Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Against Oregon, UCLA needed Barr to step up and provide a big impact, which he he did. The Bruins' defense played well for almost three quarters, but it just didn't get enough help from the offense. Barr led the way with some splash plays. Early in the first quarter, he came with a speed rush around the left tackle and slapped the ball out of Marcus Mariota's hands while tackling him. It was an impressive rush as Barr showed he's developed the Lawrence Taylor strip-sack move.
Just before halftime, Barr came in to tackle Mariota for his second sack. Mariota scrambled to his left, but Barr darted past his blocker to make an ankle tackle. The big plays continued in the third quarter. On the UCLA five-yard line, Oregon rolled a ground ball from a shotgun snap that was recovered by Barr. It was a clutch recovery that took points away from the Ducks.
Barr finished with four tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and fumble recovered. In 2013, the senior has lived up to the high expectations set from his breakout junior season. He's totaled 38 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, six sacks and four forced fumbles. The performance against Oregon confirms Barr as a high first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State
After a bit of a slow start to the season, Crichton has heated up lately and had a good performance against Stanford last Saturday. Crichton was Johnny-on-the-spot early on as the Cardinal fumbled a hand off at the mesh point on a zone-read run. Crichton picked up the ball off the ground and ran down the field for about 30 yards before he was tackled by Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Later in the first quarter, Crichton had a great rush where he fired by the right tackle, pushed the right guard into the ground and came free to plant Hogan into the ground for a sack. It was a superb pass rush to beat the double-team with speed and power. In the same series, Crichton forced an incompletion on a third down with a pressure.
This was a good performance for Crichton overall. He recorded one sack with two tackles and his fumble return. Crichton was more active and disruptive than the numbers indicate. The junior has 31 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes batted this year. The 6-foot-3, 265-pounder may be best as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Teams have shown Colvin a lot of respect this season by rarely throwing his direction. Instead, they've picked on Zach Sanchez on the other side of the field. Texas Tech challenged Colvin early in the game before pretty much abandoning that and going after Sanchez. Early in the first quarter, Colvin had a perfect coverage on a go route down the sideline. The pass was overthrown and Colvin tracked it down to make a diving interception at the two-yard line. It was a great catch that took away a scoring opportunity for the Red Raiders.
Late in the first half, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro was fighting for extra yards while being gang-tackled. He had the ball ripped out and Colvin scooped it up for the Sooners. That set up a touchdown for Oklahoma to take the lead. He also did a nice job in run support as he made seven tackels against the Red Raiders. In 2013, Colvin has three passes broken up, one interception and 39 tackles. He has had good coverage all season and has shown a developed skill set. Colvin looks like a solid early-round pick.
Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford
This season, Murphy has been one of the most consistent edge-rushers in the nation. He is getting to the quarterback and racking up sacks on a weekly basis. Over the past four games, Murphy has collected 7.5 sacks; his best sack performance of the year was against Oregon State with 2.5. The first sack versus the Beavers came when Murphy exploded off the edge unblocked. His second sack came when he pushed upfield before cutting to the inside by the left tackle and chasing down Sean Mannion. Murphy totaled eight tackles, 2.5 sacks, two batted passes and 4.5 tackles for a loss against Oregon State.
In 2013, Murphy has 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 33 tackles, two passes batted with an interception returned 30 yards for a touchdown. He is second in that nation in sacks. His strong senior year performance is showing that Murphy is worthy of a first-round pick and potentially a top-20 pick.
Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
McCullers has really improved his game over the past month. He has been much more consistent and has shown a better motor. Against Alabama last Saturday, McCullers was excellent at plugging the middle of the line and holding his ground at the point of attack. He caused some disruption while recording four tackles. A week earlier, McCullers was superb against Georgia with six tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack.
The mammoth defensive tackle is starting to show what he is capable of on the football field. McCullers will never be a significant pass-rusher, but he can be a tough run-defender who prevents the opposition from establishing a downhill rushing attack. McCullers also can eat up blockers to let other defenders run free. In 2013, he has 23 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. The 6-foot-8, 350-pounder looks like a starting nose tackle in the NFL.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
This season, Sankey has been one of the best running backs in college football. He has carried the Huskies' offense with six games topping 100 yards in eight contests including two 200-yard performances. Against California, Sankey dominated the Bears with 249 yards on 27 carries. He ran for two touchdowns including a 59-yarder in the second quarter.
The 5-foot-10, 203-pound Sankey has shown that he has three-down potential for the NFL. He has run for 1,162 yards with 12 touchdowns and an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Sankey also has 16 receptions for 172 yards and a touchdown. The junior has a nice combination of quickness, toughness, vision and elusiveness. Sankey isn't the biggest or fastest back, but he is well-rounded. Sankey has helped push his stock higher. If he enters the 2014 NFL Draft, he could go on the second day.
Kenny Ladler, S, Vanderbilt
Entering the season, Ladler had the potential to be a second-day pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he got off to a slow start and was disappointing in the early going. Ladler turned things around with a massive performance against Texas A&M. His first big play came when Andre Hal deflected a pass and Ladler tracked it down for an interception.
The Aggies were about to go in for six in the third quarter when Ladler made a clutch tackle in front of the goal line and forced a fumble into the end zone that was recovered for a Vanderbilt touchback. A few minutes later, Ladler squared up a big back with a form tackle and stripped the ball out for another Commodores turnover.
Ladler has 68 tackles with two interceptions, one pass batted and four forced fumbles so far this year. He's tied for second in the nation in forced fumbles. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is quick and plays with a physical nature. If Ladler can maintain strong play over the back half of 2013, he could work himself back up draft boards.
Honorable Mentions: Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Stanford defensive end Ben Gardner, UCLA inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and UCLA inside linebacker Eric Kendricks.
2014 NFL Draft Stock Down
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Lyerla hurt his stock when he quit the Oregon football team a few weeks ago for personal reasons. I didn't include him in the stock report at the time because you have to give the player the benefit of the doubt when things are of a personal nature. Perhaps family illness/issues were the deciding factor. However, Lyerla damaged his stock significantly when he was arrested with cocaine and admitted to using it.
Lyerla recorded only two receptions for 26 yards this year before leaving the team. He had 25 receptions for 392 yards with six touchdowns in 2012. The 6-foot-5, 246-pound Lylerla has a ton of athletic ability with speed and agility. However, his off-the-field issues could cause him to go undrafted. Perhaps a team will use a late-round pick on Lyerla, but it is imperative for him to interview well with teams and show signs of maturity.
Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
Hal is the opposite of Ladler as Hal started the season strong before having his play dip lately. Against Texas A&M, Hal struggled with the Aggies' passing attack. He was burned early by Mike Evans for a 48-yard touchdown pass along the sideline. Hal had problems not allowing separation from the Aggies receivers throughout the day. It wasn't a complete failure as he did have tight coverage on Evans on one play and tipped the pass away for an interception by Ladler.
In 2013, Hal has 29 tackles with 10 passes defended. He has yet to record an interception. For the 2014 NFL Draft, Hal could slide to the third day if he doesn't play better down the final stretch of his collegiate career.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Right when Thomas was putting together a streak of games to show improved accuracy and ball security, he had a meltdown performance against Duke. Thomas threw four interceptions. The first was a terrible overthrow. The second was a bad decision to throw into a crowd of defenders in the end zone. His third was an off-the-mark pass that got tipped into the air for a pick. The final interception came on a low pass to a well-covered receiver and that was also tipped up for the pick. Thomas completed 21-of-38 passes for 214 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions.
The senior has completed 55 percent of his passes in 2013 for 1,665 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Thomas doesn't have the accuracy or ball security to be worth of an early-round pick. This game will push him lower to the third day of the 2014 NFL Draft.