A week in which college football first heard from the committee responded with a Saturday which could change the rankings. It was also a weekend which the top player in the draft separated himself from the pack. Here are the Risers-Sliders for week ten.
Believe it or not the Senior Bowl kicks-off in two-plus months. It seems just yesterday I was sitting in the stands in Mobile, Alabama assisting PhiladelphiaEagles.com and GreenBayPackers.com with their coverage of the 2014 event.
That being the case, its never to early for Senior Bowl talk.
Sources tell me right now the quarterbacks expected to receive invitations include Garrett Grayson of Colorado State, Sean Mannion of Oregon State, Shane Carden of East Carolina and Bryan Bennett of Southeastern Louisiana. I was informed two invitations will be held back for Marcus Mariota of Oregon and Brett Hundley of UCLA, if they declare for the draft. While the signal callers are juniors as far as their eligibility is concerned, both are on pace to graduate in four years. Senior Bowl director Phil Savage recently started the tradition of inviting early draft entrees who are on pace to receive degrees to the Senior Bowl, something he should be commended for.
Earlier this season I listed Carl Davis of Iowa as a slider as he was putting up pedestrian production. More than anything else I was disappointed in his play after giving him rave reviews during my Big Ten preview in August. I’m told scouts are not disappointed in Davis at all, in fact the defensive line prospect is soaring up draft boards. Various sources tell me they’ve stamped Davis as a top 45 prospect.
Week four riser Kris Frost has been on a tear this season. The Auburn linebacker lists third on the team with 46 tackles while also being credited with 6 quarterback hurries and 3 forced fumbles. On film Frost looks athletic, flying around the ball from every direction and showing the ability to make plays up the field as well as off the line in coverage.
Marcus Mariota/QB/Oregon: Usually I don’t list players such as Mariota as risers. I mean how much higher can a player presently at the top climb? That being the case I was literally in awe watching the junior quarterback perform against Stanford, whose defense ranked best in the PAC 12 in every category. Numbers aside, (19 of 30 passing for 258 yards and 2 TD’s with 85 yards rushing on 9 carries and 2 more scores), Mariota’s performance was NFL caliber in every way. He made NFL-type passes, NFL-type decisions and was in complete control of the offense. When he took off and ran with the ball Mariota resembled a sprinter on the football field. It was my belief Mariota would have been the first player drafted had he entered the 2014 draft and without pause he sits atop my list for 2015.
DeVante Parker/WR/Louisville: Parker missed the first seven games of the season after undergoing foot surgery but hasn’t missed a beat upon return. After a tune-up game in which he caught 9 receptions for 132 yards against North Carolina State, Parker took his game to another level against Florida State and manhandled the defending national champions who start a pair of NFL prospects at cornerback. The numbers, 8 catches for 214 yards, tell just a part of the story as Parker had Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams of the Seminoles playing back on their heels and twisting in the wind trying to slow him down. And despite losing the contest Parker was the star of the game. His forty time in pre-draft workouts will determine how early in the top forty Parker is selected.
Deandre Smelter/WR/Georgia Tech: Entering the season scouts graded Smelter as a fringe late round pick and his teammate Darren Waller as a middle round choice. Yet the game film from the first two months of 2014 tells a different story. Smelter has answered the call in every way for the Yellow Jackets; a dependable underneath receiver that breaks the long one while producing on reverses. Saturday’s victory over Virginia offered more proof why Smelter’s stock is on the rise. He totaled 4 receptions for 107 yards (26.8-yard average) with one score. The 6-foot, 2-inch wide out who tips the scales at more than 220-pounds is averaging 23.1-yards on 20 receptions this season and has found the end zone five times. He’s solidified himself as a late round pick and the faster Smelter runs in pre-daft workouts the earlier he’ll be selected next April.
Jamison Crowder/WR/Duke: Pittsburgh ranked as the top pass defense in the ACC prior to the Duke game, allowing under 166-passing yards per game. Crowder fell 1 yard shy of the mark during his teams victory, posting 9 receptions for 165-yards with 2 scores. Crowder is a small yet slippery wide out that lends a helping hand returning punts. He’ll be a nice addition as a fifth receiver/return specialist at the next level.
Senquez Golson/CB/Mississippi: Golson, a four year starter who spent time on the Mississippi baseball squad, is in the midst of a career campaign. Entering the season with late round grades Golson has since picked off 9 passes while breaking up another 5 this season. He touches the tape right around 5-feet, 9-inches but offers terrific ball skills and the instincts to match. Golson could surprise on draft day, moving into the middle rounds then seeing extensive action in nickel packages as a rookie in the NFL.
Rakeem Nunez-Roches/DT/Southern Mississippi: USM is in the midst of a two game losing streak yet Nunez-Roches has significantly raised his level of play. During Saturday’s loss to UTEP he led the team with 11 tackles including 3 for loss as well as 2 sacks and 1 blocked field goal. The prior week his numbers read 5 tackles with 2.5 for loss. Nunez-Roches looked like a promising prospect as a sophomore in 2012 before being sidelined with a knee injury last season. His play has steadily improved over the course of the year and he grades as a disruptive front line player to monitor.
Sleeper of the Week- Michael Caputo/S/Wisconsin: The hard hitting safety has made his presence felt throughout the season and presently leads the Badgers in tackles (57) and pass defenses (tied with four others at 4 PBUs). He’s a fierce, competitive defender who plays with both aggression and instincts. Caputo is not a traditional centerfielder rather best in a zone type system and offers a style similar to former Badger and ten year NFL veteran Jim Leonhard.
Small School Prospect- Dezmin Lewis/WR/Central Arkansas: Lewis received middle round consideration from scouts entering the season and has not disappointed. The big bodied wide out has caught 49 passes for 726 yards in ten games with 6 receptions resulting in scores. He’s a natural pass catcher that wins out in battles and displays run after the catch skill. Word is Lewis will receive an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl next January.
Norkeithus Otis/OLB/North Carolina: I stamped Otis as a potential sixth round prospect entering the season while most scouts had him going a frame later. To date we’ve both been disappointed. Otis lines up as a bandit back in the Tar Heel formation to take advantage of his athleticism and pass rushing skill but has posted 26 tackles and 3 sacks this season. While he struggled with injuries during the season’s opening weeks, Otis has not been much of a consistent factor in 2014.
Michael McFarland/TE/South Florida: McFarland was stamped as a middle round pick by a number of scouts entering the season but has played free agent football. He’s caught just 18 passes in ten games, a disappointing number for a 6-feet/6-inch tight end not known for his blocking.