Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
One of UCLA's players died early last week, so it wasn't a complete surprise that the Bruins came out flat on the road at Nebraska. That let the Cornhusker jump out to a 21-3 lead. Hundley showed some heart and bounce-back ability when he recovered from the slow start to light up the Nebraska defense. All game, Hundley was pushing the ball downfield for big plays. He had a lot of completions for over 30 yards with amazingly accurate passes along the deep sideline. The redshirt sophomore also avoided sacks with great toughness and mobility.
Hundley finished the game completing 16-of-24 passes for 294 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 61 yards on 19 carries. Hundley set up some short touchdown runs as well.
Through two games this year, Hundley has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 568 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. The 6-foot-3, 227-pounder was phenomenal after the slow start versus the Cornhuskers. He showed excellent accuracy, field vision, mobility, toughness and composure. It was a great tape that will help Hundley to be a first-round pick when he enters the draft.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Nebraska blew a lead because of an inept defense, but the Cornhuskers' offense was shut down starting in the second quarter, and Barr was the leading player for the Bruins' stop unit. He forced three fumbles (some give one to a teammate rather than him) with 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. One forced fumble came when Barr exploded into the backfield and batted down a pitch to a running back. Barr almost scooped it to take off for a potential defensive touchdown. The other two forced fumbles came when Barr dished out some devastating hits on running backs. One was recovered by UCLA inside its own 20 to take points away from Nebraska.
Barr has totaled 16 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss and those three forced fumbles through two games in 2013. The senior could use some more strength to defend runs coming straight at him and shed blocks from heavy offensive linemen, but he is definitely an impact player as an edge-rusher. The early going of 2013 is confirming that Barr's 2012 season wasn't a fluke and he is worthy of his high draft status.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Yes, Donald and Pittsburgh were playing a doormat against New Mexico, but the senior defensive tackle dominated the point of attack. He recorded five tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks. Donald dominating the line of scrimmage. In the Panthers' season opener, he had a sack and came close to a few others against a good Florida State offensive line. Donald has three sacks, eight tackles and five tackles for a loss after two games.
The 6-foot, 285-pounder is undersized, but his interior pass-rush ability is in high demand in the NFL. Donald may not have the size to warrant a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he is having the senior year performance that could warrant him being selected with a second-day pick.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans consistently burned the Alabama secondary in the deep part of the field. He made some tough contested catches along the sideline, but he also was getting some separation while running deep. Evans recorded catches of 25, 42, 30 and a 95-yard touchdown at a critical time in the fourth quarter. He beat cornerback Cyrus Jones and safety Vinnie Sunseri on that deep touchdown. Evans finished the contest with seven passes for 279 yards and a touchdown.
Evans has 20 receptions for 518 yards and three touchdowns so far in 2013. This monster performance against future NFL defensive backs is a great tape for the 6-foot-5, 225-pound wide out. It will be a big help to Evans when he enters the draft since it will help his argument that while he may lack blazing speed, he can overcome it to still produce game-changing plays.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Texas A&M lost to Alabama, and while Manziel had a couple painful mistakes, he had a tremendous game to light up one of the college football's best defenses - one that is loaded with a lot of future draft picks. Manziel completed 28-of-39 passes for 464 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. He ran for 98 yards on 14 carries, too. Thanks to Manziel, the Aggies lit up the Crimson Tide defense to the tune of 42 points. He threw some perfect passes in the deep part of the field to hit his receivers in stride. Manziel showed excellent anticipation, field vision, accuracy and good arm strength. It was a truly impressive performance from the sophomore.
Manziel has completed 71 percent of his passes this season for 984 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. While his running ability gets a lot of attention, he showed that his passing skills are very underrated. Manziel showed the arm and accuracy to be worthy of first-round consideration. Scouts told WalterFootball.com that Manziel had first-round ability but was potentially blowing his shot at the first round because of maturity concerns. Manziel helped bolster his first round argument against Alabama in an amazing statistical performance.
Za'Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky
Every year there are players who were unknowns before having breakout seasons to become NFL prospects. Smith is making himself just such a candidate in the early going of 2013. He put on a big-time performance against Miami of Ohio in Week 2 with three sacks and six tackles.
Smith followed that up with an excellent performance in Week 3 versus Louisvill to put heat on Teddy Bridgewater. Officially, Smith was credited with only three tackles and .5 sacks, but he really had two sacks against the Cardinals. On one play, Smith cleaned up Bridgewater after he was pressured by Alvin Dupree. Smith also stopped a third-and-1 by flying into the backfield unblocked to stop the back for no gain. In the second quarter, Smith came on a stunt and got leverage on the guard. He charged into the backfield and brought down Bridgewater for another sack. Smith has 14 tackles with 4.5 sacks through three games this year.
The 6-foot-6, 254-pounder could thrive under the new coaching staff of Mark Stoops. The Wildcats staff raves about his athletic ability. Smith is a raw talent who didn't start playing football until his senior year of high school. He played in the junior college ranks and became the No. 2 ranked defensive end junior college recruit by ESPN. Smith is a player who looks like he could be a candidate to be this year's Ezekiel Ansah.
Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
The vaunted 2014 tight end class has gotten off to a slow start with disappointing games from Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Oregon's Colt Lyerla. Amaro has done the opposite by starting this season on fire. Against Bowling Green, he reeled in eight receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown. Amaro was impressive again last week against a quality TCU defense. The junior hauled in nine receptions for 97 yards against the Horned Frogs. He has some quickness to get down the seam and good athleticism.
The 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end could use some work as a blocker for the NFL, but he is showing this year that he is a potential starter at the next level with the receiving ability to be a weapon. The Amaro is improving his stock and could warrant second-day consideration in either the 2014 or 2015 NFL Draft.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
The Washington Huskies have been one of the most improved and surprisingly impressive teams in the early going of the 2013 season. Sankey has been the Huskies' bell cow in two impressive wins over Boise State and Illinois. On the road in Soldier Field against the Illini, he exploded for 208 yards with one touchdown on 35 carries. The junior also caught three passes for 63 yards with a touchdown. Sankey totaled 369 yards on 60 carries so far this year while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He has four receptions for 75 yards as well.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound Sankey isn't the biggest back, but he makes up for his lack of size with speed and elusive running. Sankey has nice feet and balance. He also looks like a nice fit for the passing game of the NFL. Sankey may not go in the first couple of rounds, but a strong 2013 season could make him a mid-rounder in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Gordon was electric against Arizona State. He showed off tremendous speed with the ability to score on any carry. Gordon started his evening with a nice run on a jet sweep for 19 yards. He later ripped off another long run up the middle that he bounced to the outside for a gain of over 30 yards. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Gordon took a jet sweep around the left side and exploded down the field for an 80-yard touchdown.
Gordon showed some toughness in the fourth quarter by running over a cornerback at the line of scrimmage and darting upfield for 10 yards. He added another touchdown on a short run later in the second half. Against the Sun Devils, Gordon totaled 193 yards on 15 carries with two scores. The junior is averaging 12.9 yards per carry so far this year. He averaged 10 yards per carry as a sophomore backup. Gordon doesn't look like a traditional Big 10 plodding running back. He has serious speed and is off to a breakout year after backing up Montee Ball for two seasons.
Honorable Mentions: Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith, Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.
2014 NFL Draft Stock Down
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
The Buckeyes cornerback has had a rough start to a junior season that was expected to confirm him as a first-round pick and maybe the top corner in the 2014 draft class. Roby was suspended for the first game after some legal trouble in the offseason. He may have hurt his stock even more in Week 3 versus California. Roby was beaten on a number of receptions including on a touchdown. He also dropped an interception and was beaten for another touchdown, but got lucky that Golden Bears wide receiver Bryce Treggs dropped the pass.
One bad game won't sink Roby's stock, but he needs to play better in the weeks to come. Roby is scheduled to see some tests against Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and Michigan's Jeremy Gallon later in the season.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Sutton showed some good signs against Wisconsin, but didn't make his presence felt enough. He had a few pressures of the quarterback, but only got his hands on the quarterback twice. Sutton faced a lot of double-teams, but he also had single-block opportunities. Overall, Sutton didn't have a real impact in this game. He recorded one tackle while Wisconsin's top two running backs went over 200 combined yards on the ground. This wasn't a train-wreck performance, but it won't help Sutton's bid to be a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Dishonorable Mentions: Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.