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Stanford v. Kansas State NFL Draft Preview

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One. Day. More. Until the first College Football Saturday of the season. I am excited. You should be excited. Everyone should be excited for the incredible slate of games coming on all of this weekend. To hold us over until then, there are a few games tonight, but only one has a bevy of NFL talent as well as immediate College Football Playoff implications: Stanford against Kansas State. Of course Kansas State is an unranked team going up against Stanford, who is the 19th ranked team in the country and has one of the most dynamic players in college football, but Bill Snyder's Wildcats have a habit of giving any team in the country trouble. Even though everything looks unbalanced on paper, the game has the chance to be tonight's most intriguing. In what could be a tough matchup, there are some players to keep an eye on for NFL Draft purposes...

  • Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: There is not much to say about Christian McCaffrey that has not been said already. He is possibly the most dynamic player in college football, easily the most versatile, and is one of the best running back prospects in the country. The 6-1, 205 human joystick is impossible to deal with when he is in the open field and he has the athletic ability to break a long play from anywhere. Kansas State is always playing physical football under Bill Snyder, so it will be big for McCaffrey to get hot quickly and show he can bring the hit as a running back to compliment his finesse game.
  • Johnny Caspers, OG, Stanford: Stanford is all about getting big up front and punching defenses in the mouth with their running game. They have had a first round offensive lineman in each of the last two drafts and figure to field another talented blocker this year. Caspers is a stalwart at the right guard position where his athletic ability and nastiness make him an asset as a pulling guard in their power running game. Caspers is the most experienced member of the Cardinal line, so he will need to have a great game tonight in order to jumpstart the offense.
  • Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford: There is a lot of youth on the Stanford defense. So much that redshirt sophomore, Solomon Thomas stands out as an elder statesman. Stanford like to be multiple on defense, which has given the 6-2, 275 defender a lot of experience at various spots along the defensive line. Thomas is an impressive athlete with the burst and power to go through offensive linemen, but also displays a finesse on the edge that allows him to get around them. Only playing one year, Thomas still has some rawness to his game in terms of leverage, awareness and how to use his hands to fight and disengage blocks, but his flashes were incredibly impressive a year ago and he figures to be a breakout player this year. Kansas State loves running the ball and getting their quarterback involved as a mobile threat, so it will be important for Thomas to be disruptive, especially when a lot of the Stanford defense is unproven and inexperienced to this point.
  • Zach Hoffpauir, S, Stanford: Another veteran on the Cardinal defense has had an interesting path to his position on the team. After being All Conference at safety in 2014, Hoffpauir was drafted in the MLB draft and spent 2015 playing minor league ball. He eventually decided his athletic ability was best suited for the gridiron instead of the diamond and he just might be right. The 6-0, 200 pounder has good athletic ability but greater awareness on the back end of a defense. He has a knack to know where the ball is going and puts himself in great positions to make a play. Hoffpauir is a little stiff and can get overaggressive, but he has good downhill speed that makes him an impact player against the run. It will be intriguing to see his play in his first game of football after taking a year off, especially if Kansas State tries to go down the field early.
  • Dante Barnett, S, Kansas State: Unsurprisingly, Kansas State is not exactly loaded with NFL prospects. Yes they've had players go on day two in the last two drafts, but overall they are not close to the talented team that Stanford is. Their most intriguing player is fifth year senior safety, Dante Barnett. Barnett has been making plays since his freshman year at K-State and is one of the most productive defenders in the schools history. Unfortunately, Barnett lost his 2015 season to an injury he suffered in the team's opener last year. Barnett decided to stay for another season and that will be big for the Wildcats, especially tonight. Barnett is a tone setter on the team who likes to bring the hit in the running game. He is an incredibly intelligent player with decent athletic ability, allowing him to play competently all over a defense, though he is at his best closer to the line of scrimmage. If K-State is to have a chance against the Cardinal, it is going to be a big performance from their senior safety that helps that along.

While tonight's group of games is not world beating, Stanford and Kansas state definitely will prove to be entertaining, if for no other reason than a big Christian McCaffrey performance. As for the other games tonight, be sure to tune into Temple versus Army on CBS at 7 to check out Temple's dynamic backfield of Jahad Thomas and PJ Walker take on the Black Knights. Both are going to have big seasons and be in the conversation of NFL draft picks in a few months... Otherwise, FS1 is the place to be at 9 PM to see the Cardinal take on the Wildcats at Stanford Stadium.

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