I started this series last week where I take the primetime games nationally televised on Thursday and Friday nights and highlight the top NFL Draft prospects to watch from those games. This week we have a very deep selection to choose from. I don’t know if there will be another week (until around week 14) that will feature as many prospects as this week. Here are the four games that will be on:
Thursday 7:30ET ESPNU Georgia Southern @ South Alabama
Thursday 8ET ESPN Temple @ East Carolina
Friday 8ET ESPN (18) UCF @ Cincinnati
Friday 10ET CBSSN New Mexico @ East Carolina
So many players to watch this week. Let’s dive into the prospects.
5. OL Troy Kowalski, San Jose State VS LB Alex Hart, New Mexico
Troy Kowalski has played all over the offensive line at San Jose State. With 37 career starts, Kowalski has played a lot over the last four years with the Spartans. He’s among the strongest players on the team, able to dead lift 635 pounds. He’s a big fellow, 6’5″ and 300 pounds, and a rock in pass protection.
Alex Hart is a heart and soul type player. He’s been a team captain since 2017. He’s played a ton of snaps in his four years at New Mexico, now entering his first season as a full-time starter. Last year, he tore his ACL three games into the season and missed the season. He’s showing great athleticism this season regardless, and even came up with a big play in the big loss to Notre Dame that caught some people’s attention.
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) September 14, 2019
Both players are late day three selections at the moment at best, but this makes the list because both players have an opportunity to pop on tape while performing on national television. With Kowalski, we need to see him be smarter with recognizing stunts and defensive schemes. With Hart, we want to see that his knee is fine and take advantage of reps against Kowalski.
4. RB Michael Warren, Cincinnati VS LB Nate Evans, UCF
Michael Warren made my most underrated list in the preseason of college football running backs. He quietly produced last season, rushing for 1329 yards while scoring 20 touchdowns. He hasn’t put up the numbers this season yet, averaging just over 60 yards per game, but the zone read threat between Warren and quarterback Desmond Ridder is a serious threat to the UCF defense.
— Bearcats Nation (@GoBearcatsUC) September 14, 2019
Nate Evans enters a weak class of linebackers where players are looking to separate. Evans is a 6’1″ 240 pound freak of an athlete. UCF likes speed on both sides of the ball, and despite his size Evans has that speed. He was the teams leading tackler last season, collecting 99 stops as well as 10 for loss. He’s well on his way to improve that mark, having 4.5 in the teams first 5 games.
Warren isn’t a speed guy, he’s more of a north/south type runner. Because of that, Warren has a great chance to increase his draft stock with a great game where he uses his power and shows improved quickness. Evans can have a great game too, and prove that he can tackle bigger-bodied players with his power.
3. RB Tra Minter, South Alabama
Tra Minter is a guy who popped on paper before I had access to tape this last season while going through AIT after Basic Training. For all of my new readers, I missed much of last season’s NFL Draft process doing my 2.5 months at Basic Combat Training for my job in the National Guard. While at AIT, I was able to obtain a few magazines and I made lists of players who I wanted to watch once I got a chance to. Minter was one of these guys.
I think most draft analysts would tell you that he’s more of a gadget guy. This statement can be somewhat true, as Minter is used as a gadget type player at South Alabama. He is definitely not your old school three-down running back. Minter can line up in the slot, catch passes out of the backfield, and produce on special teams immediately.
A big game against a good, disciplined defense in Georgia Southern would be big for Minter’s draft stock, especially since the game is nationally televised.
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2. LB Shaun Bradley, Temple
Shaun Bradley popped on tape last year while I was watching the Independence Bowl between Temple and Duke. He’s slightly undersized, 6’1″ and 230 pounds, but he is very athletic and shows a good ability to tackle. Bradley now enters his third year as a full time starter, and enters this game with 5 tackles for loss on the season. He is such a versatile player, Bradley can be used as a blitzer (2 career sacks), a run stuffer (186 tackles as a starter) and in pass coverage (3 career interceptions).
Senior Shaun Bradley showed again why he is the best linebacker the American Athletic Conference
8 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, held Maryland to 3.5 yards per rush
— Blue Route – TPL (@BlueRouteTPL) September 15, 2019
I think a big game from Bradley on national television is crucial for Bradley’s draft stock. The expectations for this Temple team against East Carolina are very high, and Bradley needs to meet them and confirm everything we saw in the game against Maryland. We want to make sure he can be an impact in pass coverage and a solid run stuffer.
1. LB Bryan Wright & LB Perry Young, Cincinnati
I’m in this article talking about the lack of linebacker talent in the NFL Draft this season while highlighting a TON of them. Because of the weakness in the class, we are now watching more linebackers at the beginning of the season to watch for one (or two, or even three) to stand out.
Bryan Wright and Perry Young were both impressive to me on tape as I watched during the offseason. Young missed several games last season (5, I believe) with a torn ACL, but he has come back strong so far this season, already logging a tackle for loss and an interception.
Bryan Wright is the guy most scouts are interested in. He has been a force early this season, already with 5.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Wright also has the NFL size (6’3″ 235 lbs) while Young is undersized (5’11” 215 lbs). Both players need to show that they can handle the team speed of UCF, and Wright needs to show that he is a capable linebacker in pass coverage.
Honorable Mention. QB Anthony Russo, Temple
It is not possible for me to complete this article without mentioning the Temple quarterback, Anthony Russo. I got onto Russo last season in a Thursday night game against UCF, when the former Pennsylvania high school star whipped for over 400 yards and made some NFL level throws against the speedy defense of UCF. I spent an entire two days during the offseason watching every snap, and wrote this piece back in May. He’s a tank, standing 6’4″ and 235 pounds.
Anthony Russo seems to be making these plays more and more often!
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 14, 2019
Last season, Russo destroyed East Carolina, having one of his best games of the campaign. He can do it again this season and catch more scouts attention as Temple looks to move to 4-1 on the new season. Russo has been phenomenal so far, becoming the first Temple quarterback to throw for 400+ yards in multiple games and has thrown for 1071 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. A good game against East Carolina on national television could put him back on the map as a prospect this season.