While Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans are an exciting pair of players to watch, the Duke Blue Devils have been an equally surprising story during this college football season with coach David Cutcliffe directing a turnaround that placed Duke in the ACC championship game. Because of Texas A&M’s ineptitude defensively, Duke can certainly hang tight in this one, however I’m expecting quite a bit of scoring from the Aggies’ offense.
In terms of pro prospects, Texas A&M holds most of the cards in this game with their bookend offensive tackles leading the way as potential top 15 overall selections (should right tackle Ogbuehi declare himself eligible for the 2014 draft). At any rate, here’s a quick snapshot of the NFL Draft talent on display.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M, #2
Manziel, for all the coverage he receives (both positive and negative, has actually made strides as a passer this season. More consistent in striding to and finishing throws with proper mechanics, the issue for Manziel now seems to be his itching for the “big play”. Too often, Manziel will bypass first or second reads and predetermine throws to receivers on the backside of progression sequences. He’s still jumpy and uncomfortable in the pocket, but his ability to extend and turn negative plays into explosive ones will have to be the selling point for NFL teams.
(RS SO) Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M, #13
Manziel’s partner in crime, Mike Evans doesn’t create a ton of separation or impress as a route runner, but he consistently wins contested receptions and excels at positioning at the catch point. In addition to dominating at the catch point, Evans impresses with his physicality and balance with run after the catch skills. Evans should pose a significant matchup issue for Duke with his massive wingspan and physical dominance at the moment of truth.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, #75
Jake Matthews is part of the Matthews NFL Clan and, as such he’s required to be an awesome football player. On an actual scouting perspective, Matthews’ consistent footwork and athletic base allow him to mirror, react and finish blocks at a high level. Matthews isn’t overpowering or massive, but he’s very active with his hands, accurate with his punch placement and a refined technician in all phases of blocking. I’d expect more of the same excellence with Matthews versus Duke, whose team lacks an intimidating pass rusher right now.
(JR) Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M, #70
On the other side of the offensive line, Cedric Ogbuehi has potentially a greater upside than Jake Matthews as a next level left tackle projection. Clean and smooth with his kick slide, Ogbuehi maximizes his length with efficient jabs and ideal upper body posture. He’s quick to gain an inside fit and mirrors with ease. Ogbuehi has a difficult decision to make regarding the NFL Draft, but he should be first rounder if he enters the 2014 or stays at Texas A&M one more season for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke, #6
Definitely Duke’s top draft eligible prospect, Ross Cockrell is at his best in zone coverage where he can put his developed instincts on full display. You see him feel out pass patterns as they develop, read the quarterback’s eyes and anticipate the progression. Cockrell lacks a real physical body type and is easy to push around in the run game, making him a good sub package DB prospect. Injuries have pushed his stock down a bit, but he’s likely to get late round consideration from most teams.
Others to watch:
Ben Malena, RB, Texas A&M, #1
Derel Walker, WR, Texas A&M, #11
Nate Askew, OLB, Texas A&M, #9
Deshazior Everett, CB, Texas A&M, #29
(JR) Anthony Boone, QB, Duke, #7
(JR) Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke, #3
Perry Simmons, OT, Duke, #72
Kenny Anunike, DE, Duke, #84