Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
The Big Ten doesn't have a lot elite speed receivers, but Dennard showed his ability to match up against a quick receiver with a superb performance against Michigan wide receiver Jeremy Gallon. Early on, Gallon ran a go route but was blanketed by Dennard for an incompletion. That play repeated itself a few times as the Wolverines offense really struggled against the Spartans.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Gallon ran along the sideline and Dennard had tight coverage. The ball should have been thrown to Gallon's back shoulder but went to the front side and Dennard picked it off inside the five-yard line. That clinched the win for Michigan State.
Dennard had excellent coverage all game and showed his press man-coverage ability. He is a gritty, physical corner who plays bigger than his size (5-11, 197). In 2013, Dennard has 37 tackles with seven passes broken up and three interceptions. He could be a nice value pick on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State
The star of the Hurricanes vs Seminoles game who helped himself the most was Florida State junior running back Devonta Freeman. He got the scoring started with a six-yard touchdown run early in the first half. Midway through the second quarter, Freeman showed his receiving ability with a 49-yard touchdown on a screen pass. He did a great job of setting up his blockers before accelerating away from the defense to score.
In the third quarter, Freeman scored for the third time with a 12-yard run. He finished the contest with 86 yards on 24 carries and five receptions for 89 yards. Freeman has averaged 5.8 yards per carry this season with 639 yards and eight touchdowns. He also has 13 receptions for 185 yards and a touchdown, too.
In 2013, Freeman has been the Seminoles best back in a talented group that includes James Wilder, Jr. and Karlos Williams. Freeman is a tough back who has a great burst. This performance could help the 5-foot-9, 203-pounder to be a second-day pick.
Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
Cougars senior safety Bucannon is finishing his collegiate career playing his best football. He continued his fine season with a strong performance against Arizona State. Late in the game, Bucannon had tight coverage on a receiver running across the field. He darted in front of the wide out to pick off a pass and run down the field for 32 yards.
Bucannon did a good job of defending the run as well. He crashed into the tackle box and did his part to prevent runs from bursting downfield. Against Arizona State, Bucannon totaled 12 tackles with an interception.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pounder has a nice mix of ball skills, run-support tackling and hard hitting ability. In 2013, Bucannon has five interceptions with 85 tackles, three forced fumbles and one pass broken up. He could be proving himself worthy of a top-100 selection.
Dion Bailey, S, USC
While USC had had a rough couple of seasons, Bailey has continued to play well on a weekly basis. Against Oregon State, he had five tackles, a pass break up and an interception. Bailey had tight coverage during the fourth quarter on a tight end running an out route in front of the goal line. Bailey snatched the pass in front of the intended receiver for an interception. It was a great catch as the tight end was grabbing Bailey's facemask as he went to the ground.
Bailey (6-0, 200) had an excellent game for NFL scouts. He showed the ability to play man coverage on tight ends and not allow separation. Bailey also did a good job of picking up receivers downfield. He illustrated good ball skills and instincts. Bailey has 40 tackles with three interceptions and five passes broken up. If the junior enters the 2014 NFL Draft, he could be a second-day pick.
Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
While Will Sutton gets lot of attention, Bradford is the difference-maker on the Arizona State defense in 2013. Bradford was all over the field against the Washington State Cougars. He made a lot of big plays in the first half to help the Sun Devils start their blow out of the Cougars. Bradford exploded off the snap to burn the right tackle and slap the ball out of the hands of Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday on a strip-sack.
Bradford had another blinding rush a short time later with a blitz up the middle. As he was wrestling Halliday to the ground, the signal-caller was able to pitch the ball away to an offensive lineman to avoid a safety. In the third quarter, Bradford ran downfield to make a touchdown-saving tackle on a receiver. As he laid the wood on the wide out, Bradford forced his second fumble of the game. He showed his athletic ability a bit later when he took a direct snap from a punt formation and rumbled down the sideline for a gain of 20 yards. Bradford finished with two tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and the punt return.
In 2013, Bradford has 29 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and four passes broken up. The 6-foot-1, 241-pounder is a versatile player who is a good run-defender and pass-rusher, and can operate in pass coverage. He would be a great fit in a 3-4 NFL defense.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
Richardson had a tough test taking on Missouri's speed-rushers. In interviews with ESPN's production staff, Richardson said the Missouri pass-rushers, Michael Sam and Kony Ealy, would be as big of, or an even bigger, challenge than going against South Carolina superstar Jadeveon Clowney. Perhaps Richardson was exaggerating, but he played extremely well against the Tigers after performing well versus Clowney a few weeks ago.
Overall, Richardson did well taking on the Missouri edge-rushers. He did a great job of getting depth in his drop to negate speed rushes. Richardson also stonewalled bull rushes. The only rusher who was able to get some pressure going against him was Ealy. He worked himself free of Richardson on a few occasions but never quickly enough to get a hit on the quarterback or a sack. Even on Richardson's underwhelming plays, he got enough of his rushers to give his quarterback a reasonable amount of time to throw the ball.
Even though Richardson (6-6, 327) has good size, he could use more power for the run game. Still, he looks like will be a reliable pass-protector for a franchise quarterback in the NFL. The junior Richardson is proving to be worthy of a first-round pick.
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald has been on a tear for Pittsburgh all season. He has been one of the best pass-rushers in college football, which is especially impressive for a defensive tackle. Against Georgia Tech, Donald was absolutely dominant with a staggering stat line. He recorded 11 tackles, six tackles for a loss, one sack and two forced fumbles. The lightning fast Donald showed the ability to get in the backfield against stretch running offenses and that will appeal to defensive coaches who have to go against zone-blocking systems in their division.
In 2013, Donald has 36 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, a pass batted and three forced fumbles. The 6-foot, 285-pounder could be a good fit as a three-technique in a 4-3 defense. Even if Donald isn't an every-down player because of his size, he could be a valuable second-day pick as interior pass-rushers are very hard to find.
Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
Mississippi State has had a rough season, but Jackson has been excellent for the Bulldogs. Against South Carolina, he had the tough task of going against Clowney, Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles. Quarles is one of the top interior pass-rushers in college football as he entered the contest with seven sacks. Jackson did his job to limit Quarles as the speedy defensive tackle had only two tackles and didn't record a sack.
Jackson also did well when edge-rushers like Clowney and Sutton came on inside rushes. Jackson was rock solid, winning his blocks in run blocking and pass protection. He may not have the athleticism to stay at left guard in the NFL and maybe should move to right guard. Still, the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Jackson could be a road-grader. He looks like a solid and safe second-day selection.
Honorable Mentions: USC wide receiver Marqise Lee and West Virginia running back Charles Sims.
2014 NFL Draft Stock Down
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
Roberson has had a disappointing junior season while dealing with a knee injury that cost him four games. Against LSU, Roberson had some struggles and that continued against Georgia. He was beaten for a potential touchdown, but an inaccurate pass by Aaron Murray saved Roberson. On Georgia's drive to run out the clock on Florida's comeback attempt, Roberson was beaten for a key third-down conversion. He also had some good plays of tight coverage.
Roberson has 11 tackles with three passes broken up and zero interceptions this year. His coverage hasn't been as tight as it was in 2012 or 2011, and he is allowing more separation than he has in past seasons. Roberson should consider returning for his senior year.
Ben Gardner, DE/DT, Stanford
It is unfortunate that Gardner landed on this list, but a torn pectoral muscle has ended his season. Gardner going out is a huge loss to Stanford's defense as he was having a solid senior season. Gardner finished 2013 with 19 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
The 6-foot-4, 277-pounder would be a perfect fit as a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. The injury will most likely send Gardner lower on draft day. He is strong at the point of attack and is a skilled pass-rusher. Gardner is similar as a player and in his situation to current Texans defensive end Jared Crick. Crick was an early-round prospect who fell to the fourth round of the 2012 draft because of a torn pectoral muscle. Gardner will fall, but he could end up being a steal.
Dishonorable Mentions: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion and Miami quarterback Stephen Morris.