Georgia State NFL prospects

The Panthers currently have two players in the NFL with the offensive lineman Ulrick John and wide receiver Albert Wilson. However, after a strong 2015 season led by the talented seniors, 2016 can be the year where we see a new record set for most Georgia State players drafted into the NFL.
Nick Arbuckle in the end zone doing a drop back pass. Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal
Nick Arbuckle in the end zone doing a drop back pass.
Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal

Nick Arbuckle

Quarterback Nick Arbuckle’s senior season was the best of his college career finishing the season with 4,368 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. He was named the Sun Belt Conference Student-Athlete of the Year, First Team All-Sun Belt Conference, and won Sun Belt Offensive Student-Athlete of Week three times this season. In addition Arbuckle broke five Georgia State football records: Passing Yards 4,368, Completions 307, Touchdown passes 28, Total offense with 4,273 yards.

Strengths: Arbuckle’s arm is his strength and his ability to air it out. Throwing for over 4,000 yards is not an easy task, and being able to complete over 63 percent of those passes shows how good Arbuckle is. He is a gun-slinger and has the ability to air it out deep, in fact this season he had 10 passes that were over 40 yards and five of them being over 60 yards.

Weaknesses: His height at 6-foot-1 is his biggest weakness. Not being able to see over lineman in the NFL may be his biggest problem. It also helps explain why he threw 12 interceptions this year and 17 last year.

I believe Nick Arbuckle will be drafted in the NFL this year in the late rounds possibly four to six. I think this season really showed how talented he is and how much of a leader he is to that team by taking them to their first ever bowl game. If he can adapt his play similar to Drew Brees or Russell Wilson I have no doubt Arbuckle will be successful.

Sports Editor Argument

Some Arbuckle supporters highlight the success of Brees or Wilson, however those are quarterbacks who can move around in the pocket and scramble for a couple of yards if needed. Arbuckle’s senior season included a handful of attempts to scramble after offensive plays broke down, but anyone who watched the games over the season realize that’s not one of his strengths. As stated, a handful of last season’s interceptions came from tipped balls thanks to defensive lineman towering over Arbuckle.

Critics will take all of this into account, but the stats don’t lie about how good of player Arbuckle has been at all levels of competition to this point, meaning an NFL squad will likely give him a chance this Spring.

Donovan Harden, wide receiver, approaches the season with a target on his back from opposing defenses.  Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal
Donovan Harden, wide receiver, approaches the season with a target on his back from opposing defenses.
Photo by Jade Johnson | The Signal

Donovan Harden

Wide receiver Donovan Harden’s senior season was made up of big plays down the field as well as after the catch. Despite being held back the first three games due to a foot injury, Harden had 39 receptions for 725 yards and five touchdowns. He got almost the same yards as last season, 885 yards, in almost half the receptions, 60. He was named All-Sun Belt Conference Honorable Mention, Preseason All-Sun Belt First team, and Biletnikoff Award Watch List.

Strengths: His big play ability and speed are his biggest strengths. He finished the season averaging 18 yards per catch and had 3 receptions over 65 yards, including a 76 yard touchdown reception. There was only one game where he was held to less than 10 yards per catch this season.

Weaknesses: His biggest weakness is his height at receiver as well as his ability to get open. Penny Hart outshined him this season as a freshman and ultimately was seen as the number one receiver against opponents. Knowing more attention was going towards Hart, Harden shouldn’t have had any problem beating single coverage, but not being able to get open would explain his 39 receptions this season.

Despite his 39 receptions, I still think Harden will be drafted in the later rounds and used primarily as a slot receiver. His big play ability and speed will help him get open in the slot against zone plays and slower corners. Plus at for a 5-foot-11 receiver Harden can take a hit and still hang on to the ball.

Joel Ruiz

Joel Ruiz had a disappointing senior season as it ended early thanks to another season ending injury. He finished the season with 4 receptions and 38 yards. Ruiz was named Preseason All-Sun Belt First team, was on Mel Kiper’s Top-Five NFL Draft TE prospect in preseason, and was on the John Mackey Award Watch List.

Strengths: His size and hands are his biggest strengths. At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, Ruiz is the perfect tight end size especially for the passing game. He will be seen more as a passing tight end averaging over 12 yards per catch in the 2014 season.

Weaknesses: His biggest weakness is that he is injury prone. He was injured during the offseason and then tried to get back on the field during the regular season and got injured again. Not being able to finish his senior season is not a good sign.

I believe that Joel Ruiz will go undrafted in the NFL, but will still be on an NFL team as an undrafted free agent. His injuries are what hurt his draft stock, but I think a team will give him a chance to earn his keep and I think he will make it with the hands that he has.


Wil Lutz

Placekicker Wil Lutz had the best season of his college career this year. He played both punter and kicker, while being more successful on the punting end of the ball. He was named to the All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team, Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team, a Ray Guy Award Nominee, and set the Georgia State record for PATs with 42.

Strengths: His punting ability is his strength. He averaged 44 yards per punt and had a long punt of 70 yards. In addition he had 20 punts inside the 20, 4 touchbacks, and 19 punts that were over 50 yards.

Weaknesses: His kicking ability because he only made 63 percent of his kicks. He probably won’t be drafted as a kicker after missing 7 field goals this season on only 19 attempts.

I believe Lutz will be drafted in the sixth or seventh round as a punter. His ability to pin opponents inside their 20 and averaging almost 50 yards per punt attempt shows how good of a punter he is. He was one of the reasons why the defense performed better this year, thanks to his ability to change opponent’s field position.

Sports Editor Argument

Lutz hit a point in the middle of the season where he just appeared drained from the triple duty of kick offs, field goals and punts. Hopefully in workouts, Lutz shows teams fatigue was the only excuse for the seven misses.

Tarris Batiste

Starting Safety Tarris Batiste had the best season of his career this year being named All-Sun Belt Conference First Team, FWAA AutoNation National Defensive Player of the Week on Dec. 7, and winning Sun Belt Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week twice this season. Batiste set the Georgia State record for interceptions this season with four and also had 100 total tackles, six tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.

Strengths: His tackling ability and his pass coverage are his biggest strengths. For a safety to have 100 tackles in one season shows how Batiste is able to get to the ball carrier and get the tackle. In addition being able to get four interceptions shows he can handle one on one coverage, as well as being able to help other corners in coverage.

Weaknesses: His biggest weakness is probably his experience at safety. He was originally an outside linebacker until he transitioned to the safety position. He only has two years of experience at safety which could hurt his draft stock.

I believe that Batiste will be drafted in the third or fourth round in the NFL draft especially if he has a good pro day. Batiste is a hard hitting safety that knows how to cover receivers and protect his zone. Usually with safeties you either find one that can get hard or is really good at pass coverage. It’s rare you find both in one safety and I see him being similar to Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith for the Vikings.

Photo by Jason Luong | The Signal
Photo by Jason Luong | The Signal

Joseph Peterson

Linebacker Joseph Peterson finished off an outstanding career at Georgia State with another stellar season. Peterson finished the season with 116 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and two sacks. Peterson earned All-Sun Belt Conference Second Team honors, Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference First team, the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List, and broke the Georgia State record for tackle in a season with 116.

Strengths: His biggest strength is his tackling ability and being able to stop the run. His ability to fly to the ball carrier and get the tackle are one of his best assets. Plus getting nine tackles for loss shows his ability to read plays and disrupt them right away.

Weaknesses: His pass coverage is probably his biggest weakness. Only getting one pass breakup on the season is not a good sign. NFL scouts are looking for linebackers that can not only tackle, but cover tight ends and sometimes receivers.

I believe Peterson will be drafted in the late rounds as a run stopping linebacker. Collecting over 100 tackles on the season and 381 in his career are signs of how good of a tackler he is. If he can work on his pass coverage and display that in his pro day I have no doubt will be drafted.

1 Comment

  1. According to the editor, Brees can move around in the pocket. Really? That’s news to most people, including probably Brees himself. Russell Wilson had 554 yds on 103 attempts. Brees? Close to the bottom among QBs with 14 yards on 24 attempts. So, at the end of the day, a Brees comparison for Nick is quite valid. Now if you meant Brees’ ability to feel pressure and step up in the pocket then yea, that makes sense. But Nick does that as well as anyone.

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