We’ve been doing this for a few years now: Each Friday or early Saturday before the best college football games of the weekend begin, we’ll break down some players to watch with an eye on the 2016 NFL Draft. Yes, we already have a 2016 NFL Mock Draft.
UCLA at Arizona, 8 pm, ABC
Kenny Clark, junior DT: Has lost two of his wingmen in all-conference talents Myles Jack and Eddie Vanderdoes, so the 6-foot-3, 310-pound clark will see all of the double teams. Solid sophomore campaign (5.5 TFL) was overshadowed by the two aforementioned stars and Owamagbe Odighizuwa, who was drafted in the 3rd round by the Giants. Defensive line depth is paramount in the NFL, and Clark moves well and is disruptive, so right now I’d project him as a 2nd-3rd round pick. It’s a nice rise for kid who was unranked nationally coming out of high school.
Scooby Wright, junior LB: Is he the next Luke Kuechly? Probably not, but at 6-foot-1, 245, he could be close – a sure-tackling dynamic playmaker who has come out of nowhere to be a major force in the Pac-12. No really, he came out of nowhere. Emerged as a star as a sophomore when he led the country with 163 tackles and a staggering 29 TFL and 14 sacks. It’s unclear if he’ll play against the Bruins (knee injury), but UCLA certainly remembers what Wright did last year – three sacks, 4.5 TFL.
Cayleb Jones, junior WR: Blew up last year with 73 catches for 1,019 yards and nine TDs. Became a marked man after torching Cal for 13-186-3 in September and defenses did a much better job against him. Is tall (6-foot-3) and his ability to win balls in the air reminds his coach, Rich Rodriguez, of late Bengals WR Chris Henry. Initially went to Texas before transferring. Speed could be an issue; he’ll need to crack 4.6 to get drafted on Day 2.
USC at Arizona State, 10:30 pm, ESPN
Su’a Cravens, junior OLB: Doesn’t have the hype or stats of Wright, but he’s the latest in a long line of talented Trojans LBs. Had 17 TFL last year. At 6-foot-1, 225-pounds, I actually think he will fit better at safety (where he started at USC) at the next level.
Cody Kessler, senior QB: I’m not as bullish on his NFL prospects as others, and I actually prefer Stanford’s Kevin Hogan at the next level for a variety of reasons. Kessler was lights out last year, completing 69% of his passes with 39 TDs and five INTs. He’s been incredibly accurate so far through three games (78% completions, no INTs) and surely people say, ‘He’s only 6-foot-1, he could be the next Drew Brees!’ I think Kessler will be drafted, and I like his skill set, but I don’t think he’ll be one of the first five QBs selected in 2016.
DJ Foster, senior WR: Played running back, and did it well last year, rushing for 1,081 yards while also catching 62 passes. He’s shifted to WR this year because that’s where the Sun Devils need him to replace Jaelen Strong (drafted by the Houston Texans). Foster is a 5-foot-10, 195-pounder burner, and to beat the Trojans, they’ll need to get him the ball more than he’s gotten it in the first three games. He only had three carries and six catches in the loss to Texas A&M. Mid-round potential, and no, he’s not Percy Harvin.