State
After Trevor Lawrence got a five-game head start on Fields, the Ohio State quarterback went out and buried Nebraska in its season opener to let people know he’s still gunning for that No. 1 spot. He went 20-of-21 on the day, with his lone incompletion being a deep ball that was on the money but popped out when Chris Olave fell to the turf (although he did have an ugly forced seam ball that got bailed out by a pass interference penalty).
Justin Fields is officially back ????
What a dime
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 24, 2020
The reason that Fields' accuracy didn't push him up higher on the list is we’re still seeing his tendency to freeze with the rock. His average time to throw was nearly 3.4 seconds, and he took a sack or scrambled on over one-third of his dropbacks. He’s just not going to be able to rely on breaking the pocket to that degree in the NFL.