All eyes will continue to be on Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota as they appear to be the top quarterback prospects in college football.
If both declare for the 2015 draft, the debate about which is the better prospect could go on for months, especially with Michigan State's Connor Cook hinting that he won't be in the mix for the NFL next year.
When teams compare those guys, they'll go down a checklist of traits. They're very different players. As a pocket passer, Winston's more refined. In terms of athletic ability, give the edge to Mariota because of his ability to make plays with his legs. Character-wise, Mariota has a big edge -- there will be a lot of digging into Winston's background, and his off-field issues are well documented. Mariota earns rave reviews when it comes to character.
Now, Winston is coming off arguably the worst half of football in his college career. He struggled mightily before showing what he's capable of in the second half as he led FSU back to beat Louisville. As far as playing from the pocket and delivering the ball accurately, I think Winston is further along in his development than Mariota.
On Saturday against Stanford, the thing that stood out most about Mariota's game was his running ability. He showed an electric burst, carrying nine times for 85 yards and two touchdowns. I've been clamoring for him to be more aggressive running the ball because that's what makes him so special. I liked how aggressive he was vs. Stanford.
It was a positive night for Mariota overall, but he missed a handful of easy throws. His arm strength was impressive. He drives the ball between the hashes and is great throwing on the move. His footwork in the pocket is good, too. He has to be more consistent accuracy-wise, though. It's not egregious, but it's an area he really needs to hone in on.
Here are a few observations on other prospects that caught my eye in the Stanford-Oregon game.
Montgomery strong; Ekpre-Olomu takes hit
Stanford WR Ty Montgomery had a good game Saturday, beating Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu a couple of times. Montgomery's numbers don't jump off the page (seven catches for 35 yards, three rushes for 26), but he looked strong, quick and is tough to bring down.
As for Ekpre-Olomu, he didn't get torched Saturday by any means, but he did give up some plays, and the issues with his size (5-foot-10, 195 pounds) showed up at times. I love his toughness, instincts and ball skills. He entered the season considered one of the best, if not the best, DB in college football. His stock has taken a bit of a hit, though.
Freshman RB built for pros
Oregon RB Royce Freeman is just a freshman, but he reminds me so much of Jonathan Stewart when Stewart was at Oregon. He has size, power and short-area burst and can catch ball out of backfield. The Ducks have had backs that have not translated well to the NFL, but Freeman will whenever his time comes. He's built (6-0, 229) to play at the next level.