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College Football Rivalry Week: NFL Draft Observations and Players of the Week

Notre Dame v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The college football regular season has ended on a very high note, with some great games being played in the final week. With tons of high stakes games, there was plenty on display when it came to the nation’s top teams and players. Here are a few thoughts from the final week of regular season games.

  • Two running back’s big days and what they told us. Two backs played a big part in their teams’ rivalry games. Michigan’s Blake Corum ran for 88 yards and two scores to help the Wolverines beat Ohio State for the third straight year. A few hours later, Audric Estime rushed for almost 240 yards and four scores against a hapless Stanford defense. Watching Corum, he plays a throwback style of football that is predicated on quick, smart decisions and a tough running style. Corum is stocky and low to the ground at 5’8” and over 210 pounds, making him hard to tackle. He had a 22 yard scamper against a tough Buckeyes defense, but otherwise didn’t make any big plays. This is consistent for who he has been the last two years at Michigan. While he has scored a staggering 40 times in the last two seasons, Corum’s game is best as a short yardage back. He is a good, not great athlete who doesn’t offer much as a receiver. As prolific and excellent he has been in college, it is hard to see his game translating to being a primary back in the NFL due to his lack of dynamic athleticism. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a valuable role player. Teams need guys who can get tough, reliable yardage. On the other hand, it’s easier to be confident in Audric Estime being a game changer in the NFL. Estime is also a stocky, powerful back at 5’11” and nearly 230 pounds, but he has a lot more breakaway speed than Corum. He has the vision and power to get tough yardage, but can also outrun defenses and force team’s to adjust for the threat of his home run hitting ability. Stanford is not nearly the defensive team that Ohio State is this year, but Estime’s big day was emblematic of who he has been all year: a player who can pick up the tough yardage and the big yardage. He also is not proven as a pass catching back, but it’s easier to see his athletic profile translating to the NFL.
  • There are a lot of great receivers in the NFL draft. Troy Franklin is one of them. Troy Franklin has been a dominant force in the Oregon Ducks offense this year. It’s rare that a receiver sees a lot of volume and remains highly efficient in their usage. Troy Franklin has the 19th most receptions in the country at 77 and is averaging a whopping 17.5 yards per reception. Only one other player in the top 20, Malik Nabers, is averaging more. Among those 20 players, Nabers and Franklin lead the group with 14 receiving touchdowns but Malik Nabers has caught nine more passes. Franklin has a long, slim frame that he uses to box out cornerbacks and make tough passes. What is surprising about Franklin is how he moves at his speed. He bursts off the line and has a great second gear to burn defenses. Franklin had another great performance against a stingy Oregon State defense, catching nine passes for 128 yards and a score and helped the Ducks dominate that rivalry game. He has put together a special season for the Ducks and should be highly coveted in the upcoming draft.
  • This is a draft class without a great defensive player. The last few drafts have produced some special defensive players who evidently great when they were in college. Last year it was Will Anderson and Jalen Carter. The year prior it was Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux. The year prior it was Micah Parsons and Patrick Surtain II... This year? There are plenty of really good defenders. Guys like Jer’Zahn Newton from Illinois, Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry, or Laiatu Latu out of UCLA. However, none of those guys are having top ten pick type seasons. A lot can happen between now and the draft, including the potential for one of these guys having a great combine. However at this juncture in previous years, there were stand-out blue chip players on defense that just have not emerged this season.

Offensive Player of the Week: Audric Estime, Running Back, Notre Dame

Audric Estime averaged 9.5 yards per carry against Stanford in Notre Dame’s 56-23 win over Stanford. Meaning Estime averaged nearly a first down every time he touched the ball. Even if you take out his longest run of 39 yards, Estime still averaged a whopping 8.3 yards on his 24 other carries. He was just running through Stanford like a hot knife through butter. On the season, Estime has rushed for over 1,300 yards and 18 scores and has been a huge factor in Notre Dame’s offensive success. Yes, the Irish line is probably the best in the country, but Estime maximizes the space given to him with his powerful running style and big-play speed. At this juncture, Estime feels like the best back in the upcoming draft class.

Defensive Player of the Week: Cobee Bryant, Cornerback, Kansas

Cobee Bryant had one of the best plays of the week, if not the season, when he caught an acrobatic interception with one hand against Cincinnati on Saturday. It was a highlight in Kansas’ 49-16 beatdown of the Bearcats. Bryant’s great game was more than just one play, however. He locked down his opponent for four quarters and contributed to a defensive performance that only allowed 111 passing yards through the air. Bryant has been a stalwart pass defender all season, barely being targeted and punishing offenses when they do decide to throw his way. He has been a key factor in Kansas’ successful eight win season.

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