D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Up to the game against LSU, this has been a disappointing season for Fluker that has seen him really struggle in pass protection. He has given up a lot of sacks/pressure in games against Missouri, Mississippi State, Arkansas and a multi-sack game against Western Kentucky. Fluker's biggest test of the season was last Saturday against the LSU Tigers and their talented speed rushers. As the Crimson Tide's right tackle, he drew the matchup with defensive end Barkevious Mingo, one of the fastest front seven defenders in college football. Fluker stepped up his game and produced his best outing of the season as a pass-blocker.
Fluker had good pass protection against Mingo all night. Fluker shuffled well and got great depth in his drop to negate Mingo's speed rush. Fluker received some help at times, but overall, he did his job and kept Mingo from hitting quarterback A.J. McCarron. There were only two bad plays for Fluker in pass protection. He was called for holding Mingo in the first quarter. Mingo was about to break free, so Fluker dragged him down for an obvious penalty. The second bad play after he had Mingo well-blocked, but the end got his hand up to block the pass and force a punt.
Fluker dominated Mingo in the ground game. The LSU defensive end had only two assisted tackles against Alabama. Prior to this outing, Fluker looked like he should be moved to guard in the NFL, but shutting down Mingo is new evidence that Fluker could possibly remain at right tackle. He looks like a top-60 pick who could get consideration in the late first round if he maintains this level of play for the rest of season.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Ducks senior running back Kenjon Barner was the star of the USC-Oregon game. He gashed the Trojans' defense throughout the game. Barner ripped off yards in chunks with his great speed and cutting ability. USC had no answer for him.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Barner had a nice touchdown run in the second quarter. He followed his blockers well to run free for 20 yards before breaking a tackle in front of the goal line to get into the end zone. Barner later ripped off a 40-yarder after knifing up the middle and cutting to the sideline to get good yardage. He finished the drive with a sweep to the right side for a touchdown. Barner helped move the ball in the third quarter with some nice runs and had a 10-yard carry go for a touchdown. He finished the night with 324 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries.
Barner has averaged seven yards per carry this year with 1,295 yards and 19 touchdowns. He is a speed back and doesn't have the size to get yards after contact, but he could be a real weapon as a situational back. This outing should give Barner a real boost as he destroyed a defense that has some players with NFL speed. It will help his cause to be a second-day pick.
John Simon, DE, Ohio State
Ohio State defensive end John Simon had an impressive performance against Illinois. The senior had a sack on the first play from scrimmage after he came unblocked by the right tackle. His second sack victimized the right tackle in the third quarter. Simon executed a nice spin move to the inside to get free to the quarterback.
Simon has totaled 38 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks in 2012. He isn't a great athlete, but is strong and physical. Simon has a good motor and never quits on a play. He'll get some sacks just out of his hustle. Simon looks like a second- or third-round pick who could be part of a good end rotation in the NFL.
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.
Honorable Mentions: 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.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Short was a complete non-factor against Penn State as he was playing through an ankle injury. Short was getting blocked in the ground game and not producing any pressure on the quarterback. After being quiet all game, he blocked a pass on a fourth down late in the third quarter. The senior read a screen well to almost make a tackle for a loss, but was a little late getting there. If Short was 100 percent he would've made the tackle. He had only one tackle against the Nittany Lions.
Short still could be a first-round pick for the 2013 NFL Draft. He has 26 tackles and four sacks, but has gone five games without a sack. Purdue looks like it won't make a Bowl game this year, so Short should attend the Senior Bowl. If he plays well there and at the NFL Scouting Combine, that would help his cause to go in the top 32.
Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State
The Big XII doesn't have many good defenses, so Randle had a nice opportunity to showcase his skills against the top defense in the conference with Kansas Sate. He started the game well with some quality runs that churned out some tough yardage and moved the chains.
Kansas State defense did a superb job of gang-tackling to keep Randle's gains limited. The Wildcats had excellent gap integrity from start to finish, so he didn't see good running lanes at any point in the contest. Randle fumbled the ball away in the second quarter after getting hit by a few defenders. It was a bad and surprising fumble the normally sure-handed back.
Randle totaled 43 yards on 15 carries with his fumble against the Wildcats. It was his worst game of the season and it came at a bad time. While Randle didn't have good opportunities, it was still a disappointing performance with his poorly timed fumble. This showing won't help his stock and probably will hurt his chances of being a first-round pick.
Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State
Glennon has played solid to good football for most of the season. The senior's supporting cast has been weak, but he has remained relatively productive. However, Glennon had a meltdown performance against Virginia last weekend. The Cavaliers have had a tough season, but they destroyed the Wolfpack 33-6.
Glennon completed only 23-of-46 passes for 197 yards, three interceptions and a touchdown. His first pick was a terrible overthrow in the middle of the field. The second came after he held onto the ball way too long and was hit from behind the ball as flew into the air and was picked off.
Glennon later took another hit after holding the ball too long, and that play resulted in a grounding penalty for a safety. His final pick was another deep ball that was overthrown. He played a big role in N.C. State allowing six sacks.
Glennon has completed 57 percent of his passes this season for a total of 2,652 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has a nice skill set but is a work in progress. This performance will hurt Glennon's likelihood to be a second-day selection with a push towards the mid-rounds.
Dishonorable Mentions: Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks.