Our analysts are constantly talking to NFL and college sources about players in the college game. This week, NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein shares some of what NFL folks are saying about a couple of the game's most talented prospects -- LSU edge defender Arden Key and Texas OT Connor Williams.
The scoop: "Any time you see a player balloon up like Arden Key has, it's a big concern. Whether you are dealing with injuries or not, there are certain conditioning and nutrition standards you need to be following." -- NFC area scout
The skinny: LSU coach Ed Orgeron revealed last week that Key's weight had reached 270 pounds, which raised eyebrows considering his listed playing weight last season was 238 pounds.
While he's dropped some of the weight (Orgeron said Key was down to his target weight of 255 pounds), Key looks slower on the field this season. His teammate, defensive end Christian LaCouture, told The Advocate of Baton Rouge this week that Key was "a little overweight" but is beginning to return to form. He recorded a season-high 6 tackles last week in LSU's win over Auburn, including a game-clinching sack on Auburn's final offensive play.
His time away from the field leading up to the season figures to have set him back when it came to conditioning.
Key missed the first two games of this season as he was returning from offseason shoulder surgery. He took a leave of absence from the team in February for what the school called "personal reasons" and returned to the program in June, which is when the school announced he had undergone the procedure.
So far, he has managed just 1.5 sacks in 5 games after recording a school-record 12 last season. His ability to rush the passer will define his draft stock, but if he doesn't prove that he can keep his weight down and his quickness up, it could cost him with NFL teams.
* * *
The scoop: One of the big disappointments of the first half of the season is the way things played out for Texas OT Connor Williams. He has been sidelined since suffering a sprained PCL and MCL as well as a torn meniscus in his left knee against USC in the third game of the season. However, scouts I spoke to were disappointed with what they saw on tape from him this season even before the injury.
The skinny: I tend to agree with the scouts here. Williams was my No. 2 offensive lineman to watch heading into 2017, but when I studied his tape from this season, he didn't look like the same guy. His pass sets were off balance, he didn't look as quick laterally and he performed below his lofty standards in pass protection. If he returns this season, it will be imperative for him to get back to his 2016 form.