Projecting players to the league midway through the season can be premature. With many games to be played, including the heart of conference schedules, currently jumping on the table for a prospect can go sour quickly if not everything follows suit.
While other prospects get to improve on notable flaws in the second half of the season, many high-profile prospects will not be able to put anything else on game tape because of season-ending injuries.
Dealing with an abdominal injury since mid-September, Nick Bosa decided to hang up his Ohio State career and look forward to the NFL Draft. His sole focus now will be on his rehabilitation process and future.
“I was hopeful that Nick would be able to return to play again for us,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said in the Big Ten’s weekly teleconference. “This was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for Nick and his family, and I wish him well as he moves on to get himself 100 percent healthy and ready for his next chapter. I want to thank Nick for the remarkable efforts he gave for this program. He is a first-class young man who we have been honored to coach.”
Instead of having to speculate each week whether the prolific pass rusher would suit up again in scarlet, he answered the question on Tuesday, Oct. 16.
Bosa has been inked as a top-five pick since he arrived in Columbus in 2016 and even with the aggravating core muscle injury, his status should remain the same. Bosa’s on-field performance has been nothing shy of impressive.
He goes to work quickly with an initial burst to instantly add stress to the opposition. Bosa consistently wins with above average handwork whether slapping away an initial punch by his matchup or keeping his hands tight and cocked back with power for later use.
If Bosa chooses a different route to the quarterback or his initial movement fails to threaten the pocket, he has the toolkit to terrorize the passer in a variety of ways. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end plays with adequate control to effectively execute a spin and rip move. His flexibility paves the way to his first-round level bend with lower body control and enough hip fluidity with loose ankles to slide under tackles, even the ones with appropriate body technique.
The slippery defender has excellent contact balance and plays with a forward lean to prevent from being locked up at the point of attack. His non-stop motor creates even more tension for the tackle and opposing quarterbacks that knowingly have already sped up their internal clocks.
The decision to leave school at the midterm of the semester may not be unanimously agreed upon. But one thing that should be undivided across the board is Bosa being the top prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Bosa has already gained the attention from many evaluators in the league based on his athletic ability and well-documented family history.
Another pass rusher that saw his season get cut short by injury doesn’t have the same luxury in his description. USC defender Porter Gustin suffered a fractured ankle versus Colorado that will require surgery ending his college football career.
Dealing with an injury is not unfamiliar to Gustin. Before the season kicked off, he suffered a minor meniscus tear in his left knee during fall camp. This injury comes after playing just four games in 2017 with frustrating bicep and toe issues.
“It’s tough hard he’s put so much into it, has done so much for our team,” USC head coach Clay Helton said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But now it’s about him going through this surgery, him getting well and us focusing on getting him well. It’s going to be a three-to-four-month process to get him back where he can show exactly what we all know, that he’s a NFL football player, to NFL general managers and scouts.”
Even in just the six games played in 2018, Gustin already achieved a personal career high in sacks in a season with seven. That total currently ranks first in the Pac-12. In his lone two full seasons (2015 and 2016), Gustin averages per season 46 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.
Gustin isn’t the athlete of Bosa but his motor and prowess cater to his powerful style of play. He has the power to stack offensive linemen with enough torque and leg drive to control at the point of attack. His overall functional strength may not be to the liking of some evaluators at first glance but if his pad level is consistent that concern may disappear.
This season he has shown vast improvements in his pass rush reps by exercising more flexibility. He shows an attractive lean to slip under inside blockers and has a shoulder dip that is useful on the outside. More of a power rusher than a finesse player, Gustin’s skill set doesn’t scream first round talent but his consistency and run defense capability should give him a shot at the top 75 picks.
Jim Nagy, director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, has already expressed his interest in Gustin. With a good week in Mobile, Alabama, assuming he gets an invite, his stock could see a considerable rise.
Everyone @seniorbowl is thinking about @USC_FB OLB/Edge #45 Porter Gustin, who is expected to miss remainder of his senior season with an ankle fracture. Our friends on the USC staff love this young man. We looked forward to having him in Mobile. Prayers for a speedy recovery. pic.twitter.com/gwBwTJNG44
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) October 15, 2018
Bosa and Gustin’s college football careers are over, but the same cannot be said for explosive Ole Miss receiver DK Metcalf yet. The redshirt sophomore suffered a neck injury that looks to require surgery. The injury is not directly spine related but is more severe than initially perceived.
“My concern for DK is the best for him long-term,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said, according to Saturday Down South. “We are trying to make sure he has the best info, as far as surgery, and we will get to that other stuff (his NFL decision) later. My mindset is on getting him healthy.”
“That other stuff” became more apparent just seven weeks into the 2018 season. Seen as somewhat as an afterthought to the big-bodied AJ Brown, led the team with 1,252 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017, Metcalf created a name for himself this season.
Metcalf steps away from the 2018 season leading the team in touchdown receptions (five) and yards per catch (21.88) among wide receivers. His 81.3 receiving yards per game ranks second on the team and sits at third in the SEC.
At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, the sophomore’s physical makeup is almost an anomaly based on his style of play. Showing the ability to beat corners in one-on-one coverage with speed consistently, Metcalf’s acceleration and second gear are NFL ready. Though his route tree is limited in Ole Miss’ air-raid attack, he plays with desirable subtlety and crispness to execute any given route.
Metcalf rivals any receiver in college football with his explosiveness and release off the line. With a jolt of energy off the snap, Metcalf can instantly run by corners with nearly instant separation. Though he shows the elite-level release, he consistently wins press battles with ingenious handwork to do away with initial physical altercations.
The Ole Miss receiver’s speed, awareness and overall skill set highlight that of a WR1.
Without a draft perspective in mind, the main concern is for all three of these football prospects to achieve full health once again. The rehabilitation process physically and mentally is a tough road that trains a player in many different ways.
When these select three players return to full strength, the NFL will gladly welcome them to the league.