Week four of the college football season didn’t bring the monster matchups that previous weeks presented but left us with some outstanding performances from understated draft risers. The week before most conferences begin to delve deep into conference play is always an interesting week. We begin to get a nice chunk of film study done on a lot of these players and things begin to get ‘real’ at this point. After the break check out the week four NFL Draft stock report.
Josh Mauro, DE, Stanford
It could be the year of the backup. Ohio State QB Kenny Guiton made the risers list last week – this week it’s Stanford backup DE Josh Mauro’s turn. We previewed Mauro in our week four preview piece and he didn’t disappoint in his first start.
Make no mistake, Mauro is no one-hit wonder. He’s been a standout along the star studded Stanford defensive line. In limited opportunities in 2012, Mauro notched 7 TFL and 5 sacks. With Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson getting all the hype, Mauro has quietly been very good in Stanford’s previous two games. Week four may serve as Mauro’s breakout performance – garnering some national exposure.
A guy like Mauro is going to need some signature, splash plays to climb draft boards and he’s doing that. Week two he applied pressure to David Fales – leading to a sack. Last week, against Army, he was all over the field making 7 tackles. This week was his signature performance with an interception returned for 25 yards and a sack.
At 6-foot-6, 281 pounds and his experience in Stanford’s 3-4 defense will draw the attention of teams in need of a 5T.
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
There’s little doubt that Odell Beckham is a future NFL star but he’s not the only one of Zach Mettenberger’s targets that have a bright future.
Mettenberger’s pair of junior wide receivers have been great this season. This week it was Jarvis Landry’s turn to take the spotlight. The 6-foot-1, 195 receiver hauled in 7 passes for 118 yards and an impressive TD catch
Through four games this season, Landry has accounted for 24 receptions for 364 yards and an impressive 6 touchdown receptions.
Landry emerged late last season as Mettenberger’s most reliable target and that has continued in 2013. The duo of Beckham and Landry may be one the top tandems in the country. Both could be on NFL radars this season – with Landry being a surprise in a solid underclassmen group of receivers.
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Vic Beasley could be the most dominant defender in college football. Through three games Beasley has 5 sacks, 3 passes broken up, and a forced fumble.
Most impressive has been Beasley skill set in getting after the quarterback. Blessed with maybe the best first step in the country, Beasley beats opponents with speed and a handful of nice counter moves. Despite smaller size, Beasley uses his hands well to keep himself free from bigger OL and his spin move looks Dwight Freeney-esque.
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Beasley is most likely going to have to transition to playing on his feet at the next level. His build and speed are similar to Browns No. 6 overall pick Barkevious Mingo. The junior could be a name to keep an eye on as the season progresses and Clemson gets into the heart of their ACC schedule. An October 19 matchup with Florida State and Cameron Erving await as one that could vault him into the first round conversation.
Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Last week’s risers featured Sean Mannion, Oregon State’s junior quarterback. This week it’s Mannion’s top target.
Brandin Cooks is the country’s top receiving yards leader at this moment and has drawn the attention of the draft community. Cooks will be pigeonholed into the slot role because of his lack of height but I think he’s a natural fit as a Z in the NFL – much like his former teammate Markus Wheaton.
Cooks is listed at 5-foot-10, 186 pounds – while not ideal I’ve been impressed with how he uses his ‘smallish’ frame to outleverage defenders when the ball is in the air. Cooks calling card is going to be his ability to win with his dynamic athleticism but he’s as complete as any receiver in the country.
Far from a one-year wonder, Cooks has over 1,500 yards receiving heading into the 2013 season. The junior has never missed a game at any level – furthering our point that he’s short, not small.
George Uko, DE, USC
Morgan Breslin (2 sacks), Devon Kennard (1 sack), and George Uko (1 sack) were a major reason why the Trojans pulled out a close victory against Utah State on Saturday.
Breslin has been very good this season, particularly at getting after the quarterback but it’s been junior DE George Uko that catches my eye on this defense. The 6-foot-3, 275 pound end is a picture perfect five-technique prospect with the strength to hold up in the run game and explosiveness to be an impact rusher in a three-man front.
Uko has made a home in the opponent’s backfield this season with 4 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss to go with a forced fumble and 12 total tackles. Uko’s versatile game could make him a prime candidate to declare early for the draft and don’t be surprised when he finds his way into the first round.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
I’ve held off on Derek Carr on our risers list for a couple of weeks. Carr has been near flawless in Fresno’s two games leading up to their showdown with Boise on Friday night. We knew heading into the season that Carr had the physical talents to be a top senior quarterback prospect but his skittish tendencies in the pocket scared me off rating him highly.
I’m not going to fly over the moon about his improvement in the pocket – because it’s still an issue but the kid is playing at a high level and winning games. Fresno could be a BCS buster and Carr is a legitimate Heisman candidate with his 12 to 1 TD-INT ratio and near 70% completion percentage.
Carr has weapons at his disposal but could be the most important player to his team in the country. As I watched the Rutgers and Boise State games, I kept asking myself where this team would be without Carr at the helm. The answer…probably 1-2 with little to no bowl hopes. With him they are 3-0 with BCS hopes. That could be the ultimate compliment to a quarterback. I think it’s safe to start the discussion of Carr being in a group of three top senior quarterbacks and possible first round pick.
Our two fallers this week are on opposite ends of the spectrum – one is falling through the earth’s core and the other is a top prospect. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas may be the most disappointing player in the country as few are as physically gifted as Thomas. Like Thomas, Tajh Boyd is physically gifted but the holes in his game are being revealed as the games pass.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Is there a bigger fall from grace than Logan Thomas. Before last season, many had Thomas as a legitimate candidate for the No. 1 overall QB spot in the 2013 NFL Draft. Thomas’ 2012 season was an epic disappointment and he remained at VT for his senior season.
Blessed with size, arm strength, and athleticism – Thomas catches the eye getting off the bus. Unfortunately for him, his future may be at tight end and not quarterback.
As bad as Thomas was in ’12, he’s been equally disappointing this season. His lack of improvement in his mechanics is frustrating with his decision-making even more frustrating. The 6-foot-6, 260 lb. Thomas is heading for day three status as a tight end in our book. Despite what some national talking heads have said, I can’t see a team spending a day two pick on this kid at tight end, let alone at quarterback.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
After a solid week one performance against Georgia, he’s had two so-so performances against lesser competition.
Boyd’s numbers this week were solid but he left a ton of throws on the field against NC State. Boyd’s accuracy was spotty at best Thursday night. Boyd’s struggles outside the pocket continued against NC State and my issue with his deep ball accuracy were in the spotlight against NC State.
Boyd is widely considered the top senior passer but the margin is closing quickly as his negatives have been emphasized in the last two contests. There will be many that disagree with Boyd as a faller but his game isn’t as polished as is necessary to be considered a top 10 pick and I can’t see him getting to that point before May.