New episodes dropping every Friday! Football is finally back in full swing! Stetson Bennett, Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud each had important weeks to open the season. There are a few other standout performers from across the country as well. Plus, Chris looks ahead to another big weekend of college football games and reacts to Thursday Night Football.
What a first week of college football action! From a high-scoring affair in North Carolina to a beatdown in Atlanta to a special teams collapse in New Orleans, it was incredible all around.
There was a ton to unpack from Week 1. I wrote about my biggest takeaways earlier this week and now Week 2 is already upon us. There are a ton of fantastic matchups to watch once again this weekend.
Unfortunately, some of these games are going to be at the same time, so break out the tablet or set your DVR if you want to watch all of the amazing action from this weekend.
I wanted to highlight a few of the draft-eligible players I am most excited to watch this weekend. Without a doubt, Anthony Richardson vs. Will Levis will draw a ton of eyeballs. Plus, I’m really excited for the fanfare of Alabama and Texas.
What about the under-the-radar guys? Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer. Many of these players fans of college football have likely heard of. However, these are not the guys you will likely see in a first-round mock draft at this point. So rather than just tell people to watch the games they already know to turn on, let’s take a look at some players who might not be household names yet, but could very well be Top 100 players at the end of the season.
Cameron Ward, QB, Washington State
Year: 3rd-year junior
Opponent: at #19 Wisconsin (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on FOX)
This is a huge stage for Ward. He is a transfer from Incarnate Word looking to make an impression at the FBS level. Ward has a super quick release and can pick apart defenses when given the chance. He got off to a really solid start against Idaho, tossing three touchdown passes in a victory. Now, he will face much stiffer opposition in a Wisconsin defense that shutout Illinois State in their season opener. I wouldn’t be shocked if he returns to school for another season, but Ward is draft eligible this year. A big, nationally-televised game for him against a Top 25 team is the perfect stage to prove to NFL talent-evaluators that he deserves to be on their radar.
Brenton Cox, LB, Florida
Year: 5th-year junior
Opponent: vs. No. 20 Kentucky (Saturday at 7:00 pm ET on ESPN)
Talk about absolutely relentless. That is the best way I can describe Brenton Cox. He made himself some money last week with 10 tackles in the Gators’ upset of Utah. He will have a chance to earn even more this week against Kentucky. The Wildcats are another ranked team with a talented quarterback and a veteran-heavy offensive line. Cox showed incredible burst, great hand usage and good discipline against the run. If he can start pressuring the quarterback on a more consistent basis, he will be trending towards being a top 50 selection. I haven’t seen much buzz about him yet, but I expect that to change if he keeps playing like he did in Week 1, especially against Top 25 opponents.
Myles Jones, CB, Texas A&M
Year: 6th-year senior
Opponent: vs. Appalachian State (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on ESPN2)
Being a sixth-year player coming off a major injury is going to be a lot to overcome, but Jones has a pretty unique skill set that I believe will see him get drafted this year. He reminds me a bit of Brandon Browner, or, if you want a more recent comparison, Israel Mukuamu from South Carolina, now of the Dallas Cowboys. That’s the type of role I think we could see him play and I would not be shocked if he was moved to safety in the NFL. He is a logical fit in zone heavy schemes, especially those that would not have him pressing much. He needs to improve his hand usage and physicality, but his combination of size (6’4″) and speed is enticing. Facing an App State team that just hung 61 on UNC should offer a pretty solid test.
Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh
Year: 4th-year junior
Opponent: at Tennessee (Saturday at 3:30 pm ET on ABC)
Interior pass rushers are still in high demand at the NFL level. At this point, Kancey projects best as a situational pass-rusher rather than a three-down lineman. He struggles against the run, lacking the size and play strength to consistently disrupt the ground game. However, he is a slippery and crafty pass rusher. He excels at crashing the pocket on passing downs. He had a solid game against West Virginia to open the year. The more that I watch him, the more I want him to kick outside and play defensive end, but we will see how the NFL views him. He will get a chance to face off with a talented Tennessee offensive line with three upperclassmen on the interior. Plus, they have a solid two-headed rushing attack with Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright. Kancey needs to start showing improvement in that area of his game in order to bolster his draft stock.
Jaren Hall, QB, BYU
Year: 5th-year junior
Opponent: vs. #9 Baylor (Saturday at 10:15 pm ET on ESPN)
This looks like it is going to be an epic fight in Provo on Saturday. If you need an extra reason to stay up late if you are an East Coaster, Hall has you covered. The fifth-year junior is in his second season as the starter. His mobility is a huge strength and he looks comfortable throwing on the move. He is already showing some improvement from a year ago. His accuracy was a bit spotty last year, but he completed 25 of 32 passes to open the season against South Florida. Baylor has a much better defense and should force Hall into some tougher situations. He is a good improviser and will need to be at his best to take down the Bears. If Hall plays well and BYU picks up the win, he is going to be talked about a whole lot more moving forward.
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I’m finally back to wrap up these quarterbacks. Turns out I needed a little break after the draft and sometimes life has its way of throwing other things your way.
It’s time for Part 3 of my watchlist, which includes 36 quarterbacks in total. Part 1 featured a lot of big names and Part 2 had a number of guys that could make things interesting with a big year. Part 3 of this loaded class has a couple of wild cards heading into this year that I think could make some noise. My final group also includes a few guys that have a lot to prove this year or likely candidates to return to school for another season. Let’s dive into these final 10 QBs.
Clayton Tune, Houston
I definitely did not pick the best game to watch for Tune. He threw four interceptions in the season opener against Texas Tech in 2021. As it turned out, it would be one of just two losses for Houston all season, in part due to Tune’s impressive play. He finished the year with over 3,500 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He cannot afford to have meltdowns like he did against the Red Raiders, where he was way too careless with the ball. Decision making can be improved though.
Payton Thorne, Michigan State
This final group is definitely not among the favorites to be selected early in the draft. Thorne is no exception. Following an impressive 2021 season, he will be on the radar at least heading into the 2023 draft. He has good touch on his throws, but lacks elite arm strength. He is a solid athlete showing his ability to make plays on read options this past year. He definitely benefited from a lot of short passes and screens in the Michigan State offense. I would like to see him hit some more NFL throws more consistently this year across the middle and in rhythm with his receivers. Those throws are there on his 2021 film, but few and far between.
Hank Bachmeier, Boise State
There was a time that I was very excited for Bachmeier to be draft eligible. The excitement has dropped off some, but he put together a solid junior season and I think could be in the mix as a late-round selection. He has a strong arm and throws a nice deep ball. The ball placement is a bit spotty at times. He has struggled with injuries, but he finally put together a full season in 2021. He is a decent scrambler, but he doesn’t do it too often. A bit undersized as well, he has a lot of questions to answer, but I like what he could become.
Jaren Hall, BYU
Meet Hall, your typical fifth-year junior. COVID has really messed up eligibility for a long time to come. On first watch, my initial assessment of Hall is that he is incredibly mobile and can throw on the run, but he is much less effective playing from the pocket. His accuracy is inconsistent and he overthrew a number of receivers downfield in the game I watched. That being said, I could see him having a ton of success in an offense that moves the pocket and allows him to roll out. It plays to his strengths and helps minimize the impact of his smaller frame.
Dylan Hopkins, UAB
Here’s a name you probably haven’t heard too much. Hopkins led UAB to a strong season with 18 touchdowns in his first full season as the starter. We don’t have a huge sample size with him given that he only attempted 235 passes last year. For reference, that’s less than half the number of attempts Bryce Young had in 2021. What I have seen is a player with a solid arm and a pretty deep ball. He also uses his eyes well to freeze or hold defenders. My concerns with Hopkins come to his mobility. He is not very quick in escaping the pocket and does not look overly comfortable throwing on the run. Hopefully, UAB will let him cut it loose a bit more often in 2022.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
From a name you don’t know to one you have likely heard of. Thompson-Robinson, aka DTR, arrived at UCLA with a ton of fanfare. He has not quite delivered on the hype, but he has developed into a solid player. A clear dual-threat option, he is a really fun player to watch in the open field. His accuracy is a bit inconsistent, with him missing high on a number of occasions down the field. The throwing motion is a bit elongated as well. The physical traits are enticing, but I think he would really need to work on his mechanics to have a shot at the next level. He will need to be a bit more polished to garner attention heading into his fifth season with the Bruins.
Jayden Daniels, LSU
One of the most interesting transfers of this entire offseason, Daniels leaves an Arizona State program under fire for an LSU program that has a bit of a checkered history in its own right. One thing is undeniable though, Daniels will have weapons to work with in Baton Rouge. Kayshon Boutte and Jaray Jenkins are proven commodities at the college level. The Tigers have a few up-and-comers as well. Daniels will need to bounce back after throwing as many touchdowns (10) as he did interceptions in 2021. He has a very compact and quick throwing motion, but his footwork is a mess. The accuracy is good, but not great. I think it could improve with better footwork actually. As a runner, he is one of the best, scrambling to pick up extra yards and very capable on designed runs. He will get a chance to prove himself in the SEC this season.
Cameron Ward, Washington State
Hat tip to my favorite subreddit NFL_Draft for putting this guy on my radar. A former FCS quarterback at Incarnate Word, Ward won the Jerry Rice award. He has a very quick release and looks very comfortable playing from the pocket. Now, he will have a chance to prove himself in a Power Five conference after transferring to Washington State. He will get some real tests at Camp Randall this September and then in Pac-12 play. I wouldn’t be surprised if he stayed another year, but he has the potential to be an NFL quarterback.
Cade McNamara, Michigan
I had an old friend from high school reach out to me to ask why McNamara wasn’t part of my first two entries. After all, McNamara became the first Michigan quarterback to beat Ohio State since Denard Robinson. Plus, the Wolverines did reach the College Football Playoffs. McNamara undoubtedly benefits from a run-heavy scheme, but he is still talented. He lacks elite arm strength, but he has a nice deep ball. His release is a bit of a concern. His side-arm style leads to a number of passes to be batted at the line of scrimmage. I don’t think he will be garnering first-round attention, but he could be a late-round draft pick come April.
D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson
I’m going to be completely honest. I forgot about Uiagalelei when I first started putting together my watch list. He went from the dazzling replacement to Trevor Lawrence to an afterthought in just one season. I still don’t know what happened to the guy who racked up 439 yards passing and three total touchdowns against Notre Dame in 2020. Looking at his 2021 tape, his accuracy is all over the place. His throwing motion is a bit elongated. As a runner, he has a bit of wiggle, but he is not a burner by any means. He doesn’t have as much power as you would expect for a player listed at 250 pounds either. There are still some special moments on film and his physical traits are great, but none of that is going to matter if he continues to complete 55 percent of his passes and throw only nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions.
Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.