2014 NFL Draft Risers and Fallers - Week 9 Football

Virginia Tech College Football, Logan Thomas





After Week 9 of the 2013 college football season it appears that Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State are the best college teams but the best NFL players don't necessarily come from the best college teams; and there are some college players who received no pre-season acclaim who have exploded upon the collegiate scene and STUNNED analysts and scouts as they had no previous knowledge of their existence.



1.  Ra'Shede Hageman - DT 6-6 311 Sr. - Minnesota

Some thought that he would be an early entrant for the NFL draft last year but since he hadn't had that much experience playing football he decided to return for his senior year and it has paid off for him and the Gophers team.  In the win against Nebraska he was overpowering the Nebraska linemen and pushing them back into the QB and was, in general, disruptive to their whole offense.  He plays DT and NT at Minnesota and while both positions are a possibility in the NFL, his quickness, power and athleticism may make him more valuable as a DE in a 3/4 defense.  Continuing with this type of play will make him a top 20 draft choice as he seems to be realizing his potential.


2.  Chi Chi Ariguzo - OLB 6-3 235 Redshirt Junior - Northwestern

This outside linebacker seemed to be omnipresent in the Wildcats close loss to Iowa as he racked up 14 tackles, including nine solos, two tackles for loss, one sack and one interception.  He was listed at 220 prior to the season and is now listed at 235, and with his quickness and read and reaction ability, would be a welcome addition to many NFL teams once he declares for the draft.


3.  Carlos Hyde - RB 6-0 242 Sr. - Ohio State

Hyde again showed his superior ability in the trouncing of Penn State as he can run with power between the tackles and has the speed to turn the corner on the perimeter.  He can also catch swing passes out of the backfield, and while NFL teams want their RBs to block on pass protection, Hyde is also the lead blocker for Ohio State on running plays.  Coach Urban Meyer has gotten Hyde to perform at a high level since returning from a suspension and the NFL team that drafts him can only hope that he keeps his focus. His combination of power and speed, while still showing some moves, ability to catch and block, has him rated No. 1 in the RBs eligible for the draft in my ratings.


4.  Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe - DT 6-3 296 Redshirt Sr. - Boise State

 Tjong-A-Tjoe made a number of tackles and was able to apply some pressure on his pass rush in a losing effort against BYU.  It is unusual for a DT to be in on as many plays as he was, but he showed an ability to disengage from blocks and lunge into the ball carrier and was also able to roam beyond his DT position to get in on plays.


5.  Jordan Zumwalt - ILB 6-4 230 Sr. - UCLA

Being on one of the strongest Linebacker contingents in college football, Zumwalt can get lost in the conversation, but against Oregon, he stood out from his inside linebacker position with his physical play which resulted in 10 solo tackles, four assists and two tackles for loss.  Zumwalt probably gets the least attention of UCLA's Linebackers, which also includes Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and freshman sensation Myles Jack, but he is a good NFL prospect in his own right as he has been a solid, consistent player for two years running.



1.  Logan Thomas - QB 6-6 257 Sr. - Virginia Tech

Thomas threw four interceptions and on one of those interceptions he didn't see a receiver that was running in the open downfield which would have been a TD and game winner.  This tight end transplant to QB experiment has worked fairly well for Virginia Tech, but as far as a projection to the NFL, there has been slight improvement or development in his three years as QB and that is a concern.  He hasn't completed 60 percent of his passes in any of his three years and that doesn't bode well for playing against tougher competition.  Some of his poor numbers have been attributable to a weak and inexperienced WR corps, but not noticing the receiver running free downfield can't be blamed on that.  There is always a chance that he develops into a quality NFL QB, but which team wants to take the risk and possibly waste three years such as was done with Josh Freeman. That risk makes him a Faller, and one can only wonder how high he would have been rated if he stayed at TE.

2011 completed 59.9% with 19 TDs & 10 Int. & 135.5 Passing Efficiency Rating.

2012 completed 51.3% with 18 TDs & 16 Int. & 115.9 Passing Efficiency Rating.

2013 8 Games   55.2% with   9 TDs & 10 Int. & 133.0 Passing Efficiency Rating.


2.  Za'Darius Smith - DE 6-5 265 Jr. - Kentucky

Having gained notoriety earlier this year for his standout play, Smith was neutralized in the game against Mississippi State as he has trouble disengaging from blocks.  He still shows a quick take-off but can't get through or by the blocker.  Having come from the Junior College ranks, he is a quick athlete who hasn't yet developed football skills to go along with his athleticism.


3.  Donovan Smith -LOT 6-5 327 Redshirt Soph - Penn State

Only a Redshirt Soph, I mention Smith here just because I mentioned him earlier this year as a Riser but since then he has faced different competition and has shown a weakness in pass protection with speed rushers.  He still has a bright future though LOT may not be his best position.  Staying with his blocks and showing some aggression would also help his rating.



1.  James Rouse - DE 6-5 268 Redshirt Sr. - Marshall

Watch enough football and you come across surprises and this happened while watching the Marshall - Middle Tennessee game. No. 11 flashed across the screen a couple of times so I focused on him and also looked into his background. As it is difficult to make a case for a defensive player in a 51-49 shootout, Rouse still stood out with his play and potential for the NFL.  He only played three games in 2011 before going down with an injury, was out for all of 2012 with an Achilles injury and returned for 2013 as he still had eligibility left.  And while he plays DT at Marshall where he displays a really quick take-off, penetration ability, quickness, ability to play off blocks and make plays and all with a good motor, he should be drafted as a DE in a 4/3 scheme as he has a chance to develop into a player at the next level.



1.  Sean Mannion - QB 6-5 214 Redshirt Junior - Oregon State

The leading passer in the nation had a somewhat difficult day against a stronger Stanford team but he still showed what Bill Parcells and other coaches, GMs and scouts have stated is the most important quality for a QB and that is accuracy.  He has limited mobility and escape ability but he can place his throws into tight windows and an NFL comparison might be Matt Ryan of the Falcons.


2.  Braxton Miller - QB 6-2 215 Jr. - Ohio State

No longer just to be considered an athlete playing QB, Miller has developed into a legitimate passer. He has a good throwing motion while delivering different types of passes and all while retaining that great ability to extend plays or take designed running plays for long gains, which makes him very difficult to defend.  He still has to show that he can make the deep passes over the shoulder of the receiver, which in scouts parlance is referred to as "drop in the bucket" throws to prove that he has really arrived and belongs as a top five QB in any class.


3.  Blake Bortles - QB 6-4 227 Jr. - Central Florida

Bortles continued his outstanding and winning play in the romp against UConn and showed more escape ability than Teddy Bridgewater did in his game against USF.


4.  Connor Cook - QB 6-4 215 Redshirt Soph - Michigan State

Cook is emerging as a big time player for the Spartans in their surprising 7-1 season even with their defense being ranked No. 1 in the nation and getting most of the credit for the success of the team.  He didn't have a high passing completion rate thus far into the season but last Saturday against Illinois he was 15 out of 16 for three TDs and zero interceptions and averaged 18.7 yards per completion.  His deep throws were impressive.


5.  Best Linebacker Corps

I mentioned UCLA's outstanding LBer group above but are they better than Stanford's Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters or Alabama's C.J. Mosley, Adrian Hubbard, Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson ? USC, Washington, Iowa and Michigan State also have good groups while BYU has an active bunch with Kyle Van Noy, Alani Fui, Uani Unga and Spencer Hadley.



There was so much to take away from this game so I will discuss it separately from the Risers and Fallers.  For South Carolina, QB Connor Shaw, 6-1 204 Sr., came off the bench in the 4th quarter where he was because of a knee sprain, and snatched a victory from the jaws of defeat bringing his team back from a 17-0 deficit.  This guy epitomizes the word "competitor" and won the game where even Coach Spurrier said he didn't know how they won the game.  Analysts and scouts have no idea how to factor his skill set into the QB maze for the next level, but his ability cannot be overlooked.  DE Jadeveon Clowney flashed his big play ability and Missouri had to be aware of his whereabouts, yet Missouri was able to run his end four plays in a row during the overtime to score a TD; while Kelcy Quarles, DT, played a strong game from his inside position; and Corey Robinson, LOT at 6-8 341 Jr. and Brandon Shell, ROT at 6-6 321 Soph, and son of NFL great Art Shell, did well for a while against Missouri's super quick DE rushers until the 2nd half where they had problems in containing them, but then in the two overtimes, kept them off Connor Shaw.  They will both get a lot of attention when they declare for the draft.   On the Missouri side, WRs Marcus Lucas, 6-5 Sr. and L'DamienWashington, 6-4 Sr., both flashed at times while RB Henry Josey again displayed his quickness through the line and LOT Justin Britt, 6-6 320 Sr. showed better than expected against Jadeveon Clowney.  Not that Britt controlled him but he was able to handle him by himself at times and will get a bump up some draft boards.  Defensively, MLB Andrew Wilson and OLB Kentrell Brothers, among others, played well, but it is the four Defensive Ends who are gaining scouts attention and their rise has to be considered STUNNING as three of them were not on anybody's radar prior to the season.

Kony Ealy, 6-5 275 Redshirt Jr., is the biggest and was the most experienced and the only one who received some pre-season all-star mention; and while he shows potential, another year at Mizzou would help him. But it is the three unknowns who are gaining the most attention for their meteoric rise on the college scene, and the rise has to be considered as STUNNING.  Michael Sam, 6-2 255 Sr., has received the most attention as he leads the nation in sacks with his explosive pass rush and has gone from nowhere to being considered an All-American candidate and high draft choice.  Shane Ray, 6-3 245 Redshirt Soph, who is an alternate or backup DE, has shown the same explosive pass rush as Sam and once Sam graduates Ray will gain national attention unless he decides to declare for the 2014 draft. Markus Golden, 6-2 255 Redshirt Junior, also an alternate or backup DE who seemed to be playing some LBer in this game, also has that explosive pass rush and also made some plays against the run.  These three formerly unknowns could be used as defensive ends in passing situations at the next level or converted into full time outside linebackers, but they all have immense potential.