Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
Entering the season, many thought that Michael would have to wait a year, until after Cyrus Gray left Texas A&M, in order to be the feature back for the Aggies. That changed when Michael got the start last Saturday and exploded for a massive game against Arkansas. He ran for 230 yards on 32 carries with three touchdowns. Two of his touchdown runs went for 48 and 29 yards, respectively. Michael carried the Texas A&M offense against the Razorbacks. Running the ball with power and physicality, he showed a good burst to hit the hole quickly and accelerate to the second level of the defense.
In the game, Michael had a fumble in the second half, but the game was still a breakout performance for the junior tailback. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder has a good mix of power and speed. In 2010, he ran for 631 yards (five yards per carry)and four touchdowns in eight games before breaking his leg to end the season. Thus far in 2011, he has 408 yards rushing while averaging 7.2 yards per carry with five touchdowns. Michael entered the season as a third-day pick, and he might be better off returning for his senior season. It looks like he has replaced Gray as the feature back, and if Michael continues to produce, he could start getting consideration for the second day of the draft.
Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas
With Greg Childs struggling and not playing like he did in 2010 before his knee injury, Wright has stepped up and made the case to be the Razorbacks' feature receiver. Against Texas A&M on Saturday, he had a massive game and was instrumental in Arkansas pulling off a massive comeback win. Wright caught 13 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He was quarterback Tyler Wilson's primary target, and the Texas A&M secondary had no answer for Wright. He showed some fabulous route running with good hands and quickness.
For the season, Wright has 28 receptions for 478 yards and five scores. It was his second 100-yard receiving game of the year, but given the Texas A&M performance, he should be their primary receiver for the time being. At 5-foot-10, 180-pounds, Wright has size limitations, but with his breakout game igniting his draft stock, he should get consideration on the third day of the draft.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
It is impossible to keep Baylor's star quarterback off of this list. Griffin has been tearing up college football in 2011, establishing himself as a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. Against Kansas State on Saturday, he completed 23-of-31 passes for 346 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. Griffin was a machine, hitting passes downfield to wide receiver Kendall Wright and tearing apart Kansas State's defense. Unfortunately for Griffin, his defense allowed Kansas State to pull out the win.
For the season, he has completed 93-of-113 passes for 1,308 yards with 18 touchdowns and one interception. With each game, his accuracy and intelligence become more impressive. He is a fabulous athlete with a strong arm and the ability to make big plays with his feet. The junior Griffin (6-2, 220) has already graduated and is pursuing a master's degree. He could return for his senior season. His stock is rising, and if Griffin decides to enter the 2012 NFL Draft, he looks to be taken in the second or third round.
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. Against Vanderbilt, Ingram scored again with a fumble recovery in the end zone. He also recorded four tackles with two sacks and another tackle for a loss.
Even though the Gamecocks lost to Auburn, Ingram produced a massive game last Saturday. He recorded one interception, 3.5 sacks, 4.5 tackles for a loss, and 11 tackles. It was a tremendous performance that now gives Ingram 5.5 sacks on the season. A year ago, Ingram was third in the SEC in sacks with nine. 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. A few weeks ago Ingram was a third-rounder. Right now, he looks like a pick in the second round.
Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
A player who badly needed a big game was Worthy. He had been very quiet in the early going of the season and had a bad showing against Notre Dame. While Worthy gets a lot of blocking attention, his conditioning looks to be off as he rotates out of the game more often than he should. Against Ohio State, Worthy made his presence felt and was extremely disruptive. He had two tackles with one sack, and one tackle for a loss. He came close to getting a few more sacks and was consistently pressuring the quarterback. Worthy looks like a late first round or early second-round pick, and he stopped his stock from falling further with his strong game against Ohio State.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Barkley set a record for the most passing yards in a game for USC with 464 yards against Arizona on Saturday. All game, he was able to move the ball up and down the field on the worst defense in the PAC-12. Barkley completed 32-of-39 passes for four touchdowns and one interception. He was extremely accurate throwing the ball to all parts of the field: short, intermediate, and deep passes. Barkley had an 82-yard touchdown pass on a short dump off, but he also made plenty of fabulous passes downfield. One of the impressive aspects of the game for him was the way that he looked off safeties and pump-faked defenders. That helped open up receivers and gave him better windows to throw passes.
Barkley was a top-10 pick entering the game, but the game against Arizona elevates Barkley's stock after having a rough game against Arizona State a week earlier. Against the Sun Devils, he had two interceptions and a fumble. For the season, he has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,587 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. Barkley's stock is solidly in the top of the first round.
Courtney Upshaw, DE/OLB, Alabama
Midway through the first half, Upshaw put on a display against Florida. First, hr rocked and blew by left tackle Xavier Nixon for a tackle for a loss. A few plays later Upshaw found himself blocked but was in good position since a screen pass flew right to him. He caught the pass and raced around the edge, sprinting 45 yards downfield for a touchdown. Just before halftime, Upshaw recorded a sack that twisted quarterback John Brantley awkwardly. It knocked the Gators starting quarterback out of the game. Against Florida, Upshaw totaled four tackles with three tackles for a loss, one interception and one sack.
Upshaw (6-2, 265) gave his draft stock a boost with a huge game against Florida. For the season, he has 16 tackles with 1.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for a loss plus that interception. Upshaw entered the game as a late first-rounder, but he is proving to be the top 3-4 outside linebacker in this draft class, which should put him into the middle of the first round.
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
While Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods get more headlines, McDonald had an excellent game for the Trojans against Arizona. He intercepted Arizona quarterback Nick Foles twice in the first half to help USC grab control of the game. Both passes were overthrown, and McDonald broke over to get in position for the turnovers. He also dished out some jarring hits typical of this physical safety. The quality of McDonald's hands can be seen on him being used on their hands team for onside kicks. He showed why by catching an onside-kick attempt late in the fourth quarter. For the season, McDonald has 27 tackles with two interceptions and a pass broken up. The 6-foot-3, 207-pounder is making the case to be a late first-rounder if he skips his senior season and enters the 2012 draft.
A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
The star of Illinois' win over Northwestern was Jenkins. He dominated the Northwestern defense with 12 receptions for 268 yards and three touchdowns. It was a school record for him. Jenkins caught touchdown passes of 14 yards, 33 yards, and 50 yards. He showed good speed to get downfield and race by safeties who were playing a lot of zone coverage. The 6-foot, 190-pound Jenkins looked like a potential undrafted free agent entering the season. He had 56 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns last year. After five games of his senior season, Jenkins isn't far off from his old totals with 40 receptions for 633 yards and five touchdowns. He is one of the nation's leaders in receiving and has his stock is rising into the third day of the draft.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
While it hasn't been a terrible season, Fuller has not been standing out. Last week against Arkansas, he had nine receptions for 82 yards and zero touchdowns, plus also allowed an interception. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw a pass a little short of Fuller deep down the field. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder gave zero effort in breaking up the pick. After the catch was made, he hugged the defensive back to make a tackle. A week earlier Fuller had a few drops against Oklahoma State. Thus far in 2011, he has 26 receptions for 268 yards with two touchdowns and has yet to record a 100-yard receiving game. Fuller is a possession receiver and his 40-yard dash time at the combine could be a concern for his draft status. In 2011, he has been over been eclipsed by teammate Ryan Swope who has 26 receptions for 380 yards and two touchdowns. Fuller entered the season as a potential late-first rounder, but right now, he looks more likely to be a late second-rounder.
Robert Lester, S, Alabama
Early in the game, before quarterback John Brantley left with an injury, Lester was targeted and beaten for a few long pass plays by Florida. He was late coming over to the sideline on a 65-yard touchdown pass on a go route by wide receiver Andre DuBose. Lester then was beat by wide receiver Deonte Thompson for a 30-yard reception. Lester finished the game with only two tackles. His season totals are down compared to the 2010 season (eight interceptions and 52 tackles). This year, Lester has 11 tackles and zero interceptions in five games. He was close to a few picks in some other games, but Lester is not producing the big plays he did a year ago. Entering the season, he looked like a late first-round or early second-round pick. If the junior enters the 2012 NFL Draft, he would more likely be a late second or third-round pick.