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NCAA Prospects To Watch: Week 8

We’re almost halfway through the college football season, which means small sample sizes are becoming larger, and players are beginning to rise up the draft boards. While that means the cream is rising to the top, it also means that some unique names have emerged as players to know for the 2020 NFL Draft.

This week we’re going to take a different approach to this article. In the past, I’ve looked at specific games and given you an idea of who to keep an eye on in that game. Now that I’ve covered most of the top-25 teams, I want to switch the focus from teams to players. I’m going to give you players to watch in the Noon, Afternoon, and Night games on Saturday so that you can turn to any game and have a player to focus on.

This series will cover players featured in nationally televised games who could likely emerge as fantasy assets after next year’s draft.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive In-Season Lineup Tools, Lineup Optimizer and over 150 days of Premium DFS Research. Sign Up Now!


Week 7's Featured Players

Let’s look at how last week's featured players performed:

Bryce Perkins, QB Virginia – Perkins was sufficiently bottled up by Miami’s defense. He completed only 25 of 42 passes for 252 yards and ran for an additional 27. The Hurricanes exposed his inconsistent pocket presence and displayed that he’s more athlete than polished passer at this stage. He’s a late Day Three pick if anything right now, but the fantasy upside is there if he ever figures it out.

Joe Reed, WR Virginia – As Perkins struggled, so did his receivers. Reed caught five passes on mostly short and intermediate routes, which showed that he can be more than a deep threat or return man. His versatility and ability to hit on the big gainers still make him an intriguing Day Three pick and a guy that could make splash plays in a pass-heavy offense.

KJ Osborn, WR Miami – Osborn was Miami’s leading receiver, but he caught four passes for 60 yards. He’ll need to show more of his former big-play ability if he wants to be more than a free agent.

Jerry Jeudy, WR Alabama – Jeudy only caught four passes for 50 yards as Alabama spread the ball around a lot. It may not have been a blowup game, but he’s still a top-ten pick in the draft.

Tua Tagovailoa, QB Alabama – Tua looked good against a strong defense. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 293 yards and four touchdowns. He felt the heat from Joe Burrow climbing the draft boards and tried to stake his claim as the top QB in the class. It seems like he’s still there – for now.

Henry Ruggs III, WR Alabama – Ruggs caught one pass for a 33-yard touchdown. He gets lost in the shuffle on a deep team, which may drop him into the late Day Two discussion, but the kid can fly and will be a big-play threat in the NFL.

Kellen Mond, QB Texas A&M – Kellen Mond had a strong day against an elite Alabama defense. He threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns while running for 90 yards and another touchdown. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over once, which shows his growing maturity and consistency. He could slide into the day two conversation and be an intriguing fantasy pick because of his rushing ability.

Jamie Newman, QB Wake Forest – Newman threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, despite only running for 13 yards. Crucially, he left the game with a left shoulder injury that needs further evaluation, so his potential draft stock will hinge on how soon he can get back onto the field.

Cole McDonald, QB Hawaii – McDonald showed up in a losing effort to Boise State, throwing for 251 yards and three touchdowns while running for 54 and another touchdown as his team’s leading rusher. I talked about McDonald likely not coming out this year, but I’d be excited by him for next year.

Cedric Byrd, WR Hawaii – Byrd caught six passes for 74 yards and continued to move the sticks for Hawaii. He’s likely a better real-life receiver than a future fantasy receiver, but he has a future in the NFL.

Joe Burrow, QB LSU – Burrow was efficient and effective in the defeat of Florida. He completed 21 of 24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns, while also running for 43 yards. People under-estimate his ability on the ground, which is another reason why I believe Burrow will cement himself as a round one quarterback and a future fantasy starter.


Week 8 Matchup to Watch - Early Games

West Virginia - Oklahoma 12:o0 PM ET

Trey Sermon, RB Oklahoma – At 6’0” 220 pounds, Sermon has a physicality and low center of gravity, which makes him difficult to bring down. In fact, he’s forced 96 missed tackles over his two years at Oklahoma – only one of which he was a starter. That number of missed tackles is the fourth-most in the country, which shows his aggressive running style. He’s still splitting carries, so he’s only totaled 345 yards on the ground in the team’s first six games, but he’s averaged 7.7 yards per carry, scored five times, and continues to show usable ability in the passing game. He’s likely not a three-down back at the next level, but his punishing style and ability to break off chunks of yardage will make him fantasy-viable as a likely mid-round pick. He wasn’t featured against Texas, which seemed to be more a consequence of gameplan, so let’s hope we get to see him break big plays in this one.

Purdue - Iowa 12:o0 PM ET

Nate Stanley, QB Iowa – Stanley is a classic case of tools over production. He has the size and arm talent that NFL scouts love. He is also in the midst of his only season completing over 60% of passes – and he’s completing 61%. Stanley doesn’t run, so he won’t overcome his inaccuracies with a rushing floor – like Josh Allen or Cam Newton – which means he needs to show consistent improvement in that area if he wants to move out of the Day Three conversation. His raw tools are good enough for that to happen.



Week 8 Matchup to Watch: Afternoon Games

Temple - SMU 3:30 PM ET

James Proche, WR SMU – Proche has been playing regularly for SMU since he was a freshman and benefited from playing behind guys like Courtland Sutton because it forced him into a slot receiver role early in his career. At 6’0” 195 pounds, he has great short-area quickness and the ability to create big plays after the catch. Due to that early-career work inside, he’s had experience inside and outside, which means NFL teams can line him up anywhere and get the ball into his hands. With 529 yards receiving and seven touchdowns, Proche is announcing himself as a mid-round pick with real fantasy upside.

Minnesota - Rutgers 3:30 PM ET

Tyler Johnson, WR Minnesota – Johnson made a name for himself last year in a defensively stout Big Ten conference. Fitting for that rugged conference, Johnson isn’t an elite athlete but an exceptional route runner with a good feel for the game. Some scouts have compared him to Davante Adams since he moves with sudden burst and can hit double moves to make up for his lack of deep speed. Still, with his 6’2” size and ability to get great separation on his routes, he’s looking like a second-round draft pick and a name to watch in fantasy circles because he can make catches like this:

Baylor - Oklahoma State 4:o0 PM ET

Denzel Mims, WR Baylor – Mims is a different kind of wideout to Proche. At 6’3” 215 pounds, the senior is a bigger wide receiver who is looking to recapture some of his sophomore magic. When he’s at his best, Mims has shown a good ability to create separation and read a defense. With his size and good body control, that gives him the potential to be a solid possession receiver in addition to his red-zone upside. He likely won’t make the splash plays to be a fantasy impact player next year, but he’s certainly a name to watch if he finds himself in a good opportunity because receivers this big don’t usually have this kind of body control:


Week 8 Matchups to Watch: Night Games

Arizona State - Utah 6:o0 PM ET

Zack Moss, RB Utah – If you haven’t watched Moss yet, you should tune into this game. Another powerful runner at 5’10” 220 pounds, Moss hits the hole hard and with surprising burst for a burly back. He’s come back from last season’s knee injury without showing any ill effects, but he’s also yet to demonstrate the passing game ability he showed as a sophomore. I’d love to see him worked into the passing game more, but Moss is a potential Day Three running back who could carve out an important fantasy role as a bruiser and goal-line back with untapped passing game value.

Brandon Aiyuk, WR Arizona St – In his second year with the Sun Devils, the JUCO transfer is emerging into a star. The 6’1” 195-pounder has amassed a ridiculous 21 yards per completion on 31 catches. He’s played on the outside and in the slot and always seems to find his way into big gains with his elite speed. He’s been better than former teammate K’Neal Harry, with more quickness and deep-play ability, so there’s no reason he can’t also emerge as a Michael Gallup-type elite fantasy WR2 on a team.

Tulane - Memphis 7:o0 PM ET

Patrick Taylor Jr, RB Memphis – This one is more hopeful than anything as Taylor as been nursing an injury and is not 100% a lock to play on Saturday night. If he does, he’ll be fun to watch. The power compliment to Darrell Henderson last year, Taylor is a powerful and balanced runner that makes defenses work on every carry. While he hasn’t needed to be used in the passing game often, he flashes ability there, which would give him even more fantasy upside. With his injury and career as a committee back without much passing game usage, Taylor is likely another Day Three pick who could emerge as a starting running back.


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