Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma
Alexander was unblockable against Texas. He started the game getting to the quarterback and maintained that heat on the signal caller for four quarters. Against the Longhorns, Alexander recorded six tackles with four tackles for a loss, three sacks (one for a forced fumble) and one pass broken up. He showed excellent closing speed to get to the signal caller, and on his sack-fumble, worked his way through a block to grab quarterback Case McCoy. Alexander whipped McCoy around to the ground and the ball came flying out. It was recovered by an Oklahoma teammate who returned it for a touchdown. On the final offensive play of the game for Texas, Alexander contributed to another sack. The Longhorns had no answer for him as he beat their linemen with speed and physicality.
Alexander is tied for sixth in the nation with 5.5 sacks. He also has 28 tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up, one forced fumble and one interception. Alexander entered the season as a fourth-rounder, but after beating Florida State left tackle Andrew Datko in their matchup, his stock has risen to the second-day of the draft. With a dominant game against Texas on the books, Alexander should now be climbing into the second round.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
One of the criticisms of Sooners quarterback Landry Jones is not playing well away from his home stadium. Both his completion percentage and interceptions are higher on the road, so Oklahoma has had some road losses in the past couple of years. Jones did his best to put those concerns to rest with a fabulous game against Texas. In the first half, he put the game out of reach. Jones was on fire completing passes downfield and putting the ball in the end zone. By halftime, he had completed 23-of-35 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns.
Between Jones and some defensive touchdowns, the Sooners were on cruise control and Jones didn't have to throw the ball much in the final two quarters. For the game, he completed 31-of-50 passes for 367 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The 6-foot-4, 229-pounder showed a strong arm to make all the throws with good accuracy, including passes downfield. His footwork and field vision are all strengths. Jones is a good pocket passer and should be a high first-round pick.
Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
When Nebraska was down at home in the second half to Ohio State, David came up with a game-changing play that jump-started the Cornhuskers' comeback win. He stripped the football away from Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller to set up a quick touchdown that got Nebraska back into the game. David recorded 13 tackles with one tackle for a loss. He got some good pass pressure on blitzes and was all over the field. David was the catalyst for the Nebraska defense to turn around and play well in the second half of the game.
David has excellent speed and is a hard-hitter. For the season, he has 58 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and one interception. At 6-foot-1, 225-pounds, David is undersized, but he plays bigger than listed. David is a pure football player who could be excellent value after the first round. He has been a second or third-rounder, but after his big game against Ohio State it looks like David is solidifying his stock as a second-round pick.
Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan
White has been massively productive this season, notching another big game this past Saturday. He caught 12 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns against Bowling Green. It was the fourth straight game where White had at least 12 receptions for 130 yards and a score. Thus far in 2011, he has 55 receptions for 705 yards and seven touchdowns. White is tied for first in receptions college football, is third in yards, and tied for second in receptions. What makes his numbers even more impressive is that the Bronco's first game of the season, against Michigan, was called early due to storms, and the stats registered from the game were wiped out by the NCAA.
The 6-foot, 215-pound White is clearly dominant at his level of competition. He shows excellent body control in going up to get passes thrown high. White is very good at contorting his body to make receptions and getting his feet down to complete the reception. He possesses quality quickness and straight line speed, plus looks and plays bigger than his listed size. Even with extra attention, White continues to produce. He started the season as a late-rounder, but is moving upward on the third day of the draft. If White runs a fast 40 time at the combine, he could really elevate his draft stock.
Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State
Brewster had a quality game and provided NFL talent evaluators with a strong showing against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers defensive tackles Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler were both blocked well by Brewster. He opened up running lanes with seal blocks on both players, preventing them from getting pass pressure on quarterback Braxton Miller. Brewster was very effective against Crick, who is considered to be a first-round pick. In 2011, Brewster has played good games against the better interior linemen he's faced this season in Miami's Marcus Forston, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy, and the Nebraska duo. Brewster's strong games against those lineman have his status as the top senior center in rock-solid standing.
Logan Harrell, DT, Fresno State
Harrell makes the list for rising draft stock because he showed some skills that had previously been a question mark. His productivity, both in 2011 and during the 2010 season, has proven that he is a good pass rusher. Last year, Harrell recorded 10.5 sacks with 14 tackles for a loss. In six games this season, he has 3.5 sacks. What was unknown was how Harrell would hold up in run defense at the line of scrimmage.
The 6-foot-2, 275-pounder is undersized as a defensive tackle, but against Boise State showed that he has the tenacity and physicality to hold up on the line of scrimmage. Harrell made two nice tackles for a loss. On the first, he shot his gap and got to running back Doug Martin in the backfield. The second tackle for a loss came when he ran over a guard. First, Harrell knocked him to his knees, then plowed through him with a forearm to the face, breaking in to tackle Martin a few yards short of the line of scrimmage. In the game, Harrell showed that he can be a strong run defender with eight tackles plus the two tackles for a loss. The official scorer gave him 1.5 tackles for a loss, but Harrell did make those plays on his own. He entered the game as a third-day pick, but now has earned consideration as a second-day pick. In the NFL, Harrell could fit as a left end in a 4-3 defense who moves to the inside on passing downs.
Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Still is a blue collar player who has been putting together a strong senior season. He played Alabama tough earlier in the season and recorded his first sack a week later against Temple. Against Iowa on Saturday, Still had a strong game with six tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and one sack. He is a tough run defender at the line of scrimmage who does a good job of of holding his ground.
Still looks like he has some flexibility as a pro. He could fit as a 3-4 defensive end or play nose tackle in a 4-3 defense. Still is pushing his stock into the second round, and his strong play makes it hard to see him falling out of the second day of the draft.
Brandon Taylor, S, LSU
It can be hard to stand out on the LSU defense because of all the supremely talented players throughout the unit. Tyrone Mathieu and Morris Claiborne are the stars of the LSU defense, but safety Brandon Taylor is playing well in 2011. He had a big game against Florida with seven tackles, one interception and two passes broken up.
For the season, Taylor has 34 tackles with 1.5 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up and two interceptions. The 6-foot, 194-pounder has good speed and is a physical player, plus he does a good job in run support and doesn't get caught out of position in pass coverage. It is his second season as as starter. Taylor missed the end of the 2010 season (almost five games) after suffering a foot injury against Alabama. He entered the season as a late-rounder, but now could be moving up into the early rounds of the third day of the draft.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Jared Crick, DT/DE, Nebraska
Crick has put together two disappointing games against perhaps the two best centers in college football. After being shutdown by Wisconsin's junior center Peter Konz, Crick was blocked with ease by Ohio State center Mike Brewster. Crick played a very good game against Washington a few weeks ago, but was injured in the game. He missed the next game against Wyoming, and Wisconsin was able to run well up the middle at him in his first game back. Crick also didn't get a pass rush going in that game with only five tackles.
Against Ohio State, he was even quieter with only three tackles. Brewster blocked him well and when Nebraska moved Crick to some plays at end, he was ineffective. Some believe that his injury is carrying over and preventing him from playing like he is capable of. For the season, Crick has 22 tackles with one sack and 2.5 tackles for a loss.
Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
The hard part about putting Hosley on this list is that he easily could have been on it last week for his stock being up. He played an excellent game against Clemson with a very smart and instinctive interception of quarterback Tajh Boyd. Hosley also did a good job limiting star freshman Sammy Watkins.
This week though, Hosley struggled against Miami and gave a bad tape to NFL evaluators. He was hesitant in run defense, and on a critical play seemed to shy away from taking on running back Lamar Miller in the hole. Instead of engaging, Hosley looked to get blocked rather than making a tackle. He was also beat for touchdown on a jump ball in the end zone. The 5-foot-10 Hosley simply couldn't breakup the pass thrown to a big receiver. That weakness is going to be tested more this season, and NFL teams will definitely exploit that if Hosley doesn't show the ability to cover a big receiver in the end zone. His stock isn't going down tremendously after this game. In the 2012 NFL Draft, he is a late first-round or early second-round pick.
Eddie Whitley, S, Virginia Tech
Like Hosley, Whitley played a good game against Clemson a week ago. He recorded 12 tackles in the game and helped to contain the Tigers' offense from having a big game. Against Miami, Whitleey had some struggles and was late on a number of plays in run defense, and even some passes downfield. He did not have a good game defending the run and Miami running back Lamar Miller.
Whitley needs to be more aggressive in run support. The safety looks like he could have some struggles in a pro defense that views their safeties as interchangeable. Many NFL defenses can have the safeties switch responsibilities in a pre-snap read. That requires both safeties to be able to play strong and free safety. Whitley (6-1, 200) looks like he could struggle in doing some strong safety duties, and he probably is not a player who would be a presence as an in-the-box safety. After the game against Miami, Whitley looks like a fringe third or fourth-round pick.
Will the broncos realistically be able to snag Zach Cunningham like you're predicting? This is a dream scenario for me as he's my favorite true Inside Linebacker in this draft. I see him coming off almost everyone's day 2 mock draft super early besides yours. He's had tackling issues when coming from behind and doesn't have that elite speed but...will he really drop that far? Oh I've never been so excited for round 2 of the nfl draft!!! Thoughts?