2022 NFL draft: Emerging QB prospects face off in Friday Pac-12 showdown
This week's college football matchups include two quarterbacks you might not be watching closely yet (but should), two talented linebackers who have NFL scouts' attention and a receiver who appears to be one of the country's best game-breakers.
There are several big games to watch this weekend, and we've written out a pretty good draft script for you. If you're transitioning into NFL draft mode, here are five of the players we think you should keep your eyes on.
Quarterbacks in Arizona State-Stanford
Stanford at No. 22 Arizona State
Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nos. 8 and 9 in our NFL draft QB power rankings were new to the list this week — and you can watch both in one tidy Friday night showdown. Not too shabby.
Stanford’s Tanner McKee and Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels truly couldn’t be more different, style- and size-wise. McKee is a typical Cardinal mold of QB: a big, strong-armed pocket passer with limited mobility. Daniels is a thin-framed athlete with outstanding athleticism and the ability to throw on the move.
They’ll go head to head in a game you can be sure scouts — and perhaps even a GM or two — will be attending. Thursday and Friday games are popular draws for personnel folks, as it often allows them to watch multiple games in a weekend, and the interest level in one of those games rises significantly when there are two potential NFL quarterbacks in play.
McKee is a first-year starter who is NFL-eligible; following his two-year mission and 2020 redshirt season, he’ll be four years removed from high school at season’s end. Daniels is a junior who could enter the 2022 NFL draft mix, and after a tough 2020 season, he’s back on the rise with strong play.
We could see both QBs in next year’s draft. We also could see one or neither. But this is a great chance to stack McKee and Daniels up, even if their styles are vastly different. There is a growing intrigue with both in the scouting community.
Penn State WR Jahan Dotson vs. Iowa secondary
No. 4 Penn State at No. 3 Iowa
Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports
Dotson has established himself early this season as one of the nation’s most dangerous receivers. In five games, he’s scored a touchdown in each and has 35 receptions for 446 yards and six total scores this season. At 5-10 and 175 pounds, he’s hardly the most physically blessed specimen of all time. But with his speed, Dotson can break a defense.
Can he do it against a Hawkeyes unit that has been absolutely smothering this season? Iowa’s defense has allowed opponents to average a mere 5.6 yards per attempt and has intercepted 12 of the 166 passes attempted against it.
Leading the way are CBs Riley Moss and Matt Hankins, who both entered the season with late draftable and PFA grades, but each has put his best foot forward this season and improved his stock.
Last year, Dotson ripped the Hawkeyes for eight catches and 139 yards, with a 68-yard TD. That score came when Hankins was covering Dotson; we suspect you could see the faster Moss spend more time on him after doing a respectable job vs. Dotson in last year’s matchup.
There are a good number of NFL prospects in this game, but we can’t wait to see how Iowa plans to slow down the red-hot Dotson.
Kentucky WR Wan’Dale Robinson
LSU at No. 16 Kentucky
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Robinson really has blossomed with the Wildcats as a receiver after transferring from Nebraska, where he mostly was used as a running back. He’s adapted to his slot-heavy role quite well, showing explosive ability to get down the seam but also to take short catches (such as last week vs. Florida) and turning them into healthy yards after the catch.
The LSU secondary is shorthanded, having lost CB Derek Stingley Jr. to what could be a lengthy injury. But with Eli Ricks outside and Cordale Flott in the slot, the Tigers have two talented DBs who could spend time trying to check Robinson.
Look for the Wildcats to move Robinson around the formation quite a bit. He’ll line up outside on occasion and remains a threat as a runner on jet sweeps (four rushes, 78 yards). He’s tough to tackle, has good speed and even better elusiveness.
In a receiver class that’s good but hardly at the level of the past two draft lots, Robinson has a chance to emerge as a valuable weapon.
Oklahoma LB Brian Asamoah
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 21 Texas (in Dallas)
Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ABC
We haven’t seen a huge game so far this season from Asamoah, who turned some heads during a breakout campaign a year ago. He’s a gifted blitzer — something we saw a bit in the Nebraska game — but hasn’t been asked to attack quite as much this season.
NFL scouts put some pretty hefty grades on Asamoah this summer, often as the second-rated senior linebacker in the country behind Utah’s Devin Lloyd. But now Asamoah needs to back that up better.
He’ll be tested in a pretty significant way against the Longhorns and RB Bijan Robinson, arguably the best future pro back in college football right now. (Robinson is a true sophomore and ineligible for the NFL until 2023.)
Robinson is a home-run threat any time he touches the ball. He can run inside and outside and is averaging nearly 17 yards per catch with two TDs on 10 grabs. Most impressively, Robinson is averaging 3.7 yards after contact despite facing defenses geared up to stop him. Arkansas is really the only team to slow him down so far this season.
The Sooners were able to bottle up Robinson a year ago, and it was a mostly good game for Asamoah — save for some missed tackles and a few poor run fits. Unfortunately, Asamoah’s tackling issues have leaked into this season, too.
If he can help contain Robinson and Texas in a big rivalry setting, cleaning up some of the little errors that have marred his game so far this season, Asamoah can help revive his once-scorching draft stock.
Alabama LB Henry To’o To’o
No. 1 Alabama at Texas A&M
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, CBS
There has been a lot of excitement about To’o To’o, the Tennessee transfer who has become a starter for Nick Saban’s defense, so I wanted to check him out a bit more extensively.
Watching the Ole Miss game, I thought it was a mixed-bag performance. On the positive side, To’o To’o clearly has some exciting athletic traits, is adept at slipping or side-stepping blocks and clearly has the ability to drop, blitz and make plays against the run. His 4th-and-1 tackle for loss on Ole Miss RB Jerrion Ealy was the kind of instinctive play NFL scouts will sit up in their chairs for.
But To’o To’o also seemed to have trouble locating the ball a few times, overran some plays and missed multiple tackles in the game. He’s also a smaller linebacker (perhaps smaller than his listed 228 pounds) who can be engulfed by blockers and whose fit in the NFL will be discussed at length. Depending on the NFL team, he might not be a perfect fit in every scheme.
Still, he’s a highly active playmaker, and To’o To’o will be tested against the Aggies, even with their injuries and offensive limitations. In coverage, To’o To’o could be asked to match up with RB Isaiah Spiller and TE Jalen Wydermyer. Neither Aggie has had a transcendent season, but both are gifted athletes with plus size and tackle-breaking ability.