What we learned from Championship Weekend in college football
Here’s a look at what NFL.com analysts learned about prospects in Week 14 of the college football season.
1. Clemson QB Deshaun Watson saved his best for last. I thought his performance Saturday against Virginia Tech in the ACC title game was his best performance of the season. He started out 10 for 10 and made clutch plays in the second half to secure the victory for Clemson. It’s always helpful to scout quarterbacks in person because you can get a good feel for how they interact and lead their teammates. I thought he did a really nice job rallying his team and showed toughness both as a runner and a pocket passer. He took some big hits tonight.
It wasn’t all perfect for him. He missed a couple throws, had some balls tipped and was bailed out by a couple favorable pass-interference penalties. However, he remained calm and poised in crucial situations. I don’t think he’s a really crisp passer, but I do admire his grit and competitiveness. His evaluation will be a tricky one in the coming months, should he (as expected) enter the 2017 NFL Draft. — Daniel Jeremiah
2. I went down to the field before the ACC title game to get a look at the top prospects, and one thing that immediately jumped to me was how Clemson WR Mike Williams is built like Andre Johnson. He’s huge. He has a thick, muscled-up frame and very long arms. He played really well tonight. He used his big frame to wall off cornerbacks on slants and skinny posts. He showed the ability to play inside and outside. I wish they would’ve given him more opportunities down the field, but he still found a way to impact the game. — Daniel Jeremiah
3. Oklahoma WR Dede Westbrook will intrigue NFL scouts with his polished receiving skills and explosive playmaking ability, but concerns over his size and durability could affect his standing on draft boards around the league.
Measuring 6-foot, 175 pounds, Westbrook has a slender build for a WR1. Although his impressive stop-start quickness and slippery running skills make him a terror to defend outside of the numbers, he lacks the bulk to withstand the pounding that comes with doing the dirty work between the hashes. Against Oklahoma State, Westbrook certainly flashed his tantalizing skills in a 4-catch, 111-yard performance that featured a spectacular 69-yard catch-and-run score that confirmed his status as one of the most explosive playmakers in college football.
On the flip side, Westbrook left the game early after taking a big hit over the middle. While teams won’t necessarily downgrade players for injuries, the early exit will continue to raise concerns about his ability to survive as a WR1 in the league. — Bucky Brooks
4. There’s no question the Alabama front seven deserves a lot of praise for the team’s stellar defensive play, but NFL scouts and coaches will also quickly fall in love with Nick Saban‘s defensive backs. The Crimson Tide has a crew of pro-ready defenders in the secondary, particularly Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The dynamic duo possesses the requisite size (Humphrey is listed at 6-1, 195 pounds; Fitzpatrick measures 6-1, 200 pounds) and athleticism. They are instinctive corners with impressive ball skills and tackling ability. While a hamstring injury limited Humphrey’s participation against Florida on Saturday, Fitzpatrick was the star of the show with a pick-six and a number of splash plays that will pique the interest of scouts looking for a versatile, big-bodied defender in the backend. The sophomore grabbed an errant pass and followed a convoy of blockers for an easy score. He later showed terrific instincts and awareness breaking up a 4th-and-goal pass to Florida TE DeAndre Goolsby. Considering how many teams are searching for safeties with cover corner skills, Fitzpatrick could join his heralded teammate as a hot commodity in meeting rooms around the league. — Bucky Brooks
5. I’ve said it a million times this fall — college football is loaded with running back talent. That being said, Clemson’s Wayne Gallman is one of my favorite backs to study. His numbers won’t jump off the page tonight — 17 carries for 59 yards and 1 touchdown — but he ran extremely hard and did a great job in pass protection. He’s a complete back and scouts in attendance believe he’s ideally suited for the NFL. — Daniel Jeremiah
6. The ACC Championship Game was a high-scoring contest, but there…