- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
After last week's look at a trio of defensive players who have a chance to boost their stock, it's time to turn our attention to the offense.
The three players below currently grade out as Day 2 prospects, but all could raise their profiles in the coming weeks with solid performances against top completion.
Baylor WR Terrance Williams
(Scouts Inc. grade: 84)
Baylor's schedule for the next month is brutal, with the Bears traveling to No. 9 West Virginia, hosting No. 15 TCU, then heading to No. 12 Texas after a bye week.
Williams has a chance to get off to a strong start against a Mountaineers defense that's been split by opposing passing attacks (276.7 ypg), and with both offenses likely racing up and down the field, Williams should get plenty of chances to make plays. The Horned Frogs and Longhorns are tougher tests on paper, but ones Williams is capable of passing with high marks.
Williams isn't the most consistent or crisp route-runner at this point and doesn't have elite hands, but his blend of fluidity and suddenness translates into above-average potential. He also has the frame (6-foot-2⅜, 201 pounds) and top-end speed to stretch defenses vertically.
A TCU pass defense that's been statistically stingy (172.7 ypg) against the pass hasn't faced an offense anywhere near as explosive Baylor's, and there was a lot of turnover in the secondary heading into the year. And as talented as Longhorns CBs Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom are, both looked vulnerable at times in their game against Mississippi.
All of which means Williams has an opportunity to make enough plays in the next month to give his stock a bump.
Stanford TE Zach Ertz* (83)
Stanford is at Washington tonight, hosts Arizona next week, then travels to South Bend to take on No. 10 Notre Dame. Playing on a Thursday night gives Ertz a great platform to stand out and generate buzz, and the Wildcats have given up some big numbers to Oklahoma State and Oregon.
Arizona defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel is one of the best in the country, though, so Ertz will face a challenge. Notre Dame's physical front should provide evaluators with a great opportunity to gauge his progress as a blocker, and the matchup with physical Irish safety Zeke Motta over the middle is also worth watching.
Ertz is arguably the best tight end in this draft class at separating from coverage, and his ability to snatch the ball out of the air without breaking stride puts him in ideal position to produce after the catch. Although he doesn't have elite top-end speed, Ertz is fast enough, and has the size (6-6, 249) and athleticism to make plays down the field.
His biggest flaw at this point is his blocking. He doesn't generate enough push and he has some problems sustaining his blocks. A strong performance in this area against Notre Dame would go a long way toward changing that perception and helping his late-second round grade.
Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews* (76)
The Aggies host Arkansas, travel to Ole Miss and travel to Louisiana Tech for the next three games, but after those chances to build momentum, things get a whole lot tougher against No. 3 LSU and at Auburn in the last two weeks of October.
Those two games mean facing LSU DEs Barkevious Mingo* and Sam Montgomery* and Auburn DE Corey Lemonier* (all first-round prospects). All have great burst and body control when turning the corner, and while all three are somewhat undersized, they are explosive enough to use speed to generate power and put bigger offensive tackles on roller skates.
Matthews (6-5, 305) is unlikely to see much of Montgomery, but he has his work cut out for him and could struggle against Mingo and Lemonier. Matthews had some problems handling speed off the edge as a pass-blocker last year, and while he's more effective as a run-blocker, his first step is inconsistent and he won't get away with sub-par footwork working against these quick-twitch ends.
I'm optimistic about his chances, though, based on Matthews' performance against Florida earlier this season. His footwork was a bit inconsistent and he could have played with better pad level, but Matthews showed the ability to handle both speed and power against the Gators. He has the upper-body strength and enough arm length to ride rushers past the pocket when he can get his hands on them, and the base and power to move these ends off the ball when he gets into sound initial position.
If Jake -- the son of legendary NFL offensive lineman Bruce Matthews -- shows well against those elite ends he will certainly turn some heads and help his third-round stock.
415dTodd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl