2014 NFL Draft: Who's Trending Up, Down After BCS Title Game?
The BCS era went out with a bang.
Monday's thrilling title game tilt between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers wasn't just the final game of the Bowl Championship Series.
It was also the last collegiate game for several highly regarded NFL prospects, including more than one potential first-rounder.
For some prospects, bowl season was a blessing, boosting their already soaring stock.
Others, however, have some rehab to do, if only because bad bowl games have a tendency to stick out in some eyes due to the long layoffs before and after them.
So as the focus shifts to the All-Star games and then the NFL Scouting Combine, here's a look at some players trending in both directions.
Stock Up: Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Well, it's official.
After anchoring the offensive line for an Auburn team that came within one drive of bringing home a stunning national championship for the Tigers, tackle Greg Robinson tweeted Tuesday that he will declare for the the 2014 NFL draft.
It's not hard to understand why. The 6'5", 320-pounder recently received a first-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, and Robinson did absolutely nothing to damage that stock with a solid showing against a talented Florida State defensive front.
In fact, Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com ranks Robinson as a top-10 overall prospect in the 2014 class, writing that "Robinson boasts all of the traits to emerge as a dominating presence in the NFL."
Stock Down: Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan's stock bounced around like a pingpong ball on Monday night.
The 6'2", 298-pound junior, whom Chris Sprow of ESPN called a potential top-10 pick, was a force while on the field for the Seminoles. Jernigan spent much of the game in the Auburn backfield, constantly making tackles and blowing plays up behind the line.
However, as the game wound down, Jernigan wore down, and the youngster spent much of the fourth quarter on the sidelines.
Given that Jernigan was reportedly battling the flu, the perception that he wasn't in the best of shape isn't necessarily a fair one, especially after a season in which he topped 60 tackles with 4.5 sacks.
That doesn't mean there aren't whispers about that very thing.
Stock Up: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
You would be hard-pressed to find a running back who wrapped up his collegiate career with two better games than Auburn's Tre Mason.
Granted, Mason hasn't declared for the draft yet, but assuming he does, Mason will now be in the conversation to be one of the first players at his position selected in 2014.
Mason followed up his 304-yard explosion in the SEC Championship Game with almost 200 more against the Seminoles, gashing Florida State with 195 yards on 34 carries.
Mason's 37-yard rumble in the fourth quarter gave the Tigers the lead, and the 5'10", 205-pounder also showed off his hands with a first-half touchdown grab.
It was the sixth game in a row in which Mason, who gained over 1,800 yards on the ground this season, topped 100 rushing yards.
Edward Aschoff of ESPN wrote of Mason, "there's no question that he has the vision and athleticism of a top-flight running back. He's tough and churns those legs with the best of them to grind out extra yards. He's also an extremely smart and instinctive football player."
Stock Down: Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
On some level, it seems a little odd to call the draft stock of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam "down."
After all, the 255-pounder had 10.5 sacks en route to being named a first-team All-American. His strip-sack sealed the deal in Missouri's Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State.
However, for much of the game, Sam was all but invisible, and that relative no-show only serves to underscore the concern that Sam lacks the athleticism and explosiveness to excel at the professional level as a linebacker.
Throw in his smallish size, and Sam could find himself as a man without a position at the next level.
Stock Up: Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
If Michael Sam gave NFL teams pause about his ability to make the switch to 3-4 outside linebacker at the NFL level during his bowl game, Clemson's Vic Beasley had no such problem.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller is still waking up in a cold sweat imaging Beasley barreling down on him.
The 6'2", 235-pound junior was an absolute nightmare for the Buckeyes. His six total tackles and a sack don't begin to tell the story of how big an impact he had on the game.
Beasley still hasn't formally declared his intention to enter the draft yet, but he tipped his hand when speaking with The Associated Press (via The Washington Post) after the Orange Bowl win.
"It's a great achievement, being able to put on a good show and leave Clemson University on a good note," Beasley said.
If he does choose to bolt, Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller projects Beasley as a first-round pick:
With a first step that few tackles can compete with, Beasley is able to dominate off the ball. But he's not just a speed-rusher, as the Clemson end shows good hand use and smart instincts when attacking the ball.
Stock Down: AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
By just about any measurement available, AJ McCarron's collegiate career went about as well as a collegiate career can. He's won national championships and individual awards galore.
However, things ended on a sour note.
The college quarterback who never loses ended his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide by dropping his last two games.
The first ended with that thing that happened against Auburn, but the loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl was no less surprising.
Granted, McCarron threw for nearly 400 yards, but that was borne from the Sooners shocking the Tide by racing to an early lead.
McCarron also threw a pair of costly interceptions, and his fumble late in the fourth quarter sealed the game.
There were already many who doubted McCarron's ability to be an effective NFL starter, and his performance in New Orleans only added to their numbers.
Stock Up: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The Orange Bowl was a good night for the Clemson Tigers.
In addition to Vic Beasley's defensive heroics and Sammy Watkins' rewrite of the school's record books for receiving yards in a game, quarterback Tajh Boyd gave his draft stock a nice boost with a passing clinic against Ohio State.
Boyd's 77.5 percent completion percentage and 378 yards were his second-highest outputs of the season in each category. Boyd also picked up 127 yards on the ground and scored an eye-popping six total touchdowns.
Granted, Ohio State's secondary isn't good, and unless Boyd grew during the game, the biggest knock against him hasn't been eliminated as draft season begins in earnest.
However, the show Boyd put on in Miami may give some NFL teams pause about discounting him for being only 6'1".
You know, like both quarterbacks in the playoff game in Seattle this weekend.
Stock Down: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
It wasn't all sunshine and puppies for NFL draft prospects in Miami.
In fact, after chasing the Clemson Tigers around the Orange Bowl in vain, linebacker Ryan Shazier likely wishes he could quietly slide the game tape into a very dark place, never to be seen again.
Shazier was widely considered one of the top linebackers in this year's class, with ESPN's Mel Kiper calling the 6'2", 226-pounder "Versatile, quick, instinctive and a strong tackler" (subscription required).
Shazier was none of those things against Clemson. He took bad angles, was blown up at the line of scrimmage and just generally played like crud.
It's just one bad game and the first time since early November that Shazier failed to hit 10 stops in a game.
With that said, Shazier's timing was lousy, especially since he turned pro shortly afterward.
Stock Up: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
It's only fitting that we close out the "Stock Up" side of this article by taking one last look back at the BCS National Championship Game.
For most of the game, Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was a complete non-factor, managing three catches for 52 yards with a drop.
Of course, now all anyone wants to talk about is Benjamin's last catch of the game, the two-yarder that gave the Seminoles the national title.
There was already plenty to like about Benjamin. 6'5" size. Good speed. Soft hands.
Now Benjamin has shown the ability to go up high and make a huge catch when the stakes are as big as stakes get.
They call that clutch, and don't think NFL teams weren't watching.
Stock Down: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
From the last bowl game of the college football season, we'll now rewind to one of the very first.
It wasn't that long ago that Fresno State's Derek Carr was mentioned among the top quarterbacks in this year's class. The 6'3" senior put up gaudy numbers for the Bulldogs in 2013, topping 5,000 passing yards with 50 touchdown passes.
However, throughout Carr's senior year, there were questions about the level of competition he was facing. Those questions grew much louder after Carr bombed in the Las Vegas Bowl against USC.
In that game, Carr managed to complete barely 50 percent of passes, throwing for only 216 yards despite 54 attempts in a blowout loss.
If there is a silver lining to that face-plant, it happened all the way back on December 21. As KERO-TV reports, Carr is already preparing for the Senior Bowl and workouts that will follow.