Our analysts are constantly talking to their NFL and college sources about players in the college game. In this space each week, Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks and Charles Davis share some of what NFL folks are discussing in their circles.
The scoop: Many are calling Kelvin Benjamin one of the steals of the 2014 NFL Draft. One of his former Florida State receiving mates is starting to get some much-deserved attention of his own. "I know Rashad Greene isn't the biggest guy, but he's an outstanding player," said an AFC personnel executive. "He reminds me a lot of Antonio Brown. He is so quick and has very strong hands."
The skinny: Unlike Benjamin, Greene lacks exceptional size. FSU lists him at 6-feet and 180 pounds, but his game is speed. While Benjamin received most of the attention last year for the Seminoles, Green actually had more receptions (76) and yards (1,128), and while most people remember Benjamin for his winning catch in the BCS title game, it was Greene who led FSU with nine receptions for 147 yards in that contest. He is considered the top senior receiver in the country and a case could be made for him being the best overall.
The scoop: Gunner Kiel's spectacular debut performance certainly raised his profile in the college football community, but there are plenty of skeptics who wonder if the former five-star recruit has the mental fortitude to eventually develop into a franchise quarterback at the next level. A prominent quarterback guru familiar with Kiel wonders why the Bearcats' star didn't have the courage or patience to stick it out at LSU (reneged on his commitment) and Notre Dame despite facing winnable quarterback battles. He went on to suggest that Kiel might be most comfortable as a "big fish in a little pond," which could be problematic when he faces the challenges of competing for a job at the highest level.
The skinny: Kiel is certainly a prospect to track over the next few years based on his talent, potential, and reputation as one of the top players at the position. But he will need to answer questions about why he left Notre Dame after his freshman season. NFL teams will pepper him with various questions to ascertain his competitiveness, and how he responds could determine how they grade his football character. While Kiel's on-field performance will ultimately decide his football fate, he must eventually address his competitiveness when scouts sit down with him in a few years.
The scoop: We're hearing a lot of Larry Fitzgerald comparisons for West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White after his hot start to the season. His build at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds is similar to Fitzgerald's. An NFL personnel director said he's not willing to go as far as a Fitzgerald comparison for White, but he didn't knock down the comparison completely, saying he sees the reason for it.
The skinny: White is establishing himself as one of the top wide receivers in the country, and we think he's an absolute beast. He's playing with a lot of confidence right now, and he should be -- he's a big-body guy who can run and has excellent hands. He's been a monster in the early going this season, racking up 32 catches for 460 yards -- good for second in the FBS in both categories -- and two touchdowns.
The scoop: "I haven't seen a back like Gurley in a long time," said an NFC personnel executive. "He has such an impressive blend of speed and power. He competed in the 60-meter hurdles at Georgia and I think that has helped him with his leg drive."
The skinny: This type of talk about Todd Gurley has been a consistent theme throughout his time at Georgia, but it has really ramped up this season. He's drawn favorable comparisons to some pretty good NFL backs, including Fred Taylor and Marshawn Lynch. Barring an injury, there's little doubt he'll break the two-year drought of running backs being taken in the first round of the draft.
The scoop: "South Carolina has a really good guard," said an NFC scout. "A.J. Cann isn't at the same level as the first-round interior guys from the last two drafts, but he's not far behind. He's very battle-tested as a four-year starter in the SEC, and he'll be ready to start Day 1 in the NFL."
The skinny: The Gamecocks have played arguably the toughest schedule to this point (Texas A&M, East Carolina, Georgia), and with that comes exposure to players like Cann, who is gaining steam in NFL scouting circles. Over the past two years, there have been several guards taken in the first round who have done well for themselves at the next level, including Jonathan Cooper, Chance Warmack, Kyle Long and Zack Martin.
The scoop: As expected, Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato is off to another brilliant start this season. He's posted huge numbers throughout his career, but lacks ideal size for a pro quarterback at 6-foot-1, 176 pounds. So, what are Cato's prospects at the next level? We talked to an NFL personnel executive for his take on the senior signal-caller, and he called him a playmaker who makes people around him better and keeps adding to his game over the years. He said Cato will surprise you with his feet, too.
The skinny: With smaller quarterbacks having success and more opportunities in the NFL, Cato is coming along at the right time. His size will be an issue for some, but Cato will get a much better evaluation because of guys like Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel than he might have received previously.
The scoop: Oklahoma nose tackle Jordan Phillips has returned after missing all but four games last season with a back injury, and he's already generating buzz within the scouting community. He's a massive presence on the interior at 6-foot-6, 334 pounds and can eat up blocks to let linebackers run free. He creates pressure up the middle vs. the pass, too. An NFC scout said he expects Phillips to be a driving force behind the success of the Oklahoma defense this season.
The skinny: The Sooners are bringing Phillips along slowly in his return from the back injury and evaluators are looking forward to him getting increased playing time. There's a good chance he'll be more of a full-time player this week in a Big 12 matchup against West Virginia. He'll be eligible for the 2015 draft if he foregoes his remaining eligibility, and don't be surprised if you hear his name a lot more as the season goes on.
The scoop: There are many NFL observers who believe it's time the college football world recognizes Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin as one of the more brilliant offensive minds in football. Sumlin has directed some of college football's most explosive offenses during his time at Houston and Texas A&M. While most observers attribute Sumlin's recent success to Johnny Manziel's remarkable improvisational skills, a quick look at the coach's track record at Houston with Case Keenum at the helm suggests he is adept at building a quarterback-friendly system that accentuates the strengths of his signal-caller. A prominent college football analyst noted how well young quarterbacks have performed in Sumlin's system. Given the spectacular performance of Kenny Hill to start the season, there is certainly something to Sumlin's ability to develop quarterbacks.
The skinny: For whatever reason, Sumlin hasn't been touted as an innovative offensive mind, but a quick look at the numbers his offenses have put up over the years should make observers stand up and take notice. The Texas A&M head coach has put together a dynamic offense that has taken the SEC by storm, exhibiting the quick-strike ability that puts fear in the heart of defensive coordinators.