QB Derek Carr, Fresno St.
2014 NFL Draft: Late Risers
By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
The day isn’t quite over but there have been some impressive performances in this final week of college football’s regular season. Who has been building momentum going into the draft process? Here are a few of the late risers to keep an eye on.
This week vs SJSU:
38/50 519 yards, 6 TD 1 INT
Why he’s rising: Derek Carr has led Fresno St. through a magical season but unfortunately they will miss out on a BCS bowl after they got clipped by San Jose St. Carr’s stock, however, continues to rise. He has a cannon and maybe the biggest arm in the class. He can step into the throw and rip it to the opposite sideline, throw a beautifully placed fade route for six, or stand in the pocket and unleash an amazingly accurate deep ball. The guy’s arm is elite, but he’s actually pretty mobile as well, with more than enough athleticism to avoid rushers and even pick up some yards on the ground.
What could hold him back:There isn’t much not to like about Carr, but some of the things scouts might pick apart are his lack of quality competition, shotgun heavy offense and tendency to drift backwards in the pocket, particularity when under pressure.
RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio St.
This week vs Michigan:
27 carries, 226 yards, 8.4 yards/carry, 1 TD
Why he’s rising: The bruising Buckeye back is a physical runner with great power to drive back defenders. He is very effective in short yardage situations and inside runs, but has very quick feet that allows him to get that 242 pound frame moving in the right direction. He can make sharp cuts and redirect well for such a big back.
What could hold him back: An early season arrest for an alleged assault will draw some character red flags. He doesn’t have the speed some up tempo offenses might want as well.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU
This week vs Florida:
9 catches, 212 yards, 3 TD
Why he’s rising: Like I outlined in my last piece on possession receivers Benjamin is a big, strong target. At 6’5 234 lb he can use his frame to box out defenders, which when combined with his tremendous ability to high point the ball with strong hands is extremely lethal. All those skills, along with his ability to dominate as a blocker, earned him a spot on my All Potential Second Team Offense.
What could hold him back: Like Hyde Benjamin ins’t a burner, but will likely run somewhere in the high 4.5s or low 4.6s when the redshirt sophomore does decide to enter the draft.
WR Josh Huff, Oregon
This week vs Oregon St.
9 catches, 186 yards, 3 TD
Why he’s rising: In addition to the game winning grab against Oregon St. in the civil war Huff was Mariota’s leading receiver with 186 yards. Most people think of Huff’s speed when evaluating the Oregon Duck but he’s actually quite solidly built as well with a nice 211 pound frame. Like most Ducks he does have great speed and showed with that winning catch over the middle that he can make a play on the football and hang on through contact. Despite his lack of height he has great balance and runs well after the catch.
What could hold him back: At only 5’11 most teams will look at Huff as just a slot receiver and therefore a limited role.
QB David Fales, San Jose St.
This week vs Fresno St.
37/45, 547 yards, 6 TD
Why he’s rising: Fales started the season as a hyped precision style passer with a possible first round grade. That might have been a little optimistic but he looked spectacular versus fellow prospect Derek Carr. In fact, he out-dueled the Heisman candidate individually and as the Spartans handed the Bulldogs a crushing lose to knock them out of BCS contention. Fales has decent arm strength but his reputation is build on being an insanely accurate passer. It’s hard to argue with the 74% completion rate he posted Friday.
What could hold him back: Slightly above average arm strength as well as playing in a short pass and high percentage offense are the likely drawbacks scouts will examine.
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
This week vs Oregon St.
14 total tackles, 1 INT, 4 passes defended
Why he’s rising: Ekpre-Olomu was up to a tough task guarding speedster Brandin Cooks blanketing him most of the night. The feisty corner was excellent in coverage but his physical nature was evident all over the field. Ekpre-Olomu is only 5’10 190 lb but plays aggressive and loves to get physical with receivers and making tackles. He uses quick feet and fluid mobility to stay with his man and did a nice job of taking away the Beavers’ #1 target most of the night.
What could hold him back: The aforementioned lack of size will concern some teams with big receivers in there division like Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson in the NFC North.
DT Michael Bennett, Ohio St.
This week vs Michigan
1 sack, no official stats but numerous pressures
Why he’s rising: Bennett never started a game for the Buckeyes before this year playing behind Giants tackle Jonathan Hankins, but boy has he made an impression as of late. There were many top performers in this heated rivalry but Bennett’s ability to collapse the pocket and penetrate the gaps with his quickness might have been the biggest factor in OSU’s win. That quickness and athleticism will make him heavily sought after as penetrating interior linemen are so hard to find.
What could hold him back: Limited experience and being a full 15 lb under the 300 mark could be seen as negatives.