Week ten of the college season will result in a shake-up near the top of the national rankings after Texas A&M unexpectedly lost to Mississippi State. From the perspective of NFL prospects four linebackers lead the way while two lesser known receivers also make the list. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week ten.
Zach Cunningham/LB/Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost a close contest to Auburn but Cunningham had a wow type of performance. The junior finished with a team leading 9 tackles, which gives him 94 this season, also tops on the Vandy defense. Cunningham also forced a fumble during the contest and made a sensational play to block a field goal late in the game. The athleticism he showed jumping clear over Auburn’s long snapper then knocking away the kick is the type of stuff scouts will be impressed by during war room film work. Cunningham must improve his play against the pass and be more disciplined with assignments as he often fires up the field and gets caught out of position but his explosive style will entice a defensive minded head coach.
Micah Kiser/LB/Virginia: The Cavaliers have shown signs of life after years of being the doormat in the ACC and Kiser is leading the way on defense. The junior linebacker leads the team in all tackling categories and thus far has posted 91 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as well as a team leading 4 forced fumbles. Proving himself as a three down defender Kiser has also broken up 6 passes this season. He’s a terrific run and chase linebacker that should do well on the inside of a 3-4 alignment.
Richie Brown/LB/Mississippi State: Despite being stamped as a street free agent by a number of scouts, I graded Brown as a potential sixth round prospect entering the season and he’s very much looked like a draftable prospect in 2016. He posted a team leading 8 tackles during the upset over Texas A&M and sits atop the Bulldogs defense with 76 tackles. Brown is a terrific run stopper with the athleticism necessary to develop into a three down player.
Ben Weaver/LB/Boise State: Weaver is one of the better kept secrets at the linebacker position. Despite being ignored by scouts the senior has been a tackling machine for Boise State and presently leads the team with 87 tackles. Nine games into his senior season Weaver has a combined 306 tackles for the Broncos dating back to his freshman season. He has size limitations but you cannot dismiss his production and Weaver should catch on as a reserve linebacker/special teams player on Sunday.
Deangelo Yancey/WR/Purdue: Yancey has been one of the few bright spots in what’s been another dreary season for Purdue. The senior wide out, graded as a mid round pick prior to the season, has been consistent catching the ball while showing a great deal of big play ability. The past four games Yancey caught 12 passes for 384-yards, an average of 32 yards per reception. During that streak he found the end zone 5 times. The totals this season include 30 receptions for 557 receiving yards and 6 scores. The numbers are not overwhelming but the film is enough to get Yancey, who measures 6-feet/1.5-inches and 212 pounds, a combine invitation and consideration in the fourth round.
Austin Schmidt/T/Illinois: Prior to the season I voiced my surprise scouts graded Schmidt as nothing more than a street free agent while I handed the senior a sixth round grade. Thus far Schmidt has played well and he looked solid during the victory over Michigan State. He’s not the greatest athlete and must improve his playing strength but Schmidt is fundamentally sound and could easily make an NFL roster as a reserve swing tackle.
Sleeper Prospect- Jhaustin Thomas/DL/Iowa State: Thomas was another player I handed a sixth round grade prior to the season despite scouts taking a wait and see approach. The 6-foot/5-inch, 285 pound Thomas has shown consistent improvement in his game all year. Against Oklahoma he totaled 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and intercepted a pass. For the year Thomas has registered 15 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. And while not All American numbers he’s a prospect with size, athleticism and big play ability. Thomas will be a terrific late round pick as a developmental prospect that can line-up at defensive tackle or as a two-gap end.
Small School Prospect- Billy Brown/WR-TE/Shepherd: Scouts rated Brown as one of the top small school prospects entering the season and its easy to see why watching the film. Measuring just under 6-feet/4-inches and 245-pounds while running the forty under 4.6s, Brown plays big football and dominates opponents. He’s a natural pass catcher that consistently grabs the ball away from his frame and regularly wins out for contested passes. Brown is sneaky fast and though more of a long strider, makes big receptions down field. This season he’s totaled 63 receptions, 998 yards (15.8 yard average) and 14 touchdowns in nine games. In many ways Brown reminds me of a bigger version of Devin Funchess and he could make a position change as did the former Michigan star, though in this case Brown may end up moving from college receiver to NFL tight end.
C.J. Beathard/QB/Iowa: Graded by scouts as one of the top two senior quarterback prospects, Beathard has not met expectations. Known for heady play rather than great physical skills, he’s a dink and dunk passer that’s struggled with his accuracy at times this season. After nine games Beathard has thrown for 200-yards or more only three times.
Seth Russell/QB/Baylor: Russell is another senior signal caller failing to meet the expectations of scouts, albeit for a variety of reasons. His accuracy is significantly off compared to a year ago while is touchdown-to-interception ration is much worse.
Week nine of the college season saw several close finishes and two top rated teams fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. We also witnessed three ball carriers rise up draft boards as well as an unknown tackle from Utah who’s caught the attention of NFL scouts. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week nine.
Sidney Jones/CB/Washington: It wasn’t long ago Marcus Peters entered the draft after a his junior season at Washington then was selected in the first round. All indications are Jones will follow suit. The junior is improving almost weekly and developing into a true shutdown corner. His ball skills compliment his next level size and Jones has dominated opponents all year. He displays the ability to make plays with his back to the ball and stays on the receivers hip out of breaks and Jones regularly beats down opponents to defend the pass. He was rarely challenged during the victory over Utah yet still broke up two passes. Expect Jones to enter the draft then end up somewhere in the middle of round one.
James Conner/RB/Pittsburgh: Besides an inspirational return to the field after defeating cancer Conner is turning in a tremendous campaign which has impressed NFL scouts. Three times this season he’s broken the century mark on the ground and his 141-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Virginia Tech was his best of the year. Conner displays terrific quickness and speed for a back close to 230lbs and turns the corner almost as easily as he pounds opponents up the middle. Physical and medical exams will ultimately determine Conner’s final draft position but there’s no denying his triumphant return has been good for his pocketbook as well as his spirit.
Jeremy McNichols/RB/Boise State: Last week it was Wyoming running back Brian Hill in the risers column and this week the attention turns towards another M-West ball carrier, Boise State’s McNichols. The junior posted 143-yards rushing on 18 carries (7.9-yard average) with 2 touchdowns during the loss to Wyoming on Saturday and he was tough to stop. McNichols consistently picks up big chunks of yardage every time he touches the ball (more than 5-yards per carry the past two seasons) and runs hard on the inside while showing the ability to create yardage and make defenders miss. I presently grade him as a 3rd round prospect and I’m told it’s presently a 50/50 proposition as to whether or not McNichols enters the draft.
Elijah McGuire/RB/Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin Cajuns had the week off but the chatter has been building around McGuire for more than a month. The versatile ball carrier has 672-yards rushing and 5 touchdowns during the season’s initial seven games, averaging more than 5-yards per touch. He’s a tough running back with the ability to make defenders miss and create yardage. Measuring 5-feet/9.5-inches and just over 200lbs, McGuire needs to show more productivity catching the ball out of the backfield but scouts have pegged him as a middle round pick. I’m told he’s made the first round of Senior Bowl cuts.
Amara Darboh/WR/Michigan: Several Wolverines were worthy of the risers list but I’m going with Darboh who had a career game against a very good Michigan State secondary. Darboh made a number of difficult catches in traffic during the games important moments and finished with 8 receptions for 165-yards, far outdistancing any of his teammates. Scouts ranked Darboh below teammate Jehu Chesson entering the year but he’s elevated his game and is turning his tremendous athleticism into on the field production.
Blair Brown/LB/Ohio: Prior to the season I stated Brown was an intriguing prospect whom liked and he’s not disappointed in 2016. Brown leads the Ohio defense with 79 tackles, including 9 posted during the victory over Toledo. Though vertically challenged Brown stacks well against the run and makes plays sideline-to-sideline. I could see him moving into the late fourth round area as Brown fits well at either middle or inside linebacker.
Sleeper Prospect- Garett Bolles/T/Utah: Scouts knew little about Bolles, a junior college transfer who’s played offensive tackle for two years, before the season but the lineman has made a quick ascent up draft boards. Taking over the starting left tackle spot after J.J. Dielman moved to center, Bolles has played next level football every Saturday. Despite giving up one sack late in the Washington game Bolles helped keep his quarterback upright against one of the nation’s best defenses. I’m told Bolles, who served an LDS church mission and will be 25 years old next May, would consider entering the draft if he receives a first round grade from the advisory committee and many believe he is top 32 worthy.
Small School Prospect- Jessamen Dunker/G/Tennessee State: On film Dunker is one of the better zone blocking guards you’ll find from the senior class. Fundamentally sound, he’s a tremendous pass protector and easily moves around the field then annihilates opponents blocking in motion. Though some scouts grade him as a tackle, the position he played for two seasons at TSU, I feel he’s best inside at guard. Dunker’s play grades as a legitimate mid-round prospect but numerous character concerns and off the field issues will raise red flags. He’ll likely end up as a late round choice but if he gets his act together Dunker could line-up with the starting unit on Sunday’s.
Charles Harris/DE-OLB/Missouri: Though some have blamed it on the defensive scheme, there’s no denying the draft stock of Harris has taken a hit this year. Entering the season as a prospect many thought could vault into the first round, the junior has posted just 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Those are pedestrian numbers for a prospect who’s suppose to make a living in the opponents backfield.
Quincy Mauger/S/Georgia: Mauger was graded as a late round/priority free agent prospect entering the year but he’s played more like someone who won’t make it past the 80 man roster. He’s totaled just 16 tackles in eight games thus far and started in just one of those contests.
Week eight on the college football schedule saw a major upset at the top of the rankings, one that’s likely to effect the final four. We also saw a number of next level performances from lesser known prospects. Many of these players I grade as mid-round choices but confidently feel they will contribute at the next level. Here are the Risers & Sliders for week eight.
Brian Hill/RB/Wyoming: While the media focuses on San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey out of the Mountain West scouts are more interested in the junior running back from Wyoming. Though not putting up the record breaking numbers Pumphrey has recorded the Cowboys top ball carrier has been productive and posted several eye popping performances. Against Nevada on Saturday he rushed for 289 yards on 29 carries, 3 resulting in touchdowns. Hill is a bigger back who can handle a lot of carries and he’s built more for the NFL compared to Pumphrey. Hill is not much of a pass catcher out of the backfield, which is a concern, rather someone who should do well as a rotational ball carrier on Sunday’s.
Jordan Willis/DE-OLB/Kansas State: Just past the midway point of the 2015 season and Willis is playing the best football of his college career. He ranks third on the team with 36 total tackles and leads the defense with 11.5 tackles, 8 sacks as well as 2 forced fumbles. Willis turned in a dominant performance during the victory over Texas posting 7 tackles with 2 sacks. Prior to the season I stamped Willis as a sixth round prospect, in line with the grade scouts handed him, but he’s definitely improved his draft stock since. I expect Willis to test off the charts during workouts and it will be interesting to see if he plays any outside linebacker if invited to the Senior Bowl.
Troy Fumagalli/TE/Wisconsin: The junior is in the midst of a terrific season and proving to be a three down player. On the heels of a 7 catch, 84 yard performance against Ohio State, he caught 2 passes for 38 yards with 1 score during the victory over Iowa. Fumagalli has terrific size, shows outstanding blocking prowess and is a legitimate pass catching threat in the short and intermediate field as well as the red zone. Forty times will be important but I could see Fumagalli sliding into the third round if he enters the draft.
Josh Tupou/DT/Colorado: Off his junior film of 2014 film I graded Tupou as a mid-round choice before the athletic defensive lineman was forced to the sidelines with suspension in 2015. After getting his act together he returned to CU this season and has been a force for the top rated defense in the PAC 12. Tupou is strong, explosive and adept at making plays on the ball (28 tackles in 7 games) or occupying blockers. He offers possibilities inside at tackle or as a two-gap end. If he checks all the boxes during the run-up to the draft I could see Tupou being selected as early as the fourth round.
Anthony Walker/LB/Northwestern: Walker was a favorite of mine as a sophomore in 2015 and his game is finally taking off this season. During the victory over Indiana, the third consecutive win for Northwestern, the junior led the defense with 11 tackles including 2 tackles for loss. For the season he leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss and 6 QBH’s. Walker is an athletic linebacker who makes plays up the field while also showing the ability to go sideline-to-sideline. I would be surprised if he enters the draft though Walker has stating potential at inside/middle linebacker in the NFL.
Shaquill Griffin/CB/Central Florida: Scouts stamped Griffin as a UDFA entering the season but I thought more of the corner and gave him a 7th round grade. To his credit Griffin may prove both incorrect as he’s played brilliantly in 2016. Seven games into the season Griffin has broken up 8 passes and tallied 2 interceptions. The senior has the ball skills and awareness to play on Sunday’s but deep speed is a concern. Regardless, he has enough ability to line-up in dime packages. Next week is a big challenge for Griffin as UCF faces the high powered Houston offense.
Sleeper- Haason Reddick/OLB-DE/Temple: While scouts ignored Reddick entering the season I saw enough skill this summer to stamp him as a free agent. Based on the results midway through the season Reddick could end up a late round pick. He leads the Owls with 15.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks besides posting 37 total tackles. He’s an intense defender who continually makes positive plays and blows up offensive games plans. Size will be the issue for Reddick but I could definitely see him as a 7th round choice for a team projecting him as a 3-4 OLB/designated pass rusher/special teams ace.
Small School Prospect- Brendan Langley/CB/Lamar: Entering the year Langley, who started his college career at Georgia and spent time at receiver, was graded as a late round prospect. Yet during the first half of the 2016 campaign he’s moved into the second round on a number of draft boards with some scouts believing he has top potential. Langley registered 6 interceptions during the season’s initial seven games and has broken up another 4 passes. On film Langley plays athletic, fundamentally sound football. He has a quick, smooth backpedal, explodes out of his transition and shows terrific ball skills. Langley’s instincts need polish and he must improve his coverage on crossing patterns but he measures over 6-feet tall, runs a legitimate 4.4s in the forty and scouts love his progress and potential.
Kent Perkins/G/Texas: Perkins was considered a late round prospect by scouts playing free agent style football. He’s a large, lumbering lineman who cannot slide in space and was exploited several times during the loss to Kansas State on Saturday.