Saturday Scouting: When Will Ed Oliver Be Selected?

Bowl Season continues this weekend in College Football, with a handful of games taking place all around the country. As the postseason rolls along, I thought we’d look at the top three names to watch in today’s games, some others to watch out for, and two prospects that won’t play but will watch their teams from the sideline.

Saturday’s Top 3

Here are the three best players you need to be watching in the games today.

1. Houston CB Isaiah Johnson

There are a bunch of talented players hitting the field for their final games of the season on Saturday, but Isaiah Johnson is my favorite. Johnson is a converted wide receiver who made the move to defense leading into his junior season. He has legitimate size at 6-2, 200 pounds, but with really good speed to complement it. Johnson was an all-state hurdler in high school and is expected to run in the low-to-mid 4.40 range in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine in February.

Anytime you have size and speed with the ability to make plays at the catch point at the cornerback spot, you’re going to be viewed as a valuable commodity in the NFL Draft. Johnson will be at the Senior Bowl next month. He needs to prove himself as a tackler and, more importantly, recognize things quicker in coverage. Johnson is a high-upside corner who can really boost his stock in Mobile in January. Keep a close eye on Johnson in this game.

Prediction: Houston takes on Army in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday afternoon. The Cougars have competed well this year, but they fired their defensive coordinator after the regular season, meaning that there’s transition internally as the team tries to prepare for Army’s Triple Option offense. Remember, Army took Oklahoma to the limit earlier this season, has won eight straight games, and is running the football very well. I’m taking an upset here with Army in what should be a relatively sound victory.

2. Louisiana Tech DE Jaylon Ferguson

In a class full of defensive linemen, Jaylon Ferguson is a player who is getting a bit lost in the shuffle. Standing tall at 6-5, 260 pounds, the senior defensive end is really strong against the run, plays with a high motor, and has the versatility to play standing up or with his hand on the ground. Ferguson’s overall athletic upside is a question mark, but with his size and physical tools, I believe he will be a starter in the NFL, much in the mold of current New Orleans Saints defensive end Alex Okafor. The three-year starter will also be at the Senior Bowl in January, and if he can do damage as a pass rusher in drills, he may see his stock climb.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech faces Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl late on Saturday night, and while the Warriors are the home team in this one, Louisiana Tech has won four straight bowl games. This is a well-coached team with plenty of NFL talent, particularly on defense. I’m leaning with the Bulldogs here.

3. Buffalo WR Anthony Johnson

Of the players listed in this piece, Anthony Johnson is the only one who actually played at Lincoln Financial Field this year, as the senior scored the game-winning touchdown against the Temple Owls at the Linc back in September. At 6-2, 220 pounds, Johnson is a well-built wideout who excels at going up and winning at the catch point. On that big catch against the Owls, he showed some juice and competitiveness after the catch, taking a slant route to the house while nursing a leg injury.

It’s efforts like that one that get prospects noticed, but I don’t think Johnson needed it. He was pretty well-known as one of the most productive receivers in college football entering the season, and he will get to once again prove his wares on Saturday and then again in a few weeks at the Senior Bowl. Is Johnson athletic enough to play outside in the NFL? That’s the big question.

Prediction: Buffalo takes on Troy in the Dollar General Bowl on Saturday night, and I like the Bulls here. While they fell short in the MAC Championship Game earlier this month, that offense has been tough to stop, while Troy’s defense has struggled at points this year. Give me UB for the win.

Watching From The Sidelines

There are two prospects who won’t be on the field on Saturday but will be watching their teams from afar as they prepare for the NFL Draft.

Houston DT Ed Oliver

It was no surprise to hear that star defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who declared for the 2019 NFL Draft two months before the 2018 NFL Draft took place, was going to sit out this week’s festivities. The junior dealt with a nagging injury in the latter half of the year, and he’s already done more than enough to prove himself to NFL teams. An explosive interior disruptor who has game-wrecking potential at defensive tackle, Oliver’s size will come into question. Is he a lock for the Top 10 of this draft? Or could he fall to the Eagles in the first round? My guess is on the former, but time will tell in one of the best defensive line draft classes of our lifetime.

Memphis RB Darrell Henderson

Memphis running back Darrell Henderson declared for the draft a week ago and it was not much of a surprise. The junior has been extremely productive throughout his career for the Tigers, drawing comparisons to former Memphis star and first-round draft pick DeAngelo Williams, who starred in the league for a long time. Like Williams, Henderson is an explosive darter as a ball carrier, who picks up chunks of yardage in a hurry in both the run game and as a pass catcher. I’m excited to dig deeper into his film, but he’ll definitely hear his name called in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Prediction: Memphis takes on Wake Forest in the Birmingham Bowl in the first game on Saturday, and Henderson’s absence should make a world of difference for the Tigers. Wake barely sneaked into the postseason, but this is a seasoned ACC squad. At the end of the day, however, I’m going with the Tigers. Give me Memphis in a close victory.

Keeping Score

What fun is making predictions if we’re not keeping score?

Last Week: 3-1

Season Record: 82-28 (.745)

North Texas came up very, very short for me last week against Utah State, keeping me from sweeping the weekend picks.

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