Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
The Pitt Panthers almost pulled off a shocking upset against Notre Dame, and Graham was an absolute force in the ground game. The Fighting Irish have one of the best defenses in college football and a supremely talented front seven. Graham ran for 172 yards with a touchdown on 24 carries versus the Irish. He also totaled 25 yards on six receptions. Graham showed some toughness running through tackles and ripping off yards at a good clip. No running back has had that much success against Notre Dame in 2012.
Graham has totaled 794 yards with eight touchdowns this season and is averaging five yards per carry. The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder was having a great junior year in 2011 before going down with a season-ending knee injury that required surgery. The senior was playing at 80-90 percent early this season, but he has gradually been showing signs of the speed and explosiveness that defined his play last year. Graham's superb day against Notre Dame will help him to be a mid-rounder next April.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Many believe that Hunter is one of the most physically talented receivers in college football. The junior hasn't had as big of a season as many expected, but that is understandable as he is in his first year back after tearing knee ligaments early in 2011. Hunter had his best game of the year against Troy last Saturday with nine receptions for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
Hunter's first score was a 21-yarder acrobatic catch where he leapt and came down on his back with a difficult reception. He added another score with a 40-yard catch on a deep post down the middle of the field. Bray hit Hunter on a short drag route in the fourth quarter that the wide out turned upfield for a 46-yard touchdown.
Hunter has 56 receptions for 838 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He's played better in recent weeks and looks faster. Hunter has the skill set to be a first-rounder, but he may have a better shot at it with a big senior season. However, Hunter would be taking a serious injury risk by going back to school.
Tony Jefferson, S, Oklahoma
Jefferson has played better this season than his numbers indicate. He's totaled 68 tackles, two interceptions and two passes broken up. However if you watch Oklahoma, it is impossible not to notice the rangy safety who is chasing down ball-carriers.
Jefferson had another game with a big impact against Iowa State on Saturday, and this time the stat sheet reflected it. He totaled nine tackles, an interception and pass broken up. Jefferson ended a mild comeback with his pick in the fourth quarter. He ran from the middle of the field to make a leaping interception on a deep pass along the sideline.
Jeffereson missed a game with an injury early on, but he is still Oklahoma's leading tackler by a wide margin. The junior has 28 more stops than the next closest teammate. Jefferson has displayed the speed to be a deep safety and cover a lot of ground in pass defense, but also the tackling ability to defend the run. His showing against Iowa State should help him to be an early-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Florida safety Matt Elam, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope and Illinois center Graham Pocic.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
Mingo has had a number of games this year where his play hasn't matched the hype. He was bulldozed by Florida, held in check by Texas A&M and shut down by Alabama. Mingo drew a matchup with a right tackle (D.J. Fluker) who has given up a lot of sacks this season. Mingo didn't sniff the quarterback against Fluker in a dominating performance in pass protection. The only positive plays came when Mingo drew a holding penalty and batted a pass on a third down.
Mingo has totaled only 25 tackles, three sacks, three passes broken up and zero forced fumbles this year. There is no doubt that the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder doesn't have the size to play defensive end in a 4-3 system in the NFL. He will have to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 or 4-3. That makes him an awkward fit in a 4-3. Mingo is a first-round talent physically, but his junior year production isn't at that level.
T.J. McDonald, S, USC
One of the USC players who looked bad trying to defend Barner was senior safety T.J. McDonald. He was overmatched by Oregon's speed. McDonald overpursued all night, which opened up lanes to the outside or inside. He had an ugly whiff on a tackle darting through the line, but missed Barner completely when he had a shot at him.
McDonald was part of a weak defense on a 40-yard run from Barner. McDonald was knocked flat by a wide receiver. McDonald took a bad angle at Barner on a short touchdown run later on the drive. McDonald bit on a fake to the outside on a 57-yard run by Oregon, and that left the middle wide open for the big play.
McDonald had eight assisted tackles and two solo stops versus the Ducks. He really struggled with Oregon's speed and displayed less than stellar instincts to match up with an offense that uses a lot of misdirection. This was an ugly performance by McDonald that should push him further down in the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Hankins had a disappointing performance against Illinois. He was tough at the point of attack and holding his ground, but only made a couple of tackles in run defense. Hankins was getting little pass rush as well. Illinois center Graham Pocic was having a lot of success with guard double-teams on him. The Buckeyes blew out the Illini, so they could afford Hankins not producing some splash plays, but it won't help his stock to be held in check by a team like Illinois.
Hankins has totaled 50 tackles, four tackles for a loss, one sack and one blocked kick this season. He has played very well and has been disruptive up front, but this tape against the Illini won't help his cause to be a high first-round pick.
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