NFL Draft 2014: Early Round Prospects Who Bolstered Draft Stock in Week 1 Action
The first week of college football is now in the books. Most of the top teams easily hung on, while others were upset. Many of the top teams, however, were performing against easy opponents.
Due to this, some top prospects had an easy week, and some ended up not making much of an impact. Others took over their team and had great games, even if their team was on the losing end of its matchup.
Which players saw their draft stock improve thanks to great performances in last week's games? Here are five, all of whom could hear their name called early in next year's draft.
5. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
In a week where many of the top running back prospects did not see playing time, one running back who may be under the radar showcased himself in a big way.
The Washington offense was great to begin with in its 38-6 drubbing of Boise State, with quarterback Keith Price making waves as a potential draft prospect. The playmaker who was brightest, however, was running back Bishop Sankey.
Sankey had 25 rushes for 161 yards and two touchdowns, and more importantly, he was continually productive throughout the game, getting his second touchdown late well after Washington had the game sewn up.
It was the second time that Sankey demolished Boise State, rushing for 205 yards in a bowl game against the team last year. Suffice to say, he's establishing himself as a top running back prospect, moving from a late Day 2 option to a higher selection, perhaps a late Round 2 selection.
If he can outperform top running back prospects Ka'Deem Carey and De'Anthony Thomas, who he will be facing later this year, his stock should continue to rise.
4. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech had a rough go against top-ranked Alabama in a 35-10 loss. Its big bright spot throughout the game was senior cornerback Kyle Fuller, who could be shooting up draft boards this year.
Fuller was one of the only players who could disrupt A.J. McCarron. He had four tackles and a couple of pass deflections, as well as an interception. In fact, he helped limit McCarron to only 110 passing yards.
The Virginia Tech community and scouts are familiar with the Fullers, as his brother Vincent played for quite a few seasons, and he seems likely to follow suit.
He's projected as an early Day 3 selection, but with the way he played against the nation's top team, he could be bumped into Day 2, especially since the cornerback position is quite fluid this year; continued great performances will make his stock soar.
3. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
In the battle of the Carolinas, all eyes were focused on Jadeveon Clowney, the pass-rushing beat who will almost certainly be the first defensive player taken, if not the first overall pick, come draft day.
Instead of Clowney starting the 2013 season strong, he actually struggled and did not make much of an impact, thanks in part to North Carolina offensive tackle James Hurst.
Hurst is ranked among the top five tackles currently, but he was still a ways behind Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan heading into this season.
Being able to hold Clowney sackless and mostly ineffective is no small feat, and it will increase his draft stock big time, especially if he is able to continue improving his footwork and keeping quarterback Bryn Renner from being sacked.
2. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Sammy Watkins went from having a phenomenal freshman year to a merely decent sophomore year. With fellow wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins going to the NFL, he had to become the leader of the wideouts again.
Did he pull that off against Georgia? He did so big time, catching six passes for 127 yards, but the big one was the 77-yard touchdown pass, when he was able to get past a tackle and run well over 50 yards after the catch for the score.
The question I had about Watkins was whether he could handle the occasional double coverage, since defenses were going to be targeting him a lot more this year. With the way he handled that touchdown, there's no question he has elite ability with the ball.
He was a borderline first-round pick heading into this season, but there's no question that he has re-established himself as one of the top two wideouts in this year's class alongside USC's Marqise Lee. In fact, if he keeps playing like this, he could even surpass Lee on draft day.
1. Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack was pegged as a second-round talent heading into his senior season, and he has been the leader of Buffalo's defense. He has the motor and tools to be successful in the NFL—there's no question about that.
The only question mark I had with him moving forward was how he would perform against top talent, given that he was hidden away in the MAC. He had the opportunity to show that ability against Ohio State in Week 1. To say he performed well would be an understatement.
Mack had 2.5 sacks, nine tackles and an interception which was returned for a touchdown, outrunning Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller to get the score.
He single-handedly kept Buffalo in the game on the defensive side of the ball, and he may have even hurt Miller's draft stock with his disruption. There's no question in my mind that Mack is a first-round pick now due to his pass-rushing ability and his awareness of where the football is going on the field.
Next week, he will be facing one of the top running backs in the country in Lache Seastrunk when Buffalo faces Baylor, and after the way Mack played against the Buckeyes, that will be one of the best matchups to watch this week.
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