With the football season ticking along nicely, it’s time to take a stock take of the players we’re likely to see emulating Saquon Barkley, Baker Mayfield, and co as newcomers in 2019.
The college season has, so far, run pretty close to the preseason script – Alabama look unstoppable with Tua Tagovailoa under center and Georgia look good but not quite good enough to topple the Crimson Tide with a host of teams are sat nicely in position to take their place as the second seed.
A lot has been made of the lack of big name QBs in the 2019 class, and I’m not going to argue with that here. That being said, there are a number of players that are really stepping up to make a name for themselves.
Josh Allen – Kentucky – Linebacker
Have two players with the same name ever been drafted in the first round of the NFL draft in consecutive years? If not, it looks like it’ll happen this year.
Josh Allen isn’t as high profile as his Buffalo-based namesake, but after electing to return to Kentucky for his senior year he looks set to walk out on the podium and hold up a shirt with a number one on the back.
So far this year the Linebacker, who played his High School football in New Jersey, has racked up eight sacks, including three in a 24-10 win over South Carolina. But sacks aren’t all that Allen has in his locker; the mix of strength, power, and quick hands is garnering more and more admiring glances from NFL scouts by the week.
However, Allen hasn’t always played on the defensive side of the ball, in High School, he often lined up as a receiver, and as such, there is still room for improvement. Scouts will be reporting back that he needs to develop a range of pass rushes and he needs to combine his sheer power with quickness off the line. If he keeps working at those areas, Allen’s going to be a high-quality addition to someone’s defensive line next year.
Devin Singletary – FAU – Running Back
Already hailed by some as the best Florida Atlantic player of all time, Devin Singletary has continued to turn heads at the start of this season.
Although not running against division one defenses, Singletary still looks set to be the first Owl to be drafted since 2012 next year, with CBS’ Will Brinson even touting his potential as a first rounder.
Singletary ran for 1,920 yards in 2017, getting into the end zone 33 times in the process and has started this season in equally fine form, so far he has rushed for 666 yards and 14 TDs in seven games.
The Fort Lauderdale native possesses the quickness you’d expect from a smaller back (he’s listed at 5ft 9”), but he also has the acceleration and balance to turn that quickness into a deadly weapon. Adept at attacking small openings in his offensive line, Singletary also has the ability to stop dead in his tracks and get going again with the defender helpless on the floor.
The status of his school might mean he misses out on day one of the draft, but I can’t see Singletary staying on the board much past the third round in 2019.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson – Florida – Safety
Through the first seven games of the 2018 season, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has 43 total tackles including six for a loss with a sack and a single interception to his name. Locally, he’s known as ‘the savage’ – it’s quite easy to see why.
Gardner-Johnson is a versatile back, who has the ability to cover sideline to sideline, in man to man and zone coverage. He hits hard, talks trash and has really stepped up to the plate since Duke Dawson departed to the NFL.
Gardner-Johnson’s leadership on and off the pitch has already won plaudits this year, and as the season has progressed, so has his draft stock. It’s also refreshing to see a player at the college level put his money where his mouth is against one the bigger teams. Against LSU Gardner-Johnson had his best game of the season so far, making six solo tackles and assisting on another five as the Gators defended the swamp in a 27-19 victory.
Despite the fact he has another year of college eligibility, I can see the Cocoa native declaring for the draft this year and going as high as the second round to a team like Oakland who needs a commanding presence.
Jarrett Stidham – Auburn – Quarterback
Jarrett Stidham hasn’t had the best season so far; across seven games he has thrown eight TDs and four INTs. However, I’m still a believer and I think he’s got the attributes to convince a GM in one of the Quarterback-needy teams to take a punt on him quite early on the second day of the draft.
Stidham threw for more than 3,100 yards last year as the Tigers went 10-4, losing in their bowl game to the undefeated UCF – but beating out the eventual National Champions, Alabama, to give them their only loss on the year.
The senior out of Stephenville, Texas, has a strong arm and is extremely accurate in the short passing game, he can also throw efficiently on the run, making him the perfect fit for the play action game which seems to be ever-developing in the NFL. Comparisons to Mitchell Trubisky have been forthcoming, especially with his ability to extend the play and make big games with his feet as he showed for a 16 yard TD against Alabama last season.
In terms of improvement, composure was the big improvement point before the season, too often Stidham would roll out the pocket and end up taking a sack or hard hit whilst running. He’s improved that this season, but still has a tendency to take big, wild shots based on his arm strength, as soon as pressure comes from the outside.
Scouts, GMs, and Head Coaches will be looking at Stidham as a development project, but a development project with some genuinely exciting upside. Look for him to go in the second to somewhere like Miami, Tennessee or Jacksonville if they decide to move on from their current signal callers.
So there you have it, some different prospects who I predict will go at different points in the draft. Agree? Disagree? Let us know @FantasyPond
By Andy Moore – @AJMoore21