NFL Draft Notebook: LSU QB Jayden Daniels Shines vs. Alabama, Sauce Gardner DROY?

Quarterback Jayden Daniels runs the ball as the LSU Tigers take on the Ole Miss Rebels at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.Saturday October 22, 2022Lsu Vs Ole Miss Football V1 8354
Quarterback Jayden Daniels runs the ball as the LSU Tigers take on the Ole Miss Rebels at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA.Saturday October 22, 2022Lsu Vs Ole Miss Football V1 8354 /

This week’s NFL Draft Notebook is headlined by LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels and his strong performance this past weekend that allowed the Tigers to upset Alabama. The top NFL Draft prospect performance list also features a couple of quarterbacks that threw for at least five touchdowns.

In addition to taking a look at the top NFL Draft prospect performances, this week’s article also gives a scouting report on Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, names Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner our Rookie of the Week, and much more!

NFL Draft Prospects Top Ten Performances of Week Ten

1. Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU
While LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels might not have put up the most impressive numbers of any draft prospect, he is the player who probably helped his stock the most. Against Alabama, Daniels showed the ability to come up big in clutch situations including when he ran for a touchdown in overtime and followed it up by throwing the game-winning 2-point conversion. Some NFL team will likely select Daniels on day three of the 2023 NFL Draft due to his strong arm, mobility, and much-improved play this year.

2. Tanner Mordecai, QB, SMU
In the highest-scoring regulation game in college football history, the SMU quarterback put up some unbelievable numbers. He threw for nine touchdowns on the day, including seven in the first half. Mordecai was also able to throw for 379 yards and added another touchdown as a runner.

3. La’Damian Webb, RB, South Alabama
Despite being on the short side coming, in at only five-foot-seven, South Alabama running back La’Damian Webb is one of the more physical backs in the country. Against Georgia Southern, the hard-charging running back accounted for 247 yards and four touchdowns while carrying the ball 35 times. It is unlikely the junior running back will enter the 2023 NFL Draft, but if he does, look for him to get consideration late in the draft.

4. Durrell Johnson, DE, Liberty
A big reason why Liberty was able to get its first win ever over an SEC team was the play of defensive end Durrell Johnson. In this game, Johnson held up well against both the run and was a feared pass rusher. Against the run, he did a nice job of setting the edge and led the team with nine tackles. Against the pass, he was able to come away with two sacks, which now gives him seven sacks on the year.

5. Lindsey Scott, QB, Incarnate Word
When you only play a half of football, yet are still able to throw seven touchdowns, you are having a terrific day. That is what Incarnate Word quarterback Lindsey Scott did this week against Houston Christian, marking the second time this season he has accomplished this feat; the first one came against Lamar earlier in the campaign. It will be interesting to see if his outstanding production this year will be enough for him to be a day-three pick in the NFL Draft.

6. Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
Going into the game against Tennessee there was talk that Tennessee would dominate Georgia’s defense and could even put up 50 points against them. Well… that obviously didn’t happen as the Bulldogs shut down the Vol’s offense. One of the main reasons for this was the domination at the line of scrimmage; no player had a better game than Jalen Carter. In this game, Carter forced two fumbles, came away with two tackles for loss, and also recorded a sack. His most impressive play of the game came in the first quarter when he bullied past two offensive linemen and stripped the ball out of Hendon Hooker’s hand.

7. Kurtis Rourke, QB, Ohio
A quarterback who is quietly having an outstanding season is Ohio’s Kurtis Rourke. He has had five games where he has thrown for over 300 yards, with his latest one coming this past weekend against Buffalo. Against the Bulls, Rourke was able to throw for 317 yards and five touchdowns while completing 69% of his passes.

8. Tuli Tuipulotu, DT, USC
Going into the 2022 season USC defensive tackle Tuli Tuipulotu only had 7.5 sacks in his career, however this year he has already surpassed that total by accounting for nine sacks. His last two sacks came against California on Saturday as he helped the Trojans pull off a victory over the Golden Bears. One of the most impressive traits about Tuipulotu is his versatility, showing the ability to play defensive tackle or defensive end at an NFL level.

9. Puka Nacua, WR, BYU
BYU’s Puka Nacua came up big in the most critical moments of the team’s win over Boise State. With less than two minutes left in the game, he made a spectacular touchdown reception on fourth down. This was far from his only great play of the day either, as he hauled in 14 passes for 157 yards including another touchdown pass. If Nacua returns to school next year, and can stay healthy, he could be a day-two pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

10. Michael Barrett, LB, Michigan
Michigan linebacker Michael Barrett had a heck of a third quarter against Rutgers. In this quarter, on back-to-back defensive plays, he came away with interceptions. On his second pick, he was able to return it for a touchdown. His strong play was one of the reasons Michigan was able to pull away from Rutgers in the second half after struggling with them in the first half.

Scouting Tennessee Wide Receiver Jalin Hyatt

One of the biggest risers on teams’ NFL Draft boards this year is Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt. Going into the season he was a player who had only started two games; now Hyatt is one of the most electrifying and productive receivers in college football. This outstanding production, and his improved overall game, have led to him being a player who carries an undrafted free agent grade, to someone who now could go at the tail end of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Coming out of Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, South Carolina, Hyatt was an extremely productive receiver. At the same time, he was a player who had questions about his ability to play college football. During his high school career, he set school records for both touchdowns and receiving yards and helped lead his school to back-to-back undefeated seasons. However, he weighed in at a slight 153 pounds, which led to schools like South Carolina and Clemson passing on him.

After originally committing to play at Virginia Tech, Hyatt changed his mind and ended up going to Tennessee. As a true freshman, he saw limited playing time for the Vols. He only started one game on the year but did see action in ten games. Despite seeing limited time on the field, Hyatt did show big play potential, with 50% of his 20 catches that year going for first downs and six of them going for at least 20 yards.

His sophomore year brought more of the same. Hyatt saw little playing time but when he was on the field he made it count. In 2021 he saw ten of his 21 catches go for at least 25 yards, and also accounted for 107 yards after the catch.

His best year by far, though, has been this season. One of the big reasons for this is Hyatt’s commitment to spend extra time on the practice field, film room, and weight room. His improved work ethic and bulked-up size have led him to become one of the best receivers in the SEC — and one of the best ever at Tennessee. This season he has already broken the school record for touchdown receptions in a season and has three games with over 160 receiving yards.

When watching his film, the first trait that stands out, and one that will surely attract scouts’ attention, is his blazing speed. He has been timed with a 4.31 40-yard dash and it is easy to see this quickness carry over to the field. As a receiver, he is a deep threat who can stretch any defense and also has the speed to be a threat after the catch.

Another positive with Hyatt is his soft hands. He does a great job of catching the ball with his hands and not letting it into his body. This allows him to have very few drops and should help him when catching the ball in traffic. Another reason why he routinely comes away with the big catch is his ability to track the ball which helps him snag the deep ball.

While Hyatt is a true playmaker at the receiver position, he does have some concerns with his game. One of these is his lack of physicality, especially at the line of scrimmage. Tennessee routinely lines him up in the slot or as a stacked receiver which prevents teams from playing bump and run against him. In addition to not being physical off the line of scrimmage, he is only average when catching in traffic since he lacks the strength to bully defenders.

Another concern NFL scouts will have with Hyatt is his limited route tree. He is not asked to run routes like an out or a drag often and he does most of his damage on plays like a corner, post, or go route. This limited experience running these patterns will raise questions “is he just a deep threat?” or “can he be a complete receiver at the next level?”.

When it comes to where he will end up in the NFL, I currently have a mid-second-round grade on him. He should be able to help a team in the deep passing game from the start and has the tools to develop into a complete receiver. One team who could make sense for Hyatt is the Dallas Cowboys.

Rookie of the Week

This week was yet another week where we saw some rookies step up and make a big impact. One of the 2022 NFL Draft picks who stood out was Houston running back Dameon Pierce, who rushed for 139 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. Another first-year player who shined was Chicago Bears offensive tackle, Braxton Jones, who did a good job of limiting Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Bradley Chubb to just one tackle on the day. However, this week’s rookie of the week is New York Jets cornerback Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner.

Going into the New York Jets game against the Buffalo Bills, Gardner was regarded as one of the best rookies in the NFL and one of the better cornerbacks in the game. He was named the Defensive Player of the Week against the New England Patriots on Oct. 30. In this game, he allowed only 16 receiving yards and led the team with 10 tackles. He had a stellar game last week as well against the New England Patriots by allowing just one yard in coverage.

This week he faced the toughest challenge against one of the top offenses and passing games in the NFL. Going into this game, the Buffalo Bills were ranked No. 1 in passing yards per game, averaging 308 yards per game, and second in points per game. However, the Jets and Gardner held the Bills to just 17 points and 183 passing yards.

Along with shutting down the Bills’ wide receivers most of the day Gardner had two outstanding plays. The first one came when he grabbed a critical interception in the third quarter of the game, which led to the Jets taking the lead. His other big play came at the end of the game, when he broke up a pass on fourth down, and sealed the victory for New York. His pass deflection was his 13th pass breakup of the year, good for the top spot in the NFL.

If Gardner can keep playing at this level, he should have an outstanding chance of winning Defensive Rookie of the Year. He also shows the potential to develop into the best corner in the NFL, and be a player who can consistently shut down his side of the field.

NFL Draft Scouting Notes

— A player who is being underrated is Alabama safety DeMarcco Hellams who carries an undrafted free agent grade according to Mock Draft Database. On my board, however, he carries a fourth-round grade due to his combination of versatility, size, and production. Last season, he tied for the team lead in interceptions with three and so far this season has four games with at least ten tackles. He also shows the ability to cover as a free safety or drop into the box as more of a strong safety.

— San Jose State’s Elijah Cooks is a wide receiver who was named to the 2022 All-Underrated Offensive Team, yet due to injuries is still in school. Cooks has missed most of the past two seasons only playing in a total of four games. However, this season Cooks has looked like he did before his injuries hit and he set several Nevada school receiving records. So far this year at San Jose State, where Cooks transferred to this season, he has 43 receptions and five games with at least 75 receiving yards. When looking at him as an NFL prospect the two traits that should excite scouts are his size and overall athletic ability.

— Minnesota running back Mohamed Ibrahim has been incredibly consistent this season. He has routinely faced loaded boxes with the Gopher’s passing game struggling this year and continues to pile up yards on the ground. In his latest performance, he ran the ball for 128 yards vs. Nebraska and was able to account for two rushing touchdowns, including one first down at the end of the game which put the game on ice. His top trait as a runner is the power and determination he runs with as he rarely goes down on first contact.

— A small school NFL Draft prospect to watch is Elon kicker Skyler Davis. Davis, who is the school’s all-time scoring leader, and also set the record for the longest field goal, has done a terrific job of connecting on long field goals this year. This season he has gone 5-of-6 on kicks over 50-yards and has also connected on 79% percent of his kicks overall this year. Look for some team to bring him in as an undrafted free agent next fall, and he should be able to challenge for a spot on a roster.

— One game that will hurt C.J. Stroud and his NFL Draft stock was his game against Northwestern on Saturday. While he was playing in poor conditions, and was hurt by some drops by his receivers, a high first-round draft prospect needs to perform much better against a 1-7 team. It should also be noted that Northwestern quarterback Brendan Sullivan completed 71% of his passes and threw for more yards despite throwing the ball 12 fewer times.

— The Chicago Bears have to be disappointed with what they are getting out of rookie wide receiver Velus Jones. The Bears drafted Jones in the third round, which was way too high according to my rankings, as  I had a seventh-round grade on him. This season he has struggled returning punts, which was his top skill coming out of college, fumbling two punts and being removed as the team’s return man. He has also not helped out much as a receiver, having only caught three passes for 24 yards all season. In addition to those struggles, he had a critical drop last week against the Cowboys last week, which likely would have resulted in a touchdown.

Quote of the Week

” He’s continuing to get better, playing in competitive situations, understanding how to do the things we want to do at the wide receiver position. Playing without the football in his hands. He’s become a much more physical football player since he’s changed his body, and those two things go together, hand-in-hand, gaining confidence. That shows up in the way that he’s played.”

-Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel on wide receiver Jalin Hyatt