Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Beasley had a monster game against N.C. State with three sacks and a forced fumble. He also batted a pass and had a number of other pressures on the quarterback. The Wolfpack State was incapable of blocking him.
In the third quarter, Beasley had an impressive sack. He fired to the inside, shed a block with a rip move to free himself and burst into the quarterback for a sack. Beasley powered through the left tackle a few minutes later and shed the blocker to get a strip sack of the signal-caller. Later in the fourth quarter, Beasley notched his third sack when he pushed the tackle back before swimming over him with his outside arm to shed the block and bury the quarterback for his third sack. Beasley showed a wicked spin move a bit later to get another pressure on the quarterback. Beasley has five sacks with seven tackles so far in 2013.
The 6-foot-2 redshirt junior weighs in the 230s. He's strong for his weight, but is still very undersized for the NFL and may not be able to add much more weight. There is no doubt that Beasley won't be able to stay at defensive end. He could play in a 3-4 defense and be moved around. His best fit may come as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 and playing in a similar style to Broncos linebacker Von Miller. Beasley definitely helped his bid to be an early-round pick with this performance against N.C. State.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
After a somewhat quiet start in the early weeks, Ebron caught fire against Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets' secondary struggled to defend the athletic tight end as he exploited a weak middle of the field. At one point, Ebron ran a nice hitch and go route to get open in zone coverage for a gain of about 20 yards. He later caught another pass from Bryn Renner to set up a short touchdown run. Ebron hit a superb block on a linebacker in the first half that sprang his back for a long run.
At the end of the first quarter, Ebron ran down the seam wide open after a double move. Renner's pass was high, but Ebron reached up and leapt high to control the ball with one hand into his body for a touchdown. On another play-action, Renner hit a wide open Ebron in the middle of the field for a 35-yard gain. He slipped into the middle and was left completely uncovered.
Ebron caught six passes for 108 yards with a touchdown versus Goergia Tech. He has 13 receptions for 200 yards (15.4 average) and one touchdown thus far in 2013. Ebron has improved his blocking ability as well. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder has every-down ability in the NFL and looks like a future starter.
Ben Gardner, DT, Stanford
While Will Sutton was the high-profile defensive tackle in the Arizona State-Stanford matchup, Gardner was the play-maker who caused a lot of havoc. He dominated the Sun Devils and simply lived in their backfield.
Gardner knifed by the guard in the second quarter to blow up a run in the backfield for a tackle for a loss. Then after halftime, he planted quarterback Taylor Kelly into the turf just after he released the ball on a long pass play. Things continued that way later as Gardner couldn't be stopped when he used a power speed rush up the middle to get a sack. To end the drive, Gardner busted through the line to block a pooch punt. He scooped up the ball and advanced it 10 more yards. The Cardinal offense ran the ball into the end zone on the next play.
Gardner has seven tackles with 1.5 sacks through three games this year. The 6-foot-4, 277-pound looks like a good fit as a 3-4 defensive end. He's played the five-technique for Stanford and does well moving inside to rush against guards in passing situations. This performance will help Gardner to be a second-day selection.
Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut
One of the breakout players in college football this season has been Connecticut linebacker Yawin Smallwood. He stepped up against Michigan with a superb night to help lead the Huskies to almost pull off the upset. Against the Wolverines, he totaled 13 tackles with a sack, another tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.
After seeing the quarterback scramble, Smallwood darted into the backfield to sack Devin Gardner for a loss of seven. Shortly later, Smallwood ran down Gardner from behind to tackle him and force a fumble. It came on a fourth down and stopped Michigan short of a first down. Smallwood was omnipresent all over the field with a nose for the football.
The 6-foot-4, 236-pounder has 43 tackles with two tackles for a loss, one sack and a forced fumble this year. It is very clear that Smallwood is very fast and flies around the field. He does have some areas to improve and the most important is holding up when runs come straight at him. Also, Smallwood takes some bad angles at times and can be overly aggressive. He could add more weight for the NFL, too. Still, Smallwood has the speed and agility to be a potential three-down starter. This performance will definitely help his draft stock.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Texas' defense has been justly criticized in the early going of the season and with head coach Mack Brown needing a win, Jeffcoat stepped up with a big-time game against Kansas State. The Wildcats couldn't block him as he abused their right tackle. Jeffcoat picked up five tackles and two sacks. He showed impressive strength on his first sack to toss his blocker aside and a burst to close on the quarterback.
The second sack came off a speed rush where Jeffcoat showed nice leverage to dip his shoulder and chase down the quarterback. Jeffcoat had some other good rushes to help close out the game for the Longhorns.
This season, the senior has 22 tackles with 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder could use more weight for the NFL, but he looks like a good fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. If Jeffcoat has a big season, he could become a first-round pick.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
There are many teams in the NFL that can use a deep threat and a slot receiver. Lockett provided those teams with a tape to show that he is a candidate to fill the need. He ripped off a number of long receptions against Texas.
Lockett burned a cornerback for a 47-yard gain. He also beat cornerback Quandre Diggs for a 31-yard reception to the one-yard line. Lockett made a great adjustment to get his body turned to be in reception to haul in a pass thrown against his momentum. He burned Diggs again on a go route down the sideline for a 52-yard reception. Against Texas, Lockett totaled 13 receptions for 237 yards.
Lockett has 29 receptions for 469 yards with a touchdown through three games this season. In 2012, he had 44 catches for 687 yards with four scores. Lockett also can contribute as punt and kick returner. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder has the speed to score on any touch. He could be a valuable mid-round pick.
Morgan Breslin, OLB, USC
The Trojans squeaked out a close win over Utah State as USC's defense, led by Breslin, allowed only 14 points. Breslin was phenomenal with four tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks. He showed nice athleticism and relentless pursuit to get quarterback Chuckie Keeton down. It was Breslin's second multi-sack game of the 2013 season. He has nine tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss and four sacks through just three games this year.
Breslin (6-2, 250) isn't big for an edge-rusher, but he is strong for his size. Plus, the senior is fast and instinctive. He had 62 tackles with 19.5 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks, four passes batted and a forced fumble last year. Breslin is showing that wasn't a fluke and is proving to have some scheme versatility. After thriving at defensive end for Monte Kiffin, Breslin is a great fit as an outside linebacker for Clancy Pendergast. Breslin has definitely helped himself in the early going of 2013.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
This season, Carr has been on fire with games going over 450 yards passing in two out of three outings. He carried his team to a one-point win against Boise State on Friday night with an impressive evening of precision passing. Carr moved the ball with accurate throws and good decision-making throughout the game. Boise State's secondary was awful and the Bulldogs signal-caller picked them apart. He completed 39-of-60 passes for 460 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Carr led a long drive down the field midway through the fourth quarter with nine completions to set up a short touchdown.
There is no doubt that the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder has a big arm. He also displayed good field vision to work through his progressions and find open receivers. Carr gets the ball out quickly and does a good job of protecting the football. Mentally, he appears a step ahead of the defense. The senior has completed 65 percent of his passes this year for 1,121 yards with 12 touchdowns and an interception.
Carr has an easy schedule, so he should continue to produce big numbers this year. With his steady and reliable play, Carr is improving his standing for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Honorable Mentions: San Jose State quarterback David Fales, North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner and Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu.
2014 NFL Draft Stock Down
Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford
The Cardinal defense took its foot off the pedal in this game and allowed Arizona State to get mount a nearly successful huge fourth-quarter comeback. Reynolds was one of those defenders who was beaten repeatedly. In the fourth quarter, he hit tight end Chris Coyle down the middle of the field but didn't wrap up for a tackle. Coyle bounced off Reynolds to run into the end zone. Reynolds was slow to react to a receiver running a slant on the next possession and compounded the mistake by taking a bad angle. Reynolds dove, but missed the tackle and the receiver cruised into the end zone. To end his night, Reynolds was ejected for targeting after a helmet-to-helmet hit.
Reynolds has 23 tackles and an interception so far this season. For the NFL, he projects as a deep coverage safety for the passing game. Reynolds isn't a physical in-the-box run-defender, so he needs to be reliable in the back end. The outing versus the Sun Devils hurt Reynolds's cause with the missed tackles and being beaten for two touchdowns.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Against a tough Florida offensive line, Richardson may have had his worst game of the past two years. His first half was ugly as he was beaten for a strip sack on a third-and-long. Gators sophomore Dante Fowler bull-rushed Richardson back into the pocket. Fowler then shed him to hit the quarterback for the fumble that Florida recovered inside the 10-yard line.
Though Richardson played better in the second half, he hurt his stock in this game. Richardson allowed a few other pressures outside of that strip-sack. It was maybe his worst performance over the past two seasons. This tape definitely won't help Richardson's case to compete with some other highly regarded offensive tackle prospects.
Dishonorable Mentions: Tennessee center James Stone and Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence.