College football is finally upon us, meaning the NFL is hot on its tail. It also means it is never too early to be looking ahead to rookie drafts for next year. Week 1 is always producing some top ranked teams playing against each other and it means highly regarded players also go head to head. Here are a couple of matchups and players to keep an eye on this week.
Showcase Game: #6 Washington vs. #9 Auburn
Auburn is coming off an impressive season last year led by one of the top quarterback prospects in Jarrett Stidham. After transferring from Baylor, Stidham has made himself a household name for himself at Auburn. He has the size at 6’4” to be a quintessential quarterback for any team in any system. He also has the arm strength, accuracy, and football IQ, 66% completion percentage and over 3,000 yards last season, to make an impact at the next level.
Washington will be showcasing players at both the quarterback and running back positions with Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin. Browning led Washington last year to another great year completing his third year as the Huskies lead man. He saw a significant drop in touchdowns from 43 in 2016 to 19 in 2017, coinciding with Gaskin taking a significant jump. Browning may not be the picture perfect prospect at the quarterback position but he has the chance to write his own narrative. He will have a co-author with his teammate in the backfield writing a few chapters in the book that is the 2018 season.
The Huskies transitioned from a pass-oriented team to a run heavy approach led by Gaskin, his 1,612 yards from scrimmage, and his 24 touchdowns. Gaskin saw his touchdown number jumpby 13 scores in 2018. While he has a small frame by NFL running back standards at 5’10”, he has the speed and the hands to be a contributing factor to an NFL team’s success.
Best Matchup: Rodney Anderson, RB, (Oklahoma) vs. Devin Singletary, RB, (FAU)
Everyone will be treated to a matchup of top five running back prospects when Rodney Anderson and Devin Singletary go against each other on September 1. Anderson has a physical running style while also having the speed to outrun defenders with ease. Singletary excels at reading holes to find running lanes and then shows the burst to break through on the second level. Both men could easily put on a show and rush for over 150 yards, and both are dark horses for the Heisman Trophy by season’s end.
Most Excited to Watch: Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami (FL)
Richards will be facing one of the top shutdown corners in the country and a top 10 overall prospect in 2019 draft, Greedy Williams. Richards is a potential top five wide receiver prospect, so you know scouts and fantasy players will have their eyes on this matchup to see how he handles such good coverage. Richards will bring to the battle a large frame of 6’1” and over 200 pounds so he has a build similar to a Michael Crabtree. He has shown that he can be a possession receiver at the very least but also the potential to develop into a vertical threat. He isn’t the same level of prospect Crabtree was coming out of Texas Tech in 2009, but he may jump up a lot of boards if he can outplay Williams next Sunday.
Bouncing Back this Week: Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
Grier had a phenomenal 2017 after sitting out his sophomore year due to a failed drug test when he was at Florida as a freshman. He has since gotten a fresh start by transferring to West Virginia, getting married, and even having his first child. However, his fantastic 2017 season was cut short as he missed the last two games due to a gruesome hand injury. He had the chance to declare for the NFL draft, but he decided to come back. His number one weapon David Sills also returned, so he should feel very comfortable seeing a familiar face when he trots out for week 1 who he helped lead the country in touchdown receptions last year.
Face on the Milk Carton: Nick Fitzgerald, QB, Miss. State
News broke earlier this week Fitzgerald was going to be suspended for violation of team rules stemming from an incident earlier this year with a teammate. This will certainly put a damper on his stock a little because all offseason the talk was with his passing and running ability together. He as shown the ability to make some noise at the next level and to even contend for the Heisman. He will only be out one week which allows scouts and fantasy players to still see enough of him where if he plays well enough all will be forgotten come April.