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Posted: Tuesday September 23, 2008 2:36AM; Updated: Tuesday September 23, 2008 2:38AM

Risers/Sliders for 2009 NFL Draft

Story Highlights
  • Michigan State's Javon Ringer, on pace for 2,000 yards, could vault into Round 1
  • Wake Forest's Kevin Patterson stands out amongst a defense loaded with stars
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Michigan State's Javon Ringer has proven to be a versatile and all-weather performer, rushing for 699 yards and 11 TDs this month.
Michigan State's Javon Ringer has proven to be a versatile and all-weather performer, rushing for 699 yards and 11 TDs this month.
AP

By Tony Pauline, Special to SI.com

The fourth week of college football saw highly ranked SEC programs stake their claim in the national rankings. It was also a week when a number of NFL prospects from the defensive side of the ball, as well as skill players on offense, turned in terrific performances.

Javon Ringer/RB/Michigan State: NFL scouting services graded Ringer as a second-round choice at season's start. Four games into the '08 campaign, he is on pace to top the 2,000-yard mark on the ground. Ringer's performances have been brilliant, and there's a real possibility he could grade as the top senior running back heading toward April's draft.

Jason Smith/OT/Baylor: The Bears' starting left tackle is an athletic lineman who stands out in pass protection and has a playing style similar to Jonathan Ogden. Smith was stellar protecting his quarterback against the speedy, athletic, pass-rushers Connecticut threw his way. Smith is on his way to being a first-round pick.

Sen'Derrick Marks/DT/Auburn: Marks was a force to be reckoned with all night in Auburn's slim loss to LSU. The Tigers offensive line struggled slowing Marks down, and he was constantly in the backfield harassing the quarterback or forcing LSU running backs to find a new running lane. Marks is a junior but said to be leaning toward entering the NFL draft, where he'll be a top-45 selection.

Peria Jerry/DT/Mississippi: Jerry has been a disruptive defender for the Rebel defense the past two seasons. He totaled six tackles and recovered a fumble in the team's loss to Vanderbilt. His explosive style and relentless play will make Jerry a top-100 pick next April.

Andre Brown/RB/North Carolina State: Brown, who instantly impressed NFL scouts as a freshman, has his game back on track after a poor junior season. He's a big-bodied ball carrier that also produces as a pass-catcher. His two touchdowns and rushing average of 6.1 yards per carry were instrumental in helping the Wolfpack knock off previously unbeaten East Carolina.

Kevin Patterson/S/Wake Forest: Patterson sometimes gets lost on a Wake Forest defense that has almost a half-dozen good NFL prospects. He's a solid player in his own right and made a statement against Florida State. Patterson forced two fumbles, intercepted a pair of passes and totaled six tackles, helping the Deamon Deacons hold the Seminoles to just three points.

Brandon Tate/WR/North Carolina: The Tar Heels' big-play receiver is off to a fast start. Tate is on pace to double all his receiving totals from last season, averaging 27 yards per catch to date. He's scored at least one receiving touchdown each game this year and has impacted contests as a kick returner, as well. The junior must think about making the jump to the NFL considering the void of talent at the receiver spot from the senior class.

Scott McKillop/ILB/Pittsburgh: McKillop is a tackling machine in the middle of the Panthers defense and one of the top run defenders in all of college football. He was credited with 10 tackles during the upset win over Iowa, including 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack. McKillop is averaging 10 tackles per game during the early part of the season.

Sleeper Alert

Tyler Lorenzen/QB/Connecticut: Lorenzen's arrival at UConn two years ago has resulted in an uptick in play by the Huskies. He's a tough, intelligent passer who makes good decisions and displays uncanny accuracy. Lorenzen may never be a starter at the next level yet is a signal-caller who'll be an asset in a west coast or timing offense.

Sliders

Ian Campbell/DE-OLB/Kansas State: Campbell was considered a top flight pass rusher, yet his game has been heading south the past two years. His totals this season includes three tackles and a single sack in three games. Campbell was invisible against Louisville, playing against reserve linemen and posting just a single tackle.

Cedric Dockery/OG/Texas: Dockery was assigned a middle-round grade by NFL scouting services at the start of the season, yet his play this year is more reminiscent of a free agent. He struggled against Rice, an opponent Dockery should have dominated.

Arian Foster/RB/Tennessee: Foster's play in the big spot continues to disappoint scouts. He totaled just 37 yards on 14 carries during the lopsided loss to Florida. Foster has a reputation of fumbling the ball. His fumble against UCLA in the season's first game was costly and Foster was involved in another fumble Saturday (though not completely his fault), as the Volunteers were making their way to the end zone.

Danny McCray/S/LSU: The Tigers expected big things from McCray after he moved into the starting lineup this year, replacing Craig Steltz. His play against the run has been solid yet McCray is struggling in pass coverage. McCray was victimized several times against Auburn, giving up a touchdown late in the fourth quarter which gave the Tigers the lead.

Notes: Louisville quarterback Hunter Cantwell may finally be turning the corner. After a poor performance against Kentucky, then an uninspired game against I-AA opponent Tennessee Tech, Cantwell was effective against Kansas State. Completing 66 percent of his passes, Cantwell threw for 274 yards and two scores. The Cardinals host Connecticut this Friday, a good test for Cantwell as Husky cornerback Darius Butler is graded as a third-round pick by NFL scouts.

The injuries continue to mount for top NFL prospects. Oklahoma defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger will be out at least a month rehabilitating his injured foot. The junior was considered first-round material before his injury. LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith is another potential first round pick on the sidelines. Beckwith left the game against North Texas two weeks ago with a knee injury and is not expected to return to the playing field until the middle of October at the earliest. Ball State receiver Dante Love's severe back injury could also impact the draft. Love was considered a solid middle-round talent by NFL scouts in a year weak at the receiver position.

 
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