College Football, Week 10 Thoughts
A month ago, I was among many who were ready to believe that Malik Willis could be the best quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Since around that time, Willis has thrown three interceptions—in three of his last five starts.
That’s nine interceptions in a five-game span.
While Willis has also rushed for 755 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, there seems to be a lightyear to go as a passer. I care way more about a QB’s ability to throw well and make smart decisions than to be able to rush for 200 yards in a game. Lamar Jackson sure hasn’t played well this season, has he? And he was way better as a prospect in 2018 than Malik Willis is right now.
Grayson McCall-ing off 2022 draft now?
Everybody here knows that Grayson McCall is my favorite college football player and that I have long believed he could become “the next Zach Wilson”. That’s not going to change today—McCall still has a massive lead in many key passing leaderboards—but he missed Week 10 with an “upper body injury” and he’s expected to be out for a while.
It is therefore, probably, safe to officially say that the redshirt sophomore will be returning to Coastal Carolina in 2022. Nobody expected him to declare (except maybe me, if all went perfectly) and this may be the injury that guarantees that McCall will return to Coastal next year and make a significant push for the Heisman trophy and an undefeated season.
Now for some “good” news that’s related to McCall being out on Saturday: replacement Bryce Carpenter was terrible. Carpenter went 13-of-20 for 85 yards, but he did score a touchdown through the air and ground in a win over Georgia Southern. If Carpenter can be that ineffective in the same offense in which McCall leads the nation in Y/A—what does it say about McCall’s overall value?
Will Matt Corral give it another year too?
The hype around Ole Miss-Liberty was that there were scouts from the majority of NFL teams in attendance to see Willis vs. Corral. But just because Matt Corral was easily victorious, Liberty is still Liberty. They are a good program…for Liberty. Corral went 20-of-27 for 324 yards with one touchdown, rushing for nine yards on six carries.
Corral has thrown 0, 1, or 2 touchdowns in each of his last six starts. Perhaps he is simply a victim of Lane Kiffin’s offense—Corral has 10 rushing touchdowns, tied for the team lead with running back Snoop Conner—but it seems that while Matt Corral’s interception rate is way down from 2020, so is his touchdown rate.
Pickett your ticket
The top quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft right now should be Kenny Pickett.
On the season, Pickett has completed 68.7 percent of 342 attempts, gaining 9.3 yards per attempt with 29 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Week after week, Kenny Pickett delivers big games and puts the Pittsburgh ofefnse on his shoulders. The Panthers are 7-2 (would be best winning percentage since 1981) and rank first in the country in scoring. This is “the Pickett offense” and other than Jordan Addison, he has no standout receivers for the next level. (That we know of yet)
Arguments against the 6’3, 220 lb Pickett seem foolish at this point. This is what NFL teams look for from a college quarterback every year. Baker Mayfield, Joe Burrow, Zach Wilson, and even Kyler Murray. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t good for three seasons prior, it only matters that he’s great right now.
And he’s likeable.
2022 NFL Draft - RBs over 1,000 yards
Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
Perhaps the player with the best “Vision” in the 2022 NFL Draft. Walker leads the nation with 1,340 yards on 198 carries. He’s averaging 6.8 YPC and has scored 15 touchdowns. In his most recent start, Walker had 23 carries for 146 yards but the Spartans lost their first game of the season.
Walker now has at least 120 rushing yards in six of nine games.
Tyler Allgeier, BYU
Already a 1,000-yard rusher once in his career, Allgeier has 203 carries for 1,167 yards and 5.7 YPC. He also has 20 catches for 150 yards. He had just six carries for 35 yards and a 46-yard reception in a gimme win over Idaho State.
Breece Hall, Iowa State
Hall had 1,572 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in 2020, so he was already in the running for top back in 2022. Hall has set a new career-high with 28 receptions and that dual threat ability could get him picked in the first round next year. This season, he’s rushed for 1,121 yards and 14 touchdowns with 5.7 YPC.
Most recently, Breece Hall had 19 carries for 136 yards and two touchdowns against Texas. He’s had over 100 rushing yards in six of his last seven starts.
Sincere McCormick, UTSA
Another one: McCormick had 983 rushing yards as a freshman, then 1,467 as a sophomore in 2020. This season, McCormick has 212 carries for 1,060 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.0 YPC. His 169 rushing yards against UTEP in Week 10 was his fourth straight game over 110 yards and his sixth overall in 2021.
Abram Smith, Baylor
I wrote about the unlikely ascent of Smith, a former RB-turned LB-turned back to RB who is going off this season. He had 18 carries for 125 yards against TCU in Week 10, his third straight game over 120 rushing yards and his fifth overall this season. Abram Smith has 144 carries for 1,055 yards and 11 touchdowns (7.3 YPC) after playing a good season at linebacker in 2020.
Mataeo Durant, Duke
Durant averaged 6.8 YPC in 2020, gaining 817 rushing yards on 120 attempts. This season, he has 211 carries for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, as well as 23 catches for 225 yards. He’s averaging only 5.0 YPC this season but is the clear focal point for defenses facing Duke.
Mataeo Durant had 25 carries for 81 yards against Pitt in Week 10.
Tyler Badie, Missouri
The senior’s previous career-high was 457 rushing yards in 2019. This season, Badie has 166 carries for 1,038 yards, 6.3 YPC, 11 touchdowns, and 45 catches for 315 yards. Only Jo’quavious Marks and Dillon Johnson, both backs in Mike Leach’s air raid offense for Mississippi State, have more receptions out of the backfield this season than Tyler Badie.
Kyren Williams, Notre Dame
Williams does not have 1,000 rushing yards—he has 795 on 160 carries (5.0 YPC)—but he does have 34 receptions for 293 yards and overall has 194 touches for 1,088 yards and 12 touchdowns. Against Navy in Week 10, Kyren Williams had 17 carries for 95 yards and seven catches for 36 yards with three touchdowns total.
2022 NFL Draft - WRs over 1,000 yards
Devin Thompkins, Utah State
Thompkins now has 72 receptions for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns, the most yards in the country. He had nine catches for 215 yards against New Mexico State in Week 10 and he has really been about that productive every week. If he plays in four more games, Thompkins could top the 1,856 yards of DeVonta Smith in 2020. He should definitely challenge the 1,780 yards that Ja’Marr Chase had in 2019, and will probably soon surpass the 1,540 yards of teammate Justin Jefferson that season at LSU.
Then again, Omar Bayless had 93 catches for 1,643 yards and 17 TDs at Arkansas State in 2019.
Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky
Speaking of ridiculous numbers against middling competition and “what it means”—Sterns had 11 catches for 110 yards against Middle Tennessee State in Week 10. He has six straight games with at least 10 catches and 81 catches total in that period of time. If he had that pace for 12 games, Sterns would have 162 catches. There’s a good chance that Sterns will play in four more games and right now he has 104 receptions for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Sterns, who is undersized, could either return to school in 2022 or see if insane stats could get him drafted—something that didn’t seem possible two months ago.
Drake London, USC
Of course, London’s season is over but he figures to be a top-25 pick, at least. London finished the year with 88 catches for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in eight games and amid turmoil at quarterback for the Trojans.
David Bell, Purdue
He now has 64 receptions for 1,003 yards in eight games. Over his 26-game career at Purdue, David Bell has 203 receptions for 2,663 yards and 20 touchdowns. You don’t find many receivers who are as consistently dominant at a Power 5 school for every season of their career. Bell had 11 catches for 217 yards in Purdue’s upset of Michigan State in Week 10.
I say it a lot: What else does he need to prove?
Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
There’s nothing else that Tolbert needs to prove either and he could return to school in 2022 if he wanted to. He won’t want to. Tolbert has 58 receptions for 1,032 yards and six touchdowns. He had 1,084 yards last season. Multiple 1,000-yard campaigns at South Alabama and a career 17.5 YPC average will do the trick, Jalen.
2022 NFL Draft - At least 9 sacks
Tristan Nichols, DT, Nevada
A defensive tackle with 9.5 sacks in seven games. Hawaiian-born Nichols transferred from Arizona Western College in 2019 and he’s eating up: 15.5 sacks in 11 career division-I games.
Nichols is only listed at 245 lbs, which is just not possible at the NFL level if true, but we overlook the importance of hand placement and leverage when it comes to playing defensive line. Aaron Donald being the perfect example, but Donald is 285. Really? 245?
Sam Williams, LB, Ole Miss
Williams had 10 sacks in the two years period, so he’s not a stranger to rushing the passer. This season, he has 10.5 sacks and 12 TFL with four forced fumbles in nine games.
Will McDonald, DE, Iowa State
At a good program, Will McDonald now has 26.5 sacks in his last 30 games. He is 6’4, 245 lbs.
Javon Solomon, LB, Troy
He’s in his third year but Solomon’s having a breakout now: 15 TFL and 10 sacks in nine games. He’s listed at only 6’2.
ProFootballNetwork - 2022 NFL Mock Draft
A new mock at PFN, this written by James Fragoza.
Lions - QB Matt Corral
Texans - DE Kayvon Thibodeaux
Eagles - CB Derek Stingley
Jaguars - S Kyle Hamilton
Jets - CB Kaiir Elam
Giants - OT Evan Neal
WFT - QB Malik Willis
Eagles - G Kenyon Green
Jets - DE Aidan Hutchinson
Giants - C Tyler Linderbaum
Amazingly, we indeed might have three teams picking twice in the top-10: Eagles (thanks Dolphins), Jets (thanks Seahawks), and Giants (thanks Bears)
I’ll keep saying it until I change my mind: The Lions are not going to draft a quarterback.
I need to comment on a few comments by the author in this piece because I believe it is important to not let certain false narratives slide without examination.
“However, the Lions know Jared Goff is not the future. So why prolong their search for the face of the franchise?” - I sincerely hope this is not something that the writer believes is a good idea and is only saying that Detroit might have this traumatizing way of planning the future. “Well, we have this once in a career opportunity to draft a player first overall: let’s reach for potentially the QB who could sink us even deeper.” If you don’t feel as excited about Corral as you feel about Thibodeaux, then don’t take the chance.
If there is a top-10 QB, it is Kenny Pickett. I don’t think Corral or Willis warrant first round grades unless the mock drafter is flat-out saying: “I think the organizations will reach for these players.”
“Throwing a rookie signal-caller into this dumpster fire (Houston Texans) would do more to harm their career than jump-start it.” - The Lions are also a dumpster fire. Just because you are fired up by the head coach’s emotional energy, it doesn’t change the argument that they have a long road to walk down.
“Urban Meyer isn’t the long-term answer at head coach for the Jaguars — that much is clear.” I have to stop saying this now because now it’s just a cliché that everybody says when they even mention the Jaguars for any reason at all.
“Jets fans anoint Zach Wilson the second coming of Joe Namath after the franchise selects him No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.” And let me guess: the Bears did the right thing by trading their 2022 first round pick to move up for Justin Fields too, right? Because Justin Fields “will correct all of his issues eventually” but we need to make sure that Zach Wilson is labeled a bust based on the opinions of people who don’t watch the games?
If you’re the type of person who thinks that Mike White and Josh Johnson are better options for a franchise at quarterback than Zach Wilson based on the sample size of game(s) that happened in 2021, consider doing a deeper dive on why Wilson would have been a consensus number one overall pick in almost any other draft class that didn’t have Trevor Lawrence.
“Willis has received hype due to his rushing prowess and arm strength, but you can’t discount character and leadership. The Liberty QB seems to check those boxes with ease, and although he is far from a polished prospect, he is one I would bet the house on.” What I think readers need to realize when they read reports like this is that the writer has an agenda to either get you to like or dislike a prospect; to either like or dislike a team; to either like or dislike a coach/GM. There’s often an agenda. I’ve written plenty of positive about Malik Willis, but it would now be disingenuous of me to say, “Well, no matter what Malik Willis does, even if he proves to be a dangerously bad passer for a prolonged period of time against inferior competition, I will ignore it in the name of “development time””.
You now see that for Malik Willis, it could be “He’s raw, but he will develop!” instead of taking that same resume for another player and saying, “He’s talented, sure, but too risky.” How can you get reliable draft information from anyone who might have an agenda? To say “I would bet the house on this quarterback” while simultaneously mocking him to a team at pick 7 instead of to the Texans at pick 2…well, you would bet the house on him…but only when it’s safe to bet the house? I think it’s just as fair to say: “Malik Willis is too enticing to pass up, but he’s got the potential to be out of town in three years and labeled as a bust.” You’re allowed to write that too.
Further down the line, the mock drafter would rather give offensive line help to Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa instead of replacing them, in the same article that the mock drafter trashes Zach Wilson after seven starts.
That was not exactly the exercise I had planned but I think sniping out some draft narratives will be important moving forward. Maybe next time I’ll leave the author nameless because it is not meant to be an attack, just a good example of what I keep seeing year after year.