Scouting The Pac-12: 2018 Regular Season In Review

Photo: Nov 23, 2018; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington Huskies running back Myles Gaskin (9) celebrates a touchdown against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, the Pac-12.

Extending Larry Scott; losing TV deals; offering absolutely nothing to the college football playoff. The South division absolutely cannibalized itself, as none of Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, or USC could string together a few quality wins, and Colorado fell off the cliff late. The North also threw intradivisional punches to the point that nobody mattered nationally, but we were treated to some incredible conference games.

Oh, the Pac-12. How I will always love you.

5 Best Prospects

1. Byron Murphy III, CB, Washington

Highly unfortunate, when the best prospect in the conference is a redshirt sophomore -- while that does speak to the struggles of the conference, it also speaks to the skill of Murphy. Quick, disruptive, and instinctive, Murphy may challenge for CB1 if he enters this class.

2. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

A dominant downfield receiver who thrashes man coverage at every level of the field, Arcega-Whiteside is looking to buck the trend of bigger receivers entering the NFL. Will he run under 4.6? If he can, he's a potential Round 1 player.

3. Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford

J-JAW's running mate, Smith has fantastic athleticism for the position, and his ability to track and adjust in the seam stands out among tight ends in this class. He offers little as a blocker, however, and it'd be nice to see him run more routes with breaks.

4. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Another big-bodied wide receiver who also brings return and backfield touches to the table, Harry is a nightmare to tackle given his size and strength. He also invites speed questions, and sometimes his effort and details can come into question. High ceiling, but question marks abound.

5. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Herbert is a Top-5 pick if he comes out, but in a vacuum, he isn't as talented as the players listed before him. Likely to return for his senior season, Herbert must show more comfort under pressure, as well as an improved willingness to attack intermediate zones, to boost his evaluation into the higher rounds.

5 Most Over-Hyped Prospects

1. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

A Heisman candidate in 2017 who elected to return to school to finish his education, Love has plummeted to a Day 3 player, accordingly to NFL scouts I've talked to. Love can't stay healthy, and at his size, teams don't think he can hold up under the punishment of the NFL -- at least not as a bellcow back.

2. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

A potential Round 1 player according to some in the preseason, Dye hasn't taken the steps forward in processing, block deconstruction, and even tackling that I would have liked to see. A WR frame playing linebacker, Dye still offers coverage upside for whenever he comes out -- but he isn't the full package yet.

3. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

While he also made our Top 5 players overall, Harry gets a bit too much love for all of his manufactured touches and highlight plays down the field. When you look at the full body of work, Harry invites too much contact in his route stems and surrenders too much ground on his releases. He isn't as detailed as you'd like to see a Round 1 player be.

4. Calvin Throckmorton, iOL/OT, Oregon

Throckmorton has started roughly 700 games for the Ducks, and fits into a bevy of positions. But he's a master of none, in that his movement skills preclude him from playing tackle at the next level, and his size and length over little returns given his poor footwork and balance at guard. I don't see him as an NFL starter.

5. Zack Moss, RB, Utah

Feels weird to have Moss on here, given the fact that I do like him a fair bit. But I have athletic questions about Moss, who has dealt with injuries in both ankles over the past two seasons -- how quick is he, really? Enough to be a one-cut zone runner? I don't think so -- and I'm not sure the explosiveness is there either, to be a true game-breaking RB.

5 Most Improved Prospects

1. Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon

Woah! Mitchell was tagged as my riser to watch for in the preseason, but I did not expect the level of dominance he's enjoyed with Herbert slingin' the pill his way. Mitchell has excelled with quickness, burst, and flexibility in his route breaks to create easy separation and elude tacklers with the ball in his hands.

2. Steven Montez, QB, Colorado

Montez is still a rough player who would benefit from another year at school, but may declare early given the uncertainty in Boulder. That said, he was a dreadful nightmare in 2017, who has shown great promise re: physical tools in 2018. Big step forward.

3. Levi Onwuzurike, DT, Washington

Onwuzurike came into the season with sparing back-up reps behind Vita Vea -- in 2018, with a starting role, Onwuzurike still struggles with inconsistent pad level and hand usage. But when he has it together, his blend of length, power, and agility looks starting level. He'll go back to school -- fun player to keep watching.

4. J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona

I liked Taylor coming into the season, and he -- like Onwuzurike -- stepped into a clear starting role this year. To his benefit: Taylor is currently second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards. A scatback type with great balance, Taylor again will return to school to keep growing.

5. K.J. Costello, QB, Stanford

It wasn't always pretty, but Costello is a better QB at the end of 2018 than he was at the end of 2017, so he makes the list. Costello makes his own life harder, by rushing routine throws and inviting pressure by holding the ball for too long. Pre-snap diagnosis looks awesome, however -- smart cookie!

5 Least Improved Prospects

1. Jalen Jelks, EDGE, Oregon

What a disappointment. I thought he could be the best player out of the conference for this class, but Jelks' reported improved strength and increased EDGE usage both have not translated into production, or better tape. The body type is intriguing, as are the flashes, but overall, a letdown season.

2. Taylor Rapp, SAF, Washington

Similarly to Jelks, Rapp is a good player who will get drafted high -- but the strides he could have taken to seal a Round 1 berth just aren't there. Rapp is not an aggressive player when the ball is in the air, nor is he instinctive enough to trap QBs into poor throws down the field.

3. Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA

I like Wilson a lot, and I was glad to see him carve out a role in Chip Kelly's offense by the end of the season. But the weird dropsies that showed up have established a kernel of doubt in what was a solid evaluation before the season.

4. Jake Hanson, iOL, Oregon

Hanson's calling card off of 2017 film was his grip strength and hand placement; this year, he seems to have taken a step back in that regard. He's whiffed early on more than a few reps, and while his power and recovery ability still impress, his consistency is a question mark.

5. Evan Worthington, SAF, Colorado

I still like Worthington (noticing a theme yet?), but his up-and-down play is particularly damning for a safety. Worthington has a strong safety's body, but his best plays come as a single-high defender. Could improved technique make him a flex TE eraser? Perhaps, but it never showed up on film.

5 Best Developmental Prospects

1. Renell Wren, iDL, Arizona State

A human spring in terms of explosiveness off the ball, Wren makes far too many technical errors on the interior to like as a potential Top-10 defensive tackle. That said, with the power in his lower body and the effort with which he plays, he could be something special if you build him up the right way.

2. Chuma Edoga, OT, USC

A silky smooth mover who has the quickness to recover against elite rushers, Edoga's technique took a big step forward this season. A bit thinner, Edoga might always struggle with power, but he has the movement skills to go early, given how the NFL drafts tackles nowadays.

3. Julian Blackmon, CB, Utah

Blackmon is one of those measurable types (6-foot-1, 190) with arms that reach into next week. Utah coaches rave about his work ethic, and Blackmon is a high-effort player on the field. Does his frame have enough space for improved mass to win as a press corner?

4. Jacob Breeland, TE, Oregon

A super-sized WR type who should never play another snap with his hand in the dirt, Breeland could be the darling of stretch TE seekers, if not for the lack of targets he sees in Oregon's scheme. I think he'll show up for the 40, but I'm not as sold on the jumps and the 10-yard split. If he does, however...

5. Noah Togiai, TE, Oregon State

One of the few noteworthy players for the Beavers, Togiai has struggled with health and target share for his time at Oregon State. He looks like a good athlete and regularly makes contact catches away from his frame, so he offers good receiving upside from the jump. What can he become with some real coaching?

5 Prospects I Still Question

1. Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

Folks have jumped on the Dillard train this year because he grades out very nicely for charting services -- but on film, I see a tentative blocker who prefers to get in the way for as long as possible instead of controlling reps. Washington State linemen generally scare me, and Dillard is no different.

2. Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford

Okereke has garnered attention for his coverage ability and closing burst, both of which impress. But I still see a player who jumps far too quickly into misdirection; who is far too willing to get blocked by climbing offensive linemen. He's so much better in space.

3. Gardner Minshew II, QB, Washington State

I'm all here for the Minshew to Heisman chaos -- I'm generally here for chaos in the college football landscape -- but Minshew as a Draft prospect leaves me wanting more. What with his target share behind the line of scrimmage, lack of elite physical tools, and skewed Air Raid tape, there are just so many questions. Senior Bowl will be big.

4. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Had to be said: even though he's in my Top 5, I am scared of Herbert's full body of work. His release is super-duper loopy, his post-snap recognition rarely registers important shifts in coverage, and he breaks the pocket too easily. I see a project player.

5. Evan Weaver, LB, Cal

Weaver has burst onto the scene from a production standpoint, but there's little in his film to offer promise. Weaver lacks the requisite movement skills to be anything more than a between-the-tackles thumper in the NFL, which offers little value in the pass-heavy NFL.

5 Biggest Sleepers

1. Ugo Amadi, SAF, Oregon

Don't say I didn't tell you! I've been hyping up Amadi since last season, when he popped for his coverage skills out of the slot. Amadi is a return man who has great vision, burst, and body control -- he offers a ton of versatility and ball production for the defensive backfield.

2. Nick Harris, iOL, Washington

The best interior offensive lineman in the conference, Harris's thick frame and aggressive punches win reps early and often. He has experience at guard and center, and enough movement skills to survive in a zone scheme if necessary.

3. Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington

The best offensive tackle in the conference, McGary is a freak athlete at 6-foot-8 and 345 pounds. He surrenders more pressure on the outside track than he should, given some footwork and timing concerns -- but he's an NFL starter with a high ceiling if you can iron out the technique kinks.

4. Cody Barton, LB, Utah

Overshadowed by media darling Chase Hansen, Barton is the better Utah linebacker -- he's quick to flow and aggressive meeting contact in the first level, but his coverage instincts particularly impress. He's not a great athlete, but he's enough to get by.

5. Ashtyn Davis, SAF, Cal

Want the real deep sleeper? A hurdle champion in track and field who plays centerfield for the Cal defense, Davis brought home Pac-12 Player of the Week honors last week for his two picks (one for a TD), as well as his 82 return yards on three kicks. He's an athlete getting better and better at the job every week. Keep it hush, though.

5 Prospects I'd Pound The Table For

1. Myles Bryant, CB, Washington

He's super short (5-foot-8) but man is he quick. Bryant is ridiculously stick in coverage given his movement skills, and he's still an aggressive run support player at his size. Walking on to the Washington secondary takes some stones, and Bryant has more than earned his place in the Draft conversation.

2. Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

Again, a player who doesn't fit the desired measurables -- but it's tough to argue with the film. Gaskin looks more explosive this year, which adds a nice dimension to his intelligent running style, fantastic change of direction abilities, and receiving upside. He'll provide value at a discount in the Draft.

3. Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington

I promise I'm not a Washington stan -- they've just got some doggone good players. Burr-Kirven -- wait for it -- doesn't fit the ideal mold of a linebacker, and will likely play some quasi safety/LB reps at the NFL level. But he's wicked quick to diagnose, does well to slip by blocks, and has the range to chase down boundary plays. I love his feistiness and coverage ability.

4. JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

In a repeat appearance on this list, Arcega-Whiteside deserves mention because he will have his many detractors with average testing. That said, J-JAW's skillset is singular and valuable to teams who know how to get the most out of their skill position players. Arcega-Whiteside is a high-ceiling, unique player who could become dominant in the NFL.

5. J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona

Tarik Cohen reincarnate, Taylor's low and powerful frame allows him to change direction on a dime and leave defenders gasping for air. I love his quickness, his ferocity in pass protection, and his balance through contact -- and I imagine teams who can look beyond his 5-foot-6 height will as well.