Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
Morris Claiborne was the standout of the game between Mississippi State and LSU. He showed good coverage all game. The 6-foot, 188-pound Claiborne could turn and run with any of the wide receivers, and he did a superb job of not allowing separation. Claiborne got away with some stiff arms to reroute receivers downfield and disrupt timing, but was smart about when he did it. Claiborne typically went to the stiff arm as receivers were making their cuts, making it harder for refs to see the contact.
On two plays, he showed fantastic ball skills to come down with two interceptions. Claiborne's receiver ran a deep post and Claiborne stayed over the top. The pass from quarterback Chris Relf was overthrown slightly. Claiborne leaped into the air and ripped the ball down with two hands. Later, a ball was thrown up for grabs and Claiborne broke off his receiver to run under the pass. He showed good awareness to locate the ball and run underneath it. On special teams, he had a 40-yard kick return called back by a penalty.
Claiborne entered the game as a fringe first or second-round pick, but after his two interception performance has made the case for a first-round grade.
Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
Allen had a big impact in Clemson's ending of Auburn's nation-leading winning streak. He started the game with a big, 18-yard leaping reception on an out route. Later in the first half, Allen went high again to snatch a six-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone. He was a mismatch all game against Auburn. Allen did a good job in run blocking and showed the ability to hit blocks on the second level of the defense and ride linebackers out of the play.
He is a good route-runner that gets separation from defensive backs. Allen is 6-foot-4, 255-pounds and, even when covered, outleaps defenders for receptions. He did that for a big catch to beat double coverage in the fourth quarter. For the game, Allen finished with 80 yards on seven receptions.
He entered the game as a second-day pick. In the games thus far in 2011, Allen looks better than Missouri tight end Michael Egnew, who entered the season as the consensus top tight end in the 2012 draft class. Right now, Allen looks like a better blocker and receiver than Egnew. His stock is rising and could push into the second round and be the first tight end selected in the draft class.
Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Playing in the Big Ten, the junior left tackle Reiff has a pretty easy slate of pass rushers to block during the 2011 season. Saturday, Reiff was scheduled to see one of top pass rushers he will see all regular season in Pitt's Brandon Lindsey. Lindsey (6-2, 250) had 10 sacks in 2010 and had two sacks in two games to start the 2011 season. Reiff was able to virtually shut down Lindsey. Reiff neutralized Lindsey's speed rush by showing quick feet to get back and mirror him. With the exception of one play, bull rushes from Lindsey were stymied as well.
In run blocking, Reiff (6-6, 300) moved Lindsey off the line of scrimmage and had no issues with opening up holes against him. Reiff did give up a sack in the game to defensive end Aaron Randle, but that looked like it could have been due to a miscommunication between Reiff and the guard.
Overall, Reiff had no issues winning the matchup against one of the better defensive ends he'll see all season, and that is why his draft stock is up. Reiff is considered to be the third-rated left tackle in the draft next year.
Chris Rainey, WR/RB, Florida
Gators wide receiver/running back Chris Rainey made a strong case to get drafted with a quality pick in next April's draft. He had a massive game against Tennessee last Saturday. Rainey ran for 108 yards on 21 carries (5.1 average), caught two passes for 104 yards with one touchdown, returned three punts for 21 yards and blocked a punt. It was the fifth blocked punt of his collegiate career.
Rainey showed his game breaking speed when he caught a three-yard check down pass and raced 80 yards to the end zone. The 83-yard touchdown catch was an explosive play that few players in the nation can make. Rainey entered the game as a fifth or sixth-rounder. One of the reasons is his size (5-9, 178) and the other reason is he got in some legal trouble with an aggravated stalking charge last year. That caused him to be suspended for part of 2010. Still, he is a threat to score any time he touches the football.
In the NFL, Rainey could be a real weapon as a change of pace back, third down back, wide receiver, and special teams standout. Right now, he could be moving up to be an early pick on the third day of the draft as long as the character concerns are appeased.
Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma
The Oklahoma defense stepped up and had a huge game against Florida State on Saturday night. One of the leaders for the Sooners was senior defensive end Frank Alexander. He recorded three tackles with a sack against Florida State and was able to get some pressure on the quarterback on other rushes. It was very impressive considering that Alexander beat Florida State left tackle Andrew Datko for a sack, a rare occurrence in Datko's collegiate career. Alexander shed Datko at the line of scrimmage and jetted by him to get to the quarterback.
Alexander had six tackles with a sack, an interception, and two passes batted in Oklahoma's first game of the season against Tulsa. Alexander (6-4, 255) was considered to be an early pick on the final day of the draft, but with two strong games to start the season, he is making a case to move into the second day of the draft.
Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State
Ohio State's offense struggled mightily against Miami, but that was not because of Brewster. The All-American center had a fantastic game against the Hurricanes. He was dominant in run and pass blocking. Brewster helped to limit Miami defensive tackle Marcus Forston to just two tackles in the game.
Brewster is considered to be a top-20 pick, but after this dominant performance could be moving into the mid-teens. He is quick, athletic, strong, and technically sound. Brewster should be an instant starter and it wouldn't be surprising if he becomes one of the better centers in the NFL.
Tevin Wade, CB, Arizona
A week after struggling with Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, Wade rebounded to play a good game against Stanford. Wade almost made a diving interception on a low pass from Andrew Luck on the goal line. At first the play was ruled a pick, but upon review it was overturned to an incompletion.
Wade did a very good job in coverage on Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu. He limited Owusu to two receptions for 45 yards. Wade (5-11, 192) had five tackles with three passes broken up in the game. He started the season out as a mid-rounder and his performance on Saturday night helped improve his stock after a rough game against Blackmon.
David DeCastro, G, Stanford
DeCastro had a dominant performance against Arizona on Saturday night. He constantly was knocking his defenders to the ground and opening up holes for the Cardinal rushing attack. DeCastro was also very good in pass blocking. He showed the ability to pull extremely well. While some offensive linemen just get in the way of defenders down field, DeCastro has the athletic ability to hit blocks and knock defenders out of the play.
He was an imposing force for Stanford and definitely provided a dynamite tape to talent evaluators. DeCastro was considered to be a late first-round early second-round prospect, but after that performance he should be moving ahead of the final picks of the first round.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
After two good games to start the season, Ellington was in position to make a statement game against Auburn. The Tigers' defense has been vulnerable this season, but they held Ellington in check. He ran for only 46 yards on 14 carries with a short touchdown run. Against Auburn, Ellington showed the lack of power in his game. He was going down on first contact and in arm tackles.
Ellington (5-10, 190) is a fast player, but his speed was no problem for the Auburn defense. He was starting to make move up draft boards, but is likely to stay a mid-to-late third day pick after his performance against Auburn.
Brandon Lindsey, DE, Pittsburgh
Lindsey did not have a disaster of a game against Iowa. He recorded four tackles in run defense and got a couple of pressures on the quarterback when he rushed from left defensive end. When Lindsey moved to right end, he struggled against Iowa tackle Riley Reiff. There was only one play out of many opportunities that Lindsey was able to get a good rush against Reiff.
Lindsey (6-2, 250) is a quality end, but not being able to have multiple quality rushes against a future NFL left tackle definitely is not a good tape for evaluators. Lindsey was moving up in the second round after playing well against Maine and Buffalo to start the season, but now he looks more like a third-round pick. He may be better off as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Greg Reid, CB, Florida State
Reid was suspended for the second game of the season against Charleston Southern for violating team rules, so that is one red flag. Coming off his suspension, the junior cornerback was targeted and beaten by Oklahoma and sophomore wide receiver Kenny Stills. The 5-foot-8, 186-pound Reid proved that he was unable to match up against a bigger receiver like Stills (6-1, 189). Stills caught seven passes for 125 yards and the game winning touchdown.
In the NFL, there will definitely be bigger and more physical receivers that Reid would have to match up against. With his performance against Stills, Reid looks like he is at most a late-round pick that could be a dime corner and special teams player.
Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
Broyles was held in check by Florida State and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. In a big game, Broyles seemed to struggle to get separation from a better cornerback than he typically faces. Broyles had seven catches for 55 yards against the Seminoles. Rhodes did a very good job of limiting the Sooners' leading receiver.
Broyles (5-10, 188) has been ultraproductive in his collegiate career and that has helped to overcome some size concerns. After a quiet performance against Florida State, he is falling from a fringe first-rounder to a second-round pick.
Shane Skov, OLB/ILB/DE, Stanford
It is no fault of Skov that his stock has gone down and that he is on this list. Skov was enjoying a good start to the season. He registered a team leading 19 tackles with five tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks in a little more than two games of action.
Skov's draft stock is falling because he suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arizona in the second quarter. That injury could cause him to return to school in 2012, and if he enters the next draft he will have an injury concern to overcome. Skov (6-3, 243) had a teammate and Arizona wide receiver Juron Criner land on his leg and had to be carted off the field. It is a big loss for the Cardinal as Skov was the leader of their defense.
Now Skov will have to decide if he should return to school or enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
I really don't understand why you keep bashing the 49ers contracts. You have to overpay for guys when you have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. Beyond that, they have nearly $70 mill in cap space even after free agency, so what's the big deal if they overspend?