Every NFL team is looking for difference-makers who rise to the occasion at critical moments, inspiring teammates with their talent and timing, alike.
Week Three of the 2018 college football season featured several such players, some of whom sparked huge upset wins or fared well in a critical conference showdown. All are earning a jump up NFLDraftScout.com’s player rankings.
Consistency throughout the season, of course, is typically required for a player to truly improve one’s grade but at this early point, the goal is just to capture the attention of scouts.
And, with their performances Saturday, these five rising NFL prospects certainly accomplished that.
5. Squally Canada, RB, BYU, 5-10, 217, 4.64, rSR, # 22
There is plenty of credit to go around for BYU’s stunning 24-21 upset over then-No. 6 Wisconsin in Madison but no one was timelier than Canada, who out-shined the Badgers’ Heisman Trophy contender Jonathan Taylor, rushing for 118 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. Canada, the primary backup to current Green Bay Packers’ running back Jamaal Williams, has a squatty, powerful frame that helps him bounce off of would-be tacklers. He also possesses good vision and better-than-expected agility to elude to go along with at least adequate straight-line speed.
4. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington, 5-10, 191, 4.54, SR, # 9
Like Canada, Gaskin was a bit overshadowed heading into Saturday night’s showdown with Utah, arguably the most gifted team remaining on Washington’s regular season schedule. That is because of the presence of flashy junior Utes running back Zack Moss, whose thick frame, light feet and NFL bloodlines (he is the son of former NFL receiver Santana Moss), who ran well when given opportunities Saturday night (13-67-1) but was hampered by injuries to both ankles. As he has throughout his entire college career, Gaskin stole the spotlight, adding to his school-record rushing totals with 143 rushing yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Scouts are going to question Gaskin at every turn because he does not possess a prototypical frame but his durability and instinctive, attentive running certainly are NFL-caliber.
3. Deshaun Davis, ILB, Auburn, 5-11, 246, 4.84, rSR, # 57
The visiting LSU Tigers had the mightiest roar Saturday and it was their reigning All-American cornerback Andraez “Greedy” Williams who was the most impressive player on the field but in terms of actually boosting their stock, Auburn’s Davis deserves special mention, even in a losing effort. While there remain concerns about his straight-line speed, Davis was virtually everywhere against LSU’s traditional downhill rushing attack, generating a game-high 13 tackles, including four for loss, a sack, two more QB hurries and a pass broken up. Davis is a classic example of a “see it, hit it” MIKE ‘backer, impressing Saturday with his ability to correctly diagnose the action and close on the ball in a flash, while often delivering thunderous blows to the ball-carrier.
2. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma, 5-10, 192, 4.58, JR, # 1
To the amazement of everyone, Murray thus far has Sooners fans (and scouts) thinking Baker Who? over the first three weeks of the 2018 season as Oklahoma’s latest QB transfer is putting up numbers and wins at the same frantic pace that helped Mayfield win the Heisman Trophy and earn the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. After mostly mop-up duty a year ago backing up Mayfield, Murray is completing nearly 70% of his passes so far this season with a sparkling 8-1 touchdown to interception ratio, numbers boosted Saturday in a 37-27 win over Iowa State in Ames, (which, of course, beat Mayfield and the Sooners in Norman a year ago). If that pressure bothered Murray, he certainly did not show it, completing 21 of 29 passes for 348 yards and three scores while also rushing 15 times for another 77 yards in the first road start of his career. While certainly smaller than scouts would prefer, Murray’s athleticism and arm talent are obvious. In fact, Murray earned a comparison to Seahawks' star Russell Wilson from Scot McCloughan (one of the scouts who drafted him in Seattle) in the latest episode of the Instinctive Scouting Podcast.
1. Deionte Thompson, FS, Alabama, 6-1, 193, 4.55, rJR, # 14
If star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was eligible for the 2019 NFL draft, he would own the top spot as no one was more impressive Saturday. As it stands, the quarterback of Nick Saban’s latest ball-hawking secondary will have to suffice. Thompson was virtually everywhere during Alabama’s surgical 62-7 dismantling of a very talented Ole Miss squad that features three first round prospects, including the best collection of receivers in the country. Thompson intercepted one pass, reading the eyes of Rebels’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu to steal this interception and should have been credited with a forced fumble for delivering a wicked shot to abruptly end one of his eight rushes on the day. Thompson’s range earned the attention of Hall of Fame tight end and current analyst Shannon Sharpe, who mentioned the names Sean Taylor and Ed Reed when describing how impressed he was with Alabama’s latest star.