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Draft Watch: Week Nine

Draft Watch: Week Nine

 

Game of the Week:

 

#13 Wisconsin at #3 Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, October 26, 11 a.m. (CT) on Fox

 

Wisconsin:

This game will feature a number of players that have found themselves in the Heisman conversation this season. For the badgers, that player is junior running back, Jonathan Taylor. Taylor is currently third in the nation in rushing with 957 yards, 10 ahead of Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins.

 

He also leads the nation with 19 total touchdowns and is tied for the lead with 15 scores on the ground. Taylor currently accounts for 35 percent of Wisconsin’s total offense, and he has already set career-marks in every receiving category, which is an area where he hasn’t been featured in the past.

 

However, it’s going to be Taylor’s ability to run the ball that is going to be the key for Wisconsin in this game. His bruising style is tough for many opponents to handle, and Taylor only gets better as the game goes along.

 

If he can have early success on the ground, and help this offense sustain long drives, the Badgers’ ball-control game plan can keep the Buckeye’s explosive offense on the sideline. If not, I’m not sure Wisconsin can keep pace with Ohio State.

 

While Taylor’s success is crucial to Wisconsin’s chances, a big part of his success rests with center Tyler Biadasz. Biadasz has been the anchor of that line for three years, and it’s no coincidence that during that timeframe, Taylor became the third player in FBS history to rush for 5,000 yards before the end of his junior year.

 

However, this may be Biadasz toughest test of the season in an Ohio State defense that boasts talent throughout the front-seven. Whether it’s defensive tackles like Davon Hamilton or Robert Landers, or linebackers like Malik Harrison and Tuf Borland, Biadasz is going to have his hands full on every snap.

 

I’m also going to be keeping my eye on tight end, Jake Ferguson. Ferguson is only a redshirt sophomore, but he is Wisconsin’s most-reliable target. I’m not expecting Ferguson to declare following this season, but with a strong finish to the year, I’m not entirely dismissing the chances of him getting a top-100 grade for the 2020 NFL Draft.

 

While the Badgers’ offense may be their best defense for Ohio State’s explosive offensive weapons, one defender I want to see compete is outside linebacker, Zack Baun. Baun is a sneaky-good athlete with a very good idea of how to rush the passer.

 

He uses his hands extremely well, and can really get low around the corner, making it tough for offensive tackles to contain him. Turnovers change games, and edge rushers create turnovers. If Baun can get ahold of Justin Fields a few times, it will certainly help Wisconsin’s chances.

 

Ohio State:

As I mentioned, this game will boast quite a few players that have been in my Heisman conversation at one point or another this season, and the Buckeyes have a trio of players. Let’s start with running back J.K. Dobbins, who currently sits fourth in the nation with 947 yards rushing.

 

The Buckeyes have the fifth-ranked offense in the country in total yards, however, it’s the run game that paces this unit. Ohio State ranks third in rushing yards per game with 287 yards a contest, and Dobbins leads the charge in that regard.

 

I had questions about his power as a runner coming into the season, but Dobbins has shown good balance as a runner this season. Perhaps his most impressive performance this season was a 172-yard outing against a Michigan State defense that has a lot of talent on its front-seven.

 

If Dobbins can put out another game like that, Wisconsin is going to struggle to keep up with the Buckeyes on the scoreboard. They also can’t forget about Dobbins as a receiver. He hasn’t been featured a ton this season, but he is more than capable of making teams pay as a receiver out of the backfield.

 

Justin Fields is another Heisman-candidate, but considering he is only a second-year player, I won’t start scouting him for another season. However, one of his targets is on my radar, and against the top pass defense in the nation, K.J. Hill is going to be a key player in this game.

 

Wisconsin is one of the top teams in the country at getting pressure on the quarterback with 27 sacks, and a slot receiver like Hill will help Fields get the ball out quick to help neutralize that pass rush. He’s extremely quick, and don’t put it past him to turn a quick throw into a big play.

 

On defense, Chase Young is the third player that I’ve mentioned in my Heisman conversation this year. I know it is difficult for a defensive player to put his name in that group, but early in the year, Young looked like a man among boys at defensive end.

 

He currently is tied for the most sacks in the country with 9.5, but I want to see him show he can be just as dominant against the run. Young has had flashes that tell me he can be just as effective at stopping the run, and I want to see him help lead an effort that limits the play of Wisconsin’s reigning-Doak Walker award winner in Taylor.

Young currently ranks fourth on the defense in tackles, and if he is active against the Badgers, Ohio State is going to be tough to score on.

 

Malik Harrison is another player I will be watching on Saturday. He is a big, physical linebacker that is tough to block thanks to his power. Harrison is a run-stopping linebacker, and Wisconsin is a run-first team, making this a game where the Buckeye linebacker should shine.

 

Also, if Ohio State does jump out to a big lead early, the Badgers will have to put the ball in the air, playing into Ohio State’s hands. Right behind Wisconsin, who is the best defense in the country at defending the pass, is Ohio State at number two.

 

They are tied for sixth in the country with 10 interceptions, led by Jeffery Okudah’s three. I personally wouldn’t throw it anywhere near Okudah if I were Wisconsin, but in comeback mode, the Badgers may not have a choice. That could lead to Okudah, forcing a turnover or two, and that only helps the Buckeyes’ chances.

 

My Two Cents:

In my opinion, Ohio State is one of the most complete teams in the country, and are neck-and-neck with LSU for the best team in the country. Nothing against Clemson or Alabama, but these two teams have NFL talent at every level, and that will give the Buckeyes an advantage in this game. Wisconsin is one-dimensional on offense, and while that one dimension is really good, Ohio State has the talent to keep Jonathan Taylor at bay. I think the Buckeyes eventually force Wisconsin to throw the ball, and Ohio State’s defense takes over from that point forward as the Buckeyes run away with it.

 

Matchup of the Week:

 Notre Dame’s Troy Pride Jr. against Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Saturday, October 26, 6:30 p.m. (CT) on ABC

 

Troy Pride, CB, Notre Dame, SR, 5’11″, 194:

This is going to be a big opportunity for scouts to evaluate Pride, as he is not the biggest corner. Pride has some terrific athletic features with quick feet, loose hips, and sprinter speed, but he has problems with bigger receivers, and Michigan has a number of them, including Donovan Peoples-Jones.

What I am hoping to see is a player that is more understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. If you are a better athlete than the guy across from you, you don’t have to be as physical at the line of scrimmage.

When he crowds the line of scrimmage, I think Pride gets too caught up trying to get a good shot on his opponent when all he needs is a quick bump to allow him to keep the player from getting a free release before getting on his hip.

His size can also be an issue at the catch point. Pride can get out-muscled by bigger receivers for 50-50 balls, and once again, he has to be more resourceful with his gifts. His athleticism will give him a chance to put himself in a good position to make a play, and that can change a receiver’s strategy going up for the ball.

Pass interference works both ways, and a receiver can’t go through a defensive back to get to the ball. If Pride can put himself in a good position between the receiver and the ball, it’s all a matter of getting his head turned and making a play on the ball.

When he can’t, he has to spot the receiver’s hands and play them as opposed to the ball. Smaller corners learn to do this as opposed to expecting to go up and outplay the receiver for the ball, and while Pride isn’t small at just a shade under six feet, against Peoples-Jones and the Wolverines, playing their hands will be his best chance if he isn’t in an ideal position.

Having said all this, Pride has the skills to run with anyone Michigan lines up, including Peoples-Jones. While this isn’t a favorable matchup for him, it is an opportunity for scouts to see if he can hold up against a bigger receiver like Peoples-Jones.

 

Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan, JR, 6’2”, 208:

Peoples-Jones is a talented receiver that is not putting up big numbers thanks to struggles at the quarterback position. Still, if Notre Dame gets a lead on Michigan early, the Wolverines are going to have to throw the football.

Peoples-Jones has terrific ball-skills and body-control, and that should make him a reliable target at the NFL level. He’s outstanding in the red-zone, and while he is a bit of a long-strider, Peoples-Jones has really good athleticism and underrated speed.

While this matchup may not be favorable for Troy Pride, it is a great opportunity for Peoples-Jones to show what many believe he can do in the NFL against undersized corners. He probably won’t be able to run away from Pride, but if he can continuously get some separation and out-muscle him for balls, it will reassure scouts of the kind of prospect he will be if he comes out following the season.

One thing I do know is whoever is at quarterback needs to target him in the red zone and on third down. Michigan is not going to come up with the upset by kicking field goals and punting. They need to sustain drives and put touchdowns on the board, and that is where Peoples-Jones is at his best.

Also, I want to see Peoples-Jones block Pride in the run game. Pride has trouble getting off blocks, and that will give the Michigan junior added value on his resume.

 

My Two Cents:

It’s tough to predict if Michigan can get the upset because I honestly don’t know how Shea Patterson is going to play. If he plays well, the Wolverines have a strong chance. If he is inconsistent, Notre Dame will likely pull away. At the end of the day, I highlighted this matchup because I thought it has a chance to matter, but other factors could render these two being less featured. That will be especially true if the Fighting Irish pass rush has a field day. Still, if this is a close game, these two could be difference-makers. I say Michigan is consistent enough to compete, and Peoples-Jones gets the better of the matchup. Will that be enough to get the Wolverines an upset? I’m doubtful, but it’s possible.

 

Player of the Week:

Boston College’s A.J. Dillion at #4 Clemson, Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina, Saturday, October 26, 6:30 p.m. (CT) on ACCN

A.J. Dillion, RB, Boston College, JR, 6’0”, 250:

Boston College has had an up-and-down season thus far, but still, Dillion is second in the country with 968 rushing yards. The big, bruising back is the focal point of this offense, and if they want any chance to upset the Clemson Tigers, Dillion has to deliver.

There’s no doubt Dillion is going to see a stacked box, as he has all year, but Clemson has a little bit more talent that the teams Boston College has seen to this point. While the Tigers saw a lot of players leave for the NFL from last year’s squad, they still have a lot of playmakers on that defense that currently ranks fifth in the country.

What makes Dillion even more important to the Golden Eagles chances is the fact that if their offense is on the field, Clemson’s is on the sideline. I want to see him continue to help sustain drives by grinding out yards after contact.

If Boston College can stay ahead of the sticks, their ball-control offense will make this a shorter game with fewer possessions, and that favors the Golden Eagles chances.

The one thing I will be keeping an eye on is Dillion’s ability to change direction in the backfield when the Tigers get penetration. It’s so tough for backs to survive in the NFL if they don’t have the feet to quickly adjust course when a defender gets into the backfield quickly, and I expect Clemson’s talented young players upfront to occasionally get penetration.

He looks a bit slimmer as a junior, and his ability to show improved foot speed in those situations will be the difference between teams valuing him as starting back at the next level or a complimentary power-back.

 

My Two Cents:

I think Dillion will have his fair share of success in this one, but I also think the Clemson defense is going to stop him in the backfield at times as well. If Boston College finds themselves in second and third-and-long situations, it only plays to Clemson’s strengths. The Tigers will run away with this one if it happens too often. How long can Dillion keep this game interesting? That is what I want to see.

 

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