Let’s dive right into the NFL Draft prospects to watch in Week 8.
Sean Tucker (RB – Syracuse) vs The Clemson Front Seven
Previously in this weekly piece, I wrote about the Clemson front seven and its ability to affect the passer in multiple ways. However, even without Bryan Bresee, this unit with Trenton Simpson and Myles Murphy has excelled against the run. They have their biggest test yet this week against the 14th-ranked Syracuse Orange and an offense that thrives through its diverse rushing attack.
Although Syracuse gets a major contribution from quarterback Garrett Schrader’s ability to run, they mainly control games when workhorse running back Sean Tucker is rolling. Between the read option and RPOs Tucker is given opportunities to attack downhill in a zone-heavy scheme. His power frame combined with good burst and short-area agility combine for a tough runner between the tackles who can occasionally break off big chunk plays. He is not unlike a more physically gifted version of Bears’ running back Khalil Herbert. This will be his chance to solidify his status as a year-one contributor at the NFL level.
Jaelyn Duncan (OT – Maryland) vs Adetomiwa Adebawore (EDGE – Northwestern)
This is a huge matchup for two relative unknowns with fans at this point in the season. Adetomiwa Adebawore has been a game wrecker thus far in 2022 for Northwestern. The 6’2” 280-pound edge player has a different body type but plays like your average 4-tech. He can win with speed or power. In terms of pass-rush plan refinement, Adebawore is far ahead of most edge rushers in college football.
Jaelyn Duncan has been lauded for his athletic upside and NFL frame. At 6’6” and 320 pounds, this one-on-one matchup will have NFL size and strength. His experience as a starter at left tackle may refine his game going into the NFL. The question is whether Duncan will look more like Tyler Smith or Jalen Mayfield at the next level. He has some technical work to do, but that hasn’t scared NFL teams in the past.
Zay Flowers vs Wake Forest
Zay Flowers had a big season for the injured Eagles last season and has continued that momentum into the 2023 season. Now having starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec back Flowers has been able to impact games with his good speed and route running with production numbers to back his skills. Flowers has 200 fewer receiving yards than he did in 2021 in half of the games and a week 8 match-up against Wake Forest may prove to be a potential coming-out game. This is the perfect time to show out with draft talk beginning to heat up as losing NFL fan bases look to find college players for their teams to draft.
While Flowers has all the physical wow factors that impress scouts who dive into their tape, he may be able to put up a huge week numbers-wise against the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest is one of the top-ranked schools in the nation and has only one loss on the season. In that overtime thriller vs Clemson, the Tigers were able to throw all over their secondary. Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei threw for 371 yards and 5 touchdowns, with an average of 14.2 yards per completion. The young Wake Forest secondary could be in trouble with the big play threat of Flowers challenging them down the field every play.
Spencer Rattler vs Texas A&M
Spencer Rattler was a highly recruited high school player, the number 1 QB in the nation, and the 11th overall prospect. His 2020 season under Lincoln Reilly at Oklahoma saw him throw for over 3000 yards and look as good as advertised when he was brought in. 2021 was shaky for Rattler, and after being supplanted as starter by freshman sensation Caleb Williams, he took his talents to the transfer portal and found his way to South Carolina. So far this season both the Gamecocks and Rattler himself have seen little statistical success, but that may be able to change in week 8. Despite this, he still brings good athleticism, a high-end NFL arm, leadership, and toughness to a team while continuing to improve on his pocket presence. He may never be the most accurate downfield passer, but his flaws are fixable and the talent is evident when watching him which should keep him in draft talks alone.
Texas A&M isn’t having the season they hoped to be coming into 2022. With struggles at quarterback and health on their team as a whole, the Aggies are sitting unranked with some ugly losses on the record books. However, this does not take away from the talent they do still roll out on Saturdays and their pass defense that allows the 14th least amount of yards per game in the air. Rattler and Co. have an opportunity to walk in and beat an opponent with a big-time name in Texas A&M who statistically still has credibility as a high-end pass defense. If Rattler wants to ensure he is a Day 2 quarterback prospect and one an NFL team should take a shot on, coming out and leading his offense to success against the Aggies can go a long way. His biggest game of the year came against the Arkansas Razorbacks and if Rattler can put up big numbers this week, he may be able to bring back the buzz that made him considered the top QB prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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