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College football Week 8 Chiefs’ prospect watch: Big Ten conference play kicks in

A few NFL Draft prospects Chiefs fans should know will be taking the field for the first time this year.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend, college football was everything people had hoped for in terms of watching draft prospects square off with one another in big-time matchups.

We skipped over the prospects to watch last week to dive into mock draft season, but the watch guide is coming back this week, and it couldn’t be at a better time. The Big Ten’s season starts this weekend, which brings a whole new wave of teams and prospects to watch. Often considered the second-best conference in college football, the Big Ten might have the most NFL draft prospects to watch this year.

As usual, we are going to look at the college slate through the lens of the Kansas City Chiefs in an attempt to focus on players that could be high on their radar. The Chiefs are coming off a good victory against another top team in the AFC in the Buffalo Bills, and some previously-considered weaknesses of the team played very strongly.

We aren’t completely casting off the linebacker and interior offensive line positions as possible needs in the upcoming NFL Draft, but we are going to pivot to some other positions in which depth has been pressed. As depth at positions has been challenged, other needs have been uncovered, and this is a great weekend to look at a few of these positions.

Prospects to watch

Rashod Bateman | WR | Minnesota

Minnesota vs Michigan, 6:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time

Rashod Bateman had originally opted out of the 2020 season, but he opted back in when the Big Ten decided to have its season, which was a great decision. He has a chance to push himself into the top wide receiver prospect discussion if he continues to build on his early career success as the clear-cut top option for Minnesota this season.

The Chiefs’ lack of replacement for Sammy Watkins still exists, as multiple players were given snaps to try and cover for his absence last week.

Even the player trusted most to be the replacement — Demarcus Robinson — is set to become a free agent next year. Bateman is extremely well suited for this role, as he has a good combination of size and an ability to work on all three levels of the field. He’s a very nuanced route runner with fantastic body control and ability at the catch point. There are some questions about his speed, but he does a great job controlling his tempo and masks the long speed with his explosion out of breaks.

Bateman will look to continue building on those traits and show a little more consistency in his physicality throughout the entire route. He can play physical at the catch point or off the line of scrimmage but has had games in which he’d allow defensive backs to control the entirety of the rep. This game against Michigan will be a good test given how physical the secondary plays, and they also field a quality draft prospect at cornerback in Ambry Thomas.

Shaun Wade | CB | Ohio State

Ohio State vs Nebraska, 11 a.m. Arrowhead Time

Shaun Wade is a draft prospect with wildly differing opinions on his fit in the NFL based on some physical traits and how Ohio State has utilized him. This year, he’s going to be given the duty of playing outside cornerback, which is the most valuable position in the secondary by NFL standards, so it will be huge stepping stone for his draft value.

The Chiefs cornerback group hasn’t been bad this year, but there have been some warning signs. If you pair Charvarius Ward’s lack of development with Bashaud Breeland’s impending free agency, that could push cornerback up the need list.

Wade has primarily played in the slot for Ohio State, but given his bigger physical stature and lack of quickness, he probably won’t play there in the NFL. His physical profile is best suited on the outside, where he can be physical with wide receivers and use the boundary for help. He just has limited experience in the role.

Wade is an incredibly smart and physical player, traits the Chiefs often target in defensive backs. His best trait may even be his ability to come downhill and make tackles and be physical, something both Ward and Breeland also excel in.

The big questions with Wade are lack of experience and athletic traits. Wade doesn’t play particularly fast and may have even less burst than top-end speed. There are situations in which tight ends run away from him or snap off routes in which he simply can’t flip his hips and drive on.

That’s why this season is going to be so huge for him. There is also a small subset of people that could see Wade fitting better in the NFL as a safety, and I can’t say that I entirely disagree with that given his strengths.

Matchup to watch

OT Daniel Faalele vs. DE Kwity Paye

Minnesota vs Michigan, 6:30 p.m. Arrowhead Time

Daniel Faalele is a massive offensive tackle prospect that is listed at 6 feet 9 and 400 pounds on Minnesota’s depth chart. His size clearly stands out, but so does his background in other sports such as rugby — as his movement skills aren’t that of a guy anywhere close to his size.

A latecomer to American football, Faalele still received multiple scholarship offers from power five schools before even taking a snap on a football field. The size and athleticism was too tantalizing and he’s also grown quite a bit while at Minnesota.

He’s a dominant force in the run game with his power and mobility, easily creating lanes along the line of scrimmage and connecting to players in space. He’s equally impressive on reach blocks as he is down blocks, showing no real limitations in what he’s asked to do as a run blocker.

The lack of experience does show up in his footwork and hand timing in pass protection, which allows speed rushers with good bend to eat him up. His size, length and mobility allow him to extend the arc, but too often, he’s not in a position to utilize any of his traits. As long as he continues to show great strides in those areas, he could shoot up draft boards.

Across from Faalele will be one of the single best athletes in the entire draft in Kwity Paye.

Paye’s combination of explosion, bend and power is something to behold.

Listed at 270 pounds and looking every bit of that size, there is no way a player should be as flexible and explosive as he is off the line of scrimmage. He has a sturdy frame and a ton of power in his upper body, which makes his power rushes equally as dangerous as speed rushes. He also holds up well against the run and looks like a complete player.

Michigan’s defensive scheme doesn’t allow pass rushers to pin their ears back and attack blockers one on one but instead incorporates a lot slants and twists. Pay works well in this regard but really needs a chance to showcase a more nuanced approach as a pass rusher. The production hasn’t been there, and Paye looks like a player that knows the correct technique to use but he does not have a natural feel for how to pull them off yet.

Most specifically, he needs to start chaining his pass-rush moves together so he can add counters to pair with freaky athleticism.

This should be a quality battle between two top-50 picks woh excel with their power but have fantastic mobility to pair with it. Whichever player showcases the most development from last season could really help his draft stock here during the first week of Big Ten play.