NFL Draft 2018 Stock Watch: Week 9

Our weekly look at those who made an impression, both good and bad, on their draft stock during Week 9 of college football. See who's in this week!

Stock Up

We begin this week’s stock up section with a pair of prospects from the most anticipated matchup on the schedule last Saturday:

Billy Price, C, Ohio State

There was a lot of NFL talent on show and a lot of impressive performances to come out of the most high profile game of the week that saw Ohio State edge out Big Ten rivals Penn State by a single point, 39-38. Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett outshone Heisman favorite Saquon Barkley with his exceptional stat line that included completing 84.6% of his passes for 328 yards, four TD throws and no picks, while adding 95 additional yards on the ground.

How about the senior center handing him the ball, however? Billy Price deserves plenty focus for a near-flawless performance that exemplified an Ohio State team that won the game in large part due to winning the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Price’s physicality and overall toughness are staples of his play as a four-year starter, initially at guard before switching to center to replace Vikings third-rounder Pat Elflein.

His run blocking was especially strong versus an excellent Nittany Lions defensive line that began right from the first drive, opening up a hole for freshman running back J.K Dobbins that saw Price direct not just the defensive tackle but also linebacker Jason Cabinda out of the way in the same motion to release Dobbins onto the second level.

While there are better athletes at the position than Price, the 6’3”, 312lb center pulls well from his anchor position to get in front as a lead blocker and working his way upfield in general, playing with good vision and effort to make plays in space and beyond the line of scrimmage.

Price’s aggressive play and battling qualities epitomize his style, and while his enthusiasm can occasionally get the better of him, he tends to stay in sufficient control, anchoring well to absorb pressure at the point of attack and to deliver an animated punch himself on contact. He plays smart, efficient football with a well-rounded skill set in both the pass and run game that should see him drafted similarly to his former teammate Elflein, if not earlier.

Koa Farmer, LB, Penn State

The Nittany Lions may have lost, and may have surrendered 39 points to the Buckeyes offense, but one of their defensive players still helped himself individually in terms of his draft stock. After giving some attention to undersized corner Grant Haley a couple weeks ago, their senior linebacker also deserves some focus as a first-year full-time starter (two career starts entering 2017) that has caught the eye over the course of the season.

The relative inexperience absolutely shows up in Farmer’s game. He’s proven rather exploitable on fakes, motion, and being the fall guy on RPO and option concepts after collapsing inside and exposing space on the edge for example. Those issues were again evident this past weekend, struggling with his initial reads, taking false steps and inefficient angles. Yet, the potential to work with and develop looks to be there in equal measure.

Farmer appears to be a very good athlete that sees him deployed in space and coverage often, and to show up frequently around the ball with his effort in pursuit and closing speed helping greatly. On a day in which he accumulated 7 tackles, including two tackles for loss (TFLs), both his stops behind the line resulted from quick reactions to short check downs to the OSU running backs and making the play in space, taking down Weber early in the first quarter, then again with Dobbins later in the game.

His athletic traits showed up in other impactful moments during the game. The opening Buckeyes drive ended with a Parris Campbell fumble, with Farmer in the right place at the right time but with more good reactions to scoop up the loose ball, return it 26 yards to the Ohio State 23-yard line and set up a touchdown score that had Penn State up 14-0 early.

On special teams, Farmer put his speed to further use with a couple kick returns, including taking a short kickoff during the second quarter, bouncing out to his right and taking it back 59 yards to the Buckeyes’ 23 again, a good number on the day for the 6’1”, 237lb linebacker.

His abilities to contribute on multiple special teams units should allow him to be an asset on an NFL roster while he continues to work on his game on defense. There’s upside there that could be worth taking a shot with on the final day of the draft.

Lorenzo Carter, EDGE/LB, Georgia

The Bulldogs absolutely dominated this non-contest that proved the final straw for coach McElwain. While Florida’s offensive struggles are well documented, Carter deserves praise none-the-less for a notable performance. 

Often being likened to former teammate Leonard Floyd due to also offering a long 6’5”, 245lb frame and exciting athleticism within that build, he’s generally been known for his potential to rush the passer, in part due to a freshman season that saw him total seven TFLs and 4.5 sacks in limited snaps in 2014.

His first impactful play of this game was in that vein, beating both the left tackle (NFL prospect Martez Ivey) and the running back, splitting the double team for an early sack on the Gators’ opening drive.

What really stood out though, was the rest of his game that saw him make nine tackles over the course of the matchup. Throughout the game, Carter looked good working off-ball in space and moving around the formation, playing strong in run defense. He flowed well to the ball, worked off blocks and made solid tackles when in position.

Carter hasn’t been known so much for that side of his game, and early in his career the five-star recruit reportedly would not do all he could to work on his game and get better. The film he put together versus Florida though, suggests a lot of growth and improvement of that all-round play.

One very good example of that came near the end of the first half, in which Carter worked excellently off the block of tight end DeAndre Goolsby to take down running back Lamical Perine for only a short gain on first down. Carter has never had more than five sacks in a season in college, but is only one short of that mark as a senior, and appears to be finishing his career at this level strongly in time for his opportunity to be drafted.

As a bonus mention from this game, and while not exactly what Gator fans are looking for particularly, at least their punter had a good day individually. Senior Johnny Townsend showed off his strong leg, averaging 54.4 yards on his seven punts, including a long of 70 yards. One of his kicks landed at the one yard line, bounced sideways and only just crossed into the end zone for a touchback that was so close to being perfectly executed.

Allen Lazard, WR, Iowa State

The Cyclones have been one of the best stories around college football in 2017 and continued their challenge for a Big 12 title by taking down previously undefeated TCU by 14-7 to reach a 6-2 overall record. Senior receiver Allen Lazard was a key factor in the victory, taking his six receptions for 106 yards at a 17.67 average per catch.

Despite dropping his first target on an admittedly tough play to make over the middle of the field on a slightly high pass, he quickly establish himself while regularly matching up with Horned Frogs corner Ranthony Texada. Fair play to the senior defensive back, who is outmatched by around seven inches in height with Lazard, but still got several wins in coverage against the physical playmaker.

Lazard isn’t going to lose out often though, using his body and strength to his advantage on several crucial plays, including a couple on third down conversions. Sophomore safety Jeff Gladney also drew assignments with Lazard as another fun battle throughout, with Gladney securing an interception on a target for Lazard, but also drawing a pass interference later on a questionable penalty call.

Lazard gets his wins through using his size and physicality, while also being a very polished route runner, more so than most college receivers, and has superb hands. There are legitimate questions though over the relative lack of speed and suddenness in his game that will make it difficult at times to generate sufficient separation at the next level and could keep him on the board until day three of the draft.

Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

Call this as much of a stock up for the season, more so than just for the week, as Andrews has become a consistently productive and reliable target for Baker Mayfield throughout this 2017 season. He was once again a factor in the 49-27 win over Texas Tech that was quite close for a portion of the contest.

Andrews contributed six receptions on the day for 79 yards (a 13.17 average) and a touchdown. He’s now just one yard shy of 600 for the year on 36 catches with four for touchdowns, giving him 18 scores in less than three seasons playing for the Sooners.

Though listed at tight end, Andrews rarely takes up position in-line, instead more frequently lining up as a slot receiver with minimal blocking requirements typical of a pro-style tight end. He’s also not the mammoth size of many of the top prospects at the positions at around 6’4” and 250lbs.

As good as his numbers tend to be, watching the junior on film last season, there were a few occasions when he raised concerns over coming down with the ball in contested situations, and at times being able to be disrupted off his route by physical defenders willing to get their hands on him.

This game against the Red Raiders didn’t allow him to clear that up either, with most of his receptions seeing him wide open to make the catch cleanly. His touchdown score also required debate, with a little uncertainty whether he secured the ball under the challenge of Vaughnte Dorsey, but the on-field ruling of a score held up with insufficient evidence to overturn the call.

What did stand out though is what has always been evident, that Andrews is superb at working space and finding the gaps in zone defense. His smart play and awareness leads to him getting open often. He has a great release off the line of scrimmage when given the freedom to do so. A good athlete overall, he’s impressive with the ball in his hands with enough top-end speed when in full stride.

With all the fundamentals in place technically and with his football IQ, there should be a very reliable floor with Andrews as a prospect, much like the reliability he continues to show on film. If there’s a name that comes to mind for now to liken him to, Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate might be a decent comparison, with similar size and skills as a receiver.

Brate went undrafted, but that certainly won’t be the case with Andrews, who may leave a year early for the pros, given Mayfield’s impending departure at the same time.

Small School Watch: Jake Wieneke, WR, South Dakota State

The Jackrabbits could have two offensive players selected in the opening three rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. Tight end Dallas Goedert has featured as the small school prospect to watch previously in this series, and Wieneke gets his turn this week.

The senior has been one of the star receivers in the FCS throughout his first three seasons, along with Rams third round selection Cooper Kupp, but it is Wieneke who might have the greater upside. The dominant 6’3”, 215lb receiver has great hands, runs well polished routes, shows field and positional awareness, and though not a true blazer in terms of testing, plays with more than enough football speed in pads.

His combination of size, quickness and sharpness of routes allows him to be effective on every level of the field, before and after the catch, over the middle and out to the sidelines, and tough to stop as a red zone target that has seen him total 54 touchdown catches over his 47 career games played so far.

That included adding three more this past weekend as part of eight receptions for 97 yards in the comfortable 52-24 win on the road over #12-ranked Western Illinois on Saturday. His end zone exploits showed his ability to win jump balls against over-matched corners and some excellent footwork to get down in bounds.

The level of production over his college career has been fantastic, that has resulted in over 1,300 yards in each of his first three seasons, but this has not been the ideal finish to his time at this level as perhaps hoped for. Wieneke’s numbers are down in his senior year, with just 479 yards through his first eight game and his usually high yards per catch average (19.2, 20.4, 16.9 in his previous years) is down to 12.9 in 2017.

Still, the skill set is clearly there to give him the chance to thrive at the pro level, and though a strong showing at a post-season All-Star game would greatly help, he’s also excelled against top opposition, with his standout performance being against TCU in the 2016 season opener as one of several occasions he’s produced against FBS teams in his South Dakota State career.

Stock Down

It was not a good day for offensive football as Oklahoma State played West Virginia. Despite the talent on the side of the ball, turnovers were one of the features of the game, and arguably both quarterbacks, Mason Rudolph and Will Grier, could easily appear here as well.

Justin Crawford, RB, West Virginia

The top returning rusher in the Big 12 conference, Crawford began the season in superb form as part of one of the most explosive offensive teams in the country. That included putting up five straight 100+ yard rushing games to open the season and six rushing touchdowns over that opening period.

It’s been slim pickings ever since though. Only 47 yards (3.36 per carry) and 30 yards (3.00 per carry) came versus Texas Tech and Baylor respectively, and it didn’t get any better against the Cowboys, as Crawford finished with only 45 yards at 3.46 yards per carry. He also had a costly fumble deep in his own territory  that led to an immediate Oklahoma State touchdown on the next play.

Even during his early season form running the ball, his continuing minimal contributions in the pass game are a question mark in his skill set for the NFL draft. The Community College transfer totaled a modest 14 receptions for 68 yards (4.86 per catch) and one TD in his first season for the Mountaineers in 2016, and so far in his senior campaign has just seven receptions for 30 yards (4.29 per catch) as a receiving target.

Crawford is not the biggest at under 5’10” and listed at just below the 200lb mark, but has shown plenty burst and quick feet in his running style that led to 1,184 rush yards in 2016 at a hugely impressive 7.26 yards per carry last season. He also showed all the effort desired to finish runs after contact where possible on his way to earning Big 12 newcomer of the year recognition.

That said, his lateral movement is less impressive, and has moments where his balance and control lets him down to leave yards on the field. There’s some intriguing traits with Crawford, including some nice plays that highlight good vision in his runs, and he’s had a season and a half of good production to back it up. He needs to finish the season much better than he’s been these past three outings, however.

Who stood out to you during Week 9 of college football? Discuss in the comments below!

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