NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT
WHO TO WATCH IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL THIS WEEKEND
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP: #3 AUBURN (11-1) vs #5 MISSOURI (11-1); 4 PM ET; CBS .... Hands up everyone who had Missouri against Auburn in the SEC title game in their pre-season college football pick-em pools. Indeed, both sets of Tigers are candidates for comeback teams of the year after they were a combined 8-16 in 2012 includig a collective 2-14 in the conference. And while Auburn-Missouri isn't quite the draft-fest that other potential SEC match-ups would have provided, this game hardly lacks for decent pro prospects to watch. In fact, the best individual match-ups in this game should feature
aggressive Missouri DEs Michael Sam (#52, 6-2, 255) and junior Kony Ealy (#47, 6-5, 275), who combined for 17 sacks so far this fall, including 10.5 from Sam, going against rising Auburn sophomore OT Greg Robinson (#73,-5, 320) who is starting to generate some 2014 draft buzz of his own. Going the other way, On the other hand, veteran Auburn DEs Dee Ford (#95, 6-2, 240) and Nosa Equae (#94, 6-2, 270) will test Missouri LT Justin Britt (#68, 6-5, 320), an underated prospect who has battled injuries throughout his career, but when healthy is as a technically proficient protecting the pocket as they come. Ford and Equae, though, are Auburn's only real senior draft prospects, while junior RB Tre Mason (#21, 5-9,200) is an explosive slasher. At the same time, junior QB Nick Marshall (#14, 6-0, 210), the one-time Georgia CB, likely will have to find another position in the pros, but is a dangerous dual-threat college player.
Meanwhile, the Missouri offense is led by resurgent veteran QB James Franklin (#1, 6-2, 230) , who had a breakout sophomore campaign two years, but struggled with injuries and inconsistency last fall. Franklin is still considered to be something of a second-tier pro prospect, but has put some impressive numbers this fall as he completed 67% of his pass attempts with 14 TD passes against just 4 interceptions. Franklin throws to a very good receiver corps that includes seniors WR Marcus Lucas (#85, 6-4, 220), a possession receiver who leads the team with 49 catches, and L’Damian Washington (#2, 6-3, 200), a speedster who is starting to attract some second looks from pro scouts, along with super sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham (#15, 6-5, 220), the top recruit in the country last year who is finally starting to live up to the hype. At the same time, other Tigers to watch include veteran OT Justin Britt (#68, 6-5, 320), CB E.J. Gaines (#31, 5-9, 195), MLB Andew Wilson (#48, 6-2, 235), and SSLB Donovan Bonner (#8, 6-0, 240).
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP: #7 STANFORD (10-2) vs #11 ARIZONA STATE (10-2); 7:45 PM ET; ESPN .... The Pac-12 championship was originally supposed to be a coronation of Oregon on its way to the BCS title game, however, the Ducks had a couple of inopportune stumbles and will need a ticket to get anywhere near the Rose Bowl stadium come January. And if nothing else the Stanford-ASU match-up in the Pac-12 title game is a testament to old-time football as, unlike Oregon and its up-tempo run-and-gun scheme, both the Cardinal and Sun Devils run more traditional power offenses, although veteran ASU RB Marion Grice (#1, 5-11, 205) likely will miss the game with an injury. However, Arizona State will have undersized, but very active DT Will Sutton (#90, 6-0, 305), a late first or early second day prospect. Sutton was unblockable at times last fall when he posted 13 sacks, but has been less effective this year after adding 25-30 pounds in the off-season; indeed, he has just two sacks to date and will represent a real challenge for pro scouts this off-season as they try to figure which was the real #90. Meanwhile, TE/FB Chris Coyle (#87, 6-2, 225), OT Evan Finkenberg (#62, 6-3, 295), junior OLB Carl Bradford (#52, 6-0, 245), OLB Chris Young (#21, 6-0, 235) and safety Allen Darby (#4, 5-10, 195) are all mid-to-later round candidates.
For its part, Stanford which will be looking to make it to a second straight Rose Bowl, has an underrated draft class headlined by DE Trent Murphy (#93, 65, 265) who is currently one of the fastest rising players in the 2014 draft class with many teams now giving him a mid-first round grade. Murphy still has to prove that he has the quickness to consistently beat NFL OTs to the edge, but will get a chance to impress working against the Sun Devils. Stanford also has a couple of other players who could figure in the late first round discussion this coming May including versatile OG David Yankey (#54, 6-4, 315) and junior FS Ed Reynolds (#29, 6-1, 205) who figures to one of the first safeties off the board this May if he leaves school this winter. Meanwhile, veteran MLB Shayne Skov (#11, 62, 245), who lacks prototype speed but is tough and instinctive, heads a solid group of mid-to-late round prospects which also includes rugged RBs Tyler Gaffney (#25, 6-0, 225) and Anthony Wilkerson (#32, 6-0, 215), FB Ryan Hewitt (#85, 6-3, 245), C Khalil Wilkes (#65, 6-2, 290), CB Usua Amanan (#15, 5-9, 175) and DEs Josh Mauro (#90, 6-5, 285) and Henry Anderson (#91, 6-5, 285).
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP: #1 FLORIDA STATE (12-0) vs #20 DUKE (10-2); 8 PM ET; ABC ... What if the ACC held its conference championship and a basketball game broke. That's what it feels like with Duke meeting top-ranked Florida State for the conference title. Indeed, for all its success on the basketball court, Duke has redefined ineptitude on the football field. The Blue Devils, who won ten games for the first time in its history this fall, hadn't had a winning season since 1994 and have never beaten Florida State. And Duke's lack of success on the field has translated into some very quiet draft days for the program which has only had 8 players selected total in the past two decades and didn't have anyone selected at all between 2004 and 2012. Duke has also only had once player taken before the 4th round since the Giants selected Dave Brown with a first round supplement pick way back in 1992. And Duke isn't likely going to turn that around this coming May, although CB Ross Cockell (#6,5-11, 180) is a solid veteran who should get some third day looks. Meanwhile, RT Perry Simmons (#72, 6-5, 300) and DE Kenny Anunike (#84, 6-4, 260) are free-agent sleeper types. Anunike, in particular, has been an aggressive, disruptive player when he's played, but he's had to overcome multiple surgeries including for on one knee alone. However, what Duke has are several good young future prospects including junior WR/PR Jamison Crowder (#3, 5-9, 175 ), junior LB Kleby Brown (#59, 6-0, 230) and sophomore CB Jeremy Cash (#16, 6-1, 210).
In fact, at least on paper this looks like one of college football's biggest conference championship game mismatches ever so for top-ranked Florida State job 1 is not to get caught looking ahead to the BCS national championship game in January before taking care of business against Duke. They certainly have the talent to take care of the Blue Demons, perhaps several times over, starting with star redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston (#5, 6-3, 220), who has emerged as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy this year, although he won't actually be draft eligible until 2015, but there already are scouts indicating that he'd be the first player selected this coming May if he were eligible.
While NFL teams will have to wait at least another year to get a crack at Winston, Florida State still has at least one potential first-round prospect for the upcoming draft in OT Cameron Erving (#75, 6-5, 320), a former space-eating DT who has evolved into a very athletic, aggressive LT. Erving is still somewhat unpolished, but has the prototype length, including long arms, and light feet to be a solid edge protector at the next level and is starting to get some top ten buzz for the upcoming draft. At the same time, junior DT Timmie Jernigan (#8, 6-2, 295), one of the quickest interior defensive linemen in the country, could also ultimately get some late first-round consideration, while CB Lamarcus Joyner (#20, 5-8, 190) and OLB Telvin Smith (#22, 6-2, 220) are both very active defenders with second-day grades, although both are somewhat undersized. Meanwhile, MLB Christian Jones (#7, 6-3, 235) and C Bryan Stork (#52, 6-3, 315) are both among the best prospects at their respective positions, although Jones might be a better fit on the outside at the next level.
Big 10 CHAMPIONSHIP: #2 OHIO STATE (12-0) vs #10 MICHIGAN STATE (11-1); 8:15 PM ET; FOX ... Like Florida State, Ohio State is playing for a spot in the national championship game. Despite their current run - the Buckeyes have gone two years without a loss - Ohio State still doesn't have anyone who is a genuine lock to be a first-round pick this coming May. Junior OLB Ryan Shazier (#10, 6-0, 225), who isn’t all that big, but is an emerging playmaker who really flies to the fall, is arguably the Buckeyes best prospect, but his lack of prototype size could ultimately knock him out of the opening round. Meanwhile, junior CB Bradley Roby (#1, 5-10, 195) entered the season as the top rated corner in this year’s draft field, but just hasn't appeared very instinctive this fall such that he looks like more like a second round candidate. Same story for RB Carlos Hyde (#34, 5-11, 245), who some scouts had rated as the top senior at the position heading into the season, but saw his stock dip after he was suspended for first three games of the season; however, Hyde has been a load since returning and still could get some serious second-day consideration. At the same time, rangy LT Jake Mewhort (#74, 6-6, 310) and veteran safety C.J. Barnett (#4, 6-0, 205) are also later second-day candidates, while OGs Andrew Norwell (#78, 6-5, 320) and Marcus Hall (#79, 6-5, 3150, C Corey Linsley (#71, 6-2, 300), WR Corey Brown (#10, 5-11, 190), and FS Christian Bryant (#2, 5-10, 195) are later round or free agent possibilities. Meanwhile, junior QB Braxton Miller (#5, 6-2, 215), one of the most dynamic dual-threat QBs in the country who figures to be a second-day pick if he opts to leave school early this winter, but may be tempted to return to school for his senior season to take another run at the national title as well as a possible Heisman Trophy campaign. Then there is senior QB Kenny Guyton (#13, 6-2, 210) who was outstanding filling in for an unjured Miller earlier in the season and could be a late-round sleeper or premium free agent, although he isn't likely to play against the Spartans.
Ironically, while Ohio State is a solid favorite to win the Big 10 title, Michigan State may have the best prospect for the upcoming draft in rising CB Darquese Dennard (#31, 5-10, 200) who has emerged as a potential mid-first round prospect. In fact, Dennard heads a very active, physical defense that also includes SS Isaiah Lewis (#9, 5-10, 200), ILB Max Bullough (#40, 6-2, 245), OLB Denicos Allen (#28, 5-11, 225), and DT Tyler Hoover (#91, 6-6, 290), although none is more than a mid-round types. Same story on offense where MSU does have a veteran offensive front including OT Fou Fonoti (#51, 6-4, 300) and OGs Blake Treadwell (#64, 6-2, 300) and Dan France (#59, 6-5, 315), although again none is more than a third-day prospect at best.
Bonus coverage: The Mountain West conference final between Fresno State and Utah State on CBS at 10 PM ET offers a chance to check out Bulldogs QB Derek Carr (#4, 6-3, 210) who has emerged in recent weeks as a legitimate top 5-10 candidate ... And while the other big-time conferences hold their championship game, the Big 12 title will be settled by a couple of regular season tilts with Oklahoma playing at Oklahoma State at Noon ET on ABC, while Texas will be at Baylor at 3:30 PM ET on FOX. Oklahoma State can win the league crown and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl by beating Oklahoma, however, a win by the Sooners sends the winner of the Texas-Baylor game to the BCS. Guys worth watching in the Oklahoma game include State CB Justin Gilbert (#4, 5-11, 200), who should be among the first 3-4 corners off the board this coming May, while Sooners' CB Aaron Colvin (#14, 6-0, 185) figures to get a second-day call. Meanwhile, both Bayor G/T Cyril Richardson (#68,6-5, 335) and junior RB Lache Seastrunk (#25, 210) could be the first player off the board at their respective positions, with Richardson figuring to get a call somewhere early in the second half of the opening round, whileSeastrunk seems destined to be a second round pick. For Texas, the bg story is whether this will be long-time head coach Mack Brown's last conference game as their have been calls for his outster from Longorns' fans all season despite the fact that the team is still very much in contention for conference honors and a BCS bowl, although at Texas more is expected. For the record, the Longhorns top prospects for 2014 are probably DE Jackosn Jeffcoat (# 44, 6-4, 255), a one-time first round candidate whose draft grade has been impacted by a torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2012 season prematurely, CBs Carrington Byndom (#23, 5-11, 180) and junior Quandre Diggs (#6, 5-9, 200) and speedy WR Mike Davis (#1, 6-1, 195).