Khaseem Greene, ILB, Rutgers
Rutgers' defense has been one of the top stop units across the nation in 2012 and Greene has been its leader. He had some huge plays against Syracuse to lead his team.
Greene fired into the backfield on one play to rip down quarterback Ryan Nassib for a sack-fumble that was recovered by the Orange. It was a great blitz by Greene to time his burst into the backfield. The senior made another splash play in the fourth quarter when he dropped into zone coverage and undercut the slot receiver running a quick slant. Greene returned the pick 27 yards. It was a smart and instinctive read by the senior to know where Nassib's hot route was in response to the blitz.
Greene added a couple of other strips on Syracuse ball-carriers as he astutely ripped at the ball. Greene totaled 14 tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and an interception against the Orange.
Greene has totaled 63 tackles, 3.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four passes batted, two interceptions and 5.5 tackles for a loss this season. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder will have to move to outside linebacker in the NFL. He has good quickness, instincts and physicality. Greene started his career at safety and looks like he has three-down ability for the NFL. This outing against Syracuse will help his effort to be a second-day pick.
Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
The Longhorns had a few defenders look good against West Virginia last week, but then struggle against Oklahoma in the Red River rivalry game. The antithesis of that trend was Byndom. He was torched for three touchdowns against West Virginia, but had a bounce-back performance against the Sooners.
Byndom had a clutch open field tackle to stop a running back a yard short of the first down on a third-down pass in the red zone. Byndom made a big play in the third quarter to help his team. He jumped the short stop route for an easy catch. There was nobody in front of Byndom, allowing him to sprint 28 yards into the end zone. He was a good contributor in run defense throughout the game. Byndom totaled 10 tackles to go with his pick-six.
The 6-foot, 180-pounder really needed a good game to help his draft stock. Byndom looks steady as a second-day pick right now. He has totaled 26 tackles and two interceptions this season. Byndom needs to improve his ball skills and footwork in man coverage. It may be a good idea for him to return for his senior season.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Lacy was an animal against Missouri. He ripped off yards in chunks all day long. Lacy showed impressive quickness to hit the hole and break into the second level of the defense. He ran through tackles with power and was constantly picking up yards after contact.
Lacy went behind his superb line for a 73-yard touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. His next carry was over 20 yards, and he also had two short touchdown runs. Lacy totaled 177 yards on 18 carries with three touchdowns, but did have a lost fumble. The Crimson Tide offensive line dominated the point of attack and made his job easy.
There was a lot of excitement for Lacy (6-0, 220) entering the season, but he hasn't been as productive as many thought he would be. Alabama has used a stable of backs and freshman T.J. Yeldon has grabbed a lot of attention. Lacy has averaged six yards per carry with 491 yards and seven touchdowns through six games. He also has six receptions for 42 yards. Lacy hasn't looked as impressive to this point as Alabama's last two star running backs, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, but Lacy helped himself against Missouri and looks like a second-day prospect.
Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Banks had an impressive performance versus Tennessee. He did a good job in coverage against both Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. Banks turned and ran well with Patterson to slap a pass away downfield. Hunter struggled to get separation from Banks as well. The senior was a solid contributor in run defense, and he came through for his team in clutch time with a splash play.
Banks disengaged from Hunter's block on a perimeter run. Bank laid a hit on the running back and reached his hand into the ball-carrier's chest to rip the ball out. Banks fell on top of the ball to recover the fumble. Mississippi State was up 27-24 at the time. That set up the Bulldogs at the Volunteers' 30-yard line for a game-clinching touchdown that came a few plays later.
Banks had six tackles, a pass breakup and a forced fumble against Tennessee. He also had a nice punt return of 10 yards to take the ball to midfield. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound corner showed impressive speed and flexibility versus the Volunteers' speed receivers. Banks showed that he can flip his hips and run with receivers downfield. That is a key attribute for a tall corner like him to display. He has totaled 25 tackles, three interceptions and three passes broken up this season. Banks could make a move into the top 20.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
The upset alert alarm was on for Florida as the Gators overlooked Vanderbilt. The player who did the most damage to for the Commodores was Matthews. He caught eight receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. Florida features the best secondary that Matthews will face all season, and he proved that he has the speed to compete with the Gators. Matthews beat Florida safety Matt Elam for a touchdown by catching the pass above the physical safety.
Matthews (6-3, 205) is having an excellent junior season as the No. 1 receiver for Jacob Rodgers. Matthews has totaled 43 receptions through six contests for 617 yards and three touchdowns. He had a huge debut with eight catches for 147 yards and a score against South Carolina. Matthew had 119 yards on eight receptions versus Georgia.
The junior has elevated his play against the best opponents Vanderbilt has played this season. He looks like a potential second-day pick, but could stay for his senior season to try and improve his standing.
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
Jones had great blocks all game against Missouri. He got out and made blocks at the second level while also pushing defenders out of their gap in the trenches. Jone was not only rock solid in pass protection, but he also hit a number of seal blocks to spring Lacy for long runs. Twice Alabama went behind Jones and guard Chance Warmack for short touchdown runs.
The real test for Jones as a center will come on November 3 against LSU when he matches up against Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson. However, Missouri has a good tackle in Sheldon Richardson, and Jones had success against Richardson when he went against him. That wasn't the case for other Alabama offensive linemen including right tackle D.J. Fluker. It was a superb game from from Jones that should help his cause to be the top center and a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen has been playing well this season, but the struggles of quarterback Zach Maynard really hurt his opportunities to produce. Allen hadn't produced a 100-yard game until taking on Washington State on Saturday. He caught 11 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. The score came on a quick slant when Allen cut by a safety after shedding a tackle to break down the field for 69 yards.
Allen has totaled 52 receptions for 633 yards and five touchdowns this year. His 69-yard score showed why he is a great fit as a No. 1 receiver in a West Coast offense. He has the size to work the middle of the field with quick receptions that he can break for extra yards. Allen is a fantastic run after the catch receiver. He can play Z (flanker), X (split end) or slot receiver. This effort will help Allen to establish himself as the top receiver for the 2013 NFL Draft class.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
The brash Richardson backed up his talk by making plays against the best offensive line in college football. He didn't dominate when going against center Barrett Jones and guard Chance Warmack, but the other Crimson Tide offensive linemen struggled to block him. Richardson had a nice pass pressure going against right tackle D.J. Fluker. Richardson fired by to the inside in the third quarter to run down quarterback A.J. McCarron for a sack. The next snap for Richardson saw him shed guard Anthony Steen to stuff the running back for no gain.
Richardson showed strong pursuit skills as he made tackles out of his gap. Richardson worked his way through the trash to get in on a number of stops in the tackle box and also hustled downfield to contribute to take downs. He totaled 14 tackles and that sack against Alabama.
Richardson has 52 tackles through seven games this season; a staggering number for a defensive lineman. As a point of reference, that is only seven tackles less than Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. Richardson also had seven tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks with a forced fumble.
The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder is very fast off the snap with nice hand usage to shed blocks and a repertoire of moves. He is a good pass-rusher and has a great motor. The redshirt junior could fit in the NFL as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or he could play defensive end in a 3-4. Richardson's performance against the Crimson Tide supports him being a first- or second-round pick.
C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama
Mosley continued his excellent season against Missouri. The junior was all over the field making tackles in the ground game and in pass defense. He totaled 12 tackles with a sack. Mosley made a number of clutch open field tackles to stop ball carries. He had nine solo tackles.
Mosley is Alabama's leading tackler this year, with 51 stops. He also has 2.5 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one pass broken up. NFL coaches are going to love Mosley's pass-coverage abilities. Mosley is very fluid and instinctive in the open field. He defends a lot of ground in zone coverage with the athletic ability to play man coverage. The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder fits best as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. Mosley will needs to get into the 240s in order to stay in a 3-4 defense at the next level.
Honorable Mentions: LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Stanford outside linebacker Chase Thomas.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Barkley's disappointing senior season continued against Washington. The Huskies' secondary had good coverage, and the Trojans' offensive line allowed a lot of pressure on Barkley. He really struggled in the second half with some inaccurate passes. Barkley didn't seem to trust his eyes at times after throwing an early interception. He was tricked by a safety who started going deep before turning around to undercut a passing lane. Barkley finished only 10-of-20 for 167 yards with a touchdown and one interception.
The senior signal-caller has completed 63 percent of his passes this season for 1,475 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. Barkley has only two 300-yard passing games, coming against Hawaii and Utah. He had disappointing performances against Stanford, California and, now, Washington. Barkley needs to catch fire and play lights out in the second half of his senior season to be ensure he is the first quarterback selected next April.
Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
Buchanan was held in check for the second straight week by a tackle who will be playing on Sundays. He did very little going against Wisconsin left tackle Ricky Wagner two weeks ago. The trend continued last Saturday when Buchanan was held in check by Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan. Buchanan totaled nine tackles in those two games with zero sacks. Illinois was blown out in both contests.
Buchanan started the season well against Western Michigan, but he has been quiet since the opener and a non-factor in Big Ten action. Buchanan has totaled 28 tackles, five tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks through seven games. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder has to gain weight for the NFL to defend the run, plus work on his pass-rushing moves. Buchanan looks more like a mid-round pick than a top-60 player, which was how he entered the season. Buchanan also doesn't like like a good fit in the 4-3 and probably has to move to outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
The Volunteers No. 1 receiver was very quiet against Mississippi State. Banks and cornerback Darius Slay did a good job of matching up with Hunter. He had one catch in the first quarter and one in the fourth quarter to total 41 yards. Hunter wasn't generating separation against the Bulldogs, and teammate Cordarrelle Patterson was the more impressive wide out.
Hunter has totaled 35 receptions for 497 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. He doesn't look as explosive this season as he was before the knee injury that knocked him out for most of 2011. Hunter has only two 100-yard games this year, and they came against Georgia State and Akron. He was held under 80 yards per contest versus North Carolina State, Florida, Georgia and now Mississippi State. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounds is still a very talented prospect and a potential first-rounder, but he doesn't look as dynamic as he has in the past.
Dishonorable Mentions: Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.