John Simon, DE, Ohio State
Simon was an unstoppable force for the Buckeyes and was the catalyst for a strong defensive effort in their overtime win over Wisconsin. The first play from scrimmage saw him beat tackle Ricky Wagner for a hit on the quarterback right after the ball was released.
Simon's first sack came after he beat the right tackle with a speed rush. Simon got his second sack on a hustle play during the third quarter. Wagner had Simon blocked, but the quarterback rolled outside of the pocket to his left, and Simon was able to chase him down. He logged his third sack a short time later when he shed Wagner with his hands and took down the quarterback. Simon started another sack in the fourth quarter after stunting around the outside after starting to rush from over the guard.
Simon had other hits on the quarterback aside from the sacks, plus had a pass batted. He totaled six tackles and four sacks against the Badgers. Simon has 44 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, four passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2012.
The 6-foot-2, 263-pounder is physical and a great motor. Simon isn't the biggest or the best athlete, but he is a football player whom could turn into a stud defensive end that teams regret passing on. This performance helps Simon to move higher on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Austin was a one-man wrecking crew against Oklahoma. The Mountaineers' high-powered offense became even more potent when it moved him to running back as well as wide receiver.
Austin's performance was one of best games of the year by any player in college football, and the Sooners had no answer for him. He was tearing up the Oklahoma defense with carries and receptions in the first half. Austin then ripped off a 74-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the third quarter on a handoff towards the left side. He also had runs of 56 and 53 yards.
The blinding speed and explosiveness of Austin was too much for the Sooners to contain. He ran for 345 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. Austin also caught four passes for 81 yards.
The senior has 100 receptions for 1,050 yards with 11 touchdowns this season. He's carried the ball 35 times for 447 yards and two touchdowns, too. Austin has averaged 27 yards per kick return as well.
The 5-foot-9, 171-pounder has the size concerns to overcome, but this game and season could get him into the top 50 next April. Austin looks very similar to DeSean Jackson.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Lewan played virtually a perfect game on Saturday against Iowa. He had a number of nice combo blocks. Lewan would shove the end off the snap to pass him off to a guard before firing up to a linebacker to hit a block on the second level.
Michigan went behind Lewan in the first quarter for a short touchdown run. He had a great block shortly before halftime on cornerback Micah Hyde to spring his running back on a backside screen pass for an 18-yard touchdown. The second half saw more of the same as Lewan owned the line of scrimmage. No Hawkeyes defender was effective against him.
Lewan was utterly dominant. He was riding defensive linemen out of their gaps in the ground game. Lewan showed impressive strength to push them around and sustain his blocks. He was rock solid in pass protection, too. Iowa was incapable of challenging Lewan. He mirrored speed rushes and the bull rushes that were attempted. Lewan didn't give up any ground to either.
The junior has steadily improved over the course of this season and has become more dominant. He hasn't faced a challenging slate of pass-rushers, but that isn't his fault. Lewan looks like a future first-rounder with the potential to be a top 20-pick in 2013 or 2014.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Aside from the Cardinal's great defensive team effort, the star of Stanford's huge upset of Oregon was tight end Zach Ertz. He was the play-maker who led his offense to some late points. Ertz caught a number of short passes before grabbing a 15-yarder for a first down on slant. He moved the chains with another catch in the middle of the field. Ertz continued to make good catches for intermediate gains to move the chains.
Ertz had a huge drive for the Cardinal in the fourth quarter. He made two big catches for about 30 yards. Ertz also turned into a defensive back on that drive as he slapped away a potential interception on a poorly thrown ball. He caught a gain of 10 on the next play.
Ertz later made a circus catch in the back of the end zone on first-and-goal, but was ruled out of bounds. The play was reviewed and ruled to be a touchdown. That tied the score at 14 with 1:35 left and Stanford won in overtime.
Ertz caught 11 passes for 105 yards and a score versus Oregon. No other Cardinal even had four receptions or 40 yards receiving, so that illustrates what a huge part of the passing game he was.
Ertz has been playing well as a receiver all year despite subpar quarterback play. His blocking has been sound as well. He leads Stanford in receiving with 58 receptions for 747 yards and six touchdowns.
This performance should help Ertz to crack the top 50, and it isn't out of the question for him to get some consideration late in the first round like former teammate Coby Fleener.
Montel Harris, RB, Temple
Even though Harris was only playing against Army, any time a running back racks up 351 yards on the ground, he had a great performance. Harris ran for 351 yards and seven touchdowns on 36 carries. He had a 60-yard touchdown run, two 37-yard scores and four short touchdown plunges. The Black Knights were incapable of stopping Harris.
Harris had some great years with Boston College, but he also had injuries and off-the-field issues that led to him transferring to Temple. Harris has averaged 5.8 yards per carry with 948 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012. The 5-foot-10, 207-pounder has a nice burst and toughness - when healthy. This performance could help Harris to get selected on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
Stills made some huge plays to help Oklahoma come back for a road win against West Virginia. He moved the ball with some good catches and was phenomenal in the red zone.
Stills' first score came on a short pass as he broke off of contact to get open trailing to the back corner. Stills grabbed an 11-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Landry Jones threw the ball over the head of the defensive back and Stills timed his jump perfectly to catch the ball without the corner having the opportunity to break up the pass.
Stills had two huge scores during the fourth quarter. The first came when he ran wide open across the back of the end zone. The game-winning score came on a short slant to him on fourth-and-goal with little time left on the clock. That gave the Sooners a 50-49 victory. The junior caught 10 passes for 92 yards and four touchdowns.
Stills (6-1, 190) will probably be best as a slot receiver in the NFL. He isn't the biggest or fastest receiver, but has good hands and runs good routes. Stills uses quickness to get separation. This performance will help his cause to be a second-day pick if he declares for the 2013 draft.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
The Bruins bell-cow running back has had a superb senior season to lead the UCLA offense. He churned out tough yards against the Trojans throughout the game. Franklin burst into the end zone in the second quarter for a 16-yard touchdown. He side-stepped a defender in the hole and burst up the field. Franklin had a nice 22-yard run in the fourth quarter where he was patient and pushed his blockers to set up extra yards downfield.
Franklin put the game away late in the fourth quarter with a 29-yard touchdown run. He started up the middle before bouncing outside and racing down the field for a big score. Franklin had a massive day to help his team get a win. Not only did he show nice balance, patience and burst, but he also showed some toughness against USC. Franklin ran for 160 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns.
The redshirt senior has averaged 6.3 yards per carry with 1,441 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He also has caught 26 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Franklin (5-11, 195) is undersized but plays tough. He could be part of a running back stable in the NFL and function as a third-down back. Franklin is helping his cause to be a mid-rounder.
Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
The Stanford defense stepped up with a huge performance to shut down Oregon's high-powered offense. Skov was the catalyst for the great defensive effort. He was all over the field and constantly around the ball. The senior made a number of clutch tackles to limit the Ducks' gains and help his defense get off the field. Skov totaled 10 tackles with a tackle for a loss versus Oregon. The numbers don't reflect how big of an impact that he had for his team.
Skov had been very quiet this season until this game. He's totaled 59 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. Skov seemed to be lacking some of the speed and explosiveness that he had prior to the knee injury that cost him 2011. He was a beast for Stanford in 2010.
Skov really needed this performance against Oregon to help his draft stock. He could still make it into the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft. Skov probably would be better off staying as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
The Rutgers corner has been the best player on the team's defense and a big part of its success this season. He came up with another strong showing in a big win over Cincinnati. Ryan had a clutch interception to prevent the Bearcats from getting points in the Scarlet Knights' 10-3 victory. He also contributed six tackles.
Ryan has been a very good cover corner in 2012. He has had tight coverage and excellent ball skills to prevent completions. Ryan has four interceptions, 13 passes broken up, 68 tackles and four tackles for a loss. He is tied for fourth in the nation with 17 total passes broken up.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder has the combination of size and speed that many teams look for in a man-cover corner. If Ryan declares for the 2013 NFL Draft, he probably will be, at worst, a second-day pick. Many years there have been cornerbacks who have a late rise into first-round consideration, and Ryan is a candidate to continue the trend.
Honorable Mentions: North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, Clemson tight end Brandon Ford, Rutgers outside linebacker Khaseem Greene and North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
Stanford's defense played a tremendous game to hold down Oregon's high-powered offense. The Cardinal's front seven played with phenomenal gap integrity and was more physical than the Ducks. The one exception was Thomas. He was very quiet against Oregon. Thomas struggled to make plays in the ground game and was a non-factor as a pass-rusher. He totaled three tackles - two of which were assisted.
Thomas has played better this season than his numbers indicate, but his pass rushing still hasn't been as strong as it was in 2011. He has 3.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for a loss and 57 tackles this year. Thomas had 8.5 sacks last season. He added weight after 2011 ended, and perhaps he has lost some of his speed and explosiveness. Thomas is pushing his stock lower on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft due to his drop in production.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Oregon senior running back Kenjon Barner has had a huge season, but his real weaknesses were exposed against Stanford. A physical defense controlled him and Barner continued to prove that he goes down at first contact. If Barner doesn't have big lanes and clear space, he struggles to get yards. The Cardinal held Barner to 67 yards on 21 carries. He didn't show any ability to break tackles or finish his runs for extra yards by fighting forward.
Barner has still had a good year replacing LaMichael James, but his size limitations are a concern. Oregon lists Barner at 5-foot-11, 195-pounds but those measurements look to be very generous; colleges are notorious for inflating the size of their players. This game shows why Barner looks like a third-day prospect rather than a second- or third-rounder.
Colin Klein, QB, Kansas State
Klein has been a top Heisman contender as one of the best players in college football this season. One would think that he was going to have a huge night on Saturday as he was playing against Baylor's terrible defense. The Bears were torched for 70 points by West Virginia. They also give up big points to Oklahoma (42), Texas (56), TCU (49) and Louisiana-Monroe (42). The terrible defense is why Baylor entered the game against the then No. 1-ranked Kansas State team with a sub .500 record.
Klein and the Wildcats' offense made the Bears look like a quality unit. He ran for 54 yards (39 net) and a touchdown on 17 carries. The senior completed 27-of-50 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Klein is a great college player, but he doesn't have the arm strength or mechanics to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. This game was proof that Klein is nothing more than a late-round pick.
Dishonorable Mentions: USC quarterback Matt Barkley, USC wide receiver Robert Woods, USC safety T.J. McDonald and Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
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!