Another weekend of close games on the college football schedule saw a shake-up at the top as Mississippi went down to defeat at the hands of LSU. It was also a weekend in which running backs improved their draft stock while offensive line prospects made news in the scouting community.
A year ago at this time I was touting Corey Robinson of South Carolina as one of the better offensive tackles in the nation and graded him as a first round pick. I’ve been slightly disappointed in his play this season as I expected more dominance and progress from the massive blocker. That opinion is not shared by a number of area scouts who have given Robinson high grades for his play in 2014. How high are those grades? At this point the first round grade I gave him a year ago seems on the mark, though its likely to be later in the frame.
On the other hand I’m told there is a diversity of opinion on the grades given to Tyler Sambrailo of Colorado State. The athletic tackle who caught a pass in the game against Wyoming on Saturday, only to have it called back by penalty, was given early round grades entering the season and is still considered a top 45 choice by a number of scouts. I am also aware of a few teams that have stamped Sambrailo as a later round (5th) pick believing he’s an average right tackle prospect, something I disagree with.
Just as Byron Jones of UConn was ready to make an appearance on our Risers list come word the senior tore his labrum and will be out for the remainder of the season. Considering the way UConn has played of late the timing its probably best it happened now. I’m told Jones had been struggling with a shoulder injury and was in fact wearing a harness when the labrum tore. I like Jones in the middle rounds and would not entirely exclude him from the third frame considering the way the cornerback class is shaping up.
Duke Johnson/RB/Miami-Fl: Prior to his fourth quarter injury Johnson was a one-man show for the Hurricanes, steamrolling Virginia Tech for 249 yards rushing and one score. He also led the team with 37 receiving yards on 2 receptions. The elusive ball carrier combines quickness, instincts and a burst of speed to beat defenders every time the ball’s in his hands. Johnson’s a three down back, well schooled in all areas of the position, and will land in the second round if he declares for the 2015 draft, which he’s expected to do.
Jeremy Langford/RB/Michigan State: Langford grades out as one of the better running backs from the senior class heading towards next April’s draft. He proved as much against in-state rival Michigan as Langford carried the ball 35 times for 177 yards, pushing the ball into the end zone for 3 scores. For the year Langford is averaging 5.3-yards on 125 carries. Though 205-pounds Langford plays big, breaking tackles and displaying himself as a potent short yardage runner. He also has the speed necessary to beat defenders into the open field and holds his own as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Though Langford won’t be rated as highly as many of the talented underclassmen expected to enter the draft, he has all the tools necessary to produce at the next level.
A J Cann/G/South Carolina: Cann was dominant in every area during the Gamecocks final quarter loss to Auburn. The team rolled up 535-yards of combined offense as Cann opened massive holes for the running game while easily handling opponents to protect his quarterback. He’s a thick and powerful blocker that has no problem holding the point of attack. Better in a small area, scouts love Cann, who should be off the board by the time the third round ends next April.
Rob Havenstein/T/Wisconsin: Melvin Gordon’s record breaking performances garner the headlines but its’ always started up front at Wisconsin and right tackle Havenstein is in the midst of a terrific campaign. He’s a massive blocker (6-feet/8-inches and 335lbs) who dominates the run game while also showing skill in pass protection. Havenstein is one of those offensive line prospects who slips into the late rounds of the draft then finds a starting spot in the NFL.
Terrell Hartsfield/DE-OLB/Cincinnati: Hartsfield could well be listed as a sleeper but scouts have been talking about him for a while now. The junior college transfer made few scouting lists entering the season after 23 tackles and 1.5 sacks a year ago. Seven games into the 2014 campaign he’s already registered 6 sacks with 7 tackles for loss. An athletic prospect with natural pass rushing skills, Hartsfield could well sneak into the late rounds if he performs well in pre-draft workouts.
Chris Hackett/S/TCU: Believe it or not, TCU’s blowout victory over Texas Tech (82-27) was close in the early going until Hackett intercepted a pass which the Horned Frogs converted into a score. Scouts have been raving about Hackett all year and with good reason. He’s a complete safety that plays smart, disciplined football. Hackett is terrific in coverage leading TCU in interceptions (3) and PBUs (4) while also listing third on the team in tackles (51). He lacks great size but as we’ve recently witnessed teams are willing to sacrifice measurables for a versatile safety effective making plays on the ball or defending the run, skills where the junior Hackett excels.
Garrett Grayson/QB/Colorado State: After a slow start to the season the light seemingly went on for Grayson during the second half of CSU’s closely fought victory over Boston College and he’s been on an upward swing ever since. Against Wyoming, a team which had a top five pass defense in the Mountain West, Grayson threw a career 5 touchdown passes and completed all but three of the 21 passes he attempted for 390-yards. The big armed passer is poised and patient in the pocket while showing the uncanny ability to accurately place throws into the hands of intended targets. Grayson has the physical skills to play at the next level but scouts wonder if he can handle a loaded playbook.
Xzavier Dickson/OLB/Alabama: As a sophomore in 2012, Dickson displayed flashes of big time ability but fell flat a year ago. So much so scouts graded him as barely camp worthy before the season began. Thus far the old Dickson has returned and improved on prior form, leading the Tide in sacks (6.5) and tackles for loss (9) while also breaking up two passes. He’s a solid athlete with the size (6’ 3.5’’ and 270lbs) to play out of a three point stance as well as the speed (4.75s) to stand up at linebacker. Continued positive play will push Dickson into the draft’s late rounds.
Sleeper of the Week- AJ Derby/TE/Arkansas: The junior college transfer came to Arkansas as a quarterback but rarely saw action underneath center. Hence the talented Derby moved his 6-foot/4-inch, 250lbs frame to tight end and is seeing immediate results. He’s averaging 15.5-yards on 16 receptions thus far in 2014 and has 3 touchdowns to his credit. Improving almost weekly, Derby looks natural catching the pass and does not fight the ball. In many ways Derby reminds me of former Michigan quarterback turned tight end Jay Riemersma, the seventh round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1996, who went on to play 8 years in the NFL.
Small School Prospects: C.J. Roberts/CB & Stephan Dickens/CB CSU-Pueblo: Roberts and Dickens, unmentioned by scouts entering the season, have both solidified themselves as legitimate NFL prospects for the one loss Pueblo Thunderwolves. Roberts is well sized (6-foot/190lbs), explosive and physically beats down opponents to defend the pass. Rarely challenged, he plays with a great degree of suddenness and forces the action up the field. Meanwhile Dickens is an opportunistic cornerback with solid ball skills. He’s recorded 6 interceptions in eight games this season and competes against larger receivers to defend the pass. Roberts projects as a nickel back in man coverage while Dickens is better backed off the line of scrimmage or as a zone corner in dime packages. While I don’t think either player will be drafted I expect both to compete for roster spots next summer.
Cedric Reed/DL/Texas: Reed entered the season with high hopes after posting 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss as a junior in 2013. In eight games this season those numbers have fallen dramatically as Reed’s totals include 1.5 sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Many scouts believe he’ll be a better pro-player than college-prospect but there’s no denying Reed’s draft stock has taken a big hit this season.