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: "The top two players in college football are (Georgia running back) Todd Gurley and (Alabama wide receiver) Amari Cooper," an AFC personnel executive said. "There's really not much of a debate."
The skinny: Both players weren't among our top three when we counted down the top 20 players in college football in August (Gurley was No. 4 and Cooper was ninth). However, that was a list based on college production and stature. We suspect this NFL exec was projecting to his league. Gurley and Cooper are putting up big numbers this season. Cooper leads the nation in yards per game (163.8) and receptions per game (10.8), and is tied for third with five touchdowns; Gurley leads the nation in yards per carry (9.8) and is averaging 134.0 yards per game (10th in FBS).
The scoop: A former NFL quarterback who's gone on to become a QB guru tells us that even before Jameis Winston's latest off-field issue, he had serious concerns about his game. The source said he's concerned about Winston's long delivery, footwork, mechanics in the pocket, and accuracy at times. But, the former QB added, "I remember that when the bright lights came on, he produced in a big way, and he was mature beyond his years on the field."
The skinny: There's no denying Winston is a tremendous talent, but scouts have made it quite clear that he'd be better off staying at Florida State and trying to repair his image than declaring for the 2015 NFL Draft. If he follows their advice, Winston will have plenty of time to iron out his mechanical issues, although those seem to be a secondary concern at this point.
The scoop: An NFL talent evaluator said he has Oregon QB Marcus Mariota rated ahead of Winston, and by a healthy margin. The source said he was highly impressed with Mariota's toughness in the Week 2 Michigan State game. He'd like to see the Ducks' QB make more throws into tight windows (Oregon's offense doesn't give him many opportunities to do so), but the evaluator noted that Mariota doesn't miss open targets.
The skinny: It's no surprise to hear such praise of Mariota's game given the way he has started the year, while Winston's behavior off the field has earned him more attention than anything he's done on it this season. The question is, can Mariota sustain it for a full year? Oregon had each of its past two seasons derailed by a November loss to Stanford, but given the way Mariota and the Ducks played against Michigan State -- a team similar in style to the Cardinal -- there's hope in Eugene that this season will be different.
The scoop: An NFC scouting director told us there's not an area of Everett Golson's game that hasn't improved, from footwork to arm talent to decision-making. The Notre Dame quarterback appears eager to put his team on his back, and the scouting director also gave him points for being willing to return to school after last-season's suspension, even though he'd face whispers and likely some resentment for being allowed to return. The scouting director said Golson showed a good amount of fortitude and resolve.
The skinny: After missing all of last season while serving a suspension for an academic violation, Golson is off to a hot start. It's early, and he still has a lot to prove to NFL evaluators, though. If we're still glowing about his performance after tough matchups against Stanford, Florida State, Arizona State and USC, it'll be a surprise if he isn't soaring up draft boards.
The scoop: "The guy generating the most buzz right now is the wideout at West Virginia," said an AFC scout. "He's big, explosive and productive. He looks like a potential first-round pick."
The skinny: That wide receiver, of course, is Kevin White, the Mountaineers senior who might finally be on the national radar after his 10-catch, 173-yard effort against Oklahoma on Saturday. He is second in the nation behind Cooper in both receptions (10.5) and receiving yards (158.3) per game. Cooper has gotten most of the attention because he plays in Tuscaloosa, but White certainly hasn't gone unnoticed by NFL scouts. It's the second straight week his name has been mentioned in this space. Last week, comparisons to all-pro wideout Larry Fitzgerald were established.
The scoop: There is a buzz in the NFL scouting community that Nebraska OLB Randy Gregory might be the best pass rusher in the 2015 class. At a college game recently, we heard an NFC scout rave about Gregory's natural rush skills and freakish athleticism. The veteran scout compared Gregory to the San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl OLB Aldon Smith and talked about how Gregory has all of the physical tools needed to be a standout as a pro. Despite battling through a nagging injury that's limited his participation early in the season, Gregory has continued to impress evaluators with his disruptive skills off the edge. The scout tells us that Gregory has been so dominant in limited action that he couldn't imagine how effective he will be when he is finally healthy and back to 100 percent.
The skinny: The veteran scout is certainly not alone in his assessment of Gregory's skills. We've spoken to several evaluators who believe the Nebraska standout will be a bonafide star at the next level because of his special athleticism and natural rush skills.
The scoop: "Dak Prescott is a better passer than I gave him credit for," said an AFC personnel executive. "He also has a little bit of that 'it' factor. I think he's worthy of a fourth- or fifth-round pick."
The skinny: The Mississippi State quarterback is an intriguing prospect who landed squarely on the radar of NFL scouts and the college football community after leading his team to an upset at LSU on Saturday. He's not Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton, but he does possess similar dual-threat qualities. If he can improve as a pocket passer -- and as a junior he has two seasons to improve that area of his game -- there's a lot to work with at the next level.
The scoop: Florida State RB Karlos Williams was touted as a potential blue-chip prospect prior to the season, but scouts have expressed disappointment in his play this fall. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound senior hasn't shown the vision, physicality and agility that some evaluators expected after watching him show intriguing flashes as a junior. In fact, scouts were disappointed that he didn't have a greater impact on the Clemson game last week with Winston sidelined. An NFC scout after the game said he was surprised Williams couldn't put the Seminoles' offense on his back as the featured runner; his inability to do so could lead to concerns about his potential as a workhorse at the next level.
The skinny: Williams certainly hasn't impressed the NFL scouting community to this point, but don't dismiss his chances of making a late run up the charts. He has plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills against inferior competition in the ACC, and the final production could entice a team to bank on his potential as a pro.