Week eight of the college season saw Florida State fall from the ranks of the undefeated on a wild field goal which was blocked as time expired. It also saw Jared Goff have another tough outing. The most recent news on Goff’s next level decision highlight’s the Risers and Sliders for week eight.
Blake Martinez/LB/Stanford: The Cardinal is sneaking up on the opposition in the PAC 12 and they’re doing it with defense. Senior linebacker Blake Martinez has led the unit and in doing so, has impressed scouts. He’s posted a team leading 80 tackles this season including 10 tackles during the victory over Washington. Displaying himself as a three down defender, Martinez has also broken up 5 passes this year. He’s an incredibly instinctive linebacker and west coast scouts believe he has traits of Luke Kuechly in his game.
Yannick Ngakoue/OLB/Marlyand: Its been a struggle for the Terps this season as they’ve just a single win against IA competition but Ngakoue has played well through it all. The junior has posted 9 sacks during the teams seven games while also adding 9 tackles for loss. Two sacks and two tackles for loss came this weekend during the teams one point loss to Penn State. Though he often comes out of a three point stance, Ngakoue shows skill playing in space and pursuing the action. He’s quick in both a straight line as well as laterally and plays with a nice degree of athleticism. Projected as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Ngakoue is moving through the middle rounds and developing into a potential top 100 pick.
Shaq Lawson/DE/Clemson: Clemson has produced a number of pass rushing defensive ends which have gone on to be top 75 picks in the draft and Lawson is next in line. In seven games this season he’s registered 12.5 tackles for loss with 5.5 sacks. Included in these numbers are the results of Clemson’s blowout victory over Miami where Lawson posted 2 sacks and 2 TFL’s. He’s an athletic prospect that quickly gets up the field and bends off the edge. Lawson has size/height limitations but offers potential in a variety of schemes.
Trae Elston/DB/Mississippi: Elston has been on a tear this season and possibly turned in his best performance against Texas A&M. Elston posted 3 tackles including one tackle for loss while recording 5 pass break-ups. He was omnipresent and consistently came up big for the Rebels as A&M tried to claw their way back into the game. For the year he ranks second on the defense with 40 tackles while also collecting 4 interceptions in 8 games. Elston entered the year graded as a street free agent in large part due to poor size/speed numbers but his instincts and playmaking ability could help him capture a spot in the late rounds for a team needing a ninth defensive back/special teams player.
Caleb Benenoch/OL/UCLA: Benenoch has taken his game to another level this season and looks much improved at left tackle. Fundamentally sound, he’s an athletic lineman that shows next level skills in pass protection while also displaying the ability to block on the second level. Though he must improve his run blocking strength, Benenoch comes with a large upside and looks like a potential starter at either guard or tackle. If he enters the draft, something he is considering, Benenoch projects as a late second day to middle round choice.
Alex Collins/RB/Arkansas: Entering the year scouts graded Jonathan Williams as the draftable running back from Arkansas but a preseason foot injury sideline him, making way for Collins. The junior is the third leading rusher in the SEC, most recently posting 105-yards on the ground against Auburn. He’s also shown himself to be a competent pass catcher and totaled 3 receptions during the Razorbacks overtime win. Collins is sized well, carries the ball with terrific quickness and shows a burst in his game. He’ll be good value during the early part of the draft’s last day if he opts to enter.
*Sleeper* Darrell Greene/G/San Diego State: Greene was considered a free agent prospect entering the year but has since moved himself into the late rounds of the draft. The wide bodied blocker is a powerful mauler that shows surprising skill on the second level. During the Aztecs thumping of Utah State, a victory which kept them undefeated in the Mountain West, Greene’s blocking helped lead the way for 336-yards on the ground.
*Small School Prospect* Victor Ochi/DE-OLB/Stony Brook: Its been a tough slog for Stony Brook as the team is in the midst of a four game losing streak but their star defensive player may finally be kicking it into gear. Entering the year scouts stamped Ochi a day three pick as teams love his pass rushing skill and ability to disrupt the action. Ochi is quick off the snap, fast up the field and plays with a vicious style. He’s relentless in pursuit and attacks opposing ball handlers. Against Maine he recorded 2 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss, bringing his season totals to 5 and 12.5 respectively. Ochi now must continue to produce during the second half of the year and I would expect him to receive an invitation to the Shrine Game then the combine.
Ricky Seals-Jones/WR/Texas A&M: Over the summer I graded the redshirt sophomore as a potential second round pick but his play this season has been nothing short of disappointing. Against Mississippi, a secondary which had a decided size disadvantage trying to cover Seals-Jones, he posted just three receptions. In seven games this season the 6-foot/4-inch receiver has totaled 24 receptions.
Cal quarterback Jared Goff is the darling of the internet with some predicting the junior will be the first selection of the 2016 draft, an opinion not shared by myself or west coast scouts, or at least an opinion not shared at this point in time. But will Goff enter the draft? During several conversations late last week with those on the west coast close to the situation I’m told Goff’s family is giving every indication he will make the jump to the NFL once he closes out the season. And though far from a guarantee, it seems more than the usual evaluation process is taking place. Another interesting nugget passed on to me; NFL general managers are reaching out to sources besides west coast scouts to gather information on the Goff at this stage. The past two games have not been pretty as Goff has thrown five interceptions and was sacked eight times. This weekend Cal faces a resurgent USC squad.
Staying in the PAC 12, I earlier mentioned Caleb Benenoch of UCLA will consider entering the draft. Sources on the west coast tell me they believe it’s a foregone conclusion teammate Kenny Clark, the defensive lineman, will leave for the NFL once the season is complete.
Another junior that seems headed for the draft is Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. I’m told Henry has met with a number of agents in recent weeks and is giving indications he’s ready to move on.
North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz was swiftly moving up draft boards before breaking a bone in his throwing wrist a week ago Saturday. Wentz is on the sidelines for the remainder of the regular season though there’s still a chance he returns if the Bisons make it to the post-season. Scouts are hoping to see Wentz in either the Shrine Game or Senior Bowl and then the combine. He’s a terrific short and intermediate passer but NFL decision makers want to see his downfield arm strength and long accuracy.