Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Smith has been in the first round of my mock draft for months after scouting sources were raving about him to me back in September. Other media have finally caught onto Smith, and he had a huge presence as the most impressive draft prospect in the SEC Championship Game. In the first quarter, Smith beat Auburn Kerryon Johnson to the edge on a goal-line play to make a touchdown-saving tackle with a loss of one yard. Late in the second quarter, Smith notched a clutch third-down sack on a blitz up the middle. In the third quarter, Smith was all over the field for the Bulldogs. He made a tackle downfield to end a long gain for the Tigers, hit a back hard near the line of scrimmage to prevent a gain, pressured Jarrett Stidham on a blitz, and made a tackle for a loss. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Smith scooped up a Kerryon Johnson fumble for a huge turnover for Georgia. That turnover resulted in a huge touchdown for the Bulldogs.
This outing will definitely help Smith's draft stock. Months ago, sources told me they thought Smith was special with first-round potential. They labelled him a better version of the Falcons' Deion Jones and similar to Tampa Bay's Lavonte David. Smith is on his way to being a top-25 pick next April.
Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Memphis almost beat an undefeated Central Florida team before losing in double overtime, and Miller was superb to help almost lead his Tigers to the upset. Late in the second quarter, Miller got open on a slant-and-go down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, future NFL cornerback Mike Hughes was closely blanketing Miller, but Hughes didn't get his head turned around and Miller made a leaping 10-yard touchdown catch over him. Miller was later left wide open in busted coverage for a short touchdown during overtime.
Miller totaled 14 receptions for 195 yards and three touchdowns against Central Florida. He could contribute quickly in the NFL as a slot receiver. Miller has good hands, runs impressive routes, and has the quickness to get separation. He may not have the size to lineup outside very much as a pro, but he could be a weapon as third receiver working out of the slot. This tape against the Knights will help Miller to be a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Wilkins used the ACC Championship game to show why he is a future first-round pick for the NFL. In the first quarter, he used power to shed the block from the right guard and then chased down the quarterback for a sack. Early in the second quarter, Wilkins fired between blockers to get a tackle for a loss on a stretch run that attempted to cut up the middle. Late in the second quarter, Wilkins made a super play to knock down a third-down pass and force a punt. The receiver was open for a big play, and Wilkins' superb instincts came up huge for his defense on that play. Wilkins repeated that play early in the third quarter, knocking down a pass.
The Tigers defense dominated the Miami offense and Wilkins was the star of their great defensive effort. Wilkins showed excellent instincts and awareness to adjust to plays while getting himself in position to make stops. Wilkins put on display his excellent combination of size, speed, and athleticism. Interior pass rushers are hard to find and this tape will help him to be a top-25 pick next April.
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward is a potential first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and he put on a clinic against Wisconsin. Early on versus the Badgers, Ward made an excellent play against a big target. Midway through the first quarter, Ward was in blanket coverage on a pass to Badgers receiving tight end Troy Fumagalli. The ball was under thrown up for grabs, and Ward made a leaping interception in front of the big tight end. In the third quarter, Ward had tight coverage downfield and made a tough play to knock a pass away to prevent a completion inside the five-yard line. The next third down saw Ward apply tight coverage on a crossing route to slap away another completion.
This tape will help Ward as he also showed the ability to play coverage against tight ends. For the NFL, Ward looks like a future starter, and he could have No. 1 corner potential at the next level. While Ward is shorter than ideal, he has excellent feet, speed, and athleticism to run the route and prevent separation. He times his reaches well and shows nice instincts to play the eyes and hands of receivers. Ward looks like a future first-round pick next April.
Sean Welsh, G, Iowa
Iowa has consistently produced NFL talent, and Welsh is the latest Hawkeye who has impressed evaluators to get professional consideration. The 6-foot-3, 295-pounder has some starts at right tackle during his collegiate career and has logged time at guard, but mostly he has started at guard. Welsh is a guard at the next level too, although he almost certainly will be cross-trained at center to make him more versatile and valuable on game days. Welsh played well enough in 2017 to earn a Senior Bowl invitation, which he accepted. This is not a strong class for offensive line talent, so Welsh could rise off a strong week in Mobile.
Taron Johnson, CB, Weber State
It seems like every year at the Senior Bowl there is a small-school cornerback who takes advantage of the opportunity to shine and puts together an impressive week in coverage going against better competition. Robert Alford and Brendan Langley are two names who come to mind in recent years after turning themselves into second-day picks. Johnson is a candidate to do that this year, as he has earned a Senior Bowl invitation. In 2017, Johnson has 43 tackles with eight passes broken up and three interceptions. He totaled 12 breakups each year as a junior and sophomore. Johnson (6-0, 175) could turn himself into a highly sought after prospect with a strong week in Mobile.
Trayvon Henderson, S, Hawaii
Henderson is another off-the-radar prospect who will participate in the Senior Bowl. The senior totaled one interception, three passes broken up and 55 tackles in 2017. He had an impressive junior year with 90 tackles, two sacks, seven passes broken up, 10.5 tackles for a loss and three interceptions. It will be interesting to see how the 6-foot, 200-pounder performs against the better talent in Mobile.
2018 NFL Draft Stock Down
Michael Deiter, OT, Wisconsin
The Big Ten Championship game illustrated that Deiter should return to Madison for next season. He was unable to create a push in the ground game and was forced to reach after pass-rushers too often. Deiter seemed to be surprised at the speed of a Ohio State's defensive line. Nick Bosa in particular had success going against Wisconsin. In the third quarter, Bosa got the better of Deiter to notch a sack of the Wisconsin quarterback. Bosa used strength to knock Deiter's hands off of him and then ran around him with speed. On the next possession, Deiter was lucky he didn't get called for a hold as he tackled Bosa on a rush to the inside. Late in the fourth quarter, Deiter tackled a defensive end, but this time he was whistled for a critical holding penalty.
Deiter has good size with some athleticism, but this game made him look more like a guard for the NFL. He is going to need to work on his feet and technique to handle NFL speed rushers. Deiter could stand to play with better leverage in the ground game to get more out of his size and weight. If Deiter were to enter the 2018 NFL Draft, he looks more like a day-two pick rather than a first-rounder.
Justin Reid, S, Stanford
Reid is a polished safety who can execute free or strong responsibilities. Stanford also plays him as a nickel corner, but the Pac-12 championhip game suggested that he doesn't have that ability for the NFL, as USC really picked on Reid when he was in man coverage on slot receivers. In the second quarter, Reid was running with Deontay Burnett downfield, but there was too much contact downfield and Reid got hit with a pass interference penalty. Later in the second quarter, Reid was in man coverage in the slot and ended up being beaten for a 40-yard reception to Michael Pittman. A jab step and corner post caused separation for Reid to give up the play downfield. He gave up a 49-yard reception in man coverage out of the slot in the third quarter, but Reid was in the right spot to recover a fumble for his defense. In fourth quarter, Reid was in man coverage on Pittman and stumbled. Reid pulled at Pittman, but the receiver broke free to get a 54-yard gain. To end that drive, USC running back Ronald Jones fought through a tackle attempt by Reid over five yards to get into the end zone.
While Reid had problems in coverage, it speaks well of his athletic ability that Stanford even uses him as any type of corner. Most safeties can't even get consideration to play nickelback. His performance against USC will hurt Reid's draft grade, but he still had nine tackles with the fumble recovery. The tape against USC suggests Reid is more of a second-day pick rather than a first-rounder.
Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
Entering the 2017 season, McFadden was seen as one of the top cornerback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. He was one of the leaders in interceptions in 2016, and many thought that he could improve his consistency in coverage with his increased experience. That hasn't happened as McFadden has disappointed in 2017. Sources from multiple teams are down on McFadden and are not grading him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Drfat. They say that his film is very underwhelming and that he is receiving some second-day grades just because of his skill set. They felt that McFadden gives up too much downfield and struggles with balls over his head. Some sources think that McFadden's vision and eye discipline are severely lacking as one of the reasons for why he gives up too much downfield. If McFadden enters the 2018 NFL Draft, he shouldn't expect to go in the first round, and multiple sources think he should return to Florida State for next season.