2011 NFL Draft: Back-to-back big games raise profile of OT Carimi
Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin excelled against Iowa, Ohio State
Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter could be a first-round running back
Florida State QB Christian Ponder has struggled with injuries, decision-making
The No. 1-ranked team in the nation fell for the third straight week during a wild Saturday of college football. Week 8 also saw a pair of highly regarded prospects sliding down draft boards while an underrated left tackle is moving in the opposite direction.
Gabe Carimi/OT/Wisconsin: The Badger has shut down top defensive talent in consecutive games and deservedly is watching his draft stock rise. Iowa's talented defensive line registered just a single sack during Wisconsin's victory Saturday. The previous weekend saw Carimi help hold top 10 prospect Cameron Heyward and the rest of the Ohio State defense sackless. The senior draws a variety of opinions in the scouting community but these two contests will be looked upon as statement games and should secure him a place late in round one.
Kendall Hunter/RB/Oklahoma State: The Nebraska defense rarely gives up 200 yards rushing in a single game, never mind allowing one back to top the mark. Hunter did exactly that against the Cornhuskers, the second time he's rushed for 200-plus yards this season. He's elusive, often creating yardage when seemingly nothing is available. Hunter has topped the century mark in six of seven games this season while adding 24 receptions. He reminds many of Leon Washington, the multi-purpose threat now playing with the Seattle Seahawks.
Jabaal Sheard/DE/Pittsburgh: Sheard's job was made tougher this season after teammate Greg Romeus was lost to back surgery in the opening weeks. Sheard answered the call and turned in another strong performance on Saturday. He had four tackles, two sacks and forced a fumble in the victory over Rutgers. His seven-game totals of 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks are better than his entire junior campaign.
Ryan Broyles*/WR/Oklahoma: OU receivers have a history of posting dominant numbers on the college level but not delivering as pros. Broyles seems poised to break that mold. The junior has the speed to beat defenders deep and the quickness to elude opponents after the catch. The belief is Broyles will enter the draft after the season; he could secure a spot late in round one.
Armon Binns/WR/Cincinnati: Binns, rated as a potential late-round pick coming into the season, is having a career year and has improved his draft stock weekly. The 6-foot-2½ senior is well sized and reliable. He's averaging six receptions per game and is on pace for 15 touchdowns. The 40 times this spring will be critical for a guy who appears to be a solid middle-round choice.
Wayne Daniels/DE-OLB/TCU: The Horned Frog defense has been stifling and Daniels is one of the units leaders. His nine tackle for loss ranks second in the Mountain West Conference while his 5.5 sacks lead the team. Daniels lacks the size to be an every down lineman at the next level but has the skill to be a situational pass rusher. Initially graded as a free agent, Daniels has moved into the later rounds.
Chris Carter/DE-OLB/Fresno State: Carter is another undersized college defensive end many project to outside linebacker/situational pass rusher at the next level. He sits atop the WAC with nine sacks and is also one of the leaders in the conference with 13 tackles for loss. Carter's 39 tackles and four forced fumbles are also impressive. Handed a late-round grade by NFL scouts at the start of the year, Carter has worked his way into the middle rounds with his play this season.
SLEEPER ALERT -- Muhammad Wilkerson*/DT/Temple: Wilkerson has been a dominant force for the up-and-coming Owls and rates as one of the most underrated defensive linemen in the nation. He's 6-4, 300 pounds, and showcases his talent in all areas of the game. Wilkerson's totals this season include 51 tackles (third on the team), 8.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks (leads the team in both categories). He combines power and athleticism, which enamors scouts who feel the junior can lineup as a conventional defensive tackle or as a two-gap end.
Adrian Clayborn/DE/Iowa: Coming into the season, NFL scouting services graded Clayborn as one of the top senior prospects. His lack of production this season has many concerned. Seven games in, Clayborn has just 2.5 sacks and six tackles for loss. He finished his junior season with 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. Clayborn has improved his play against the run but the inability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage will push him into the middle part of round one.
Christian Ponder/QB/Florida State: Scouts initially graded Ponder as the top senior quarterback in the nation, along with Jake Locker, and as a potential first-round pick. He's struggled with assorted injuries this season and his decision-making has raised red flags. His statistical accuracy has fallen and he has tossed a number of questionable interceptions.