The start of college football season means a lot for everyone. But this season is seen as a relief for most fans, players, and anyone involved in college athletics, after a chaotic and shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19. The new season also provides fans with a new crop of talent to talk about for the 2022 NFL Draft. Players like Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton have been the talk of the summer for fans and media alike. With the big-time teams starting play this weekend, the discussion will undoubtedly heat up regarding the draft and its players.
Week-to-week play can affect a player's stock if they aspire to go to the NFL. Providing a consistent season of high-level performances can help NFL scouts and personnel evaluate a player correctly. Let's look at who improved their draft stock and who came up short of the mark.
Since the summer, there's been talk of Hamilton being the best safety in football, but Sunday night's game against Florida State might have sparked a debate that he's the best player in college football. His blend of range, size, and athleticism will check every box in a scouts notebook. Expect continued dominance and leadership from the Irish safety as they continue their season.
The Georgia linebacker had a monster game while pass-rushing. He had two sacks and caused problems for Clemson's offense all night, which led to a poor performance for Tigers quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei. He has some intriguing size at 5116, 220 pounds that can translate well to the next level.
Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State, Running Back
If you weren't aware of Walker before the season, you should be now. Walker looked explosive en route to his monster four-touchdown game that included 264 rushing yards on 23 attempts. Walker looked fast in the open field and had the lateral quickness you want to see from a dynamic running back.
In a somewhat defensive game, Dotson provided a much-needed spark for the Penn State offense. Dotson had five receptions for 102 yards, including a 49-yard bomb from Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. He can get separation from anywhere on the field and has the breakaway speed that will look good on Sundays.
It seems like London and USC quarterback Kedon Slovis have a positive connection again this season. London reeled in 12 receptions for 137 yards in USC's big win over San Jose State to start the season. Slovis often relied on Jackson when things broke down, resulting in London making plays when the Trojans needed him. At 6041 and 210 pounds, London has a frame that can provide a big window to throw to.
Jaleel Mclaughlin, Youngstown State, Running Back
The Youngstown State running back put on a show in Youngstown's overtime win on Friday. Mclaughlin rushed for 242 yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts. Mclaughlin was a two-time finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which honors the top player in Division II college football at Notre Dame College. After transferring to Youngstown this season, Mclaughlin proves the Penguin's decision to be the right one. Look for him to come up in the 2022 NFL Draft discussion if he continues with performances like this.
Another Georgia defensive lineman that pulled out a big performance in week one was Davis. You can see a large frame that almost has the height and size of a left tackle just watching him. His towering presence can be daunting for the offensive linemen to block, causing him to consistently cause problems among the front seven. Davis is already getting put at the top position of the defensive line prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Despite the loss, Booth looked impressive on Saturday night for Clemson. He caused problems for Georgia in the passing game against some challenging assignments. He's a strong defensive back that can be a magnet to receivers and doesn't allow for any separation. If Clemson has any chance to get something going offensively, players like Booth need to continue to provide a spark on the other side of the ball.
Despite Justyn Ross' struggles, Ngata provided a sense of optimism for Clemson fans for the rest of the season. Snagging six receptions for 110 yards, he showed strength to deal with the physical Bulldog defensive backs and created separation with his feet. Look for Ngata to continue to cement himself as a top name among receivers for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Noted by many as the top quarterback in college football, Rattler looked unimpressive for most of the game against Tulane. It's sure to be a slight bump in the road, but he should look to step it up soon as Oklahoma will rely on him heavily as they get deeper in the season.
UNC struggled on the road at Virginia Tech, and so did Howell. He made some head-scratching throws that certainly caught the eye of scouts in attendance. He needs to rebound quickly if North Carolina wants to salvage their season.
Clemson's best-returning receivers struggled to get anything going against Georgia. He lacked separation and the ability to be a threat downfield for most of the game. Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was quoted that Ross made a mistake on a pick-six for Georgia's first score of the game.
It's not easy to replace one of your best defensive players due to ejection, which Miami proved on Saturday night. Bolden did not show enough while he was in the game to get scouts excited. He needs to come back focused and motivated to help Miami improve after their blowout loss to Alabama.
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin, Quarterback
The young Wisconsin quarterback did not look like his 2020 version in the first game of this season. He made poor decisions and threw two interceptions while Penn State gave him trouble all afternoon.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of week one was Penix's lackadaisical performance. He did not look sharp in any facet of the game and struggled to provide anything to Indiana. No one showed up for the Hoosiers, so it's not fair to completely single out Penix, but he needs to show something to give fans confidence.
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