NFL Draft Prospects to Watch in Thursday/Friday Games: Week 7

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I’ve been doing this as just a way for people to have a heads up as they watch the game for a month now. The NFL Draft is always going, always relevant, and players are trying to improve their status in the eyes of the league. This week, we have some very good match-ups that will be well worth watching. Here are the five games that will be on before Saturday.

Thursday 8:00ET ESPN Syracuse @ North Carolina State
Thursday 9:15ET ESPNU UL-Monroe @ Texas State
Friday 8:00ET ESPN (20) Virginia @ Miami (Fl)
Friday 8:00ET CBSSN Colorado State @ New Mexico
Friday 10:00ET FS1 Colorado @ (13) Oregon

As you can see, three of these match-ups are pretty solid. Today, we are talking about some first round-potential draft prospects that will be on the next couple of nights. Let’s look at the guys out of this group who have the most to gain.

5. QB Caleb Evans, UL-Monroe

Here’s the reason that you even look at this game tonight as a casual college football viewer – Caleb Evans. Remember, this is a team that almost upset Florida State, had the kicker not balked on the PAT. Evans is a dual-threat guy now halfway through his third full season as a starter. While he’s not early round material, a good performance on national television could potentially get him looks in the late rounds as a developmental guy.

When you watch his tape, you really have to like the touch factor on his throws. He has a very good arm and he knows how to use it. While his accuracy and placement could use some work, it appears to be fixable as his throwing mechanics aren’t the smoothest. This throw in particular, he is falling backwards and wasn’t spread enough even in a clean pocket to make a consistently accurate throw.

Oh yeah, I mentioned he can run, right?

4. EDGE Alton Robinson, Syracuse

Alton Robinson is a player who got a lot of steam in the offseason as a potential monster at the next level. Last season, through 12 games, he collected 17 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, being a beast through the first 9 games of the season. The hang up? He was exposed when the team played Notre Dame. Robinson has an incredible outside move that allows him to use his speed and power. However, he has no inside move. Notre Dame allowed him to go outside all he wanted, and he couldn’t counter back and get inside to fight it.

He hasn’t produced this season yet, just 5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks through 5 games. Robinson is a physical freak, listed at 6’4″ and 260 pounds with an incredible first step. However, he just needs more. He has a chance Thursday night to abuse some North Carolina State linemen, gain some confidence for the rest of the season, and show us an inside move.

3. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

Justin Herbert has been lauded as a first round NFL Draft pick now for the past 18 months. He picked up steam going into last season as “potential”, having come off of a knee injury during his sophomore season. He’s flashed a lot of great traits for sure, showing the arm strength, the accuracy and the ability to pick apart a defense.

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However, the offense that Oregon runs has somewhat limits the effectiveness of Herbert. They don’t ask him to use his talents on a regular basis, running simplified small ball, and giving him a lot of easy throws. As a talent evaluator, this makes the job very difficult as I have to only imagine what his potential is. Colorado has a confusing defense at times, and this will be a great match-up on a Friday (Dare I say upset?) night that will hopefully tell us more we didn’t already know about Herbert.

2. WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado

Speaking of tough defenses, Oregon is working on being tougher than any of the other teams in the PAC-12, especially on defense. Laviska Shenault missed most of Colorado’s real competition last season with an ankle injury, but still put up huge numbers considering he only played in ten games. Now, Shenault is questionable for this match-up, but if he plays, he has a chance to really show who he is.

Shenault is a very raw prospect, reminding me very much of former Tennessee Volunteer receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Shenault is already a better route runner than Patterson ever was, but the gadget-type play style and the big play ability are big causes of attraction for NFL teams. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy throughout his college career yet, but despite that, teams are trying to decide on whether he is a first round guy or not. This match-up against Oregon could have a lot to say about that.

1. WR KJ Osborn, Miami Vs CB Bryce Hall, Virginia

This is a very intriguing match-up on Friday night and I hope you tune in just to see this.

Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall has a real shot at being the first cornerback taken off of the board. He’s a stud, a solid tackler, man coverage guy, and run defender, he’s everything that the modern NFL wants in their cornerback. That being said, he has struggled at times this season, most notably against Notre Dame. Hall can be a little grabby at times, and draws unnecessary penalties.

KJ Osborn is a graduate transfer from Buffalo playing his final season at Miami. He’s a physical receiver despite standing at just 6’0″ and weighing 205 pounds. He was a big play machine for the Bulls for two full seasons, scoring 13 touchdowns.

While Osborn is a good prospect, he also displays the rawness that Laviska Shenault shows. The two players styles are remarkably similar, and Buffalo used him in many of the same ways that Colorado uses Shenault. Miami – not so much. He has played a lot of time as the outside receiver, however with the shaky offensive-line play, they’ve struggled to get him the ball.

Put All-American cornerback Bryce Hall on him, and both players have a chance to make NFL Draft statements on Friday night. It’s a big match-up, and one that should be a lot of fun to watch.

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