USC's Sam Darnold and Wyoming's Josh Allen are projected to be among the top picks in the 2018 NFL draft, but could their stock have slipped after their struggles in college football's opening weekend? Mel Kiper and Todd McShay debate if either's standing took a hit, plus other hot topics from college football's opening week.
Buy or sell: Josh Allen and/or Sam Darnold's stock dropping after Week 1
Kiper: I'm selling Allen's stock dropping after Week 1
I'm going to reiterate what I said on Saturday: Don't judge Allen on this one performance. Judge him on his entire body of work, because that's what NFL teams will do.
You can't evaluate Wyoming QB Josh Allen, who's No. 2 on my preseason Big Board, on this game at Iowa alone. You have to take into account every game. In fact, Ben Roethlisberger had a four-interception game against the Hawkeyes to open the 2003 season. Allen has showed he has an NFL arm, but that offense just lost too many weapons to compete against a front seven as good as Iowa's. I want to see Allen improve from week to week this season.
I know, the stat line wasn't great -- 23-of-40 passing with no touchdown passes and two picks in the 24-3 loss to the Hawkeyes. But he just doesn't have a lot of talent around him. The Wyoming offense lost 47 touchdowns from last season's team, along with its center. You can't take away 47 touchdowns and a center and not affect the quarterback.
Allen has an NFL arm and showed his athleticism on Saturday. My opinion hasn't changed after one game -- Allen's raw, but he's a high-end talent.
McShay: I'm selling Darnold's dropping draft stock
There's no doubt that Saturday wasn't Darnold's finest performance (23-of 33, 289 yards, 2 INTs), but overall, I thought he played better than the numbers suggest. Going back through the tape, he suffered from inconsistent protection and there were several times his wide receivers looked like they ran the wrong routes. Don't get me wrong, he missed a few throws. But there are usually a few missed throws in every game.
This looked like a USC team shaking off the rust, and it's good that Western Michigan was lined up against them as opposed to their Week 2 opponent (Stanford). Darnold will be fine, and is still an elite QB in my mind.
Buy or sell: Michigan can win the Big Ten
Kiper: I'm buying Michigan as a contender in the Big Ten
OK, Florida's offense is anemic, and the Gators had 10 players suspended for Saturday's game, but that Wolverines defense was impressive in the 33-17 win. Remember: Michigan lost a record-11 players to the NFL draft, and eight of those were defenders on the No. 2 defense in the country. I was very impressed Saturday with Maurice Hurst, who's on my preseason Big Board. But players who aren't yet draft-eligible stood out, too. Devin Bush was all over the field. Former five-star recruit Rashan Gary flashed. This young defense is going to keep getting better.
Now, the offense has to improve in a hurry. Wilton Speight had a poor game. But this Michigan team is going to battle, and its young roster will keep improving. We know Ohio State and Penn State are good -- and hey, Maryland pulled off a great win over Texas on Saturday -- but don't sleep on the Wolverines in the Big Ten East.
McShay: I'm buying Michigan as legit contenders in the Big Ten
I've been saying all summer that Michigan is one of the most underrated programs in the country. Speight is the most important piece, and while he's capable of playing at a high level he needs to cut down on the forced errors. The defense was terrific on Saturday against Florida, but it's tough to win when you throw two pick-sixes. I trust Harbaugh will continue to help him in that regard.
I'm buying into the exceptional recruiting, competitive culture and a defense that is much better than people thought with all of the losses to the NFL draft (Jabrill Peppers, Taco Charlton, Jourdan Lewis, Ben Gedeon and Chris Wormley, among others). The schedule isn't easy (at Penn State on Oct. 21; at Wisconsin on Nov. 18; and vs. Ohio State on Nov. 25), but I think this time will be a competitor in the Big Ten.
Buy or sell: Saquon Barkley as a Heisman Trophy contender
Kiper: I'm buying Barkley as a Heisman contender
This isn't about what Barkley did on Saturday, though he did thrash Akron for 172 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 carries. That 52-0 win won't tell you much about Penn State this season.
But Barkley was a legitimate Heisman candidate before the season started -- he only solidified his status Saturday. Penn State is loaded on offense, and Barkley is the key guy. He rushed for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, and he'll also chip in in the pass game. He had 3 catches for 54 yards against the Zips.
If the Nittany Lions keep winning, Barkley will be in the Heisman discussion. I'll be keeping a close eye this season. He's my top-ranked back for the 2018 draft.
McShay: I'm buying Barkley as a Heisman contender
I agree with Mel that Barkley will be in the Heisman discussion if the Nittany Lions keep winning, but I'll take it a step further: He is the best player in college football right now.
He was the No. 5-ranked overall player on my initial Top 32 and the top running back. He won't be the first player drafted in the 2018 draft because of this QB class and how running backs are valued in today's NFL, but if I was starting a CFB program right now and had my choice of any player in the country, I would take Barkley.
Prospects on the rise
Kiper: Shaun Dion Hamilton, ILB, Alabama
Hamilton tore his ACL last December in the SEC title game, and I wanted to see how he looked coming back from his injury. But he was extremely impressive in the Crimson Tide's 24-7 win over Florida State, looking like the quality prospect he was prior to hurting his knee. He had 8 tackles -- 3.5 for loss -- and a sack. I love his all-around game. He reads and reacts quickly, shows impressive speed to the ball and breaks down well to make one-on-one tackles. The 6-foot, 235-pound Hamilton is a disruptive force who jumps out on tape. He's well on his way to being my top-ranked inside linebacker for the 2018 draft.
McShay: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
Tied at 14 at the half with Western Michigan, Jones just might have saved USC's season. Darnold clearly had an off day, but he was bailed out by his running back, who had 159 yards and 3 TDs. Jones' elite top-end speed was on display, as well as his ability to hit holes with a purpose. He's not as well-rounded a back as Barkley or some others in this class, but he's very explosive. I gave him a Day 2 grade coming into the season, but he's off to a great start.
Kiper: Aaron Stinnie, OG, James Madison
Great win for the Dukes on Saturday, routing East Carolina 34-14. They rushed for 422 yards on 9.6 yards per carry, thanks in part to their left tackle Stinnie, who flashed on tape. He showed powerful hands and blocked effectively on the move and moved defenders off the ball in the run game. At 6-4, 305, Stinnie, played defensive line in 2014 for JMU before moving over to offense. This is his third season as the starter at left tackle. He has great bloodlines, too. Stinnie's father, Phil, is the seventh-leading scorer in VCU history. He's 6-8. Stinnie might have to move inside to be a guard in the NFL, but he's an intriguing Day 3 prospect.
McShay: Cardon Johnson, RB, James Madison
The redshirt senior rushed for 265 yards and two TDs in the Dukes' 34-14 win over East Carolina. He also had two catches for 12 yards. Johnson helped put away the game with two long TD runs (85 and 80 yards) in the second half.