The NFL draft's big board alters with every snap of the college football season. Those billed to get selected early in 2014 are most prone to seeing their stock dissected after every play.
It only takes one misstep from scouts to question a player's mental fortitude or physical prowess on the field. There are fewer processes as grueling as kids fighting for pro football jobs that are few and far between.
With these players set to bolt for the NFL, they'll want to finish their college careers in style. Some need to redeem a previous blunder while others must prove their superb performance is the real thing.
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Last Saturday, Johnny Manziel's Heisman hopes hit a screeching halt against LSU.
The polarizing quarterback completed just 16 of his 41 passing attempts (39 percent) for 224 passing yards and two interceptions during a 34-10 loss.
Luckily he can quickly erase any poor memories of that performance against No. 5 Missouri's stout defense. If he can infiltrate this SEC juggernaut's secondary, Manziel will fend off some critics ready to proclaim him unready for the NFL.
Manziel has completed 69.1 percent of his passes and averaged 9.9 yards per attempt, showing incredible ability to extend plays and elude defenders in the pocket. While the divide of his supporters and doubters may resemble a certain quarterback who used to play for the Denver Broncos before they signed Peyton Manning, as a player Manziel often looks like a smaller Tony Romo,
He'll have to answer questions about his size and audacity to sign his own name and act like some kind of 20-year-old off the field, but Manziel can at least avoid a sharp decline in his value by playing well against Missouri.
RB Andre Williams, Boston College
Is Andre Williams going to have any gas left in the tank before joining an NFL squad?
Boston College is working the running back into the ground during his senior campaign, giving him 320 carries through 11 games. He totaled 349 handoffs in his previous three seasons.
The big bruiser has showed no signs of rust, gaining an incredible 1,235 yards in his last fives games alone. In total, he has compiled 2,073 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013, which could earn him some Heisman consideration in what is a wide-open race.
With the Eagles' conference hopes dashed, Williams will close out his college tenure on Saturday against Syracuse. After handing him the ball at least 30 times in every other November bout, Boston College will likely keep feeding Williams so he can pad his stats and display his hulking power to pro scouts.
|Nov. 2||Virginia Tech||33||166||2|
|Nov. 9||New Mexico State||30||295||2|
|Nov. 16||North Carolina State||42||339||2|
But NFL teams have been burned by highly touted power backs before (Hi, Trent Richardson! How are things going, Mark Ingram?), and front offices are beginning to realize the foolishness of drafting a running back early when so many capable options emerge in the later rounds.
That makes Williams' margin of error small, but another 250 yards would do the trick. How can NFL teams continue to ignore that type of production?
LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Fighting for a national championship can be a blessing and a curse for pro prospects.
It gives college football's best players to strut their strut for the world to see on national TV, and an impressive outing will certainly have fans and executives alike clamoring for a player who succeeds.
On the other hand, another test could cause scouts to sour on a player who does not deliver during that one particular game. Remember how much Manti Te'o's draft stock fizzled after a quiet evening in last year's title showdown?
Senior C.J. Mosley is no stranger to that grand stage. The linebacker has already led two championship squads for the Crimson Tide and can make it a third if 'Bama takes care of business beforehand.
Mosley tops the team with 88 tackles and eight quarterback hits. The leader of Nick Saban's extraordinary defense would become the toast of the town if he were to help deliver the program's third title during his college career.
That would ensure that the gifted linebacker would not last past the top 10 on draft day.