By Ricky Eisenbart, PSO Football Scouting Manager
Nov 10, 2019

Both the NFL and college football seasons are in full swing, but an unfortunate few NFL teams have already punted on 2019 (or are close to it). While most fans have the playoff race and all that follow it to look forward to, draft season is heating up early for those who can’t bear to watch their favorite professional team anymore. For those unfortunate fans, as well as NFL draft enthusiasts and college football fans alike, here are the Top Prospect Performers from this week of College Football.

In what might have been the most highly-anticipated Alabama-LSU matchup since 2013, the two star-studded heavyweights delivered an instant-classic that had the intensity of a legitimate championship.

Now, with a signature victory over the 3rd-ranked Crimson Tide under his belt, the meteoric rise of Joe Burrow continues, as the Heisman race may be his to lose at this point. In the face of the prospect machine that is the Alabama defense, Burrow was calm and collected despite the constant pressure he was facing (5 sacks). Starting the game 10/10, he put on a passing clinic and also showed an ability to scramble effectively in crucial situations.

Burrow will be an insanely intriguing prospect to watch as draft season approaches. Before his senior season, Burrow was barely even a blip on scouts’ radars. He was a transfer from Ohio State with a sub-60 completion percentage and very average measurables across the board. Now, he’s making a legitimate case for not only the Heisman and the top quarterback prospect, but the #1 overall pick. There are still several questions about Burrow that need to be answered, yet there’s no arguing the significance of a convincing victory over Alabama to snap an 8-year losing streak.

Projection: 2020 Top-5 Pick 

For the 9th time in his 2.5 years at Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor topped the 200-yard plateau with an impressive performance against a stout Hawkeye defensive line. He might not have reached the end zone on Saturday, but there’s absolutely no question who the catalyst is for the Badger offense. On the season, Taylor is nearing 1,300 rushing yards with 19 total touchdowns already to his credit. With at least 4 games left, Taylor has a real shot to reach the 6,000 career rushing yard plateau before he leaves for the NFL, as he currently sits at 5,430.

Throughout his incredibly productive college career, Taylor has proven time and time again that he is not only one of the most talented runners in recent memory, but that he is more than capable of handling a workhorse load. In his 38 career games, Taylor averages 21 carries, 143 yards, and 1.3 touchdowns per game. Those are some gaudy numbers, and Wisconsin has essentially tailored their entire gameplan to Taylor’s uncanny ability to produce under nearly any circumstance, even when the defense knows he’s getting the ball every single play.

On the flip side, however, the wear-and-tear that comes with 800+ carries could prove problematic for his draftability. He will have to prove that he can still handle a heavy workload, but the production speaks for itself. Taylor should be able to come in as an immediate-impact contributor, even more so if he refines his receiving abilities that are scarcely utilized at Wisconsin.

Projection: 2020 Late-1st round

Despite the overwhelming star-power that Alabama fields on offense, it was the lesser-known junior WR DeVonta Smith who stole the show against LSU. Not only was his track background on full display with touchdowns of 64 and 85 yards, but he also showcased the sure hands and toughness to take big hits across the middle. Smith played himself squarely into the national spotlight with his performance on Saturday, outshining all of his projected first-round teammates and opponents.

This wasn’t just a fluke performance, either. Against Ole Miss in September, Smith lit the place on fire with 274 yards and 5 touchdowns on 11 catches. He might be a true burner, but he’s not a one-trick pony. He also does a great job of high-pointing 50-50 balls, catching with his hands, and creating YAC opportunities after securing the pass. His numbers might be inconsistent, but Smith is a legitimate prospect that should not be forgotten behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Next season, once Jeudy and Ruggs leave Tuscaloosa for the NFL, Smith will be in line for a huge uptick in usage, which should lead to more consistency on a week-to-week basis.

Projection: 2021 1st-2nd round

Although the Tigers forced several uncharacteristic miscues on the back end of the Crimson Tide defense, their front seven was absolutely relentless in their pursuit of the quarterback. As a unit, they racked up 5 sacks, 7 hurries, and added 6 tackles for loss in the run game. A lot of the disruption came from designed blitzes, as S Xavier McKinney and LB Terrell Lewis combined for 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 4 QB hurries on their own. With 2 sacks himself, however, EDGE Anfernee Jennings flashed the ceiling that has evaluators salivating and wanting more. 

At 6’3, 260 pounds, Jennings has the ideal frame and athletic ability to transition to either DE or OLB at the next level, but he seems more comfortable and effective with his hand in the dirt. He uses his length to his advantage in both the pass rush and run game, and possesses a fantastic combination of speed and power rush moves, which he is starting to use together more effectively. He won’t be a sack leader in the NFL by any means, as he lacks the flexibility and natural bend, but Jennings is an anchor at the point of attack and one of the strongest and most reliable edge-setters in the entire class.

Projection: 2020 2nd round

Minnesota’s massive upset of #4 Penn State could potentially vault the Golden Gophers into the top-ten, and the performance of Antoine Winfield Jr. might have solidified his first-round status for whenever he decides to enter the Draft. He showed a natural ball-hawking instinct and swarmed to ballcarriers with authority, grabbing two crucial interceptions (6th and 7th this season) and totaling double-digit tackles. His opening-drive interception clearly set the tone for the entire game, as Penn State looked completely out of sorts until their late-game run to pull within a score.

The son of a longtime NFL defensive back, Winfield Jr is an incredibly intelligent defender with excellent range and ball skills. Even on the off chance he’s caught out of position or notices a blown coverage, he’s proven to be capable of seamlessly flipping his hips, finding the ball in the air, and gaining enough ground to make a play downfield. The safety position may not be as valuable as it used to be in today’s NFL, but those with a knack for game-changing turnovers will always have a place in the game.

Projection: 2021 1st round

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