Like we did last year, we will take an in-depth look at some of the most talked-about NFL draft prospects from each week. Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner recaps Week 8 and looks ahead to Week 9. As the season progresses, we will highlight prospects who are rising up the draft boards along with others who are starting to fall off the radar due to their poor performances.
Player of the Week: Kevin White (WR, West Virginia):
With a wide variety of formations and playmakers on the West Virginia offense, standout wide receiver, Kevin White, is the unquestioned leader for the Mountaineers. A big-bodied wide receiver at 6'3” and 209 pounds, White has the frame and long arms that most scouts covet for an outside wide receiver. As a JUCO transfer it took him a season to get his bearings, but with one season left in eligibility, White has made the most of his opportunities.
White is second in the FB in receptions (69), first in receiving yards (1020), third in receiving touchdowns (8), and first in receiving yards per game (145.7). While White does play in a spread offense that is geared more towards throwing the ball than running, defenses are beginning to double and triple team him and he is still capable of coming down with the football.
West Virginia was able to shake up the polls this weekend with a victory over the fourth-ranked Baylor Bears. White was targeted 14 times, with eight receptions for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also caused two defensive pass interference penalties for an additional 30 yards of offense.
A deep downfield threat, White has the speed to blow past defenders if they give him space and the strength to fight through press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Against Baylor, White's average depth of target was 13.9 yards past the line of scrimmage and all of his targets were to the right side of the field.
On his first touchdown reception, White was able to slow down his momentum and come back to an underthrown ball and make a tough grab with a defender in his face. His second touchdown reception showcased White's ability to make the circus catch, coming away with a one handed reception on a fade route in the corner of the end zone
The Mountaineers offense is geared to go through White this season. He accounts for 35 percent of their team receptions, 40 percent of their total receiving yards, and 47 percent of their total receiving touchdowns.
With his big frame and physical style, scouts are going to want to see if White can go across the middle and make the tough catches in traffic. Additionally, he will need to show that he can pick up significant yards after the catch. Against Baylor, White had a total of 28 yards-after-the-catch with an average of 3.5 yards per receptions.
As the season progresses, White's draft stock continues to skyrocket. If he can maintain this level of production, he could be making a case as one of the top two or three wide receivers in next year's draft class.
T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama):
Another premiere tailback for the Alabama Crimson Tide, T.J. Yeldon is a bruising, physical runner that has the makings of another first or second round tailback. At 6'2” and 220 pounds, he is more elusive than most scouts give him credit for and this weekend he demonstrated a tremendous ability to jump-cut, hit the hole and quickly get upfield.
His vision and patience to find the right running lanes, make one move and accelerate through defenders makes me believe that he is suited for a zone blocking scheme in the NFL. Few running backs possess his lateral quickness and ability to jump-cut. Both are skill-sets that are highly sought after in a zone blocking scheme.
Against Texas A&M, Yeldon and his Crimson Tide teammates put on one of the most impressive offensive performances seen this season. With over 600 yards of total offense, 298 of which came on the ground, Alabama coasted to an easy win 59-0 over A&M.
Yeldon was limited to only 13 carries but he made them all count, finishing with 114 yards and two touchdowns. His ability to pick up extra yards after contact is what will help him succeed in the NFL
; last week alone Yeldon had 77 yards after contact with an average of 5.9 yards-per-carry. Defenders seem to bounce off of him; for the game he had a total of 14 broken tackles.
Not just a punishing runner, Yeldon is also a threat as a receiver. He had three receptions for 45 yards. On his second reception, he was lined up outside and ran a slant route against a defensive back who was unable to bring him down and Yeldon was able to pick up eight yards after the catch. For the game, Yeldon had a total of 35 yards after the catch.
One area that scouts and coaches should be monitoring is Yeldon's ball security issues. Last year he had a total of five fumbles on just 207 carries, a fumble rate of 2.4 percent. He will need to show scouts that he can be trusted to be a workhorse tailback in the NFL.
Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama):
Some players just make it look too easy and Cooper is one of those players who make the impossible look possible. While he might not be the biggest at 6'1” and 205 pounds, he one of the most fluid route runners that I have ever seen coming out of college.
Cooper's speed and quickness through his route allows him to get in and out of breaks with little to no wasted motion. Defensive backs, even the fastest ones in the SEC, have a difficult time keeping up with Cooper on deep downfield throws. With his long arms, he is able to just pluck the ball out of the air with ease. Cooper is a great hands catcher; he doesn't allow the ball into his body, which allows him to have a large catch radius.
Against Texas A&M, Cooper was targeted 11 times, finishing with eight receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns
. Cooper's average depth of target was 9.9 yards past the line of scrimmage. A playmaker with the ball in his hands, Cooper had 54 yards after the catch with an average of 6.8 yards per reception.
As the focal point for the Crimson Tide passing offense, Cooper is the primary target accounting for 34 percent of his team's total receptions, 45 percent of the team's total receiving yards, and 44 percent of the team's receiving touchdowns.
A physical blocker, Cooper consistently shows the ability to seal his edge and the willingness to pick up a block down the field on long runs. While drops haven't been a major issue throughout his career, Cooper has shown that he is looking to make the big play before securing the football. Cooper is one of the more dynamic athletes in college football and a surefire first round draft pick in next year's NFL Draft.
Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State):
Blessed with a wide variety of physical tools, Winston, in his two years as a starter for the Florida State Seminoles, has performed at a remarkably high level. Last season, he passed for over 4,000 yards, threw for 40 touchdowns, and had an impressive TD-INT ratio of 4.0. Winston's ability to extend plays, spin out of a would-be tackler's grasp and hit his target down the field, reminds some scouts of a young Ben Roethlisberger.
Through six games this season, Winston has thrown for 1878 yards, 13 touchdowns, completing 70.6 percent of his passes while leading the Seminoles to six of their seven wins. At 6'4” and 230 pounds, he possesses the prototypical frame for an NFL quarterback, capable of playing under center or in the shotgun. Winston doesn't possess the speed or quickness of a Marcus Mariota, but he is elusive enough to evade pressure and extend plays.
Against fifth ranked Notre Dame, Winston was attacked with a wide variety of pressures and blitz packages that disrupted the Seminoles' timing and rhythm on offense for most of the game. He completed 23 of 31 for 273 yards, two TDs and one INT. Showing command of the offense, he was able to go through his progressions, locate his target and make the precision pass. Winston's average snap-to-pass time for the game was 2.41, one of the fastest I have recorded for any quarterback in college football over the last few seasons.
One of Winston's weaknesses is his inability to go through his progressions and come off his primary receiver. The long delay while waiting for his primary target to get open results in Winston taking some unnecessary hits. He was hit a total of seven times, sacked once, and was under pressure on 11 of his pass attempts.
On his lone interception, Winston's snap to pass time was 4.48 seconds, this is entirely too long for him to hold onto the football
. When facing pressure Winston has a tendency to throw off his back foot causing the ball to float. On a few occasions, he threw off his back foot on passes toward the middle of the field. Instead of taking a sack or throwing the ball away, Winston is always looking to make the big play.
Notre Dame did an excellent job at bringing pressure, especially up the middle, as Winston had a hard time in the first half handling pressure in his face. Winston was 5 of 11 for 54 yards when under pressure and his snap to pass time was 3.08 seconds. He was sacked once with a snap-to-sack time of 3.14 seconds. Scouts will want to see him improve on making quicker decisions and not taking unwarranted sacks at the next level.
A pocket passer, Winston doesn't look to get outside and make plays with his legs. Twenty-eight of his 31 pass attempts against Notre Dame were from within the pocket. He only attempted three pass attempts outside the pocket and all three times to his right.
Below is a breakdown of Jameis Winston's pass attempts by yards thrown to the intended target:
Behind the line of scrimmage: 2-2, 5 yards, average snap-to-pass time was 1.97 sec.
0-9 yards downfield: 10-13, 72 yards, 1 TD, avg. snap-to-pass time was 2.08 sec.
10-19 yards downfield: 11-15, 196 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT avg. snap-to-pass time was 2.47 sec.
20+ yards downfield: 0-1, avg. snap-to-pass time was 4.18 sec.
For his 23 completions, Winston‘s average snap-to-pass time was 2.24 seconds. On his nine incompletions, Winston's average snap-to-pass time was 2.65 seconds.
With all of his on-field success, there is his off-field behavior which most teams will be interested in more than all of his on-field potential. I asked a few current and former coaches in the NFL for their opinion on Winston both as a player and as a person. All have said that his off-field behavior is something that they would be concerned about letting into their locker room.
In terms of scouting and statistical analysis, Winston is one of the more impressive quarterbacks in college football. He has a wide variety of tools and abilities that make him a bona fide NFL prospect. It's his off-field behavior and immature actions that I believe will prevent him from being drafted in the first round.
While there is no denying that Winston needs to mature, it won't happen overnight nor will it happen in the next couple of months. It will take years, which is why I believe that he would be best suited to possibly sit for a season or two, learn how to be a leader both on and off the field while learning how to be the best quarterback he can be for his team in the future.
Who to Watch Next Week
David Cobb (RB, Minnesota):
A power back at 5'11” and 225 pounds, Cobb has quickly emerged as one of the nation's top running backs this season. Cobb is currently one of only five players to have rushed for over a thousand yards this season. He has 1,013 rushing yards on 189 carries with an average of 5.4 YPC, and 5 TD this season. This weekend, Minnesota faces off against an Illinois team that ranks 125th in rush defense, allowing 271 rushing yards per game, and they have surrendered 19 rushing touchdowns this season. Look for Cobb to have a big game this coming weekend, he is starting to get some buzz amongst scouts as a possible day two draft selection in next year's NFL Draft.
Trae Waynes (DB, Michigan State):
One top prospect for the Spartan defense, Waynes will have his hands full this weekend as Michigan State takes on their in-state rival Michigan. Waynes, at 6'1” and 185 pounds, will be tested early and often as he will be matched up against Michigan's Devin Funchess, who stand 6'5” and 230 pounds. Scouts will be watching to see if Waynes can play the physical style of football that he is known for against a bigger, stronger opponent. Waynes, who has two interceptions this season, could make a strong case to be drafted in the first round with a big game this weekend.
A.J. Cann (OG, South Carolina):
One of the top rated guard prospects in the country, Cann has been a consistent force along the Gamecocks' offensive line this season. A bullish figure, there is no denying the fact that Cann was meant to play guard. At 6'4” and 311 pounds, he has the great combination of power and speed to move piles and clear holes for his tailbacks. He shows a high football IQ, pointing out blitzes and picking up stunts and blitz packages. Cann is able to use an initial punch better than almost any other guard in the country. Auburn has one of the top rush defenses in the country; they've allowed just 120.7 rushing yards per game this season. Cann will have his hands full, but in discussions with scouts, they believe he will be the first guard selected in next year's NFL Draft.