C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama
The Alabama defense struggled with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, but Mosley was the exception as he had a fantastic game against the Aggies.
Mosley had some huge plays. He pushed Manziel out of bounds a couple yards short of a first down on a fourth-down carry. Mosley came on a blitz in the third quarter and sacked Manziel after shedding a block from the running back. It was a lightning fast blitz off the edge by Mosley that was a yard short of being a safety.
Mosley had another good rush that helped defensive tackle Jesse Williams get a sack. Mosley had another clutch open-field tackle at the start of the fourth quarter. He totaled 14 tackles and a sack against the Aggies.
Mosley is phenomenal in pass coverage, and the NFL will love his ability to defend the passing attack. The junior leads Alabama this season with 83 tackles. He also has two interceptions, five tackles for a loss, four sacks, two passes broken up and a forced fumble. The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder is a fantastic athlete with the speed to make plays all over the field. Mosley looks like a potential first- or second-round pick if he enters the 2013 NFL Draft.
Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
The player who may have helped his stock the most over the weekend is Texas A&M wide receiver Ryan Swope. The senior has been red hot over the past month after a slow start to the season. He was seeing one of his biggest tests of the year against Alabama's talented secondary.
Swope caught a short touchdown pass after getting wide open in the back of the end zone. He simply took over in the fourth quarter. Swope got open between the safeties in zone coverage and made a huge catch while taking a big hit. He new the massive shot was coming between the two safeties, but hung tough to make the reception. The gain went for 42 yards and also had a 15-yard penalty tacked on for Alabama trying to take his's head off on the hit.
Swope made another huge play on a wheel route on the next possession. It was a great route that saw him burn two defenders, including safety Robert Lester, for another 42-yard gain. Swope totaled 11 receptions for 111 yards and a touchdown.
The senior has been phenomenal over the past month against LSU (10-81), Auburn (6-140), Mississippi State (9-121) and Alabama (11-111). He has caught 56 passes for 752 yards and six touchdowns in 2012.
The 6-foot, 206-pounder looks like a dangerous slot receiver for an NFL offense. He has deceptive speed and quickness to get separation. Swope has good hands and is tough. Alabama gave him some bone-rattling hits but they only seemed to fire him up. Swope could be a nice sleeper selection on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Short was a complete non-factor two weeks ago against Penn State, but he was playing with an ankle injury. Short flipped the switch last Saturday against Iowa and was utterly dominant. The Hawkeyes' interior line led by senior center James Ferentz had no answer for Short.
The senior made his presence felt early on with a tremendous play on a third-and-1. Short fired by the guard on a zone-right running play to tackle the back for a loss of one and force a punt. Short blasted by the left guard on the next drive for his second tackle for a loss.
Short started a sack late in the first half with a nice power and speed rush up the middle. He shed his block with violent hands and chased down the quarterback. Short shed a block from Ferentz in the third quarter and sped into the pocket to sack the quarterback. Again an end jumped in a second late, so Short was only credited with one sack against Iowa. He totaled six tackles, four tackles for a loss and a sack. Short was playing with phenomenal leverage. He was shedding blocks with power with great closing speed on the ball-carrier.
Short started out this season on fire before going quiet in the middle portion of the year as he dealt with the ankle injury. Short has totaled 32 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three passes broken up, four blocked kicks and one forced fumble in 2012. This tape will help his cause to be a first-round pick next April.
Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
The Mountaineers high-powered offense showed some of its early season form with a big game from Bailey. He caught 14 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have some quality cornerbacks, but they had no answer for Bailey. He burned a cornerback and safety running a deep post for a 37-yard touchdown. Bailey had a 75-yard reception on another deep post in the third quarter. It could have been an even bigger game for him since he was running free for a touchdown, but Geno Smith overthrew the pass.
Bailey is leading West Virginia this season in receiving yards and touchdowns (16) over Tavon Austin. Bailey is eighth in the nation in receiving yards with 1,055 yards on 75 receptions. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder is undersized, but he is big enough to be a slot receiver in the NFL who is capable of taking any reception the distance. This performance will help Bailey to be a second-day pickin the 2013 NFL Draft.
Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse
Nassib stepped up to lead his team to big upset over an undefeated Louisville team. He completed 15-of-23 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The stat line doesn't reflect the superb job that Nassib did in guiding his team to a 45-26 win over the Cardinals.
The signal-caller has had many other big games in 2012 despite a shaky receiving corps and offensive line. He has completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,019 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.
Nassib (6-2, 229) has NFL starting potential with a strong arm, good accuracy and decision-making. He is a good game manager who would fit well in a West Coast offense. Nassib doesn't have an elite physical skill set, but he is a gritty player. Nassib could be a sleeper pick with starting potential for the second-day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The freak athlete Hunt continued to show that he is developing into a football player. Hunt had one sack, one interception and three tackles against Southern Miss. He three sacks last year, but note that the junior recorded all three of his sacks in SMU's Bowl game against Pittsburgh.
Hunt has recorded sacks in five different games this season. The senior also has 23 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, six sacks and three blocked kicks.
The 6-foot-8, 280-pound defensive end has really made strides with his ability to play the run. His leverage and technique are very improved even from the beginning of the season. For the NFL, Hunt may be best in a 3-4 defense as a five technique defensive end. His improved play should help solidify him as a top-60 pick next April.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is going Bowling in back-to-back seasons for the first time in the school's history. A big reason for that has been the play of Matthews. He had a huge night against Ole Miss on Saturday with nine receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown in the Commodores' 27-26 victory. Matthews had a huge 52-yard touchdown after burning single coverage on a deep post. It was a critical score to help Vanderbilt pull off a big comeback win.
Matthews has totaled 70 receptions for 1,003 yards and five touchdowns this year. The most impressive aspect is how he has played against elite competition. Matthews had big days against Florida (8-131), Georgia (8-119), South Carolina (8-147) and, now, Ole Miss.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Matthews has speed to go along with his great size. He runs good routes and has been well-coached by James Franklin, a former wide receivers coach for the Green Bay Packers. Matthews looks like a nice sleeper prospect, and his huge junior season has really helped his stock. If the junior enters the 2013 NFL Draft, he could be a second-day pick.
Travis Long, OLB/DE, Washington State
Against UCLA, Long had another active night to help his cause next April. He recorded a sack during the first quarter. Long stayed back a few yards off the line of scrimmage as an inside linebacker. When the quarterback scrambled forward, Long chased him down for the sack.
Long helped Washington State's comeback effort early in the fourth quarter with his second sack. He started out the play lining up as an inside linebacker again. The quarterback scrambled to the right, and Long fired upfield to weave his way by blockers and run down the signal-caller. It was a nice decisive rush from Long.
The senior had good run defense all night, too. He made eight solo tackles and was a leading cog in containing running back Johnathan Franklin. Long finished the night with nine tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks.
Long has totaled 58 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, four passes broken up and an interception. He is also tied for 10th in the nation with 9.5 sacks. Loong has been a natural fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker this year after playing 4-3 defensive end in the previous seasons. He looks like a potential second-day pick who will function well in a 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker that moves around the defensive formation.
Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
The Bruins senior tight end has been a deadly red-zone weapon this season and proved that again versus the Cougars. Fauria caught his ninth touchdown of the year with a beautiful red-zone route. He lined up in the slot and went straight off the snap for a few yards before jab stepping to the outside and slanting to the deep middle of the end zone. It was an easy nine-yard touchdown catch for Fauria.
The senior later drew a pass interference in the end zone on a fade route. The 6-foot-7 tight end had a mismatch with a short cornerback, and all the defender could do was pull Fauria to the ground to avoid giving up a touchdown.
Fauria made a great catch to set up another score. He went over a defensive back for a jump ball to make a tough reception. The defensive back tipped the pass, but Fauria controlled the ball as he landed on his back. The gain went for 30 yards to the Washington State 10-yard line and set up a UCLA touchdown on the next play. Fauria totaled 70 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. He had three plays that directly led to 21 points for the Bruins.
Fauria has 31 receptions for 417 yards and nine scores in 2012. He has improved as a blocker to become a more well-rounded tight end. Fauria looks like a nice value pick after the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. This performance against the Cougars will help his efforts to be a second-day selection.
Quanterus Smith, DE, and Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
Both Smith and Jackson had huge games against Florida Atlantic. The senior Smith had five tackles, a sack, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and a fumble returned 75 yards for a touchdown. Jackson was all over the field with 19 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, a pass broken up and a forced fumble. Florida Atlantic won the game, but Smith and Jackson were phenomenal.
Smith came around the right tackle with a speed rush for his sack-fumble. Jackson's fourth-quarter forced fumble, which Smith returned for the score,made it a three-point game. On the play, Jackson fired into the backfield to level the running back and jar the ball loose. It rolled backward before Smith scooped and scored.
Both players have been extremely productive this season. The senior Smith has 35 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a pass broken up. Jackson has 97 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, a pass broken up and four forced fumbles. This tape will definitely help both Smith and Jackson. The latter should probably return for his senior season to improve his stock before going pro.
Honorable Mentions: Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter, Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor, Stanford tight end Zach Ertz, Texas A&M outside linebacker Sean Porter and Penn State outside linebacker Gerald Hodges.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
The versatile senior has been having an excellent season at center for Alabama. Jones an All-American at left tackle in 2011, but has made a seamless transition to manning the middle and handling the ball.
However, Texas A&M gave Jones fits. He was run over early onn for a tackle for a loss. Jones also had a holding call in the fourth quarter as he took the defensive tackle to the ground. Jones' pass protection was pretty solid, but he was allowing disruption in the backfield on numerous running plays.
Jones really struggled with Aggies defensive tackle Spencer Nealy (6-5, 277) lining up as a zero technique. Jones has seen plenty of heavy tackles this season and has fared well against them. Teams haven't gone after him with undersized speed players, and Jones seemed to struggle with Nealy's speed when he lined up directly over the senior.
The question of Jones' ability to handle elite speed tackles is a legitimate concern for the NFL. Many teams move defensive ends inside on passing downs, so Jones is going to see faster and more talented linemen than Nealy. Jones played well a week ago against LSU's speed-rushers, but he needs to perform better in his speed matchups the rest of the season in order to be a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Robert Lester, S, Alabama
The Aggies targeted and took advantage of Lester throughout the day on Saturday. He was beaten for a long gain on a deep post in man coverage for a 32-yard gain inside the 10-yard line. Lester had a missed tackle along the sideline during the third quarter that let the receiver get good yards. Lester was also beaten by Swope for a critical 42-yard reception in the fourth quarter. It was a rough performance where Lester was taking false steps and not reacting quickly enough to Texas A&M's passing attack.
Lester started slowly in 2012 before playing better in October. He has been too inconsistent with coverage lapses the past two seasons after a tremendous sophomore year in 2010. Lester has totaled 29 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions, 1.5 sacks and three passes broken up right now. His stock has fallen lower on the third day of the draft. He was once viewed as a potential first-round pick.
Dishonorable Mentions: Oregon State cornerback Jordan Poyer.
@Duane Radley You just lost all credibility saying Terrelle Pryor isn't good... he went over 1,000 yards receiving in his first year as a WR and had 5 different QB's throwing to him during the season... but you are right he isn't good...
I've been on a hiatus with draft work lately and was focused on my Draft Prospect Rankings which you could find in the rants on this site. So, I figured doing one more before the Combine where more prospect movement could occur to see where I stand before and after with those prospects. So, without further adieu here we go!