5 NFL Draft-eligible prospects to watch on Friday

NFL Draft COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - NOVEMBER 12: Colorado State Rams wide receiver Michael Gallup (4) makes a leaping catch in the end zone for a touchdown during the game between the Air Force Falcons and Colorado State Rams on November 12, 2016 in Colorado Springs, CO. Air Force beat Colorado State 49-46. (Photo by Bobby Stevens/Icon Sportswire)
Bobby Stevens/Icon Sportswire

The best part about the opening weekend of college football is that it lasts about two weeks. The heavy hitters debuted Thursday night, with two top-10 teams (Ohio State and Oklahoma State) playing their first games.

The evaluation process for players is ready for the next push. NFL teams and third-party scouting departments have established their baselines on players. Analysts can’t tell where a player is going unless they know where they’re coming from. The trajectory of potential stars is established this weekend, starting with these five players to watch on Friday, September 1.

Boston College Defensive End Harold Landry

Landry is the best football player on the docket for Friday. I’ve gone on the record to say I’ve seen many parallels between his game and current Atlanta Falcon Vic Beasley as a college player. I do believe Landry has a comparable ceiling in terms of his pass rush ability. He possesses some of the best cornering ability as a boundary pass rusher you’ll see this year.

Landry should dominate against Northern Illinois (9:30 p.m. Eastern, CBS Sports Network). Blue-chip prospects rise to the call and dominate lesser competition, which is the standard Landry is trying to establish. Concerns about his functional strength likely won’t go away, but his skill as a space rusher will have every opportunity to shine Friday night.

Washington Wide Receiver Dante Pettis

Fellow FanRag and NDT Scouting analyst Joe Marino pointed out earlier this summer that Pettis is in prime position to explode with his productivity.  With no more John Ross on the field for the Huskies, Pettis is the alpha target in the passing game. A player who already showed good chemistry with QB Jake Browning in 2016, he figures to get the lion’s share of targets out wide.

Pettis is a smooth athlete who illustrated big-play skill thanks to his ability to track the football last season. Now it’s on him to take the next step, which starts with the season opener against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lack notable defensive talent, so Pettis should see targets early on and have the chance to break big plays.

October 8, 2016: Washington Huskies wide receiver Dante Pettis (8) catches a pass in front of Oregon Ducks defensive back Khalil Oliver (26) for a touchdown during the game between Washington Huskies and the Oregon Ducks at the Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Conner/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by Steve Conner/Icon Sportswire)

Colorado State Wide Receiver Michael Gallup

Gallup actually has a head start on 2017: He and the rest of the Rams played last Saturday, defeating Oregon State, 58-27. Gallup was a big part of the team’s offensive explosion, tallying 134 receiving yards.

Gallup looked great on Saturday, running with good speed and effectively winning multiple vertical routes against the Beavers. I was most impressed with how fluid his transition steps were on his route stem. I will certainly watch Gallup in the coming weeks to see if he parlays a strong opening weekend into a high-quality senior season.

Rutgers Defensive End Kemoko Turay

The previously mentioned Rutgers defense may not have a lot of NFL talent, but there’s one to be found in Turay if the redshirt senior can get his college career back on track. Turay caught a lot of attention as a freshman, logging 7.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for a loss. It wasn’t the production, but rather the traits that grabbed scouts’ eyeballs. Turay was long and quick. He showed great short-area bend to work around blockers.

Fast forward to 2017. Turay has been bogged down with shoulder injuries, but is apparently 100 percent for the first time in a while. He’ll have one last chance to prove his freshman season wasn’t an aberration with a great first test against Washington.

Wisconsin Tight End Troy Fumagalli

The 2018 NFL Draft will have another crop of talented pass catchers. Fumagalli will be among them. He may be the team’s best draft prospect in light of linebacker Jack Cichy’s season-ending knee injury. Fumagalli fits the mold of a true inline tight end, which is a dying breed in today’s NFL. There are some Jason Witten traits in his game, but I want to see more consistency as a receiver before I’m ready to push him up the rankings.

Fumagalli fought the ball in stretches last year, failing to catch the ball cleanly and suffering from a number of drops. More stability at the quarterback position will help him see the ball in cleanly for the entire season. He and the rest of the No. 9 Badgers host Utah State at 9 Eastern (ESPN).

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