2013 NFL Draft: Risers, sliders from the 2012 college football season
Throughout the season we've chronicled the players who have helped and hurt their draft stock most in a given week. Below, we list the draft winners and losers from the entire season's body of work. (* denotes underclassmen)
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith got off to a quick start at the beginning of the season, and was tough to stop all year long. His improvement on the field was obvious, as each week he continually made proper decisions in the pocket and displayed pinpoint accuracy with his throws. Smith now grades as the best quarterback in the draft and will be a top-15 choice in April.
Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina*: Bernard set himself apart from the rest of the position this season in a draft void of talent at running back. He was dominant in all areas of the game and beat opponents as a ball carrier, pass catcher and return specialist. If he checks out medically, Bernard will be the first back selected next April.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford*: Twelve months ago Ertz struggled to see the field, listed behind Coby Fleener on Stanford's depth chart. He grabbed hold of the starting job this year, then watched his draft stock take off. Ertz is a complete tight end with the ability to create mismatches in the secondary as a pass catcher or control opponents on the line of scrimmage as a blocker. He's an NFL-ready prospect with a first-round grade.
Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor: With the departure of Kendall Wright and Robert Griffin, the focus of Baylor's offense shifted to Williams this season. He answered the call. He's a reliable underneath pass catcher with sneaky speed and the ability to beat defenders deep. Williams' play this season has pushed him into the second round of the draft.
Luke Joeckel, T, Texas A&M*: Joeckel and his Aggie teammates found themselves playing in a new conference, for a new coach and protecting a new quarterback in 2012. The change was seamless for Joeckel, who now grades as the draft's premier pass-blocking tackle. He faced off against some of the nation's best pass rushers and defensive coaches each week, yet consistently shut down opponents. Joeckel ranks as a top-10 pick if he enters the draft.
Eric Fisher, T, Central Michigan: Fisher entered the season with late-round grades, but played far beyond the expectations of NFL scouts in 2012. He's a tremendous pass blocker with exceptional agility and movement skills. Fisher improved every aspect of his game and could slide into the late part of the first round.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: Ansah was not on the scouting radar when the season began, but he's now the talk of the scouting community. The former track athlete from Ghana needed assistance on how to properly put on his football equipment two years ago, but he now grades out as a potential first-round pick based on his play in 2012.
Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State: Carradine had not started a game prior to the 2012 season, then was forced into the lineup after an injury to Brandon Jenkins. From the get go he looked like a seasoned veteran. Carradine was a forceful pass rusher who made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage and stopped the run with regularity. A late season ACL injury will knock Carradine out of the top 35 picks, but he improved his draft stock almost three full rounds as a senior.
Damontre Moore, OLB, Texas A&M*: The Aggies produced the second pick of the 2011 draft in linebacker Von Miller, and Moore may not be far behind next April. The junior turned in game-impacting plays every week this season and showed tremendous development on the field. He presently grades as the top 3-4 linebacker prospect in the nation.
Will Davis, CB, Utah State: Davis, who came to Utah State via De Anza College, watched his game take off in 2012. Opposing quarterbacks rarely challenged him as he shut down opponents all season. He possesses the size and skill to be a starter at the next level, and scouts have stamped Davis as a top-45 pick in the upcoming draft.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC: Barkley returned for his senior season with expectations of a national title run and Heisman Trophy candidacy. He moves toward April with a declining draft grade and a shoulder injury. Barkley lost his rhythm at times during the season, made questionable decisions in the pocket and struggled with his once dependable accuracy. Once considered to be in the conversation as the first pick of the 2013 draft, Barkley is likely to fall into the bottom half of round one.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: Thomas entered the year justifiably ranked as one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation, but his play was woeful at times throughout the season. His poor defensive reads resulted in errant passes and a lot of interceptions (14). Considered a possible top-15 pick in August, Thomas now grades as a third-round choice.
Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*: Davis was highly rated coming into his sophomore season of 2011, but an ankle injury kept him on the sidelines the entire campaign. He returned to the field this year, but his entire game struggled and he looked a fraction of his former self.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State: Wilson ranked as one of the better receivers from the junior class at the beginning of the season but lost his starting job midway through the year. Conflicts with the coaching staff ended with his departure from the Washington State program, and red flags have been raised in the scouting community.
Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech: Scouts considered Davis the top receiver prospect from the senior class when the season began. He possesses mouth watering size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and speed (4.45-second 40) for the next level. He flashed skill, but has yet to pull together a complete game and showed a lot inconsistency on the field.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue: The Purdue senior received first-round grades moving toward the 2012 draft, but decided to return for a final campaign on the college field. His play was inconsistent throughout the 2012 season, and scouts feel Short did not play to his potential or live up to expectations.
William Gholston, DE, Michigan State*: Gholston was graded as a first-round prospect entering the season with good reason. He flashed dominance as a sophomore and the ability to overwhelm opponents. Gholston showed little improvement this year, and his inconsistent motor and pedestrian total of 3.5 sacks has raised red flags.
Doug Rippy, LB, Colorado: When healthy and at the top of his game Rippy is a complete linebacker and three-down defender. His junior season was cut short after seven games due to a knee injury. He was slow to return this year, playing in just nine games and looking a fraction of his former self. He was graded as a third-round choice prior to the season, but Rippy could go unselected due to medical red-flags.
Terry Hawthorne, CB, Illinois: Hawthorne struggled with injury and poor play this season. He was a shutdown cornerback opponents purposely threw away from in 2011, but as a senior Hawthorne looked no better than a late-round cornerback at times.
Robert Lester, S, Alabama: After the 2010 season scouts had a higher opinion of Lester than former teammate Mark Barron, the seventh pick of last April's draft. Lester's play has steadily regressed the past two seasons. He's been slow reacting on the field and has not made many game-impacting plays.