With Week Three of the college football season in the books and summer scouting behind us, our scouts are 'Scouting The Nation' for the best NFL Draft prospects in the country. Every week, several scouts will give you their thoughts on players that have stood out to them. These are the guys you need to keep your eye on as we prepare for the NFL Draft in April.
Tulsa's standout redshirt sophomore offensive tackle, Tyler Smith, received the biggest challenge of his collegiate career this past weekend. Facing the Ohio State Buckeyes, he was tasked with blocking NFL-caliber defensive ends in Zach Harrison and Tyreke Smith. Smith passed the test showing off his overpowering strength and NFL frame. He shined as a run blocker who had no problems creating gaps for his ball carriers behind him and also used his length to keep the pocket clean, only allowing one quarterback hurry in the game. Smith is a name to watch in this draft cycle as a prospect who has found success early in his career.
Akayleb Evans: When looking at the senior cornerback class, Akayleb Evans is right up there at the top. He followed defensive back coach Aaron Fletcher from Tulsa to Missouri and that move looks like it will pay dividends for him. Evans is a 6’2” cornerback who checks every box for the position. He has length for days and will run in the 4.40s. Not to mention, Evans is extremely physical and plays with the confidence needed for the position. If he continues to show that he is one of the top cornerbacks in the SEC and has a good senior bowl, Evans could be drafted in the first round.
Ryan Hayes: The NFL covets freak athletes at offensive tackle. When they are tasked with facing players like Von Miller and Myles Garrett, those traits become that much more valuable. Michigan OT Ryan Hayes is arguably the best athlete at tackle in the country. His movement skills are unmatched. In pass protection, his kick slide and ability to shut down speed rushers are special. Hayes is excellent when working in space, making him a perfect candidate for a zone scheme. The former tight end has all the tools to develop into a premier tackle in the NFL. If he can continue to add play strength, he will be one of the first tackles off the board.
Dawand Jones: It was a surprise when the Buckeyes named Jones a starter out of fall camp. The 6'8" 360 mauler looked great in limited action in 2020 but he wasn't expected to start with Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere coming back. Jones was so good though, Ohio State had to get him in the starting lineup and he hasn't disappointed so far. Through the first three weeks of the season, Jones has been one of the best run blockers in the nation. He uses his arm length and play strength to drive defenders backward. In pass protection, Jones is a good enough athlete that defenders have a tough time getting past him with speed and due to his play strength, it is hard to beat him with power. Jones is in that same mold as Mekhi Becton and Evan Neal and teams will salivate over how well he moves for being 360 pounds.
Jameson Williams WR, Alabama
Alabama was able to squeak out of Gainesville still undefeated and Jameson Williams was electric on offense. Williams spent his first two seasons at Ohio State and transferred before the 2021 season. Williams showcased his elite speed and slipperiness after the catch against Florida. Only three games into the season and Williams has shown to be a legit threat in this Crimson Tide offense. All summer John Metchie was getting the hype, that may change before the season ends.
Malik Cunningham QB, Louisville
On Friday night, Louisville was able to pull off the upset win against Central Florida and Cunningham was the star of the show. In a heavy play action offense, Malik was able to use boot action and make plays on the run. On the ground, Cunningham has legit track speed and is extremely elusive in space tallying over 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. With the NFL looking for athletes at the quarterback position, Malik could be an interesting piece for coordinators to develop.
Chad Muma LB, Wyoming
Early candidate for best Mountain West defender, Chad Muma ran back his second pick six of the season on saturday. At 6-foot-3 249 pounds, Muma has NFL size and athleticism to play at the next level. His zone coverage ability has come up big for Wyoming all season and could be a huge riser in this defensive class.
Pitt DL Calijah Kancey: One of the most dynamic athletes in college football since the 2020 season, regardless of position, has been a Pittsburgh star defensive tackle. Calijah Kancey burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman last year. A severely undersized interior defensive lineman, the Panthers’ star is listed by his university at just 6000 and 275 pounds. His size, while apparent on film, has not held him back to this point in his career. Kancey’s outstanding movement skills resemble those of a linebacker. He boasts an excellent first step and the quickness to win with speed rushes. Conversely, he has natural power throughout his frame that, when complemented with his innate feel for leverage, drives linemen back. Kancey rounds out his pass-rush game with early and varied hand usage. He has the athleticism to split double teams with a hump move. Against the run, he plays with discipline and the movement skills to make plays on quick ball carriers. A player whose primary weaknesses are found in his size and experience, the Florida native should only improve as he plays more at Pittsburgh. In fact, he has already shown signs of development in the 2021 season. Kancey has flashed game-breaking tendencies early this year. The talented defensive tackle has a first-round skill set; the question is how teams value his undersized frame.
Louisville CB Kei’Trel Clark: Despite seeing two receivers drafted in the first four rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft, a serious argument can be made that Louisville’s top player from last season is still present on the roster. The team’s top defender, Kei’Trel Clark was an instant impact man-cover corner for the Cardinals after transferring from Liberty. An instinctive, fluid, and twitchy athlete, the corner boasts outstanding movement skills and reaction time to mirror receivers seamlessly in off coverage. He also exhibits above-average play in zone. To this point in the 2021 season, Clark has arguably been Louisville’s best defender and player. This past week against UCF, the talented corner gave up one touchdown before going down with a shoulder injury. That said, he played through the pain and returned for an above-average second half. The athletic corner has had an outstanding career with Louisville. If NFL teams can get past his undersized frame (listed at 165 pounds in 2020 before shooting up to a school-listed 180 in 2021), Clark has day-two talent. He can contribute early in a team that plays heavy off-man coverage.
Hundreds of prospects ranked and updated throughout the season. Stay updated on all the NFL Draft eligible players and where they could go in the draft.
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