Each week, we’ll be highlighting ten things you need to know following the weekend of college football and NFL play that affects the 2022 NFL draft. This might be a player who breaks out, an important injury, an ascending NFL player who erases a presumed team need, or just something we see happening that needs talked about.
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1. Do you believe in moral victories? Florida fans should after a close loss to Alabama on Saturday that showed head coach Dan Mullen can flat-out coach. Mullen’s Gators ran all over the Crimson Tide defense in 31-29 loss that showed Nick Saban’s team might be more vulnerable than we thought.
Florida’s ability to keep things close with 245 yards on the ground is all Mullen. In a week in which I called for him to bench Emory Jones at quarterback for the better-passing Anthony Richardson, Mullen went old school and looked to beat Alabama by playing keep-away from a dynamic offense. And he nearly did it.
Is this the blueprint to beat Alabama? Maybe. At any rate it’s the closest we’ve seen anyone come this year. And you can bet Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs are taking notes on the Florida game plan.
2. Stock Up, Drake London!
The USC wide receiver took over for the Trojans following an injury to quarterback Kedon Slovis while leading them to a stunning victory over Washington State. London, on the day, went for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches while showing off the vertical skills on his 6’5” frame.
London, a junior, is one of the bright spots in a 2022 wide receiver class that features mostly small-ish prospects like Garrett Wilson (6’0”, 193 lbs) and Chris Olave (6’1”, 170 lbs). Teams looking for an impressive athlete who can stretch the field vertically will be flocking to Los Angeles for look at the Trojans’ top offensive weapon.
3. The other Drake at USC, pass-rusher Jackson, also had a nice Saturday as he took over on the defensive side of the ball and continued to show why he’s considered a top 20 prospect for the 2022 draft class.
With four tackles, one sack and a forced fumble, Jackson was a force for the Cougars’ offense to reckon with. The No. 7 overall prospect on my 2022 board, Jackson has an NFL profile at 6’4” and 255 pounds with the quickness and strength off the ball to be an early starter and impact player.
Joining Kayvon Thibodeaux and George Karlaftis as potential top-10 prospects, you can see already that the 2022 draft is shaping up to be incredibly deep at the edge-rusher position.
4. USC has moved on from a struggling head coach, but is it time for other traditional powers to do the same?
The Miami Hurricanes have yet to bounce back under head coach Manny Diaz despite a top 15 ranking to begin the year. That ranking quickly proved to be unwarranted. Miami currently sits at 1-2 with a two point victory over Appalachian State as the lone win on the season. Diaz, in three years, has won 15 games and lost 12. At a school with the homegrown talent of Miami, that’s simply not good enough.
The same can be said for Florida State head coach Mike Norvell, who has seen a once-proud program fall off the radar. Although just 12 games into his tenure, Norvell has won only three contests (all in 2020) and is overseeing a program that lacks talent and creativity on both sides of the ball.
With losses to Jacksonville State and Wake Forest, FSU needs to be realistic about Norvell’s ability to dig them out of the hole he is digging.
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5. What in the world is happening at Clemson?
The Tigers have been a notoriously dangerous offensive program since Dabo Swinney took over as head coach in 2008 with 10 straight years of double-digit wins and a slew of first-round draft picks and All-Americans coming from the offensive side of the ball.
This year? Clemson is averaging just 22 points per game (ranked No. 107 nationally) and surviving thanks to a weak schedule after Week 1 and a good defense—that is if you consider a 2-1 record with a close win over Georgia Tech and a beatdown of South Carolina State surviving.
It’s not to hit the panic button on Swinney, the program, or even sophomore quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei—but it is time to re-evaluate what they’re doing (especially in the passing game) and attempt to use the dual-threat ability of Uiagalelei.
In a year where Alabama does seem like they’re running to another championship, it also doesn’t look like Clemson is prepared to stop them should they meet in the playoffs.
6. Have a day, TreVeyon Henderson. The Ohio State freshman running back rushed for 277 yards in a 41-20 win over Tulsa. Henderson’s day is a single-game freshman record at Ohio State—a school that’s pretty good at the running back position. Henderson’s day broke Archie Griffin’s former record and puts himself in the driver seat as the back for tOSU.
7. Another game, another awesome day for Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. In a win over Purdue that moved the Fighting Irish to 3-0, Hamilton had another interception (running his total to three on the year) plus 10 tackles and two passes defensed.
In a year that is dominated by pass-rushers—especially when talking about the upcoming 2022 NFL draft—Hamilton’s play has been the best of any defender in the nation this year.
Could we possibly see a defensive player finally get real Heisman consideration? Probably not, but if anyone can it’s Hamilton given his playmaking ability, the prestige of Notre Dame football, the highly-televised schedule they play, and also the lack of elite offensive play so far this year.
A few NFL thoughts before we move on…
8. The Kansas City Chiefs are holding out for a hero. And most weeks it works as Patrick Mahomes II pulls magic out of his hat and delivers a victory. But throughout the first two weeks of the 2021 season, it’s obvious that the defending AFC Champions’ defense is not up to par and that the collective thinking in KC seems to be that Mahomes will—once again—save the day.
He did in Week 1 thanks to a bomb on a busted play to Tyreek Hill. In Week 2, he couldn’t, and the Baltimore Ravens got the victory. But let’s be realistic—were it not for a very uncharacteristic fumble by Nick Chubb—a player who had one fumble on 190 carries last year—we would be looking at an 0-2 Chiefs team.
This isn’t to stay Andy Reid’s team can’t get things straightened out, but a team that many appear to think is unbeatable is proving to be anything but that.
9. Carson Wentz is maddeningly inconsistent. And I know that’s not breaking news, but sitting down on Sunday morning to watch the Indianapolis Colts vs. Los Angeles Rams, Wentz dominated my notepad.
He’s at times very good—good enough that you can see why Philadelphia made him the No. 2 overall pick and gave him a massive contract extension. And other times he’s maddeningly bad with decision-making thrown out the window and all regard for ball security and personal health forgotten. It’s in those moments that you understand why the Eagles washed their hands of him and moved on to Jalen Hurts.
I have no idea if the Colts are good or not—my take after two games is that they’re not very good but neither is their division, so they could still be a playoff team—but no one can have a confident take on if Wentz is good or not. Or if he’s even the long-term guy in Indianapolis.
There are simply too many moments of highs followed by lows. And now we find Wentz once again injured—this time double ankle sprains—and the Colts looking vulnerable offensively.
10. And finally…I think the Las Vegas Raiders might be good?
It’s so hard to tell through two weeks of the season which clubs are good, which are benefitting from a weak schedule, and which are just riding early season confusion. The Raiders might be all three, but following wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers it at least seems like Jon Gruden might finally have a team.
One thing is for sure—few quarterbacks are playing better than Derek Carr through the first two weeks of the season and even a leaky defense hasn’t kept the Raiders from beating two playoff teams from last season in back-to-back weeks.