Another week of college football is in the books, and it’s time to take a look at players who helped their 2014 NFL Draft stocks with quality performances this week.
Oregon Ducks QB Marcus Mariota
Teddy Bridgewater is the best quarterback heading into this year’s draft, but Marcus Mariota isn’t a far-away second-place option. He’s been slogging through an MCL sprain that is obviously hurting him significantly, because Mariota is having a difficult time running. Even though his mobility has been compromised, Mariota was still able to have a vintage performance against Utah’s defense. It was an excellent, 19-26 day for Mariota, who threw three touchdowns, no interceptions, and averaged over 11 yards per attempt. Mariota has all the tools to be an elite quarterback in the NFL, and my only major concern with Mariota is scheme. Oregon quarterbacks have it very easy, because we never really have to see Mariota make difficult reads. Most things are on a platter for him, because the playmakers are almost always readily open and in space in the Oregon offense .But Mariota has shown the ability to make “wow” throws, and he is also showing some incredible toughness. Mariota is the toughest QB in college football, and it’s games like yesterday’s that re-enforce that. His struggles against Stanford were definitely exaggerated, and you can’t pin losses on QBs (Bridgewater and Aaron Murray know this all too well).
Stanford Cardinal LB Shayne Skov
Even though he was on the losing side, Skov had another fantastic game and continues to look like an excellent ILB prospect. He forced two fumbles, recovered one, and led the Cardinal defense with nine tackles and two tackles for a loss. Skov was simply all over the place, and he made plays in the passing game and running game.
Georgia Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray
A scout told the NFL Network’s Albert Breer earlier this week that Murray is viewed by half the league as only a backup quarterback and was even compared to Matt Flynn. It’s a shame that Murray gets knocked so much, and it’s also a shame that Georgia’s defense has played so poorly lately. Tre Mason and the Auburn Tigers ran it all over Georgia, and it seemed like Murray was doing everything he could to “will” his team to victory. Murray isn’t an elite QB prospect by any stretch, but he’s definitely solid and catches a whole lot of undeserved criticism. It seems like no quarterback gets blamed more for stuff out of his control than Murray, who threw for 415 yards and ran for touchdowns in the loss. Murray put forth a Herculean effort in the comeback try, only for the defense to blow the game and cause Georgia to move down to 6-4.
Wisconsin Badgers RBs James White, Melvin Gordon
Melvin Gordon is the more touted prospect, but James White has been a good player on this Wisconsin team for a while now. It’s always tough watching White’s accomplishments go overshadowed because of the presence of an even better back in front of him (Montee Ball and now Gordon). Both Gordon and White were given a chance to shine big-time in an easy 51-3 win over the Indiana Hoosiers. I mean, they made Indiana look like an absolute joke and were able to give White plenty of “garbage-time” carries. White had a whopping 205 rushing yards on just 20 carries, and Gordon also impressed with 146 yards on just 13 carries. At this point in time, Gordon is locked in as a second-round pick, but I think people should watch closely for White, who would make a nice mid-round flier.
Ohio State Buckeyes RB Carlos Hyde
Speaking of Big Ten teams running it all over their opponent, the Ohio State Buckeyes scored 60 points on the Illinois Fighting Illini, with five of their TDs coming on the ground. Carlos Hyde is one of the most dynamic draft prospects at the running back position, and he took full advantage of an awful Illinois defense. Hyde ran rampant with four rushing touchdowns and a monstrous 246 rushing yards. Heck, he even added a receiving touchdown for good measure. That monster performance really boosts Hyde’s stock, but everyone needs to remember that his game didn’t quell any concerns regarding Hyde; it just magnified his strengths. That’s important, but we should keep in mind that it was against an awful Illinois run defense. That said, 246 yards and four touchdowns against any team is insane, and Illinois’s run defense isn’t that bad. I mean, they are a Big Ten team, so it’s not like Hyde destroyed a cupcake. Big game for Hyde, big draft stock rise, too.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights WR Brandon Coleman
I know they lost and it wasn’t pretty, but Brandon Coleman still managed to put forward a solid game on the stat sheet with six receptions for 77 yards. Coleman caught Gary Nova’s lone touchdown pass of the night, and Nova’s awful play this season (boy, has he been regressing) is going to make Coleman a draft-day steal. This is a guy with all the tools to be a very good receiver in the NFL, but he is going to become a “moneyball” kind of guy. Coleman will be undervalued due to a lack of college production that is more on his QB situation than anything else, and that’s the kind of guy that shrewd teams love to pick up on. He helped his draft stock with a solid performance despite the struggles of the team around him.
Pittsburgh Panthers DT Aaron Donald
Meet Aaron Donald, who might be one of the most underrated players in the country. Most people recognize that he’s really good, but I don’t think people realize just how amazing he is. Donald is one of the game’s most dynamic defensive linemen, and he should be in the first-round pick discussion. While he’s probably best-off being picked in the second round, Donald has all the tools to be an elite 4-3 DT in the pros (heck, he could play in any scheme). Cut the size concerns, because those overshadow Donald’s disruptiveness. He blows up plays in the backfield with ease, and he had three tackles for loss in Pitt’s 27-24 loss to UNC. Pitt’s defensive struggles overshadow Donald’s contributions, and he also forced a fumble with a sack, a pass break-up, and a whopping five QB hits. Those are monstrous numbers, and Donald deserves every superlative in the book. He deserves high praise for his play, because he’s been performing like this all season long. Don’t overlook Donald.
Vanderbilt Commodores CB Andre Hal
Andre Hal is one of the most underrated defensive backs in the country, and he had himself another nice game yesterday against the Kentucky Wildcats. Hal makes his living shutting down top receivers in the SEC, as he played well last week against Donte Moncrief and came away with a tackle for loss, an interception, and another pass break-up this week. If you ask me, he’s a top ten cornerback in this year’s draft class.
Topics: Aaron Donald, Aaron Murray, Andre Hal, Brandon Coleman, Carlos Hyde, Football, Georgia Bulldogs, James White, Marcus Mariota, Melvin Gordon, NFL Draft, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oregon Ducks, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Shayne Skov, Stanford Cardinal, Vanderbilt Commodores, Wisconsin Badgers