Las Vegas Raiders, fans here is your viewer’s guide to this Saturday’s College Football Week 4 action. There are a lot of conference games going on this week, so the competition level is up and it’s starting to be crunch time for NFL Draft prospects.
#12 Notre Dame at #18 Wisconsin
Soldier Field will play host to this top-20 matchup, and we’ll get a rare college revenge game with Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan going up against his old team.
Speaking of the Fighting Irish, safety Kyle Hamilton has been cementing himself as a potential top-five pick so far this season, as he’s currently ranked fourth on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board.
The best way I can describe Hamilton is to just call him a freak of nature. He’s 6’4” and 220 pounds and can run like a deer, as evidenced by the range he showed to get the pick against Florida State below. To be honest, any flaws that he has in his game are just nitpicking, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the top player on a lot of people’s big boards when it’s all said and done. Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for the odds that he’ll become a Raider, but Hamilton is still fun to watch regardless.
As a former offensive tackle, Patterson’s feet and pass protection skills are top-notch for an interior offensive lineman. That also helps him when working up to the second level as a run blocker, but he could afford to be more aggressive, per RiseNDraft.com’s Ryan Roberts. The Golden Domer currently projects as a third-round pick.
Madden lines up next to Patterson at guard and would be a great fit in Las Vegas’ offense. The Marshall transfer comes from a zone-heavy rushing attack and has the footwork and athleticism to continue to thrive in that system at the next level. His strength isn’t quite there yet to hold up against bull rushers in pass protection, which is a big reason why he’s looking at a Day Three projection.
Jack Sanborn, a linebacker from Wisconsin, will be squaring off against those two. Sanborn is a very impressive run defender who has the combination of agility and strength at the point of attack to beat blocks and make plays against the run. However, he is a little stiff in the hips and not the greatest athlete overall, meaning he could struggle in coverage, which is important in today’s NFL and why he’s looking at a fourth-round selection.
On the other side of the ball, Jake Ferguson is an impressive tight end for the Badgers who could have been a mid-round pick last year but opted to return to school. As a receiver, he fights through contact at the line of scrimmage well, can create separation on 90-degree routes and has strong hands. But Ferguson struggles to win one-on-one blocks, which has been a significant issue this year and caused his draft stock to plummet.
As you probably could have guessed in a matchup between these two teams, the theme of the game is going to be offensive linemen, and Wisconsin’s Logan Bruss is another late-round prospect to keep an eye on. Bruss lines up at tackle but is likely going to move to guard at the next level, but that position versatility should help him land a role as a backup next year.
#9 Clemson at NC State
It’s Clemson so there’s got to be at least one future Raider on the field, right?
To me, Clemson safety Nolan Turner seems like someone who Jon Gruden will fall in love with during the draft process and end up taking him well before a lot of people expect him to get drafted. Turner is a sixth-year senior who has played a lot of football, is tough and has solid agility and footwork to be effective in man coverage.
However, he lacks the speed and awareness to be a deep safety and is too small to play in the box - 6’1” 205 pounds - which is why he’s projected to be an undrafted free agent on a non-Gruden draft board.
Staying within the Tiger’s secondary, cornerback Andrew Booth is a potential top-15 pick. Booth has plenty of tools to be a quality draft prospect, but his aggressiveness and football IQ were question marks heading into this season. He started the year off hot, allowing three catches on six targets for just one yard, but he, and the team as a whole, struggled last week against Georgia Tech, getting targeted five times for five completions and 44 yards.
Moving up a level, James Skalski is a linebacker who has the lateral quickness, instincts and open-field tackling skills to make plays sideline-to-sideline. The problem is he’s a tweener who either needs to add size and strength to be an inside backer or increase his speed to play on the weak side. Because of that, Skalski is looking at a late Day Three projection.
Since I went all defense for Clemson, why not stick to offense for NC State? That way you technically only have to watch half of the game.
When I profiled Ikem Ekwonu in the column below, I highlighted how he has struggled as a pass blocker in the past, but he’s managed to turn that around in 2021. On 119 pass-blocking snaps, he’s only allowed one pressure, no sacks, and has earned an 83.0 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus.
That’s a vast improvement over the six pressures and two sacks Ekwonu surrendered through three games last year, but he’ll be tested against Clemson’s young edge rushers, and he’s still looking at a second-round projection.
Reaping the benefits of the offensive lineman’s blocking will be running back, Zonovan Knight. Knight has the vision and overall athletic profile to start earning some more notoriety as we move closer to the draft. He’s looking at a fourth-round projection now, but if he can show off some more skills as a receiver, that will change.
Devin Leary will be under center for the Wolfpack. As a potential fifth- to seventh-round pick, Leary has a quick release and has great ball placement when throwing outside the numbers to deliver beautiful back-shoulder throws. However, he’s a little hesitant when throwing over the middle which could be a huge issue in the NFL, and his arm strength is nothing to write home about.
#7 Texas A&M at #16 Arkansas
Even with the Notre Dame/Wisconsin game, I think this matchup has the potential to steal the show and be the game of the week. Texas A&M is loaded with talent and Arkansas is a program on the rise with second-year head coach Sam Pittman and a big upset over Texas a couple of weeks ago.
For the Aggies, defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal is the biggest name you need to know. He’s been on a tear this season, racking up 13 total tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2.5 sacks and eight pressures through three games. Leal might end up getting taken too high for Las Vegas to be able to draft him, but if he is around in the late first, I wouldn’t expect it to take long for Mike Mayock to submit the pick.
Another marquee prospect and a potential first-round pick for Texas A&M is Kenyon Green. The interior offensive lineman has great size at 6’4” and 325 pounds, and he plays with great pad level and understands leverage to be a force as a run blocker. As a pass protector, Green’s combination of strength and athleticism gives him a great anchor and allows him to thwart counter moves.
Running back Isaiah Spiller takes advantage of Green’s blocking, rushing over 1,000 yards and 5.5 yards per carry in 10 games last season. Spiller is a downhill, between the tackles type of runner who has excellent contact balance to stay upright and keep moving after being hit. If he can find a way to be an effective receiver, then he has a chance to go in the first round, but right now, he’ll likely hear his name called in the second.
Tasked with slowing Spiller down will be Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool, who makes the list because not only does he have an elite name, but he’s also a tackle machine and solid run defender. Through three weeks, he already has 30 total tackles after racking up 101 in nine contests last season. Pool does need to improve in coverage, though, as that is a big reason why he’ll likely be an undrafted free agent.
On the other side of the ball for the Razorbacks, interior offensive lineman Ricky Stromberg is a nasty run blocker who has the strength and mean streak to finish blocks. The problem is he’s not a high-level athlete who would be a perfect fit in a zone-heavy scheme. Stromberg is much better in a phone booth and has a sturdy anchor in pass protection, making him a third- or fourth-round prospect.
Wide receiver may not be a position of need for the Raiders during this year’s draft cycle, but it’d be remiss of me to not mention Treylon Burks when talking about Arkansas’ draft prospects. Listed at 6’3” and 225 pounds, Burks has the rare combination of size, speed and route-running nuance to be an effective slot receiver in the NFL. Arkansas’ scheme puts him in motion quite a bit so it’s a little unknown how good or bad his releases off the line of scrimmage are, but the wideout still projects as a top-25 pick.