As the college football season heats up, new players are being added to our Top 300 each week as they prove themselves worthy for NFL draft consideration. This week sees three new names added to our Stock Watch and two mainstays making moves up the board.
As players improve, others regress. Former top prospect Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech continues to move down the board. Another former No. 1 prospect is moving down this week too.
Last Week: Not Ranked | This Week: No. 23
Morgan Breslin isn't a complete unknown, but he wasn't on previous Top 300 boards because there was uncertainty over whether or not he would consider leaving USC early for the 2012 NFL draft. Those concerns have been put to bed, and Breslin makes an appearance in a big way.
How good is Breslin? One of college football's best writers, Lisa Horne, nominated him for the Lombardi Award, and many others should follow her lead.
Breslin fits the mold of a right defensive end in a 4-3 scheme but has the quickness and hip flexibility to bend the edge as a stand-up outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. That versatility, and the sheer need for the position, are sure to keep Breslin's name in first-round consideration.
Last Week: No. 23 | This Week: No. 35
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas is stuck in quite the pickle.
Thomas' stock has continued to take a tumble since the season began, but the question he must weigh after the season is if the Virginia Tech offensive staff can help him develop more in 2013. If not, Thomas is better off taking a pay cut and entering the 2013 NFL draft based on his potential and upside.
One more year of development at Virginia Tech may not help Thomas' stock that much. One extra year of NFL development certainly will.
Last Week: Not Ranked | This Week: No. 53
Stanford tight end Zach Ertz makes his first appearance in the Top 300 this week, and he's due major props for the way he's stepped in to replace Coby Fleener in the Cardinals offense.
Ertz has been on a tear this year, showing the ability to separate from linebackers and safeties while operating in Stanford's very pro-style offense for tight ends. Ertz will enter the NFL with a full understanding of how to time his routes, and as he's used so frequently on combination routes, his spacing is ideal as well.
In a weak tight end class, Ertz has a chance to move up draft boards much the same way Fleener did in 2011.
Last Week: No. 37 | This Week: No. 47
A thorough beating by Geno Smith and the West Virginia wide receivers put the Texas cornerbacks on notice, and after reviewing several Texas games this year, Carrington Byndom has to take a dip down the board.
Byndom looked like a future star in 2011, but he's not been as sharp in 2012. You can blame some of that on not having Blake Gideon back at free safety, but Byndom's technique looks shaky this year. The athletic ability is there, but the intricacies need a cleanup.
Last Week: Not Ranked | This Week: No. 42
The challenge with super-athletes like Ansah, and even JPP, is to decide if they will ever reach their potential. Pierre-Paul has become an elite NFL pass-rusher, but guys like Dontay Moch and Michael Johnson were similarly athletic entering the NFL draft, and they're far from the consistent, accomplished players that the Giants defensive end is.
Ansah will fall somewhere between JPP and Johnson, and evaluating him against top talent at the Senior Bowl will be important in determining just how good he is.
Last Week: No. 42 | This Week: No. 48
When you are built like Julius Peppers or Mario Williams and have sick open-field speed, NFL draft evaluators get excited. The trouble is that Gholston has yet to use that size and speed to dominate the Big Ten.
At 6'7" and 270 lbs., Gholston is like a man amongst boys at times in his defensive end position, but he's turned in just one sack this year, and that was against Central Michigan.
Last Week: No. 18 | This Week: No. 16
Vaccaro did very well playing in man coverage against Tavon Austin in the slot, holding him to just one catch in man coverage. Austin would do his damage against Texas, but that was against either zone coverage or when matched up on the outside against Texas cornerbacks.
Vaccaro's ability to slide between slot cornerback, free safety and strong safety only adds value to what is already the best safety in this year's class.
Last Week: No. 47 | This Week: No. 55
Bray has been a good college quarterback, but not elite or overly consistent. The question for Bray and his family will be, "Can Tennessee improve my draft stock in another year?"
The answer to that question is most likely "no," and Bray may find that he's better off taking his talents to the NFL as a second-round pick instead of risking injury in his senior season at Tennessee.
Last Week: No. 7 | This Week: No. 1
There will undoubtedly be those who doubt Geno Smith, just like there were those few contrarians who had to knock Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III before the 2012 draft. Save your breath—this kid is the real deal.
What more must Smith do to make the talking heads forget about Matt Barkley? He hasn't thrown an interception since December 1, 2011. He's taken over a high-octane offense that asks him to operate at an NFL level. This isn't a dink-and-dunk spread system; Geno is asked to make reads on the defense and he's throwing his receivers open. If anything, Matt Barkley is the one we should be labeling a "system quarterback."
Smith is for real, and it'll take one hell of a collapse for him to move down from our No. 1 overall spot.
Last Week: No. 4 | This Week: No. 7
What made Mingo such a star in the 2011 season was his quickness off the edge and his ability to dominate the backfield. As a pass-rusher, he has few equals, but his run defense has been uninspiring so far this season.
An NFL team is still likely to see Mingo as a better version of Bruce Irvin, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Mingo could also see a move to outside linebacker in the NFL, but no matter where he lines up, the LSU defender must add strength and learn to use his hands to disengage from blockers.