Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Dennard had an excellent game against Iowa, virtually shutting down one of the best receivers in college football. All game he squared off against Hawkeyes wide receiver Marvin McNutt. The Iowa standout entered the weekend seventh in the nation in receiving yards with 1,240 on 74 receptions and 12 touchdowns. As a point of reference, Justin Blackmon entered the weekend with only one more yard than McNutt, but with 29 more receptions and three more touchdowns.
Dennard was excellent against McNutt. He smothered the big receiver and did not allow him to get open. Dennard broke up a bunch of passes intended for McNutt. He played him well in bump-and-run coverage and also closed quickly when he needing to collapse his allowed cushion. McNutt was incapable of getting separation on Dennard. The Hawkeyes wide receiver finished the game with only four receptions for 29 yards.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Dennard is strong and well built, and he uses that strength to be physical with wide outs. Dennard has the ability to be a good man or zone corner in the NFL. With his strong game against Iowa, Dennard deserves consideration in the middle of the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
In what could be his final collegiate game, Kuechly made the case to be the first linebacker selected next April. He had a superb game to cap an excellent season and, potentially, great collegiate career. Kuechly set the ACC career-tackle record and school record as well. He was a tough run defender and was phenomenal in pass coverage. Kuechly ran with Miami wide receiver Tommy Streeter on a route downfield and almost intercepted a pass intended for him. In the fourth quarter, Kuechly made the game-winning score when he read the eyes of the quarterback and cut in front of the wide receiver to make an interception and return the ball 45 yards for a touchdown. Kuechly finished the game with nine tackles, a tackle for a loss, a pass break up and the interception.
For the season, Kuechly amassed 191 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss, three interceptions and three passes broken up. Over the past three seasons, he has totaled 532 tackles. Kuechly's massive production is impossible to ignore. He has fabulous instincts and intelligence that put him in position to make plays. Kuechly should pick up an NFL defense quickly and be an instant starter. The 6-foot-3, 237-pound Kuechly should announce in the next few weeks if he will return for his senior season at Boston College.
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
One of the steadiest backs in the nation this season has been Wilson. He has gone over 100 yards in 10-of-12 games this season and has consistently been a source for big plays. Against Virginia on Saturday, Wilson had a huge game to lead the Hokies' offense. He ran for 153 yards on 24 carries with two touchdown runs. Wilson showed his speed with touchdown runs of 38 and 27 yards.
This season, successful running back has averaged 6.3 yards per carry with 1,595 yards and nine touchdowns. He also has caught 18 receptions for 112 yards and one score. Wilson has the skill set to be starting running back in the NFL. He has balance, speed, vision and patience. If Wilson (5-10, 205) could add another 10 pounds of muscle to help hold up for the pounding that would be ideal. Hurting his stock this season has been his ball security. He has seven fumbles thus far with two games to play. If Wilson skips his senior season, he could be a second-day pick. Wilson might be better off returning to school and shooting for the first round in 2013.
Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
Against Minnesota, it was a typical game from Mercilus. He recorded three tackles with a sack and a forced fumble. All season, Mercilus has been getting to the quarterback, recording sacks in 10-of-12 games for Illinois. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder combines surprising strength to go with great speed. He has a good repertoire of pass-rushing moves that combines speed rushes and bull rushes.
Assuming Illinois gets a bowl invitation, Mercilus has one more game to improve on his fabulous production. Thus far in 2011, he has 52 tackles with 19.5 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles. Mercilus leads the nation in sacks and forced fumbles. All year, he has steadily improved his draft stock after entering the year with only two career sacks. Mercilus now is pushing to be a top-20 pick.
Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
A player who has really created a buzz about himself this season is Ingram. Before the season, teammate Devin Taylor was considered to be the better pro prospect, but he had a disappointing season while Ingram has been a steady source of big plays. He's scored three touchdowns to go along with a lot of heat on the quarterback. This week, Ingram had a good game against Clemson. He recorded five tackles with two sacks and more hurries on the quarterback.
The 6-foot-2, 276-pound Ingram is an excellent athlete for his size. That can be seen on his 68-yard touchdown run on a fake punt against Georgia in the second game of the season. Ingram is able to rush from defensive end or defensive tackle. This season, he has totaled 44 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks. It is his second straight season with a good sack total after recording nine sacks last year. Ingram could be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan
White finished his phenomenal senior season with seven receptions for 138 yards and two touchdowns against Akron. A couple of weeks ago, against Toledo, he had 16 receptions for 238 yards and six touchdowns. White has been consistent all season. He leads the nation in receptions and receiving yards. Making his production even more impressive is White was a known commodity after a big 2010 season with 94 catches for 1,378 yards and 10 scores. All season, he has been double-teamed, but his skill set is too dynamic for his level of competition.
Thus far in 2011, the senior has 127 receptions for 1,646 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 215-pound White has good speed and plays bigger than his listed measurements. He has excellent body control that lets him make a lot of tough catches. White has forced his way into being a second-day prospect.
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
In what could have been his last collegiate game, McDonald had a great afternoon against UCLA. He had 10 tackles, a tackle for a loss, an interception returned 25 yards and a pass broken up. All season, McDonald has been playing physical football and regularly punishes offensive players with big hits.
Tthe junior finished the season with 67 tackles and three interceptions. McDonald (6-3, 205) is big and fast. He does an excellent job of keeping plays in front of him and not allowing big plays downfield. McDonald is also a good run defender who can be a good eighth man in the box. He has been a superb fit in Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense and that defense has done a good job of preparing him for the NFL. If McDonald enters the draft, he easily could be the first safety selected and a late first-round pick.
Julian Miller, DE, West Virginia
It would be impossible to keep Miller off of this list after he led the way for the West Virginia defense to seal a one-point win over Pittsburgh. Miller had 12 tackles with four sacks in the game. He came up with some clutch rushes to get sacks late in the game when the Panthers were trying to move into field goal range. Miller showed his strength and athleticism by executing good pass rushes from both defensive end and defensive tackle.
For the season, Miller has 51 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, six sacks and two forced fumbles. The ability to play inside could be appealing to NFL teams that like to move their ends to the inside on passing downs. Playing tackle has hurt Miller's sack total this season after he notched nine sacks in each of the past two seasons. Miller's strong game against Pittsburgh should help solidify his stock as a second-day pick.
Terrence Ganaway, RB, Baylor
With Robert Griffin III knocked out of the game, Ganaway picked up the slack and had a huge game for the Baylor Bears. He powered his way through the Texas Tech defense and totaled 246 yards on 42 carries with two touchdowns. It was a career high for Ganaway and the second time this season that he has gone for 200 yards.
Thus far in 2011, Ganaway has averaged 5.8 yards per carry with 1,195 yards and 14 touchdowns. He will interest a lot of NFL teams that are looking for a big, bruising back with enough quickness to hit the hole and get to the second level. The 6-foot, 240-pounder is one of the few big-back options in the draft. That could garner him some consideration in the third round, but at the very least, Ganaway looks like an early pick in the fourth round.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Someone else has been suiting up for Devon Still the past two games, because the player out there looks nothing like the consistent force from the first 10 games of the season. He recorded a tackle for a loss in each of the first 10 games and was consistently getting pressure on the quarterback with a strong pass rush. Last week against Ohio State, Still was completely shut out by the Buckeyes with zero tackles in the game. His mere presence was enough to cause Ohio State Mike Brewster to get distracted and have an embarrassing performance.
This week that wasn't the case as Still was handled by the Badgers' offensive line. Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler was single-blocking Still in the ground game and pass game, making Still a non-factor as the Badgers moved the ball up and down the field. Still made one play where he came on a stunt and got a half-sack of quarterback Russell Wilson. Outside of that, Zeitler and Wisconsin opened up holes running straight at Still. He also had many pass rushing-opportunities where he was stone-walled at the line of scrimmage. Still had two tackles in the game while Ball ran for 156 yards and four touchdowns. A weak class of defensive tackles helps Still, and he still should be a first-rounder but the last two weeks push him later in the round rather than the middle.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
For the third game this season, this time against Texas, Tannehill had a three-interception performance in a big game. He also didn't throw the ball accurately against the Longhorns. Tannehill was 20-of-49 for 224 yards with two touchdowns and those three picks. Thus far in 2011, he has completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,415 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Now in the 2012 NFL Draft, he looks like a mid second-round pick rather than early pick on Friday night.
Tony Dye, S, UCLA
It is unfortunate to see Dye on this list, but the senior has had a rough season that has killed his draft stock. He missed seven games in 2011 with a neck injury. He considered applying for a red-shirt, but the UCLA coaches convinced him to return and finish the season. That was a mistake for his draft status, and a selfish decision by the coaches, who are on the hot seat. He returned last week against Colorado and did not have a good game this week against USC. Matt Barkley torched the UCLA secondary for six touchdown passes and Dye was part of those coverage busts. He entered the season as a second-day pick, but now looks like a third-day draft pick. It is unfortunate for the senior that he can't return to school and rehab his draft stock before going pro.