Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Trent Richardson had a massive game against Arkansas on Saturday. He controlled the ball on the ground for Alabama, and produced a few highlight-reel runs. The 5-foot-11, 224-pound Richardson showed off his dynamic skill set by both running over defenders and running by them with speed. In the third quarter, he made a tough catch on a screen pass and busted into the open field, racing 61 yards for a touchdown.
In the game, Richardson averaged 7.4 yards per carry. He finished his runs extremely well and was the workhorse of the Alabama offense. Richardson totaled 126 yards rushing on 17 carries. As a receiver, he had 85 yards and a touchdown on three catches. Thus far, Richardson has run for 441 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Running backs, like former teammate Mark Ingram, can slide in the draft. Richardson's big game against Arkansas will help keep him in the middle of the first round and make the case for him to be selected in the first half.
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Even though he didn't face a tough defense against Arizona, James makes this list by setting a school record with 288 yards rushing. He totaled those yards on 23 carries, averaging 12.5 yards a pop. James ran for two touchdowns on runs of 12 and 19 yards. The Wildcats� defense had no answer for the speedy James as he jetted his way by defenders. He also returned a punt 51 yards.
A week ago, James had 204 yards on 12 carries with three touchdowns against Missouri State. After two banner games, he now has 613 yards rushing on 65 carries (9.4 average) and is second in the nation in rushing. James (5-9, 185) was held in check by LSU and Nevada in the first two games of the season. That came after Auburn contained him in the National Championship Game. The lack of production against elite opponents hurt James� stock. With two straight games with over 200 yards, his stock is back on the rise. James looks like a second-day pick that could get consideration in the second round.
Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt
Playing in the SEC can be an advantage to getting noticed for a lot of prospects, but that typically is not the case with players from Vanderbilt, who struggle to standout with some regularly lopsided scores against their conference foes. Hayward is doing his best to overcome that. Against South Carolina, he had two interceptions, three tackles and one pass broken up. There are a lot of players in college football in recent years that can lay a claim to picking off Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia, but Hayward's two picks give him a total of four interceptions in four games this season. That comes after he recorded six interceptions in 2010.
Just as impressive was Hayward (5-11, 188) being the point man to hold South Carolina star receiver Alshon Jeffery to two catches for 34 yards in the game. Vanderbilt played aggressively with Jeffery, and Hayward showed very well against one of the best receivers in the nation. With the majority of the 2011 season still to play, Hayward should add to his career total of 12 interceptions, and enter the draft with a well-earned reputation as a ballhawk. He is a second-rounder, but ballhawks have a tendency to rise and that could put him in consideration for the first round.
Danny Trevathan, OLB, Kentucky
In the first half against the Gators, Trevathan was a big-time force to be concerned with. He knocked quarterback John Brantley out of the game, temporarily, with a crushing hit to the quarterback's ribs on a blitz. On another blitz, Trevathan rocked backup quarterback Jeff Driskell, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Kentucky. Against Florida, Trevathan totaled 8 tackles with 1.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble. For the season, he has 46 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and two passes broken up.
Right now, Trevathan is 10th in the nation in tackles. Last year, he finished ninth in the nation with 144 tackles. Entering the season, one of the biggest obstacles for Trevathan to overcome was his being undersized. In previous seasons, he was listed in the 220s, but has gained some muscle and now officially is 232. In the eye-ball test, that weight gain looks legitimate. Trevathan definitely has the speed to be a starter in the NFL. If he can add another 5-10 pounds of muscle to help him fight off blocks, that would make him even better. In the NFL, Trevathan would be best in a 4-3 defense. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and good instincts. Trevathan is pushing his stock into the second-day of the draft.
Matt Kalil, OT, USC
When you already are considered a top-five pick, it is hard to get your stock to go any higher, but it is not fair to ignore a guy who is playing great football. That is the case with USC standout junior left tackle Matt Kalil. Thus far in 2011, he has been a shutdown left tackle. In the Sun Devils, Kalil faced the best defense he has seen thus far this season and was unstoppable.
The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Kalil ran roughshod over defenders, opening up many holes in the ground game for running back Marc Tyler, and did a fabulous job in pass protection for quarterback Matt Barkley. Kalil showed excellent mobility to hit blocks on the second level of the defense. On one run from Tyler, Kalil knocked a defender out of the game with a devastating block. Position need plays a big factor in deciding who goes where in the top five of the draft, but Kalil has proven to be a franchise left tackle.
Marquis Maze, WR, Alabama
Maze (5-10, 180) had a dynamic game for Alabama. The senior wide receiver caught five receptions for 40 yards in the game, but the big play that has his stock going up was a brilliant punt return. Maze started out in the middle of the field and worked his way through Razorbacks to get to the sideline. He then broke back to the middle of the field and charged into the end zone. Maze's punt return went for 83 yards.
On the season, Maze has 226 yards on 20 receptions with a touchdown. He has averaged 17 yards per punt return this season. With punt returners taking on an increased importance to NFL special teams coaches, Maze is really helping himself. He is showing enough to contribute as a receiver and potentially be a slot receiver in the NFL. Maze was viewed as mid to late-round pick, but if he maintains his productive play, could move to be an early round pick on the third day of the draft.
Melvin Ingram, DE/DT, South Carolina
Ingram has been an exciting player so far this season because the big defender keeps on scoring touchdowns and making splash plays. In the first game, he notched an interception. In the second game, against Georgia, he took a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown run and later returned a fumble five yards for a score. This week against Vanderbilt, Ingram scored again with a fumble recovery in the end zone. He also recorded four tackles with two sacks and a run stuff for negative yardage.
A year ago, Ingram was third in the SEC in sacks with nine. Prior to this game against Vanderbilt, he did not have a sack in 2011. The 6-foot-2, 276-pounder looks like a left defensive end in a 4-3 defense who can move to the inside and rush from defensive tackle on passing downs in the NFL. Ingram entered the day as a third-rounder but could be pushing his stock into consideration for round two.
Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
With Oklahoma State�s comeback, road win against Texas A&M, it would be unfair to leave Weeden off this list, since he completed 47-of-60 passes for 438 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Even though Weeden moved the ball in the first half, the Cowboys left some points on the field. In the second half, the 6-foot-4, 218-pounder guided Oklahoma State to 27 points to pull out the win. The 27-year old Weeden has a strong and accurate arm, but has his age as a large deadweight on his draft stock. After that performance against the Aggies, he is making the case to be a high pick on the third day of the draft.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Ryan Lindley, QB, San Diego State
Against Michigan, Lindley (6-4, 230) showed why he should not be considered as a second or third-round prospect. The Wolverines are tougher competition than Lindley normally faces, but they are not an all-world defense by any means. Still, Lindley struggled against Michigan. His footwork is going to need a lot of work, and even when he has a clean pocket, doesn't step through on his throws. Additionally, he has a bad habit of throwing off his back foot even when he doesn't need to.
Lindley has a strong arm but was constantly throwing passes too high against Michigan. While he didn't throw an interception, there were more passes off the mark than on. For the game Lindley, completed 23-of-47 passes for 251 yards with one touchdown. This season, he has completed 51 percent of his passes for 875 yards and eight touchdowns. Lindley is not a threat to run and his pocket mobility is average. He was a mid-rounder, but his lacking footwork and accuracy issues could push him into the late rounds.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
In the first half, Tannehill moved the ball well, and provided a huge play with a 65-yard touchdown run. In the second half of the game, he made a few mistakes (including two interception), which helped Oklahoma State secure a come-from-behind victory. After the Cowboys took the lead, Tannehill (6-4, 211) started to play better and led the Aggies to some points, but lost any chance of leading a late comeback win when he was intercepted with a couple minutes left on the clock.
For the game, Tannehill completed 28-of-47 passes for 309 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. His bad decisions and interceptions put a halt on his stock that was starting to garner third-round consideration. For the season, Tannehill has completed 67 percent of his passes for 892 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. After his disappointing performance, he looks like a third-day pick.
Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
Childs is clearly not all the way back from his 2010 season-ending knee injury. He missed the last five games last year after recording 46 catches for 659 yards and six touchdowns in the first eight games. Childs (6-3, 217) has played in three of the first four games of this season, but has only totaled four receptions for 46 yards. Against Alabama last Saturday, he was held to only two catches for 17 yards. The senior Childs entered the season as a second-day pick, but right now he looks like he will slide to the third day of the draft.
Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina
In the preseason, Donte Paige-Moss was beaten out for a starting spot by sophomore defensive end Kareem Martin. North Carolina employs a heavy rotation of defensive linemen, so Paige-Moss figured to still get a significant amount of playing time. In that action, Paige-Moss has not been productive for the Tar Heels, even with extra attention going to teammate Quinton Coples on most downs. Paige-Moss (6-4, 260) had a nice sack against Rutgers in Week 2 when he split a double team, but that has really been the only play he has made all season. Against Georgia Tech this past week, he recorded one tackle in a run-heavy game.
His playing time seems to have decreased as well due to Martin and Coples playing well this season. Paige-Moss entered the season as first-rounder, but right now he would be no more than a second-day pick. The junior would be better off returning to North Carolina for the 2012 season and producing a good year before entering the 2013 NFL Draft. With disappointing production this year, Paige-Moss will have to decide if he should return to school or enter the 2012 NFL Draft.