2019-09-13T08:10:03-04:00)

The Joe Burrow show will have to wait while Clemson’s draft prospects take center stage this week

Burrow’s NFL readiness will be tested again in a few weeks. So this Saturday, check out Syracuse’s Alton Robinson and Clemson’s next draft picks.

Last week’s slate of college football games featured the first game of the season between two top-10 teams, with LSU winning a 45-38 thriller over Texas.

On top of that, the game became a showcase for LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. In it, he threw for 471 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, in LSU’s revamped passing offense, Burrow completed an impressive 79 percent of his throws.

Burrow is showing marked improvement this season on where he places the ball and how he moves around in the pocket. The toughness of the Ohio State transfer has never been questioned, and now he’s adding to his toolbox as a prospect.

Burrow’s upward trend should continue. His next three opponents are Northwestern State, Vanderbilt, and Utah State (which will be a great game to evaluate Aggies quarterback Jordan Love). But LSU’s next four games against Florida, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Alabama will be a better way to gauge Burrow’s NFL readiness. Although he may never surpass Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert as a prospect, things are pointing upward for Burrow.

Unlike Week 2, Week 3 does not have a high-profile matchup. In fact, Saturday’s schedule doesn’t include a single game between two ranked teams. Arguably the best game of the week is No. 1 Clemson at Syracuse. The Orange are now unranked after getting blown out by Maryland 63-20 last week.

The seven players to know in Clemson vs. Syracuse

The best pro prospect on Syracuse is defensive end Alton Robinson. The one-time junior college transfer is off to a slow start after two games with just 0.5 sack and six tackles. A strong game against Clemson should get the 6’4 senior right back on the map as a prospect. His pass-rushing partner, Kendall Coleman, has two sacks already and is another player to keep an eye on.

Syracuse guard Evan Adams is a fringe draftable player. He’s in his fourth year as a starter. At 6’6 and 352 pounds, Adams is obviously massive. Quickness gives Adams trouble, but he can fit in a power system. A team could take him as a draft-and-develop player.

Really, this game is about Clemson’s prospects on offense. Namely, running back Travis Etienne and wide receiver Tee Higgins.

Etienne is in the discussion as the top running back prospect in the nation. He’s a big-play threat nearly every time he touches the ball, and he’s prone to breaking huge runs. Coming into the season, Etienne had 27 rushes of 25 yards or more. After averaging a ludicrous 8.1 yards per rush last season, he is averaging 9.2 yards per carry this season. Etienne isn’t much as a pass catcher, but his running ability is impressive.

Wide receiver is the strength of the 2020 NFL Draft. The class is loaded, with players like Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III of Alabama, CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma, Collin Johnson of Texas, and Laviska Shenault of Colorado. And yet, Higgins continues to stand out.

The 6’4, 215-pound junior has 168 yards in his first two games, including a 62-yard touchdown against Georgia Tech. Higgins has a big catch radius and can make some incredible highlight-reel catches. He’s not the fastest receiver, but his physical playing style is reminiscent of former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams.

Both players could find themselves in the first-round mix in April. So could linebacker Isaiah Simmons. If he goes pro, junior cornerback A.J. Terrell could be one of the first 32 picks as well. On Alabama’s first drive of last year’s College Football Playoff title game, Terrell intercepted Tagovailoa and returned it for a touchdown. Terrell has good size and instincts to go along with smooth hips and strength. You may not hear his name called much on Saturday because Syracuse may not throw at him.

Don’t forget about FCS prospects

This will be a good week to evaluate Montana senior Dante Olson. The senior is one of the better FCS prospects in the nation, and the Grizzlies play at Oregon this week. In two games, Olson is second on the team with 16 tackles. A season ago, he had a Division I-most 151 tackles and has proven himself as a secure tackler. But how he looks athletically against a team like Oregon will factor into his draft stock. It could also help him land an important all-star game invitation.

Another FCS player to follow this week is Portland State tight end Charlie Taumoepeau against Boise State. Although Taumoepeau may not get drafted as high as former Vikings tight end Julius Thomas, a fourth-round pick in 2011, he could be a solid Day 3 pick. Last season, Taumoepeau averaged 20.7 yards per catch. He has just seven catches for 94 yards this season, but he could help himself against the Broncos Saturday night.

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