Literally hours after posting a heads-up tweet on Kyler Fackrell last Sunday the Utah State linebacker suffered a season ending knee injury. As previously posted Fackrell was planning on entering the draft as I was told the junior is married and his wife is expecting. While things change the belief at this point in time is Fackrell will likely return to USU for another season.
Leonard Williams performance on Saturday is one scouts will point to during the pre-draft process. Despite being hampered with a sprained ankle which prevented him from playing fulltime against Stanford, Williams posted a team leading 11 tackles while also adding a sack and one tackle for loss. His hustle and intensity were impressive and this could go a long way in securing Williams as a top six pick next April. Why then is he not listed as a Riser? Stanford’s offensive line is not battle tested as four-fifths graduated to the NFL after last season. Boston College next week then UCLA and Notre Dame during November are better challenges for Williams.
Alabama rolled over Florida Atlantic in a rain shortened contest and while T.J. Yeldon was the star of the ground game his teammate Kenyan Drake really impressed me. He carried the ball just six times for 31-yards but Drake’s play on special teams, specifically coverage units when Alabama was up by four scores yet he was still hustling down the field to make plays, stood out. It’s the type of play which gets a prospect drafted in the late round then helps him secure a spot on a roster.
Despite not getting his team into the end zone I was really impressed with the play of quarterback Kyle Pohl during Akron’s loss to Penn State. His stats were nothing impressive; 24 of 46 passing for 208 yards with no interceptions. Yet throughout the game Pohl made several NFL type passes and decisions. The fact his receivers dropped a number of catchable throws did not help his cause, never mind Akron’s athlete’s are subpar compared to the team fielded by Penn State. Pohl caught my eye on film over the summer and he’s someone to monitor moving forward.
Utah’s Dres Anderson is on a roll. The senior wide out, whom I compared to Paul Richardson entering the season, caught 3 passes for 84 yards and 2 scores against Fresno State, whose leaky defense does include Derron Smith, one of the top safety’s from the senior class.
Ohio State suffered an unexpected home loss to Virginia Tech, though no one can ever be surprised losing to a Frank Beamer team. During the loss one Buckeye prospect who stood out to me was offensive tackle Taylor Decker. The former right tackle moved to the left side this season, taking over for Jack Mewhort, the second round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. In many ways Decker’s play surpasses his former teammate as he’s quicker, more athletic and has an easier time sliding off the edge. If he continues to progress I struggle to see how Decker does not end up a top 45 selection if he enters the draft.
This weeks Risers/Sliders has a lot of players from the offensive side of the ball moving up draft boards. Specifically skill players, which I usually don’t like to do as its often stats based and can be a cop-out. Regardless, each of these Risers distinguished themselves with good performances against top competition.
T.J. Clemmings/OL/Pittsburgh: Prior to the game Friday night I posted Clemmings as a player to watch and he did not disappoint. His blocking helped pave the way for a Pittsburgh offense which put up 414-yards of offense during the victory over Boston College. What stood out most was the way the Panthers constantly ran behind Clemmings, picking up big chunks of yardage. Graded as a middle round choice, Clemmings is a mobile right tackle with the footwork and athleticism necessary to move to the blind-side but has the build of a guard best in a zone/motion blocking scheme.
Jake Fisher/T/Oregon: It was an epic contest between the Ducks and Michigan State and just as Oregon raised their profile in the race for the national title, so to did Fisher raise his ranking with decision makers in the scouting community. Fisher was by no means spectacular rather very steady and controlled Spartans pass rusher Shilique Calhoun, unanimously graded as a first round prospect. Calhoun finished with three solo tackles and was not much of a factor at any point during the game. Fisher is not a flashy lineman rather a fundamentally sound blocker with a great feel for the position and he looked terrific protecting the edge.
Markus Golden/DE-OLB/Missouri: It seems every year Missouri puts a real good defensive front seven player into the draft and this year the program offers Golden. An explosive pass rusher, Golden possesses both short area quickness as well as long speed. He was all over the field against Toledo who fields a veteran and productive offensive line, collecting 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack. Primarily coming out of a three point stance, Golden is similar in style and substance to Marcus Smith, the first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles last April, and a move to outside linebacker is a distinct possibility.
Justin Hardy/WR/East Carolina: It says a lot when Hardy was the games most productive receiver despite his team losing to the high powered South Carolina offense. He finished the contest with 11 receptions for 133 yards even as the Gamecocks secondary tried to take him from the game. Hardy is a polished receiver that stands out in ever facet of the game. He’s not big or a vertical threat rather a top 100 pick that could line up as a number two/three receiver in a variety of offensive systems in the NFL.
J.J. Nelson/WR/Alabama-Birmingham: Scouts handed Nelson a late round grade entering the season and the speedy wide out proved his worth against Mississippi State, who field a pair of next level cornerbacks. The speedster caught 5 passes for 144 yards with 1 score. He also averaged 11 yards on three punt returns. In two games this season Nelson has totaled 7 receptions for 202 yards, an average of 29.9 yards per catch. Nelson is small with a rail thin build but a vertical threat which causes opponents to play back on their heels.
Jay Ajayi/RB/Boise State: The junior, who’s expected to enter the draft after this season, turned in a wow performance against conference foe Colorado State. Ajayi finished with 219-yards on 33-carries (6.6-yard average) and 2 scores against a defense considered tops in the Mountain West Conference. He also added 4 receptions for 61-yards and another touchdown. Scouts speak highly of Ajayi and love his pounding style as well as the agility he displays eluding defenders. If he works out well prior to the draft its unlikely Ajayi makes it out of the second round.
Jahwan Edwards/RB/Ball State: The Cardinals lost a close contest to Iowa despite a terrific performance from Edwards. The big ball carrier registered 81 yards on 21 carries against a tough Hawkeye defense with a pair of next level tackles on the inside of their defensive line. Edwards is a downhill runner with deceptive speed for a 225lb ball carrier, and possesses enough short area quickness to dodge defenders on the inside.
Small School Prospect: Aaron Sam/DB/McNeese State: Look for the name of Aaron Sam on scouting lists and you won’t find it. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find any senior from McNeese State who scouts are following. Sam’s performance during the Cowboys near victory over Nebraska will change that opinion. The senior led the defense with 7 tackles, intercepted 1 pass which was brought back 98 yards for a score and broke up another throw. And while Sam won’t be making a big move up draft boards his performance is enough to force scouts to take a second look at his next level potential.
Kurtis Drummond/S/Michigan State: Drummond has been a favorite of mine the past two seasons and was stamped as a third round prospect entering the 2014 campaign. During the loss to Oregon he looked more like a late round guy. Drummond blew several coverage assignments which resulted in big plays for the Ducks and at times looked lost in coverage. This is the sort of film that will be a conversation piece for scouts as they question Drummond’s high ranking.
Tim Scott/S/North Carolina: After showing next level skill at cornerback the prior two seasons, Scott has really struggled since moving to safety on a full time basis this year. He looked sluggish, slow to respond and indecisive as the Tar Heels scratched out a victory over San Diego State. In one series during the third quarter Scott was late in coverage which resulted in a 59-yard pass completion for SDSU then was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul penalty. And while he had some positive moments during the contest Scott is a late round prospect who best quickly pick up the pace of his game.
Gabe Holmes/TE/Purdue: Holmes was graded as a draftable player prior to the 2013 season but a wrist injury kept him on the sidelines all year. This year scouts stamped Holmes as a priority free agent but he’s been slow out of the gate and has been outplayed by his teammate, Justin Sinz, who was graded as a priority free agent.