Six things to note from the college football weekend and the significance to the pro game, as originally published in this week’s MMQB column.
1. All the issues scouts have with Oregon QB Justin Herbert came to bear in a loss to Arizona State on Saturday night: the unsightly picks, followed by the furious comeback (the Ducks defense couldn’t do quite enough to give him a chance to complete it) telling the tale of a Jekyll-and-Hyde player.
“The entire skill set’s there—tall, smart, athletic, can throw, and throw on the run,” says one NFC exec. “He’ll miss a few, and you ask, ‘Why is this happening?’ And you think maybe you clean it up, do something with his footwork. But no doubt, he’s a top-five pick.”
And one scouting director wondered about a relatively simple, one-read type of Oregon offense: “The way it’s run, those guys come out of that and it’s hard to deprogram them from the muscle memory they establish. And I’m not sure he’s as accurate down the field as you’d like.”
2. For that reason, Senior Bowl week will be important for Herbert, as it will be for LSU’s Joe Burrow, should those two accept their invitations. And it should also create a great opportunity for a coaching staff—like the Bengals’ or the Dolphins’—to work day-to-day with the young quarterbacks. In fact, if two QB-needy teams wind up coaching in the game, there’ll sure be some politicking (as there usually is) with the game’s executive director, Jim Nagy, on which staff gets which guy.
3. The uncertainty at quarterback—and Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury certainly is part of this—has absolutely increased the likelihood that a QB won’t go first overall for the fourth time this decade, and just the seventh time since Peyton Manning was the first pick way back in 1998. Ohio State DE Chase Young gives the NFL a non-quarterback prospect who’s certainly worthy of going that high. (By the way, if Young does the next two weeks what he did against Wisconsin and Penn State, then keeping him out of New York for the Heisman ceremony would be criminal.)
4. Texas coach Tom Herman exemplifies how quickly opinions can reverse on a coach once considered a genius. That is to say, if you’re a coach with NFL aspirations (Baylor’s Matt Rhule, whose Bears beat UT Saturday, dropping the Longhorns to 6–5, comes to mind), there is value in striking when the iron is hot.
5. Michigan’s receivers—in particular, Nico Collins—have come to life the last few weeks and will be on the NFL’s radar. Donovan Peoples-Jones is another, despite middling production in his three years in Ann Arbor. He’s a freak athlete, and he graduates in December, which will make the junior eligible to play in an all-star game and showcase what he can do physically.
6. Penn State DE Yetur Gross-Matos took another step towards the upper reaches of the first round by being an issue for Ohio State’s high-flying offense on Saturday. Scouts still want to see the 6' 5", 265-pounder put on some weight and get a little more consistent against the run, but his frame and athleticism have added to real production as a pass-rusher.
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