Week three was all about the Crimson Tide and the Aggies. That game certainly didn’t disappoint – despite having enormous expectations. Johnny Football is very quickly proving he provides more punch on the field than he does off it. He is going to make things real interesting for NFL talent evaluators as the ultimate high risk, higher reward pick.
It wasn’t just the Aggies and Tide that put on some spectacular performances. The late game between Wisconsin and Arizona State rewarded those that stayed up to watch it and features two movers on our list.
As always, I remind readers that this is a three week culmination – not just a week three look at performances. Therefore, you won’t find AJ McCarron on this list. McCarron looked very mediocre in week one and very good against A&M. One good performance (against a bad D) is not enough to make the stock up list. After the break check out those heading north or south in this week’s stock up/stock down column.
Kenny Guiton, QB, Ohio State
Two games into his senior season and he’s showing he’s not just the best backup in the country. Guiton’s improvement as a passer – particularly in the vertical game has been a pleasant surprise for Urban Meyer’s crew. It’s so good that Meyer said in his press conference after the Cal game that when Braxton Miller is back – he will have to find a way to get Guiton involved.
Look Braxton Miller is a good quarterback and special player but Guiton’s passing accuracy adds to the potency of this offense.
Having spent significant time around OSU practices, in meeting rooms, and talking with coach’s I can say that OSU coaches will heap praise on this guy when scouts come asking. Last year, had I not known I would have thought Guiton was the starting QB and not Braxton Miller. Guiton had a mastery of the offense that rivaled that of OSU’s grad assistants. This year, it was clear that Guiton’s time this season was spent honing his ability as a passer. In terms of arm talent, Miller may have the least on this roster. Third string QB Cardale Jones has a rocket (but can’t grasp the offense) and Guiton was clearly the second best passer in practice. Neither of them come close to rivaling what Miller gives the team as an athlete – even as good as Guiton has been moving around.
At the very least Guiton has put out some impressive film for NFL talent evaluators to chew on. Guiton wasn’t on NFL radars prior to this season. He is now. He’s making a case for late round consideration.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Badgers lost a heartbreaker to a very solid Arizona State team on Saturday night. If you didn’t stay up to watch it – you lost out.
The Badgers have toted out a three-headed monster at RB throughout this season. It’s been effective but I’m not sure how long Gary Anderson can stop giving most of those carries to redshirt sophomore Melvin Gordon.
Gordon is a big play waiting to happen – as evidenced by going 80 yards untouched on a jet sweep. 37 touches in three contests seems hardly enough for Gordon. If Wisconsin wants to compete with the likes of Ohio State in the Big Ten – Gordon is going to have to touch the ball more in the run and pass game.
The third year sophomore could opt to forgo his final two years of eligibility to avoid getting caught up in the talented 2015 class of backs. As of now, Gordon is our 2nd rated back in the 2014 class but don’t be surprised to see him move his way to the top sooner rather than later.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
I’ve been as critical of Manziel as the next guy but not once have I denied the fact that the kid can play the QB position. In the heat of the Manziel summer of dysfunction I said he will reengage America when the whistle blows and he’s on that field. He’s done that and more this season.
Despite throwing two picks, Manziel was magical against Bama on Saturday afternoon – showing he’s easily the most exciting player in college football. No quarterback has done what Manziel did against Nick Saban’s defense on Saturday. Manziel’s 562 total yards is unheard of, especially against Bama’s vaunted defense.
Look, I’m not going to pretend to know how, what, and why NFL talent evaluators will think about Manziel. I’m also hesitant to say he’s a top quarterback prospect. But I will say – I’ve never seen a collegiate QB that is capable of doing what Manziel can do on the field.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Wow. That’s all I could say watching Mike Evans out jump and out physical Alabama defenders on his way to a 7 catch, 279 yard performance. That has become the norm for Evans – who possesses an intimidating frame at any level.
At all of 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds Evans has proven to be a dominant force in just one full season and three games into his collegiate career. Evans flashed on tape during 2012 as most of the focus was on Ryan Swope. Evans has proved in this young season that he’s much more than just a flash in the pan.
Drawing comparisons to Tampa’s Vincent Jackson – Evans has the size, leaping ability, and hands to be one of the top receivers in the 2014 draft despite being a third-year sophomore. What Evans lacks in breakaway speed he more than makes up for his spatial awareness and physical style of play. Saturday’s performance confirmed to scouts that Evans can be a major factor in the vertical passing game at the next level.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
I’m not sure that a guy like Barr can help his already high draft stock but his performance against Nebraska could be that signature one. Barr showed his playmaking ability with 3 forced fumbles – singlehandedly altering the course of this game. Tack on his 11 tackles – two of which were tackle for loss and it’s easy to see why Barr is so highly regarded.
Some of stat pushers will point to Barr’s lack of a sack as a negative. But I’d make the argument that there hasn’t been a more dominant defender in the country in just two games.
The sacks will come for Barr this season in time. He’s a rare athletic talent that should be a top five pick come May’s draft and has special written all over him as an NFL pass rusher.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
If you haven’t seen Bishop Sankey – you may want to take a watch as this kid appears to be on the rise after two games. Sankey was spectacular in Washington’s week one defeat of Boise State. He was even better in a week three win against Illinois.
Sankey’s first game in 2013 yielded 161 yards and two scores against Boise. His next performance would top that with 208 rushing yards, 63 receiving yards, and two more scores (one on the ground, one through the air).
The Pac-12 is loaded with future NFL backs – I’m not sure Sankey isn’t the best pure runner of this bunch.
IK Enemkpali, DE, Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech’s offense just isn’t good enough this season to keep them in many games. The calling card of the 2012 season for La Tech was their high powered offense led by Colby Cameron and Quinton Patton. Cameron and Patton are gone along with HC Sonny Dykes. The 2013 team could be known for their defensive prowess led by DE IK Enemkpali.
Enemkpali is an undersized DE that pressures the quarterback with regularity. He has 4.5 sacks on the young season to go along with 5 tackles for loss. Enemkpali took over Saturday’s contest versus Tulane. Tulane features a potent passing attack with Nick Montana and Ryan Grant and a sound ground game. Enemkpali consistently applied pressure to Montana coming up with 2.5 sacks and a QB hurry.
At 6-foot-1, 262 pounds Enemkpali is going to have to find a spot for himself in the NFL. With his lack of height, he looks to be a natural fit to make the transition to outside linebacker at the next level. Teams will be looking to evaluate how well Enemkpali can play on his feet during the pre-draft process.
Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
Sean Mannion’s journey to be the clear-cut leader of this Oregon State team has been a long, strange one. Mannion has been prone to making mistakes with the ball – opening the door for Cody Vaz. This season, Mannion was given the reigns all to himself and it’s paying dividends.
After an opening game loss to Eastern Washington – an FCS opponent, Oregon State and Mannion have outdueled Hawaii and Utah. Very quietly Mannion has been one of the very best quarterbacks in the country through the first three games. The physical tools have always been there for the 6-foot-5, 220 pound Mannion. Blessed with great arm strength – Mannion has been plagued by his gunslinger mentality, sometimes forcing the ball into coverage instead of taking what the defense is giving him.
Mannion has avoided those mistake thus far in 2013 throwing for 12 TD’s to his 1 INT. Mannion’s 1,237 passing yards has him second in the nation behind Cal’s Jared Goff in total passing yards. A five week stretch of Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington, and Oregon to close the regular season will go a long way in determining his future as an NFL QB. Only a junior, Mannion may have a tough decision to make following this season if he continues his hot start.
Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut
This season hasn’t gotten off to the start that Connecticut envisioned but there’s a couple of standouts on the defensive side of the ball for the Huskies.
Yawin Smallwood may be the best inside linebacker in the country – yet many outside of the UCONN fanbase knows his name. Smallwood is a three down backer that has shown a knack for finding the football at an otherworldly rate.
Smallwood was spectacular against Maryland – a squad that has shocked the country with its offensive firepower. The Terrapins came into this contest averaging 280 yards on the ground. Thanks to Smallwood’s presence in the middle the Huskies held them to 228 yards on the ground. While that doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment – watching this one it became evident that without Smallwood this would have turned ugly fast.
Smallwood has racked up 30 tackles and one pass breakup in two games this season. Smallwood’s Huskies early season struggles won’t help him gain national notoriety but NFL scouts have already taken notice.
Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
I thought the strength of the Tennessee defense lied with their pass defense. With two young future NFL corners in toe, I expected Tennessee to stay in the game by slowing down Marcus Mariota’s passing attack. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mariota was money through the air and Huff had a breakout game catching 6 passes for 125 yards, including a 54-yard TD pass. This was Huff’s second 100-yard receiving performance in three games – as he’s averaging 21.3 yards per catch on the season.
If the Ducks can continue to run all over teams it will further open up Huff’s opportunity for big games. My early impressions of Huff have been that of a third rounder but I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t find his way into round two when it’s all said and done.
Khyri Thornton, DT, Southern Miss
His team is terrible. The Golden Eagles may not win a game this season but I thought this was a good time to highlight a pretty good defender for Southern Miss.
Khyri Thornton flashed a bit against Arkansas as he showed NFL ability with a quick get off and quicks for a near 300 pounder. Thornton’s ability to chase the play going away and motor really stood out as the Golden Eagles defense put up an admirable effort against the Razorbacks.
Thornton isn’t likely to get much hub on a bad team but NFL talent evaluators will have to take notice of this kid. His combination of quickness, explosive power, and motor should keep him on the minds of the draft community as he’s a prospect that could go much higher than most anticipate.
Two down lineman make their way onto our stock down list this week. One of which I expect to rebound, the other may be headed for a disappointment come April. Michigan’s Devin Gardner is a guy that I trumpeted praise on all spring but I could be eating some crow on that one. Last but not least was a rusty Brad Roby that was not at his best against Cal stud WR Bryce Treggs.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona St.
I’m sure that Will Sutton is going to make a big impact this season – but that’s yet to happen. Sutton has been a relative non-factor in two games this season. Until he went flying down the field after the controversial kneel down by Joel Stave, I didn’t know he was out there.
Sutton’s mark on games is going to be using his lightening quick first step and closing speed to rack up tackles for loss and sacks. He’s yet to account for much of any of those signature plays – credited with .5 TFL and no sacks on the young season.
Sutton has to be dominant as teams will pick apart his lack of size. I have little doubt that he’s going to rebound but one has to ask whether the added weight in the offseason was a good thing. Sutton is going to have plenty of opportunities to prove he’s what we thought he was as the schedule is loaded with quality competition – starting Saturday with Stanford.
Deandre Coleman, DE/DT, Cal
Outside of one play on Saturday – I had to check to see if Coleman was injured for the game against the Buckeyes. That was the same story against Northwestern in week one. I may be guilty of overvaluing Coleman prior to the season.
Coleman is never going to be much more than a two down player that takes up space and occupies gaps in the run game. Clearly, there’s a role in the NFL for these types of players but unless he can convince teams he can man the 3T spot in a four man front – I can’t see him being taken before the third round of May’s draft.
The reality is that Coleman doesn’t make enough plays to warrant a higher selection. While he’s not asked to get after the QB in Cal’s scheme – he hasn’t logged a forced fumble and has one career fumble recovery.
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
This one hurts. I was the leader of the Devin Gardner hype train after spending significant time at UM this spring. I liked what I saw on tape from him in 2012 and found myself enamored by his skills during the spring time. At one point this summer, Gardner was my No. 2 quarterback.
While three games isn’t enough to completely forget what I saw this spring – it sure is making it hard to lead the charge on this kid.
Gardner looked very average against Central Michigan in week one. He had moments of brilliance against Notre Dame but they were squelched by a couple of head scratching decisions. I expected the Wolverines and Gardner to dismantle a bad Akron team. That didn’t happen in the least.
Gardner was bad against the Zips – throwing three picks in what was almost a disaster for the Wolverines. They managed to hold the Zips out of the endzone to win the game but this was bad for Michigan and even worse for Gardner’s draft hope. The good news for Gardner is that he has one more season of eligibility after this one. At this rate, he will definitely have to use that final year of eligibility to show he has the game to impact the NFL.
Brad Roby, CB, Ohio State
Roby, fresh off his suspension, with his first test of the year. Roby had an up and down day which isn’t good enough for a guy that I expected to be a top ten pick in May’s draft. Roby was suspended week one and was thrown at twice against San Diego State. Cal’s up-tempo pass attack served as the first real evaluation of Roby and he didn’t pass.
Roby was beat twice by Treggs in the vertical game. The one area I was concerned with when it came to Roby was when he was matched up with a bigger receiver. Treggs isn’t tall by any stretch of the imagination (listed at 5’11”) but consistently won by outpositioning Roby for the ball. His lack of spatial awareness is going to be something to monitor as the season wears on.
Roby will face off against two talented (big) receivers later in the season when he draws assignments on Penn State’s Allen Robinson and Indiana’s Cody Latimer. Latimer is off to a red hot start and could be telling matchup for NFL talent evaluators. I’m going to chalk this one up to a mixture of scheme and knocking the rust off but Roby has to play much better if he’s going to live up to my high expectations.