NFL draft: Surprising QB, Ohio State playmaker lead prospects to watch in Week 5

This week’s college football schedule might lack the pizzazz of last week but there are still quality NFL draft prospects with some great tests this weekend.

Here are our five prospects to watch in Week 5:

Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman at Boston College

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Jamie Newman wasn’t a name that populated a lot of draft lists this summer, as he had to beat out former starter Sam Hartman for the job in camp. Newman’s strong play down the stretch last year, a good spring and a quality camp earned him the starting nod, and head coach Dave Clawson might have a gem on his hands.

Newman opened eyes in the opening-week win over a good Utah State team by outdueling the more ballyhooed Jordan Love, completing 34 of 47 passes (with four clear drops) for 401 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, also running for 36 yards and a score. On the season, Newman has completed 71.1 percent of his passes for 1,278 yards and a 12-2 TD-INT ratio.

On the surface, this could get a little hairy for Boston College, whose defense has allowed nearly a 68 percent completion rate. The Eagles mostly have been willing to give up short stuff in the passing game and try to jump passes for plays on the ball. They have seven interceptions (by seven different players), the second-highest total in the country.

Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. (Getty Images)
Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. (Getty Images)

The first thing you notice about the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Newman is how well built he is for the position. The second is his natural arm talent, poise in the pocket and confidence in his receivers. Even with WR Scotty Washington dropping three of those four passes in the Utah State game, Newman hasn’t gone away from him since, connecting with the wideout and Sage Surratt (a favorite of ours, too) each for five TD passes.

If Newman keeps up this pace and lights up this BC defense, he requires even more attention as a future draft prospect. The redshirt junior turns 22 in December but could end up being a surprise 2020 draft entrant at this rate. In case you’re wondering, Wake Forest hasn’t had a QB drafted since 1989 (Mike Elkins, Round 2).

Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins at Nebraska

J.K. Dobbins got a breather last week in the Buckeyes’ 76-5 demolishing of Miami (Ohio), asked to carry the ball only eight times (for 52 yards and a score) and catch one 9-yard pass. This week, however, we can expect a diet close to what we saw in the two prior games against Florida Atlantic and Indiana.

In those two games, Dobbins ran a combined 39 times for 334 yards — that’s 8.6 yards per carry, kids — and scored four touchdowns on his 42 carries. Ohio State goes on the road this week to face a Nebraska defense that looked last week against Illinois more like the Huskers run defense of 2017 and 2018.

Nebraska had been stingy on the ground, allowing a mere 2.2 net yards per rush with three TDs on 113 carries. But Illinois committed to its ground game and chewed up a net 221 yards on 38 rushes (a 5.8-yard average) and four scores.

Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins could have a breakout game up in Lincoln. (Getty Images)
Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins could have a breakout game up in Lincoln. (Getty Images)

Now imagine what the Buckeyes’ offense might do. QB Justin Fields has entered the Heisman Trophy conversation with a brilliant start, spraying the ball around to his brilliant receiving corps. And Dobbins has been equally as terrific, averaging 7 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns total on 73 touches.

The 5-10, 214-pound Dobbins is a well-built, one-cut runner. He runs north-south well, displays good straight-line burst and can break a big run in space in a jiffy. Dobbins might not be all that elusive or break a ton of tackles. He also goes down a little too easily for our liking, needs space to operate best — a bit like Philadelphia Eagles 2019 second-rounder Miles Sanders in that respect — and hasn’t yet shown the receiving ability this season that Dobbins did the previous two seasons.

This is a great stage for Dobbins to enter the discussion as one of the top five backs for the 2020 NFL draft class, if he chooses to leave school. A big game against a decent defense in a prime-time game (with ESPN’s “GameDay” on site) might just be what Dobbins needs.

Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet vs. Virginia

If you did not read our “winners and losers” report from last week’s games, then you missed out on our mostly glowing report of Cole Kmet’s season debut between the hedges. Kmet was on the radar as a potential breakout player this summer, but a broken collarbone in camp prevented him from playing until last Saturday.

And it was quite a game. Although Kmet was rusty (three penalties, one dropped pass) and looked gassed by game’s end at Georgia, the Irish had him play 62 of a possible 64 snaps on offense because he was one of their two most trusted targets that night along with Chase Claypool. Notre Dame’s comeback fell short, but Kmet opened eyes with nine catches for 108 yards and a score, most of it coming in the first half.

Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet showed some real NFL potential in his season debut at Georgia. (Getty Images)
Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet showed some real NFL potential in his season debut at Georgia. (Getty Images)

Against Georgia the 6-6, 258-pound Kmet lined up in the backfield (six snaps), in the slot (19) and as an in-line tight end (37), giving a window to his versatility and just how much Notre Dame plans to use him this season. His run blocking didn’t do much for us in his first contest, but that’s an area he can improve as he gets his conditioning and technique up to speed.

Virginia’s defense hasn’t faced a tight end with Kmet’s all-around skills this season, although it did have some trouble with Florida State sophomore TE Tre’ McKitty, who stung the Cavaliers for four catches and 70 yards. Virginia will play a lot of zone defense, but trying to match linebackers with Kmet (as the Cavs did at times vs. FSU) could lead to some big plays in this one.

This is a game where Kmet can settle down and build off last week’s impressive momentum.

Virginia EDGE-LB Charles Snowden at Notre Dame

Speaking of the Cavs, they have a fascinating specimen in the 6-foot-7, 232-pound Charles Snowden. The long, angular defender with a condor-like wingspan lines up outside (both right and left sides) in Virginia’s 3-4 defense, mostly rushing the passer. Interestingly, you also will see Snowden drop into short zones, play as an off-the-ball linebacker, spy quarterbacks (see FSU game) and even walk out as a slot corner on occasion. Snowden also contributes on special teams (punt return, punt coverage and both field-goal units), so he has versatility to his game that will appeal to the NFL folks.

The junior is coming off a 15-tackle game (a career high), getting in on three sacks against Old Dominion and being named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week. When Virginia fell behind 17-7 to ODU, Snowden cranked up the intensity and made the bulk of his big plays.

Having spent only two years playing football in high school, Snowden is still new to the game — and at times it shows. He has to play with better leverage when taking on blocks, although it’s clear he has improved in that area from last season when Snowden could be seen getting knocked back and off his feet quite a bit. Snowden also has cleaned up his tackling quite a bit from last season.

Virginia EDGE-LB Charles Snowden, has put together a nice start to the season. (Getty Images)
Virginia EDGE-LB Charles Snowden, has put together a nice start to the season. (Getty Images)

His closest physical comps in recent years might be LSU’s Arden Key and Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter, both of whom were third-round NFL draft picks in 2018, but Snowden doesn’t carry the same mass or strength as either. Others have said that he possesses some traits similar to LSU’s Barkevious Mingo, who has stuck around the NFL as a utility player but who also was vastly over-drafted at No. 6 overall.

There also will be eventual questions about Snowden’s NFL fit in the same way that scouts nitpicked 2019 first-rounder Brian Burns’ lack of bulk and take-on strength. Snowden isn’t in Burns’ zip code as far as electric edge-rush talent, but he’s got some quickness and slipperiness in his game when getting upfield.

This week, Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall compared Snowden’s role in the Cavaliers’ defense to two players he coached at BYU — Ziggy Ansah and Kyle Van Noy, who were eventual first- and second-round picks. That’s high praise, and Mendenhall also credited Snowden for having good understanding of the scheme to be moved around the way he has.

We don’t know if Snowden will be part of the 2020 class yet. If he builds some momentum here, starting with chasing Notre Dame QB Ian Book around on Saturday, it could change Snowden’s profile.

Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks at Oklahoma

Jordyn Brooks caught my eye a few weeks ago during the Red Raiders’ game against Arizona. He was more active in the first half than the second but finished with a season-high 13 tackles (three for losses) and a fumble recovery. Here’s a short thread about him from that game:

On Saturday, Brooks and the Texas Tech defense must contend with Oklahoma and its multifaceted offense. Containing QB Jalen Hurts as a runner and passer is extremely tough, but then the Sooners can throw a three-headed RB attack at teams — Trey Sermon, Rhamondre Stevenson and Kennedy Brooks. They’re a big reason, along with the dangerous vertical passing game, why the Sooners are averaging 55.6 points per game.

This will be a big game for the 6-1, 240-pound Brooks in the eyes of NFL scouts to see if he can show he has three-down ability against a high-octane offense. Overall, he did a good job against the Wildcats, who have some similar offensive elements (though far less firepower) than Oklahoma with a talented back and a mobile QB.

But Tech’s 3-3-5 defensive system was vulnerable at times up front to speed runs and play-action passing. Brooks is going to have to show he can read his keys and make plays near the line of scrimmage and not bite so hard that it leaves Tech vulnerable when Hurts pulls the ball out and throws or scrambles.

Brooks reminds me of Mason Foster, the former third-round pick who started 92 games over eight season as a productive, instinctive inside ‘backer for the Buccaneers and Redskins. Brooks might not test through the roof at the NFL scouting combine, but he opened some eyes by running a sub-4.7-second 40-yard dash at Tech’s junior day in the spring.

He’s a sneaky blitzer with good mental toughness and a knack for making plays. Brooks might not be a special athlete or possess great length, but there’s a lot to like in the possible top-100 pick. He also contributes readily on three special teams units for the Red Raiders.

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