College Scout looks at two good games in what is otherwise a fairly weak schedule this weekend. But 8 solid NFL prospects are profiled including our second and third juniors looked at this year.
Georgia Tech at Duke
(Noon ESPN2): The 5-4 Blue Devils have a fair show of going Bowling this year for the first time since 1994 and a win here against Georgia Tech would certainly go a long way towards accomplishing that. It won’t be easy, Georgia Tech is 9-1 and one of the better teams in the country. Duke is much improved this year, but unlikely to be able to keep up with Tech over a full game.
Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer
(#21): Dwyer, while only a junior, is probably the best running back in college football. He plays in Tech’s option oriented offense and thus it is a bit hard to completely evaluate how his skills would translate to a pro offense. But there is enough there one can see Dwyer is blessed with a rare combination of speed, power and elusiveness that will easily translate to top production in the NFL. If anything, he is getting slightly less beaten up then most star college running backs as the Rambling Wreck spread the ball around. Dwyer checks in at around 230 lbs., but is very fast and powerful and has even been used to return kicks at times. In this offense, he obviously doesn’t get the chance to show his ability in a sophisticated passing game, but there are natural skills in that area as well though he has only caught 11 passes in his career to date. Dwyer is likely to go over 3,000 career yards rushing today and if he comes out to the NFL draft next year, which it seems likely he’ll do as he has little left to prove in college, he will probably be the top running back taken and drafted in the top 10 overall.
Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas
(#8): Thomas is another Tech junior with amazing skills that translate into a first round draft choice should he come out. Thomas is a very big receiver at 6’3″ 229 lbs. and he has excellent speed. While Thomas does not play in an NFL offense, he is Tech’s top receiving threat and has around 2,000 career receiving yards already on a team that does not throw much. This year alone Thomas has caught balls for 861 yards at an average of 23.3 yards per catch. Tech often throws the ball up to Thomas and he shows Randy Moss-like abilities to go up around a defender and over defensive backs to catch the ball. Thomas will need some adjustment to the NFL as this offense is as far away from modern pro offenses as could be, but once he does his talent is as good as any receiver virtually in the league now and he should develop into a top player. He has easy first round talent should he come out.
Duke DT Vince Oghobaase
(#3): Oghobaase is a good-sized defensive tackle for Duke who is right now projected to be a 2nd or 3rd round choice but could move up significantly with a good post-season in the All-Star Bowls and Combine. Until this year, Oghobaase had started all 36 games since he’d been at Duke, but this year he missed two games due to injury and its uncertain whether he’ll play today. When healthy, Oghobaase is a 6’6″ 300 lb. force who can get to the quarterback, but also has the strength to tie things up inside with his long powerful arms. He possibly has the size and athleticism, as well as quickness, to slide outside and could probably fit in the Patriots scheme. For his career he has 14 sacks.
Duke DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk
(#91): Okpokowuruk is a 6’3″ 250 lb. defensive end who makes a lot of good plays for the Blue Devils. Its uncertain that Okpokowuruk could play standup linebacker in the NFL, but its also not clear he is quite talented to play down in a 1-gap 4-3 scheme either. His best bet is probably as a linebacker, if he has adequate speed, and that will take some adjustment and grooming. Therefore, at best, he is probably a late round choice. What he does has is strength, good size, good work ethic and a lot of production and play-making ability. Okpojowuruk has 7.5 career sacks, including 4 this year and has shown a continuing improving ability to get to the QB. There is some chance he could play inside with some NFL coaching. Good tackler.
Arizona State at Oregon
(10:20 PM EST ESPN): Arizona State will be looking to avenge their 54-20 pasting at the hands of the Ducks last season, but in Oregon it won’t be easy as it is one of the more difficult venues to play in for a visiting team in all of college football. Arizona State hasn’t beaten Oregon since 2004 and this year’s 4-5 team doesn’t seem like a likely candidate to do so either.
Oregon TE Ed Dickson
(#83): Dickson is one of the better pro-prospect tight ends in college today. He has decent size at 6’5″ 243 and the speed to get down the seam. He has racked up over 1,500 yards receiving in his career. His blocking isn’t great, but his pass catching skills include natural hands, good route running, smooth after catch ability and nice ability with his height to go up and get balls. Dickson should be a top 2 round pick at minimum and one of the better pass catchers in the draft at his position. He would possibly be considered by the Patriots and would be a good pass catching replacement for free agent Ben Watson, but he’d need to bulk up and improve his blocking.
Oregon S T.J. Ward
(#2): Patrick Chung’s fellow safety at Oregon, Ward is a good prospect in his own right. Ward actually led the Ducks in tackles as a Junior when Chung and fellow 2nd round choice Darius Byrd were still in the Oregon secondary. Ward is an extremely strong guy for a safety and a truck as a hitter. He has good range, but could bulk up a bit at a mere 201 lbs. Ward is a sure tackler and would fit well with the Patriots back teamed with his old friend Chung in the New England secondary. Ward has been slowed by ankle injuries this year and has only played in 4 games thus far, but has worked himself back into health and will play tonight.
Arizona State WR Chris McGaha
(#13): McGaha is a 6’1″ 199 lb. wide receiver for the Sun Devils solid speed and good hands. Came into this his senior year with over 1,500 yards in catches and 5 touchdowns. McGaha has been a top third down producer for the Sun Devils throughout his career and their top move-the-chains option. He also has returned kicks and been effective at that as well. This year McGaha is Arizona State’s top receiver with 48 receptions for nearly 600 yards. McGaha doesn’t do anything fantastically, but is solid in many different areas and has acceptable NFL speed though he is not a burner. He has been reliable on third downs, can take a hit, runs good routes and has good hands. He is likely to be a late round choice once junior receivers enter the draft, but could be a solid steal and make a roster with good special teams play and eventually develop into a solid NFL slot receiver.
Arizona State DE Dexter Davis
(#58): Davis is a very productive player for the Sun Devils who already was 1st team All Pac-10 as a Junior. He is one of the better pass rushers in the country with 27.5 career sacks of the quarterback. Davis is simply an excellent college football player who rushes the passer and shows up all over the field. He has good possible linebacker size at 6’2″ 255 lbs. and he has been very productive and plays hard. The question is his speed. If he can show he has the ability to play with speed on the edge standing up, play in space and cover, he could be a very good NFL Player. But his lack of natural quickness and top-end speed will likely push him to a mid-round choice at best. This year Davis only has 2.5 QB sacks which is another question which needs to be resolved.