CFB Week 2 Preview: Marcus Mariota, Leonard Williams Headline 2015 Draft Prospects Worth Watching

Buffalo Bills’ fans appear to be some of the most passionate draft fans of any franchises in the NFL. Hey, when the team hasn’t had a draft pick below the No. 14th since 2004, Bills fans like to study which top prospects could possibly be the one to change the direction of the franchise.

While I will never proclaim myself an “expert” on anything football-related, I enjoy studying the game and offering my insight on prospects.

Since I began evaluating draft prospects in 2010, I’ve had my fair share of “hits” (Top 20 grades on Colin Kaepernick, Lavonte David, Alshon Jeffery) as I’ve had “misses” (Top 20 grades on Jimmy Clausen, Arthur Brown, Brandon LaFell, Taylor Mays).

Throughout the 2014 College Football Season, I’ll be breaking down key matchups, top prospects and early rankings on the 2015 NFL Draft class.

(14) USC at (15) Stanford

USC DL Leonard Williams, Junior, 6’5” 300 lb

USC DL Leonard Williams is a freak of nature that can play anywhere along a defensive line.
USC DL Leonard Williams is a freak of nature that can play anywhere along a defensive line.

Leonard Williams is currently my No. 1 2015 NFL Draft Prospect, as the Junior defensive lineman has been a disruptive force along the Trojans’ defense over the past two season, racking up 137 tackles, 26 of which came for a loss and 13 sacks. He got off to a hot start in his first game of the ’14 season, picking off a pass and batting down two more, to go along with seven tackles.

Williams is a versatile defensive lineman that projects well to both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes, as he has the ability to play the one (4-3 NT), three (4-3 DT), and five-technique (3-4 DE) positions along the defensive line.

Stanford LT Andrus Peat, Junior, 6’7” 315 lb

Stanford’s Junior left tackle Andrus Peat is a big, powerful left tackle that has played 27 games in his first two seasons with the Cardinal. Peat looks the part of a prototypical tackle, as he’s got long arms and a thick lower body. Peat displays excellent technique, showing nimble footwork in pass protection and surprising strength and mobility that allows him to consistently make second-level blocks when run blocking.

Stanford QB Kevin Hogan, Redshirt Junior, 6’4” 228 lbs

Stanford QB is no Andrew Luck, but he could be a day one draft pick next May.
Stanford QB is no Andrew Luck, but he could be a day one draft pick next May.

Stanford’s signal caller Kevin Hogan is an underrated quarterback at the moment, due to the fact that he’s in a run-first, Pro-Style offense that requires him to be a game-manager, rather than an air-it-out spread passer. Hogan possesses a big, well-built frame that scouts will like, but he’s tough in the pocket, showing the ability to climb and make quick decisions.

Hogan, unlike other highly ranked 2015 quarterback prospects has experience with play action, bootlegs and other “Pro-Style” NFL concepts. Don’t be surprised if Hogan has a Blake Bortles-like rise up draft boards by the end of the season.

Also Keep an Eye on:

USC WR Nelson Algholor, Junior, 6’0” 185 lbs (My No. 8 ranked WR)

STAN WR Ty Montgomery, Senior, 6’2” 215 lbs (My No. 6 ranked WR)

(7) Michigan State at (3) Oregon

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota, Juniot, 6’4” 215 lbs

Marcus Mariota was projected as a top-5 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but the electric Oregon signal-caller that threw for 63 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions, which adding 1,467 yards and 14 scores on the ground opted to return for his senior season. Mariota has proven that he can make all the throws, from standing in the pocket to making difficult throws look easy when rolling out of the pocket.

Mariota is in a scheme that relies on one-read passes and a lot of screens, which will undoubtedly be counted as a knock against him as the draft process progresses, so if he can be consistent in his intermediate and deep passes, there’s no reason why Mariota couldn’t be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft.

Michigan State EDGE Shilique Calhoun, Redshirt Junior, 6’4” 250 lbs

Michigan State's physical defense is led by edge rusher Shilique Calhoun
Michigan State’s physical defense is led by edge rusher Shilique Calhoun

Thrust into Michigan State’s starting lineup last season, Shilique Calhoun took no time making a name for himself, recording 37 tackles, 14 of which came for a loss and 7.5 sacks, in addition to picking off a pass and forcing two fumbles, both of which he returned for touchdowns.

Calhoun is a fundamentally-sound edge player, a breath of fresh air for draft analysts that have seen uber-athletic pass rushers such as Dion Jordan, Quinton Coples and Nick Perry get drafted high and fail to make any sort of impact.

Calhoun has a well-built, long frame and already has shown that he can “bend the corner,” a requisite trait of any elite pass rusher. In addition to being a valuable pass rusher, he is also strong enough to set the edge against the run. Calhoun is one of my favorite edge rusher prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft, and it will be interesting to see how his stock climbs throughout the year.

Also Keep an Eye On:

Oregon DE/DT Arik Armstead, Junior, 6’7” 288 lbs (My No. 4 4-3 DT/3-4DT)

Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Senior 5’9” 195 lbs (My No. 1 CB)

Michigan State QB Connor Cook, RS Junior, 6’4” 228 lbs (My No.4 QB)

Michigan State FS Kurtis Drummond, RS Senior, 6’1” 200 lbs (haven’t watched, consensus No. 1 FS)