It's never not NFL draft season in these parts, but with college football's regular season ending and the NFL season entering Week 14, the offseason is starting to become more of a priority. Especially if you're a fan of one of the 20 teams that won't be enjoying the playoffs.
With so much changing each week, we like to take a look at the big movers and shakers of the last seven days. These aren't the only players moving up or down the board, but they are the most notable for the last week.
Who is moving up? Two players are re-entering the list thanks to their decisions to enter the 2013 NFL draft, while another player gets a tick up the board after an embarrassing clerical error.
Check it out on the inside.
Last Week: Not Ranked | This Week: No. 61
I am of the opinion that it's better to be up front when you make a mistake. That's what happened here.
My Top 300 players are kept in a database, with myself and a few assistants having access to it. Somewhere along the way, I deleted Phillip Thomas instead of moving him up. Thankfully, a fan on Twitter noticed this and sent over a tweet asking where Thomas went. Now that the situation has been cleared up, let's re-introduce Thomas to our watch list.
The Fresno State safety has been brilliant this season, moving from the seventh-round range up to a potential second-round selection. Thomas' eight interceptions on the year established his play as some of the best from the strong safety position.
Don't be shocked if a strong week at the Senior Bowl pushes Thomas into the late first round.
Last Week: No. 151 | This Week: No. 183
Late-season injuries have a way of killing a player's momentum up the draft board. That's been the case for Western Kentucky defensive end Quanterus Smith.
Smith finished fourth on the year in NCAA sack totals with 12.5 takedowns, and that production put him on the map. Just last week Smith was rated as one of our players "trending up" in the Top 300. Now, a knee injury will put his offseason prep work on hold and will most likely derail his chances of performing speed and agility drills at the NFL scouting combine in late February.
Smith should still be drafted, but he'll be drafted much lower now and will have to fight for his spot on a roster as an injured player.
Last Week: No. 26 | This Week: No. 14
One of the traits I find most useful when scouting defensive tackles is their leg drive. Can the defender drive off the ball and push the offensive lineman back into the pocket?
In the NFL, offensive linemen are too good to ask the tackle to simply get around them with a speed move. Too often, those speed tackles in college never translate to the NFL because they aren't strong enough to push and drive for penetration. Alabama's Jesse Williams has the strength to drive the pocket back and sit down as an anchor against the run.
Williams is seeing a big move up the board largely due to his strength and NFL readiness. He looks like a Day One starter as a nose tackle in a 3-4 or as a one-technique shading the center in a 4-3 scheme.
Last Week: No. 51 | This Week: No. 72
Morgan Breslin has the speed off the edge that NFL teams tend to fall in love with, but what he lacks is the strength to shed blockers and the agility to dip his shoulder and rip past blockers.
Breslin is still very much a developing player. While his production this year has been very good, he's not a complete prospect. Compared to Nick Perry's stock last year at this time, Breslin is a much less solid prospect overall until he can learn to play in space with some agility to dip his shoulder, rotate his hips and get through blockers. That's the biggest key to his development right now.
Breslin may still enter the 2013 NFL draft, but if he does, don't be surprised if he's still on the board in the late second round.
Last Week: No. 181 | This Week: No. 82
Desmond Trufant gets a benefit from an intense day of Washington Husky film study. With an almost 100-point jump up the board, Trufant is our big riser of the week.
I underrated Trufant's skills in coverage coming into the season, and that low expectation kept him too far down all year. After a fresh look, Trufant's raw ability was too good to keep down low on the board.
This move up the board likely won't be the last one for Trufant, who has two brothers in the NFL (Marcus and Isaac). Once we get a look at the Senior Bowl practices, I'm betting Trufant moves up again.
Last Week: No. 55 | This Week: No. 84
It is purely coincidence that most of this week's movement comes along the defensive line, but with so much attention focused on the pass-rushers in this class, that was a lot of my focus this week in the film room.
Michael Buchanan is a very interesting prospect, as he's been a productive member on one of the nation's better stocked defenses. What's most responsible for Buchanan taking a dip down the board this week is that he doesn't flash the upper-level athletic ability or strength to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme—and even as a 3-4 outside linebacker, that first-step quickness to blitz the quarterback isn't always here.
Compared to teammate Whitney Mercilus' stock before the 2012 draft, Buchanan looks like a much less impressive overall player.
Last Week: Not Ranked | This Week: No. 45
A gruesome knee injury ended Marcus Lattimore's season on October 27 against Tennessee. At that time, it looked like Lattimore would head back to South Carolina to prepare for the 2013 season and rehab his knee with team doctors. Now, it looks like Lattimore is ready to take his talents to the NFL.
The knee injury is a big concern, especially considering Lattimore also tore a knee ligament in 2011. This is two straight years with knee injuries. While that's not unprecedented—Frank Gore and Willis McGahee are both doing alright on two repaired knees—it is a major concern for his draft stock.
McGahee went on to be drafted in the first round, Gore in the third. Lattimore is as talented as both of the former Miami running backs, but how well he bounces back from injury will dictate his draft stock.
Last Week: No. 5 | This Week: No. 16
Johnathan Hankins started the year with so much promise, but on my board, a defensive tackle who doesn't show upfield burst isn't going to stay in the Top Five. That's why we see a big drop for Hankins this week.
There is plenty to like in Hankins' game. He's big, strong and can occupy blockers up front. He's good in the run game at coming off the ball and keeping his lane, but in the passing game, he bounces between blockers too much—getting caught up in traffic and failing to truly shed blockers to make plays in the backfield.
I like Hankins, but his best position in the NFL might be as a 3-4 defensive end and not as an interior defensive tackle.
Last Week: Not Ranked | This Week: No. 188
You have to hand it to Tyrann Mathieu; he's keeping things interesting for writers and scouts. That's not always a good thing.
The former LSU cornerback has been in the headlines a lot lately, and not the good kind. First he was suspended from LSU. Then he was arrested on drug charges. Then he went into rehab with John Lucas. Now, he's entering the 2013 NFL draft.
Mathieu's off-field problems will receive a ton of pre-draft attention, as they should, but it is also worth noting that his on-field play wasn't that great either. Mathieu is a ball-hawking, undersized cornerback who has the most value as a return man on special teams. He's not Janoris Jenkins. Mathieu struggled when asked to play in man coverage and may even need to move to safety to overcome his lack of size and man cover skills.
There is enough good here to warrant a draft pick being used on Mathieu, but that pick should be later in the draft than previously thought.
Last Week: No. 28 | This Week: No. 53
One thing that I hope readers of this article, and others, will note is that I'm not squeamish about changing my opinion if new evidence warrants a change. In the case of Sylvester Williams' draft stock, a change was needed.
The big body from North Carolina was impressive early in the 2012 season, but the more I saw his film and the more he played against better competition, the more concern started to show up in my notes.
Williams has the frame and strength, but he doesn't have the quickness I want to see in a three-technique defensive tackle. Like with the aforementioned Johnathan Hankins, that lack of burst will hurt defensive tackles on my board.