NFL draft risers, sliders: Week 1
Quarterbacks Tyler Bray and Geno Smith had impressive debuts under center
Notre Dame’s Louis Nix versatility on defense makes him extremely valuable
South Carolina’s Devin Taylor season didn’t start well after struggling in 2011
The first weekend of the college football schedule is in full swing and already players are impressing NFL decision makers. Several quarterbacks have stood out in the early going while a few highly considered prospects turned in disappointing performances.
Tyler Bray*/QB/Tennessee: Scouts already knew Bray possessed the physical skills to lead a franchise at the next level, but against North Carolina State he showed that poise and leadership are also a part of his arsenal. Bray was in control of the situation for the entire game and displayed great command of the offense during the Volunteers 14-point victory. He made a variety of NFL-type throws and accurately completed passes throughout the entire game. Most impressively, he challenged the vertical game, consistently beating David Amerson of the Wolfpack, considered by some as the top cornerback in the nation. After a shaky off season Bray showed a lot of progress on the field.
Geno Smith/QB/West Virginia: Smith is another quarterback prospect developing into a complete passer. He came out of the gate fast against Marshall and never let up. Smith turned in gaudy numbers during the first half, passing for 203 yards, including three touchdowns, and throwing just thee incompletions. When Marshall attempted a comeback midway through the third quarter, Smith answered with a 28-yard touchdown run which put the game away for the Mountaineers. His accuracy and decision-making were stellar and are great compliments to Smith's enormous physical talents.
Louis Nix*/DT-NT/Notre Dame: Nix tormented the Navy offense and controlled the line of scrimmage during Notre Dame's 40-point victory. The wide-bodied lineman was constantly clogging the middle of the field as well as collapsing the pocket. His presence was felt throughout the game as Navy attempted to slow him down with double team blocks. He showed terrific power as well as the ability to change direction then pursue the action. Nix offers a mouth-watering combination of size, power and athleticism. The ability to line up at defensive tackle or on the nose only adds to his next level value.
Dion Sims*/TE/Michigan State: Sims is showing signs of maturing as a player and was a force throughout the Spartans' victory over Boise State. During the initial drive of the season, he came away with two important third-down receptions as Michigan State made its way into the end zone. On the game-winning drive Sims grabbed a reception for 18 yards, putting the Spartans in scoring position. He then threw a key block on the clinching touchdown run by Le'Veon Bell. Sims looked athletic, strong and even made some outstanding plays on special teams.
Sleeper: Cordarrelle Patterson*/WR/Tennessee: Patterson quickly put to rest the fears Tennessee would miss recently departed receiver Da'Rick Rogers and forced NFL scouts to take notice of his talents. Taking the field for the first time for the Volunteers after transferring from Hutchinson Community College, Patterson turned in a spectacular performance against North Carolina State. He finished the day with 6 receptions for 93 yards, including a 41-yard scoring catch on the third play of the game for Tennessee. Patterson offers size, dependable hands and showed terrific football speed during the victory.
Andre Ellington/RB/Clemson: Ellington was the star in Clemson's seven-point victory over Auburn. His final stats were daunting as he totaled 228 rushing yards on 25 carries, averaging 9.1 yards each time he touched the ball. Ellington ran with great balance and body control as well as toughness. Similar to former Clemson star CJ Spiller, a first round pick in 2010, Ellington was elusive and picked up big chunks of yardage from the line of scrimmage. Ellington, unlike Spiller, ran with great intensity and worked hard to get as much yardage as possible from every carry. Scouts feel Ellington is best as a situational ball carrier for the next level, yet more performances such as the one tonight will change that thinking.
Jonathan Willard/LB/Clemson: Willard was omnipresent during the Clemson victory and made plays in all areas of the game. He totaled eight tackles, broke up a pass, recovered a fumble and registered a sack. Willard also produced on special teams. He's a smart, tough linebacker who makes up for his lack of elite speed with good instincts. Willard projects well in the NFL as a back-up linebacker/special teams player.
Dee Milliner*/CB/Alabama: The Tide lost both starting cornerbacks to the NFL last April yet there was little drop off when Milliner moved to the top of the depth chart for the 2012 season. Milliner was dominant against Michigan, shutting down the Wolverines best receivers all game. He beat down opponents to defend passes, forcefully stuffed the run and made a terrific interception in the second quarter which Alabama converted into the game-winning score. Milliner is the total package and if he continues to improve he'll have to consider entering the draft after the season.
Devin Taylor/DE/South Carolina: The struggles continue for Taylor, who comes off a terrible junior campaign after receiving first round consideration as a sophomore. Taylor looked sluggish and poorly conditioned during the Gamecocks' victory over Vanderbilt. He finished the game with three tackles and no quarterback sacks or pressures. It was not a good start for a prospect who needs a big senior season.
David Amerson*/CB/North Carolina State: Amerson was rated by many as the number one cornerback prospect in college football and a potential first-round pick, an opinion we never bought into. His play was more reminiscent of a late-round selection in the loss to Tennessee. During the first quarter Amerson was smoked for two long touchdown receptions (41 and 72 yards respectively) then looked pedestrian trying to run down ball carriers in pursuit.
Mike Glennon/QB/North Carolina State: The strong-armed Glennon was graded as a mid-round pick by NFL scouts entering the season yet looked like a free agent against Tennessee. He tossed four interceptions and failed to convert on several opportunities created by the Wolfpack defense throughout the game. Glennon offers next level physical skills yet he consistently locks onto one receiver and incorrectly reads the defense which has several wondering if he possesses the mental make-up to start in the NFL.
Craig Roh/DE/Michigan: Roh had a tough go of it against Alabama. He was non-existent for most of the game and handled by Alabama's left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio, a true sophomore and first-year starter. Roh showed signs of being a big time NFL prospect early in his Michigan career yet never seemed to elevate his game.