Who should you be watching today?
Good morning New York Giants fans!
Happy Saturday and welcome to Week 12 of the 2023 college football season. This is a “weird” time of year when the differences in the college and NFL schedules become apparent. While we’re still in the middle of the NFL season, there’s only a few more weeks of college football until we get Championship Weekend and then Bowl Season.
Things will get very interesting in the next couple weeks, but we have a few intriguing matchups this weekend, including a stiff test for one of the top quarterback prospects. We’ll get to that game in a bit, but right now I want to talk about a quarterback who’s developing a serious underground following.
Michael Pratt, QB, Tulane
Florida Atlantic vs. (24) Tulane – ESPN+, noon
I usually try to avoid mentioning players and games that not everyone will get to see. However, we’ll be hearing a lot of Pratt’s name over the coming weeks and months, so I wanted to take this opportunity to bring him to everyone’s attention. Pratt is a bit of an anachronism in the modern collegiate game as a tall, stoutly-built pocket passer in an era where dual threats and the ability to turn the game into a true 11-on-11 affair. He’s a player who has enough mobility to navigate the pocket, but likely won’t be out-running defenses in the NFL. Likewise, he lacks the “rocket” arm that gets fans and scouts excited in workouts and the Combine. That isn’t to say that Pratt has a squirt gun attached to his shoulder, but more that his arm is merely “adequate” to execute an NFL offense.
Instead, he’s lifted Tulane with his football IQ, pocket presence, decision making, technique, and accuracy. Pratt has also improved each of his years at Tulane. In his four years as a starter, he’s lowered his sack rate from 13 percent to 5 percent while raising his completion percentage from 55 percent to 68 percent, and raised his yards per attempt from 7.1 to 9.1.
One of the most overlooked facets of Dak Prescott’s and Jalen Hurts’ draft profiles is how they improved as passers over the course of their college careers. Michael Pratt could be another senior quarterback who goes in the the second round but winds up surpassing expectations.
Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
Clemson vs. (20) North Carolina – ESPN, 3:30 p.m.
Maye is in contention to be the first player drafted in April, and for good reason. Maye has every tool a scout or coach could ask for in a quarterback prospect and he’s drawn comparisons to Justin Herbert or a young Carson Palmer. Looking at him on tape, it’s easy to see where those comps are coming from. Maye stands 6-foot-4, 230 pounds with plenty of arm strength and the athleticism to escape pressure or hurt defenses that ignore the threat his legs pose. He has 58 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions over the last two seasons and has repeatedly come up big in big moments.
It’s easy to get excited about Maye, but he also has room for improvement — that can be taken as a positive or negative. On one hand, it’s impressive that he’s lifting North Carolina despite not yet being a finished product. On the other hand, he’ll need development to reach his full potential at the NFL level, and that’s always an uncertain process. Maye still needs to work on greater consistency in his throwing motion, as well improving his field vision, anticipation, and processing.
Maye’s potential really is sky-high and he could be counted as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL if he manages to reach his ceiling. It’s also notable that Joe Schoen and the Giants have scouted North Carolina extensively this year.
Nate Wiggins, CB, Clemson
Clemson vs. (20) North Carolina – ESPN, 3:30 p.m.
I waited until this week to bring up Drake Maye because of his opponent, and he’ll get one of his stiffest tests of the year today against Clemson.
While the (Clemson) Tigers have disappointed overall this year, their defense is still pretty talented. In particular, I want to talk about 6-foot-2, 185-pound CB Nate Wiggins. Wiggins is a tall, long, fluid, and disruptive cornerback who’s aggressive at the catch point. He has 18 passes defensed since becoming a full-time starter in 2022, and while he only has three interceptions, he’s returned two of them for touchdowns.
Wiggins will need to work on his discipline at the top of routes to avoid pass interference calls at the NFL level, and he might be too thin for some teams. He’ll definitely need to work on his tackling technique to consistently bring down NFL ball carriers. Likewise, he might struggle in close quarters against big, strong receivers.
However, his foot quickness, body control, and length will make him a threat and the kind of player teams will want to work with. The Giants could have a need at cornerback in 2024 and have already shown a preference for long, athletic, and aggressive corners. They might target Wiggins (or a player like him) if he slips out of the first round.
Elsewhere on the defense, linebackers Barrett Carter (game time decision) and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. are both good players who could go some time on the second day of the draft. Likewise, 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive lineman Ruke Orhorhoro could intrigue teams somewhere in the mid rounds.
Amarius Mims, OT, Georgia
(18) Tennessee vs. (1) Georgia – ABC, 3:30 p.m.
I’ve been waiting a long time to talk about Georgia’s right tackle. Mims suffered a nasty high ankle sprain against South Carolina and got tightrope surgery on Sept. 18th to speed his recovery. He missed the remainder of September, all of October, and returned last week against Ole Miss.
We don’t have the kind of sample size of game tape on Mims that we normally like to see from players who could go highly in the draft. He’s only started six games (two in 2022, four in 2023) thanks to his injury and the incredible depth of talent all over the Georgia roster. However, his upside is incredibly tantalizing, and he could be a first-round pick based on that potential and the brief glimpses we’ve seen.
I’m calling it now, Georgia OT Amarius Mims will be the best lineman in the SEC in 2023 pic.twitter.com/jAAqxKwuFB
— Joe DeLeone (@joedeleone) May 16, 2023
Mims is listed at 340 pounds and carries his weight extremely well across his 6-foot-7 frame. He has fantastic play strength, great grip strength, and seems to know how to use his size to his advantage. He also has impressive feet and is able to keep up with speed off the edge. There’s no guarantee that Mims will declare for the 2024 NFL Draft, particularly after he missed so much of this season due to injury.
He could be the first lineman drafted next year, or his brush with injury could convince him to make the leap to the NFL now. Personally, I’d like to see him get more experience before leaving for the NFL, but I can certainly understand the decision to declare. So we should definitely take not of Mims now — we’ll be hearing a lot from him whenever he enters the draft.
Taliese Fuaga, OT, Oregon State
(11) Oregon State vs. (5) Washington – ABC, 7:30 p.m.
It’s a mark of just how much talent the Washington Huskies have that they keep popping up in our weekly college football posts. But today I want to look at Oregon State’s right tackle, Taliese Fuaga, who has been one of the top offensive linemen in college football.
Fuaga is a mauler of a tackle at 6-foot-6, 335 pounds, an absolute road grader of a run blocker, and a reliable pass protector as well. He’s only given up 18 hurries and 1 QB hit in 638 pass sets over the last two years (per PFF). Fuaga will get the chance to show just how good he is when he’s matched up against Husky’s DE Bralen Trice, who could be a first round pick in April’s draft as well.
He’s a well-rounded and versatile lineman with true scheme diversity (he can play equally well in man-gap and zone blocking schemes), and he has plenty of movement skills to get to the second level as well. Fuaga’s competitive toughness and willingness to get after defenders is also sure to bring a smile to the faces of fans and coaches alike.
Oregon State OT Taliese Fuaga is so versatile. Wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an #NFL team try him at guard as well.
— • Colton Edwards • (@cedwardsNFL) November 10, 2023
It’s early yet, but the 2024 NFL Draft looks to be a truly stacked one at the quarterback, wide receiver, edge/pass rusher, cornerback, and offensive tackle positions. But even so, it’s hard to see Fuaga slipping out of the first round. If he does, an OL-hungry team like the Giants should absolutely pounce at the top of the second round.
Teams will also be paying close attention to Oregon State QB D.J. Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei was a coveted recruit for Clemson, but failed to live up to expectations or the glimpses of his upside.
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Title: 2024 Draft watch: Players (and games) to watch for the Giants in week 12
Author: Chris Pflum