Rivalry week came and went, and there were some interesting developments from an NFL draft perspective. One game seldom impacts prospects’ draft stocks that much save for something extraordinary occurring, but there were a few eye-opening performances — both good and bad — that we witnessed.
Let’s roll through some of the biggest rivalry games that played out Thursday-Saturday and pick a player from each whose stock went up and whose went down. Sorry to the rivalry games we omitted; some just didn’t offer as many startling developments as others did.
Washington State at Washington
Stock up: Washington QB Jacob Eason
There will be teams that fall in love with the 6-foot-6, 227-pound Eason’s impressive skills, whenever he decides to declare, even if his results are so hot and cold week to week. This was one of his better performances of the season, displaying good efficiency in completing 15 of 22 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, and also rushing for a TD in the Huskies’ 31-13 win. Even with a few missed passes, Eason shows enough high-end throws to make you sit up in your chair. This one, a 16-yard TD to Terrell Bynum, was one of them. Sure, there’s no pressure — something that Eason critics point to as a major concern — and single coverage, but this ball is dropped in perfectly.
Now that was 𝓅𝓇𝑒𝓉𝓉𝓎— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) November 29, 2019
Jacob Eason finds Terrell Bynum again to give the Huskies their first lead. pic.twitter.com/hSoTamy6pG
Stock down: QB Anthony Gordon
We’re having flashbacks here, as Gardner Minshew had a disappointing Apple Cup performance a year ago after emerging from relative obscurity in his first year as a starter. The same can be said for Gordon, although his journey onto the NFL radar has been even more improbable. Still, after a fantastic season in which he tantalized scouts with his efficiency and growth potential, Gordon suffered a step back with an underwhelming performance that included two bad interceptions after a few good early drives. Now we’ll find out which postseason all-star game he’ll attend because he has been good enough this season to merit buzz for either the East-West Shrine Game or the Senior Bowl.
Ohio State at Michigan
Stock up: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins
Even with a fumble bouncing luckily back to him, Dobbins was a monster in this one, setting the tone for the Buckeyes’ offense after QB Justin Fields was shaky early on. Dobbins finished with 211 yards and four TDs on 31 carries, along with two receptions for 49 yards. That’s five straight games with multiple TDs, and even on the fumble where the ball bounced right back to his hands, he never broke stride and ended up gaining 20 yards on the play. He hits the hole quickly, runs decisively and makes defenders miss with strength and lateral quickness. The ball security suddenly is a talking point, as that’s two straight weeks he has let a ball hit the ground. But Dobbins has been on a tear, and the junior has entered the debate over the best five 2020 RB prospects.
Stock down: Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
It’s hard to draw them up much better than DPJ, who looks like an NFL receiver when he moves. The talent is undeniable, as are the smarts — he’s a great student who has talked about pursuing medicine down the road. Peoples-Jones, however, is a massive tease as a prospect, and the OSU game was a clear indication of that. He was an effective blocker in this game when asked. But Peoples-Jones also was targeted 12 times Saturday and came away with only three catches — with at least three drops. Sure, one was a TD, but that inconsistency drives scouts batty. He has first-round talent but fourth- or fifth-round tape. Tough evaluation.
Clemson at South Carolina
Stock up: Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons
After being named a finalist for the Butkus and Bronko Nagurski Awards, Simmons backed that up with a terrific performance. The fourth-year junior has been mostly spectacular after returning to school this season, and he finished against the Gamecocks with a sack and three pressures (on only three pass-rush chances, per Pro Football Focus), along with 10 tackles (two for losses) and a pass breakup. For fun, watch the Tigers’ first defensive series of the second quarter; Simmons was in on six tackles that drive and helped hold South Carolina to a field goal. He’s an athletic hybrid player with incredible gifts, and I’d be stunned if he wasn’t a high first-rounder now.
Stock down: South Carolina EDGE D.J. Wonnum
It was Senior Night in Columbia, and Wonnum was a game captain in his final game at Williams-Brice Stadium. It wasn’t a night to remember beyond that. In 53 snaps, Wonnum was not credited with a tackle, assist or any other statistic. He has a thick frame, plays with good strength and wins with effort. For a good example of those traits, watch the Kentucky game. But for those questioning whether he has the quickness or ability to shed blocks, the Clemson game was worrisome. Still, he’ll have his chance to boost his stock again with an invitation to the Senior Bowl in January.
Alabama at Auburn
Stock up: Auburn DT Derrick Brown
He has to be the clear-cut DT1 in this class, and he could have been a top-10 pick last year had he come out. He’s a better prospect than, say, 2019 Miami Dolphins first-rounder Christian Wilkins, the No. 13 pick in April’s draft. Brown is dominating on a weekly basis the way Alabama’s Quinnen Williams did one year ago. Yes, Saturday’s game was a shootout, but Brown made so many impactful plays to thwart Bama in this one, just as he has nearly every game this season.
Derrick. Brown. That's the tweet. pic.twitter.com/Sk5jU9GVRj— Jake Schyvinck (@JakeNFLDraft) December 1, 2019
Stock down: Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy
We’re not going to overreact to this one game, catching passes from a backup QB and helping open things up for his incredibly talented WR friends with the Crimson Tide. But Jeudy hasn’t been the same game-changer he was in 2018, and it goes beyond stats. We’re still big fans, but we’re starting to wonder if he’s the top-10 cinch — especially in a loaded WR class — that many have assumed for months now. This game was not Jeudy’s finest hour, even with Mac Jones overthrowing him for a touchdown. Jeudy dropped another pass in this one, bringing his season total to seven, and has now gone three games without a TD.
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Stock up: Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz
Biadasz is an easy player to like — tough, smart and technically sound. There have been questions about his athleticism and ability to adjust to quick pass rushers, but he’s about as solid a prospect on the interior as you likely will find in the 2020 class. Biadasz had a clean sheet as a pass protector in this one and was just as effective in run blocking, with the majority of the Badgers’ rushing production coming through the middle (even on a day when Jonathan Taylor was held in check). Watching Biadasz work into space as a puller is a thing of beauty.
Stock down: Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr.
We’re big fans of Winfield, the son of the NFL defensive back of the same name and the fourth-year sophomore (yes, you read that right) who has battled injuries to have a fantastic overall season. This game might have been the low-water mark with three missed tackles and no plays on the ball. Winfield has a decision to make on whether to declare. It’s going to be interesting, as this game and the loss to Iowa two weeks ago have stunted his stock momentum after peaking in the win over Penn State, in which he was terrific.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Stock up: Oklahoma CB Parnell Motley
The last time the 6-foot, 180-pound Motley played in Stillwater, he was lit up like a candle by former OSU (and current Pittsburgh Steelers) WR James Washington in 2017 before being benched in that one. On Saturday, Motley had as good a game as I’ve seen from him in a dominant performance. After forcing and recovering a first-quarter fumble that helped turn the tide of the game, Motley also had six tackles, a pass broken up and two interceptions — one that was (incorrectly) overturned and one in the fourth quarter that stood and was the knockout blow for the Cowboys. Motley is a thin-framed corner who might be limited to slot duty in the pros and whom scouts believe is a Day 3 option. Watching his competitiveness in this game makes me think a team could fall for him during the scouting process.
Stock down: Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard
A tough game for a thrilling runner who has put himself on the NFL draft map with a brilliant season. In this game, however, Hubbard couldn’t find daylight with 99 rushing yards on 24 carries and very little of his production coming after initial contact. He’s a good between-the-tackles runner who hits the hole decisively, and he scored his 21st TD of the season on Saturday, but Hubbard wasn’t able to find room on the outside with his patented jump cut. (On the flip side, Hubbard stood tall as a pass protector, which shouldn’t go overlooked.) Will the redshirt sophomore come out? We don’t know, but this was one of the few games we’ve seen of him this season where he didn’t look like a game-changer.
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