Now that we are three weeks into the season we are starting to see prospects go from players who had undrafted free agent grades to prospects who carry a day two or high day three grade. One of these prospects is Notre Dame’s Audric Estime. However, despite already rushing for 521 yards this season he is not getting much NFL Draft love from draftniks who see the back as a seventh-round draft pick.
In addition to highlighting Estime’s game this week’s Inside the War Room also focuses on Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt and his matchup against one of the top defensive ends in the 2024 NFL Draft, JT Tuimoloau. It also discusses ten NFL Draft prospects who had elite weeks last weekend and much more.
Scouting Notre Dame Running Back
One of the most impressive running backs so far in this year’s college football season is Notre Dame running back Audric Estime. In the team’s first four games of the year he has accounted over 100 yards per game, including rushing for 176 this past weekend against Central Michigan and 134 yards vs. North Carolina State in the season opener. He has also averaged a very impressive 8.3 yards per carry so far this season.
This type of production from Estime was not expected from many people, after spending his first two years with the Irish as a backup. In 2021 he only saw seven carries, although he flashed the potential that made him a four-star recruit coming out of high school. This past season he led the team in rushing with 920 yards, despite starting only two games.
When scouting Estime one thing sticks out right away, and that is his enormous size. Estime is easily one of the biggest backs in the 2024 NFL Draft coming in at 5-foot-11 and 227 pounds. He is not afraid to use this size to his advantage either. He does a great job of running behind his pads and over defenders on a consistent basis. This combination of size and power makes him very hard to tackle in the open field and even when defenders can get him down to the ground he is able to pick up an extra yard or two by falling forward.
While it is no surprise that Estime runs with good power, what is surprising is how quick he is for a player his size. In Notre Dame’s win against North Carolina State, he was timed at 20.9 MPH by Reel Analytics on his 80-yard touchdown run. He also displays the ability to hit the hole quickly and turn upfield after the catch.
One thing that will likely hurt Estime’s chances of being a day one or day two pick in the 2024 NFL Draft is his lack of agility. He is a straight-line runner who has tight hips which is what you would expect from a player his size. This lack of agility makes it hard for him to elude tacklers in the open space.
Overall, Estime is a player who carries a fourth-round grade on my draft board. The reason he carries this grade is that he should be able to find a job as a tough runner who excels at running between the tackles in the NFL. However, he may be limited to being an inside runner due to his lack of lateral quickness and average agility overall.
Top NFL Draft Performances of Week Three
The following is a list of pro prospects who shined during week three of college football.
1. Malik Nabers, WR, LSU: Malik Nabers made a strong case for being the second-best wide receiver in the 2024 NFL Draft with his performance against Mississippi State. In the first half alone he caught ten passes for 188 yards and finished the day with 13 receptions for 239 yards and two touchdowns. One of the most impressive traits he showed in this game is the ability to catch in traffic.
2. Hunter Wohler, S, Wisconsin: Wisconsin Hunter Wohler created the first turnover of the year for the Badger’s defense in the first quarter of the team’s win over Georgia Southern and finished the day with two picks. He also showed strong play against the run recording ten tackles. This also gives Wohler at least ten tackles in every game this season.
3. Blake Watson, RB, Memphis: Blake Watson had the best game of his Memphis career on Thursday. He had ten carries for 169 yards and also led the team in receiving yards picking up 68 yards on six receptions. This production included two 69-yard runs in the second half.
4. Michael Penix Jr, QB, Washington: Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has now thrown for 400 yards in the first three games of the season. This past Saturday he threw for 473 yards and four touchdowns against Michigan State. This included leading the Huskies to touchdown in five of their first seven drives. One thing that will surely impress scouts about Penix is his impressive arm strength, which has led to numerous impressive downfield throws.
5. Rome Odunze, WR, Washington: The receiver who was on the other end of many of Penix’s passes was Rome Odunze. He led the Huskies with eight receptions and also finished with a career-high 180 receiving yards which also led the team. His highlight of the day came in the second quarter when he made an acrobatic deep catch. This production, strong hands, deep threat speed, and 6-foot-3 215 pound size should be enough for him to go in the first round next April.
6. Audric Estime, RB, Notre Dame: In our profile of Notre Dame running back Audric Estime in this week’s article, we mentioned how he had a big day against Central Michigan rushing for 176 yards. In this game, he also showcased the NFL traits that have impressed us all season including bulldozing power, and surprising quickness for a back his size.
7. Tory Horton, WR, Colorado State: One of the more underrated performances was what Colorado State wide receiver Tory Horton did against Colorado. He finished the night with a ridiculous 16 receptions with a couple coming against primer defensive back Travis Hunter. In addition to being a consistent go-to receiver, he also threw a 30-yard touchdown pass.
8. Jasheen Davis, DE, Wake Forest: Last week Wake Forest defensive end Jasheen Davis was named the Shrine Bowl Defensive Breakout Player of the Week, after recording seven pressuers and one sack against Vanderbilt. He followed that up this week with an even better performance this week. Against Old Dominion, he collected three sacks including a game-clinching sack with 1:47 left in the game.
9. Jer’Zhan Newton, DT, Illinois: In what is a relatively weak defensive tackle class Jer’Zhan Newton is making a strong case to be the best player at this position. In his game against Penn State, he showed impressive explosion off the ball and was consistently in the Nittany Lions backfield.
10. Bryce Houston OLB, Ohio: One of the bigger upsets of the weekend was Ohio knocking off Iowa State. The Bobcats were led by an outstanding defensive effort that held Iowa State to just seven points. The leader of their defense was outside linebacker Bryce Houston, who finished with 15 tackles and one tackle for loss.
NFL Draft Matchup to Watch in Week 4
This weekend in college football sees many outstanding matchups including Florida State vs. Clemson, Oregon vs. Colorado, and Iowa vs. Penn State. However, the top matchup of the weekend will be when two top-ten programs Ohio State and Notre Dame square off in South Bend.
This matchup will also have two first-round draft picks lineup against each other in Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt, and Ohio State defensive end JT Tuimoloau. The higher-rated player among these two on my board is Joe Alt who is my second-highest offensive tackle and 12th-best player in the draft.
One of the reasons I am so high on Alt is his impressive strength. He is rarely pushed back when pass blocking and also has the force to consistently create running lanes. Another thing that stands out about Alt is his 6-foot-8 and 315-pound size, which allows him to have the length to keep defenders at bay. One more positive about this prospect is that he has high character, and is considered one of the leaders of the Notre Dame offense.
The player he will be facing on Saturday is the second-best defensive end in the 2024 NFL Draft J.T. Tuimolau, who is coming off the second-best game of his college career according to Pro Football Focus.
As a pro prospect, Tuimoloau has many traits that will likely make him a top-20 selection next April. These traits include the strength to consistently set the edge against the run. He also shows a good burst off the ball which helped him rack up 17 hurries last year.
When it comes to who will get the best of this matchup look for Tuimoloau and the Ohio State defense to contain Notre Dame’s offense. One of the main reasons for this is they have been one of the best defenses in college football this season holding opponents to just 6.7 points per game which ranked second in the nation. They also have more overall talent on this side of the ball with 10 players on the Buckeyes defense carrying draftable grades.
NFL Draft Scouting Notes
— BYU tight end Isaac Rex stood out in the team’s upset win over Arkansas. He showed the ability as a receiver to create mismatches in coverage on his way to leading BYU with four receptions for 57 yards. The most impressive skill he displayed was his athletic ability, which was highlighted by a one-handed catch in the second quarter. He also showed the speed to stretch a defense and pick up yards after the catch. The biggest concern with him is that he has battled injuries during his college career, and is an older player due to serving a two-year mission.
— Speaking of BYU players, a former Cougar who had another strong week this Sunday was Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Puka Nacua. Against the San Francisco 49ers, he broke two NFL records. His 25 catches over the first two weeks are the most any rookie has had. He also became the first player in NFL history with 10 or more receptions and at least 100 yards receiving in each of his first two career games. To say the least Nacua is putting up outstanding production for a fifth-round pick, and making his selection to the All-Underrated team going into the 2023 NFL Draft look very good.
— A wide receiver who is off to an excellent start is South Carolina’s Xavier Legette. Legette already has 22 catches this year for 367 yards. What makes this performance stickout even more is that in 2022 he only caught 18 passes for 167 yards. In addition to gaining scouts’ attention as a wide receiver, he is also a proven contributor on special teams. In 2022 he set a school record by averaging 29.4 yards on 15 kick returns. He also does a terrific job of covering both kickoffs and punts.
— While the NFL season is still early one team that already has a clear draft need is the New York Jets, and that need is at offensive tackle. The team’s current starters are Mekhi Becton and Duane Brown and neither look like they are in the team’s long-term plans. The team turned down Becton’s fifth-year option recently. While Brown is an older player in the last year of his contract. One player who will likely be available when the Jets pick next April is J.C. Latham, who is a strong run blocker and only allowed two sacks last year.
— One of my favorite interior offensive linemen in the 2024 NFL Draft is quickly becoming Arkansas’s Beaux Limmer. One of the biggest reasons for this is his impressive strength on the field and in the weight room. He squats an impressive 700 pounds and bench presses 445 pounds. Another trait that is a big plus with him is that he consistently blocks through the whistle. Yet another trait NFL scouts will like about him is his versatility having played both offensive guard and center for the Razorbacks.
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— Syracuse was dealt a big blow when it was announced that Oronde Gadsden II would miss the rest of the season with a Lisfranc injury. Gadsden was one of the top tight ends in college football last season leading all players at this position in receiving yards. Gadsden didn’t say if he would return to school next year, or enter the NFL Draft.
— Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy struggled in his game against Bowling Green. In this contest, he threw three picks on just 13 pass attempts, which tied for the amount of interceptions he through all regular season last year. On two of these throws, they were partly due to poor footwork, including one in the third quarter. While this was definitely a disappointing performance for him, he still should be considered a top 50 player in the 2024 NFL Draft.
— Texas A&M wide receiver Ainias Smith finally had a breakout game this week, after being held to just 67 total yards in the first two games of the year. Against Louisiana Monroe, he caught 7 passes for 127 yards which averaged out 18.1 yards per catch. If Smith can keep putting up production similar to this look for him to be a day-three pick, due to his ability to create plays as a wide receiver, running back, and kick returner.
— While Notre Dame’s Audric Estime is the most underrated running back in the 2024 NFL Draft, another running back who is being overlooked is Nate Noel of Appalachian State. So far this season he has had at least 115 yards rushing in each game, and has shown the dynamic playmaking skills that could make him a good change of pace back in the NFL. He has also displayed surprising durability carrying the ball 26 times in each of the past two games, which was one of the biggest concerns for the 190-pound back going into the year.
NFL Draft Quotes of the Week
“You hate to compare, but very much like Andrew Luck. Just the presence they have when they walk onto the field and the first time getting into the quarterback position. Then you go, ‘a-ha, there it is.’”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on quarterback J.J. McCarthy
“Arguably the hardest football player that we have, [the] hardest worker on the field and off the field.”
Duke quarterback Riley Leonard on offensive tackle Graham Barton via the Duke Chronicle
“Yeah, he’s done an outstanding job. Just started from the spring, and he didn’t even practice but his work ethic, his workload, what he’s done to put himself in a position where he is now, and he studies like crazy. He’s a madman when it comes to the film room and wanting to know what to do, how to do it, what if this happens — sometimes overanalyzing to make sure that he got everything fixed. So he’s super locked in. He’s done a great job for us in these first two games for sure.”
Michigan Offensive Coordinator Sherrone Moore on center Drake Nugent who officially won the Wolverines’ starting center job last week
“If he stays at Colorado, we’ll be talking about him next summer like we’re talking about Caleb Williams right now – No. 1 pick guaranteed.”
Mel Kiper Jr. on Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders via on On3.com
“I love playing guard. I just like being physical. It’s like a fight in the phone booth every time I’m out there. It’s fun.”
Iowa offensive guard Connor Colby via Pro Football Focus
“I want people to remember me as a great character for Washington State. More so than on the field, I want to be remembered as an amazing individual in the community, somebody that any Coug fan that saw me out and like was willing to say hi, they felt like I gave them everything I had to be engaged in that conversation.”
Washington State defensive end Brennan Jackson via The Seattle Times
“He’s got all the ability in the world. He’s one of the most talented guys I’ve ever seen, and we’ve had some pretty talented guys come through here. So, it’s just experience, you know, he’s matured, he’s approaching it the right way.”
Oklahoma offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh on offensive tackle Tyler Guyton via OU Daily