On a typical Saturday, I'm bouncing around from channel to channel, getting a look at NFL prospects in several different college football games. This Saturday was different, though.
I focused exclusively on the Florida-Alabama game because I was so intrigued by the matchup between Tide WR Amari Cooper and Gators CB Vernon Hargreaves III.
There's nothing a scout loves more than to see two players that are the best at their respective positions go head to head. It's the closest thing to replicating what they'll see at the next level, and we had a chance to witness just that when Cooper and Hargreaves met on Saturday. One player was the clear victor in that matchup. Here are my observations on that battle and several other intriguing prospects from the game.
Phenomenal showing by Cooper
Cooper was the star of the show on Saturday -- he actually had one more yard (201) than the entire Florida offense in Alabama's 42-21 rout of Florida. I think he went up against the best cornerback in college football in Hargreaves, and Cooper got the best of him. This was a game every scout will watch whenever Cooper, a junior, decides to enter the draft, and anyone who watches the tape will come away extremely impressed.
Cooper won battles against Hargreaves all day long, playing inside and outside and exploding off the line of scrimmage. I tweeted on Saturday that Cooper's skill set reminds me of Green Bay Packers star WR Jordy Nelson's -- Cooper is more explosive than Nelson, but Nelson was a such a polished route runner coming out of Kansas State, and Cooper is much the same.
Opinion of Hargreaves unchanged
Sure, Cooper got the best of Hargreaves on Saturday, but I thought the sophomore cornerback competed extremely hard all game. I still think he's the best corner in the country, and I was really impressed with his toughness in run support. Scouts will be keeping a close eye on him, and he'll have plenty more opportunities to show what he's capable of before his college career is over.
Collins shows why he's No. 1 safety
Alabama's Landon Collins was the best defensive player on the field Saturday. I think he's the best safety in the country. He showed his range and instincts against Florida, and made a great one-handed pick, too. Everything you want to see as a safety, Collins showed on Saturday. He's a little bit of a mixture of the first two safeties to come off the board in this year's draft, Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He has the physical nature of Pryor as well as Clinton-Dix's instincts and ball skills.
Tide RBs show off
Alabama's top three backs all have a future in the NFL, and they each showed why on Saturday. Each of the three has his own distinctive style. T.J. Yeldon has a unique running style -- he runs high but is very quick and elusive. He fights for every yard and broke a lot of tackles vs. Florida. Derrick Henry runs high, too, but he's so big (6-foot-3, 241 pounds) and physical. Instead of delivering blows, he accepts blows and people bounce off him. Kenyan Drake is a multi-purpose weapon who had an 87-yard touchdown catch on Alabama's first play from scrimmage (he did lose a fumble Saturday, though). All three are all pro runners and it's a lot of fun to watch them.
Sims officially on the radar
I was impressed with Alabama's RBs, but that doesn't take anything away from QB Blake Sims' performance vs. the Gators. He threw for 445 yards and four touchdowns and it was the best he's played in his brief time as a starter. If he wasn't on the radar of NFL scouts before Saturday's game, I think he is now. He showed he deserves their attention. Sims throws a pretty deep ball and showed a nice touch when Alabama was in the red zone. One area where he needs to improve is pocket awareness -- he held onto the ball for too long at times -- but development in that area could come with experience.
Letdown for Fowler
Florida DL Dante Fowler showed tremendous hustle on the Gators' fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter on the second series, but overall, he had a disappointing performance Saturday. He missed some tackles and played too high at the point of attack. He wasn't able to generate any consistent pressure. There's been some buzz about Fowler, but on that stage against that team, I was hoping to see a little more from him.
Driskel misses opportunity
Florida QB Jeff Driskel is not viewed as an NFL prospect, and he confirmed that he's viewed properly with his play Saturday. He has good size, mobility and a strong arm, but his accuracy is inconsistent and his decision making is not good.