NFL Draft Risers and Sliders: Iowa's Ballard shooting up boards
DeMarco Murray's stock continues to increase with his injury-free play
After missing the first four games, A.J. Green quickly showed why scouts love him
Texas A&M QB Jerrod Johnson has shown minimal improvement this season
Several big matchups between top-10 teams highlighted the college schedule in Week 5. Skill players stole the day, as did a pair of defensive linemen that are rocketing up draft boards. On the flip side, two highly rated prospects are watching their draft grades slip. Here are the risers and sliders for Week 5.
Christian Ballard/DL/Iowa: Ballard was listed as a sleeper prospect in our season preview, but NFL scouts have since awoken to the potential of this defensive lineman. His performance against Penn State was nothing less than dominant. Ballard was outstanding in all facets of the position throughout the game and almost single-handedly made the goal-line stand which sealed victory for Iowa. He has added power to his game this season, the only ingredient that was missing. Ballard could go from sleeper status to first-round pick if he continues to play at his present level.
Marcel Dareus*/DL/Alabama: Despite playing with an ankle injury sustained in the win over Arkansas last weekend, Dareus was a disruptive force as the Tide rolled over Florida. His stats, which included three tackles and one tackle for loss, don't tell the story. Dareus split double-team blocks all evening, forcing his way into the backfield and causing mayhem for the Gators' offensive game plan. After missing two games at the start of the season with suspension, Dareus has since made his presence felt.
DeMarco Murray/RB/Oklahoma: Entering the season, we listed Murray as one of the most overrated prospects in the nation and thus far he's proven us wrong. The senior was a one-man show against Texas, registering 115 rushing yards on 25 carries with two scores. He also added four receptions during the game. Most importantly, Murray has stayed away from injuries this year, which has been his Achilles heel in the past.
A.J. Green*/WR/Georgia: Welcome back, A.J. Green! The junior, who was suspended during the first four games of the season, showed why many consider him the top receiver prospect in his return against Colorado. He kick-started the Bulldogs offense on a reverse that went 40 yards, then finished the drive by making a one-handed, acrobatic reception in the end zone. Green's totals for the day: seven receptions for 119 yards and two scores. His performance was all the more impressive considering the Buffaloes had a pair of legitimate NFL cornerbacks trying to cover Green, including the highly rated Jimmy Smith.
Leonard Hankerson/WR/Miami-Fl: Hankerson had a career day against a very good Clemson secondary. He hauled in seven receptions for 147 yards with three touchdown catches. He's totaled as many touchdowns this season (six) as he posted during the '09 campaign. Hankerson is very much an underrated prospect at receiver. He presently grades as a third-round choice but will continue to rise up boards if he runs fast for the stop watch in pre-draft workouts.
Justin Blackmon*/WR/Oklahoma State: The redshirt sophomore picked up the slack for Dez Bryant last season and has quickly grown into one of the top receiver prospects in the nation. He was dominant during the Cowboys' win over Texas A&M, totaling 10 receptions for 127 yards and one score. It was the second time this season Blackmon registered 10 receptions during a game. Blackmon's game comes with a tremendous amount of upside potential and he has the makings of a No. 1 NFL receiver.
Tandon Doss*/WR/Indiana: Doss, who has been struggling with a groin injury all season, had a breakout performance in the loss to Michigan, catching 15 balls for 221 yards. Doss is fluid, steady and projects as a legitimate No. 2 wideout at the next level.
*Sleeper Alert* Lance Mitchell*/S/Oregon State: Mitchell, a second-year starter for the Beavers, is really developing into a complete safety. He's an intimidating hitter tied for the team lead with 33 tackles. Mitchell's skills in pass coverage are also improving, as evidenced by his interception and two pass defenses in the win over Arizona State. He offers a nice upside and is one to watch moving forward.
Jerrell Powe/DT/Mississippi: Powe was considered the top nose tackle prospect entering the season but has thus far been a disappointment, much like the entire Mississippi defense. He's been minimally productive this year, totaling just eight tackles in five games. Powe looks poorly conditioned, struggles to make plays in anything other than a straight line and is close to being branded a two-down lineman.
Jerrod Johnson/QB/Texas A&M: The Aggies' signal caller had 409 passing yards and fives scores against Oklahoma State. He also threw four interceptions during the game, with OSU converting a pair of those picks into 10 points. Texas A&M lost the game by three. Johnson's decision-making was poor against the Cowboys' inexperienced defense and he's shown minimal improvement during the first month of the season.
Notes: Houston quarterback Case Keenum has a difficult decision to make. One of the most prolific passers in college football, Keenum was lost for the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the loss to UCLA two weeks ago. Keenum underwent successful knee surgery late last week. The fifth year senior, rated as a potential mid-round choice, must now decide whether to make himself available for April's draft or apply for a medical redshirt in the hopes the NCAA will grant him a sixth year of eligibility. There are arguments on both sides. Returning will give Keenum a chance to complete one more season on the college level, then perform in front of scouts while healthy. He doesn't get that opportunity if he opts for the NFL in just over six months and could head toward the draft with numerous question marks, yet he won't have to concern himself with another injury on the college field.
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