At least one future New York Jet may have been among Friday’s CFP stars
New Year’s Eve featured the two semifinal contests of the College Football Playoff. Alabama defeated Cincinnati by a score of 27-6 in the Cotton Bowl while Georgia defeated Michigan by a score of 34-11 in the Orange Bowl. Alabama and Georgia will meet in the National Championship Game on Monday, Jan. 10.
The two games featured some standout performances from a handful of prospects who could hear their names called by the New York Jets in the NFL draft this spring. Here is a roundup of how the top prospects at the Jets’ positions of need performed.
OT Evan Neal
A potential top-five pick in this year’s draft, Alabama left tackle Evan Neal had plenty of viewers fixated upon his No. 73 jersey on the left side of the Crimson Tide’s offensive line. He delivered under the spotlight.
Neal earned a 75.3 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for his Cotton Bowl performance, including a 71.2 grade in the run game and a 76.4 grade in the passing game. It was the highest overall grade accumulated by any of the game’s 10 starting offensive linemen.
The junior allowed two pressures (no sacks) over 34 snaps in pass protection while spearheading a Tide rushing attack that amassed 309 yards.
Alabama rushed for 12.4 yards per carry when attacking the left edge, their best average in any particular direction. They picked up three rushers for 10+ yards in that direction, also their best total of any direction.
— Sam (@samcrnic) January 1, 2022
Neal has also played right tackle and left guard in his collegiate career.
At the moment, Neal is unanimously considered a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Some mocks have him going first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
WR Jameson Williams
Jameson Williams led the game with seven catches, picking up 62 yards and four first downs. He has caught 75 passes for 1,507 yards and 15 touchdowns in 14 games for Alabama this year after transferring over from Ohio State. Williams is generally considered a mid-first-round prospect.
— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) December 31, 2021
S Jordan Battle
A high-second/low-first round prospect, Alabama safety Jordan Battle didn’t have the greatest game in coverage as he allowed two catches for a team-high 39 yards on a day where the Cincinnati offense was completely stagnant. Battle allowed first-down grabs for 11 and 28 yards.
However, Battle finished plays very effectively as he made seven tackles and missed none.
Battle has 81 tackles and three interceptions this season. Two of those picks were returned for touchdowns.
CB Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner
Projected mid-to-high first-round cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner was dominant for the Bearcats despite the blowout loss.
Over 34 coverage snaps, he was targeted four times and allowed three catches for only 14 yards and one first down. Gardner’s 74.1 coverage grade at PFF was the highest of the game by any defender on either team.
Sauce Gardner lays the BOOM on Jameson Williams 💥 pic.twitter.com/NLp1uQkaIN
— PFF (@PFF) December 31, 2021
Gardner concludes his 2021 season allowing 20 catches on 40 targets for 131 yards (3.3 per target), zero touchdowns, and three interceptions – a passer rating of 26.1. Gardner never allowed a touchdown over his three years with Cincinnati, a career spanning 33 games, 138 targets, and 1,124 coverage snaps.
LB Nakobe Dean
Bulldogs linebacker Nakobe Dean was mostly considered a late-first-round pick prior to the Orange Bowl, but after his dominant performance against Michigan, his stock is quickly rising.
Dean had seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and a forced fumble in a highlight-filled outing. In coverage, Dean allowed two of four passes thrown his way to be completed for negative-2 yards and no first downs.
Man Nakobe Dean is smart. Watch him call out the reduced split and orbit motion to his teammates before getting the sack. pic.twitter.com/GxPFqOmBbd
— Bud Elliott (@BudElliott3) January 1, 2022
Dean has 68 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, two interceptions, and four passes defended this year.
EDGE Aidan Hutchinson
Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is in a duel with Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux for the title of the draft’s No. 1 prospect.
Hutchinson lost a lot of ground in that debate with his Orange Bowl performance.
Over 32 pass-rush snaps, Hutchinson had only one pressure, posting a season-low pressure rate of 3.1%. It was a shockingly out-of-character performance for Hutchinson – his season average is 17.2% and his previous season-low was 9.3%.
Hutchinson for heisman pic.twitter.com/tFQMxwkumn
— The Ox (@OxEquities) January 1, 2022
Hutchinson finishes the season tied for third in the nation in sacks (14.0) and total pressures (74).
EDGE David Ojabo
Hutchinson’s fellow edge rusher, David Ojabo, is considered a mid-to-late first-round prospect. He also struggled in the playoff game, earning zero pressures over 19 pass-rush snaps.
Ojabo had 11.0 sacks and 41 total pressures this year.
S Daxton Hill
Considered a low-first/high-second round prospect, Wolverines safety Daxton Hill was one of the few Michigan defenders to have a competent performance. His overall PFF grade of 71.4 ranked second on the team. Over 37 defensive snaps, Hill had no missed tackles and gave up only one first down reception through the air. He also had one pressure as a blitzer.
Hill picked up 69 tackles, eight passes defended, 4.5 tackles for loss, and two interceptions for Michigan this year.
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