Biggest NFL Draft Risers and Fallers After Week 7 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistOctober 14, 2019

Biggest NFL Draft Risers and Fallers After Week 7 of College Football

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    In a weekend full of huge showdowns that turned into a bit of a separation Saturday, some big-name players proved they were game-breakers on the big stage.

    Others fell a bit short.

    You'd better believe the NFL scouts were paying attention, too. Yes, the talent evaluators will give a lot of credence to what they see in the combine and in individual workouts, but how you perform on the field is part of your resume.

    Several quarterbacks had memorable performances for various reasons. One guy continued to surge, while a couple had red-flag showings in crucial losses.

    It's always difficult to pick out marker performances, but several stood out, either in a good or bad way. Others, like South Carolina cornerback Israel Mukuamu and Oregon offensive lineman Penei Sewell, had massive performances but aren't draft-eligible.

    Let's take a look at some movers and shakers from this weekend. 

Riser: Joe Burrow, LSU Quarterback

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    LSU's Joe Burrow wasn't expected to be a surefire NFL prospect when he began the season, but the Tigers senior signal-caller has played his way up draft boards.

    He continued to do that in Saturday's 42-28 win over Florida and one of the top secondaries in the nation.

    At 6'4", 216 pounds, Burrow has the size and arm talent, and he's proved over the past couple of seasons he has the athleticism to take off when the pocket collapses or the play breaks down. This year has been about proving he can make all the throws.

    Against CJ Henderson and Florida's vaunted secondary, it was about achieving near-perfection.

    Burrow had just three incompletions on the night, completing 21 of 24 passes for 293 yards and three touchdowns. With Justin Jefferson (who is draft-eligible) and Ja'Marr Chase (who isn't) at his disposal, Burrow is having a magical season.

    It's one that's gaining the attention of people who matter.

    "He's playing his ass off," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay told Ryen Russillo on his podcast recently (via Heavy.com). "He is a totally different quarterback than the one that I saw last year, and if he keeps this up then, yes, he is going to be involved [among the top quarterback prospects]. … Burrow is, to me, the single player who is most different or most changed than the player I saw from a year ago, and I am interested to see if he can keep it up."

    McShay went on to say Burrow is playing his way into a Day 2 pick, but can he rise even higher? There are still mechanical holes in his game, and he doesn't have the strongest arm in the draft, but Burrow is doing a lot of things well. Saturday's performance will show well with scouts.

Faller: Jake Fromm, Georgia Quarterback

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    Jake Fromm has been discussed as a first-round pick, and his tool box is certainly full. He's done enough throughout his career with the Bulldogs to help convince Justin Fields (Ohio State) and Jacob Eason (Washington) to transfer.

    Fromm has occasionally been a bit of a game-manager rather than a dynamic playmaker, and there are times when he isn't the most fundamentally sound quarterback. But one of Fromm's strengths has been his decision-making. 

    That's why Saturday's three-interception performance in a loss to South Carolina was particularly alarming.

    Fromm doesn't have the big arm of Justin Herbert or Eason, and he doesn't have the dynamic athleticism of Jalen Hurts or Fields. He's an intelligent signal-caller who has the leadership qualities every NFL team covets.

    But you can't make the kinds of decisions he did against the Gamecocks in the pros.

    Entering Saturday's contest, Fromm was one of the steadiest (if not prolific) passers in the country, having thrown for 1,076 passing yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions during a 5-0 start. Fromm also had a 77.6 completion percentage.

    But he completed just 54.9 percent of his passes against South Carolina, and the four turnovers (and he also had a fumble) were costly in a loss.

    Will a single performance cause Fromm to plummet down draft boards? Surely not. But UGA has some huge showdowns upcoming, and if there's a slew of mediocre showings after this, Fromm's stock could drop. Saturday was a red flag.

Riser: CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma Wide Receiver

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    With Marquise "Hollywood" Brown's immediate impact in the NFL this season, it makes playmakers coming out of that Oklahoma offense even more attractive.

    Coach Lincoln Riley has shown he has the Midas touch with Brown and quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

    Receiver CeeDee Lamb looks like the next can't-miss superstar coming out of Norman, along with Alabama transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts. Against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, Lamb's massive day did nothing but help his stock.

    The 6'2", 189-pound pass-catcher showed his elusiveness and speed, making five Texas defenders miss after hauling in a flea-flicker for a 51-yard touchdown. He also made a brilliant move to break two tackles on another touchdown.

    For the day, he wound up with 10 catches for 171 yards and three touchdowns. USA Today's Luke Easterling wrote, "Don't be surprised if he's in the conversation to be the top receiver taken in the 2020 NFL draft."

    It's not a stretch at this point.

    Lamb may be just shy of superhuman, but he now has 10 scoring grabs this season, and perhaps the coolest thing about him is he seems to be a great teammate who cares about what the Sooners do. The NFL surely will come, but it can wait.

    "Considering what was at stake at this game, that was obviously a great experience," Lamb said of his performance in the win over Texas, according to the Washington Post's Chuck Culpepper

    With Brown in the NFL in front of Lamb and budding stars like Jadon Haselwood, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges behind him, pro scouts are going to be making a ton of stops in Norman.

Faller: Alaric Jackson, Iowa Offensive Tackle

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    There should have been a lot of excitement with Alaric Jackson returning to the Iowa lineup in Week 6 after battling a knee injury that kept him out a few weeks.

    Instead, what was expected to be the Hawkeyes' biggest strength (offensive line) this season continued to be a puzzling area that needs major improvement.

    Jackson whiffed a couple of times Saturday and had difficulty slowing Penn State pass-rushers Yetur Gross-Matos and Micah Parsons, who spent too much time in the offensive backfield. Perhaps worse, Iowa mustered just 70 rushing yards.

    Yes, Penn State is in the top two nationally in scoring defense, but this was a major test for Jackson and fellow offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs, and they didn't fare too well.

    Jackson was a freshman All-American two years ago and a second-team All-Big Ten performer last year, but he has struggled at times this season and battled health issues. Wirfs hasn't experienced as strong a season as he'd like, either, but he'll likely get picked high no matter what.

    The 6'6", 320-pound Jackson could slip.

    "A football game starts with us," Wirfs told the Des Moines Register's Mark Emmert after the loss to Penn State. "We start the play pretty much. So if we're going, then everyone else is going." 

    This is two consecutive games Iowa has sputtered offensively, and that falls on the shoulders of the offensive line.

Riser: Zack Baun, Wisconsin Linebacker

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    Zack Baun is an NFL scout's dream.

    He has good enough athleticism that he was a high school quarterback, and he's worked hard enough to rebuild his body into a 6'3", 235-pound outside linebacker. He has all the intangibles you love, too, as a captain on Wisconsin's defense and an undisputed leader of the nation's top unit.

    On Saturday against Michigan State, he wreaked havoc throughout the afternoon, helping his Badgers to their third shutout of the season in a 38-0 win. He was all over the field, swarming ball-carriers and making things generally difficult for Brian Lewerke and Michigan State.

    With the Badgers leading 24-0 in the fourth quarter, he one-handed a Lewerke pass and out-sprinted everybody for a 34-yard pick-six.

    After Baun had shown his relentlessness throughout the game, he made the most of the opportunity to flash his athleticism. He's the centerpiece of a dominant defense.

    "Our motto is don't let them get anything," Baun said after the game, per Wisconsin's KLUR Channel 8's Jim Polzin. "We're a gritty defense and we're really stingy."

    Baun started the year registering a sack in each of his first three games and already has a pair of strip-sacks, so he is an impact tackler who forces turnovers. Though he sometimes gets too much depth off the edge and out of his lanes, he's effectively fast and gets into the backfield consistently.

    As a redshirt senior, Baun has taken his time in college to develop, learn and grow into a surefire, next-level player.

Faller: Steven Montez, Colorado Quarterback

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    With a lot of the college football nation watching a Friday night Pac-12 game and with the expected top quarterback in the upcoming NFL draft on the other side in Oregon's Justin Herbert, Colorado's Steven Montez had a golden opportunity to make a major move with the scouts.

    It didn't work out the way he hoped.

    Yes, Montez has ideal size and superb athleticism for a franchise quarterback with a 6'5", 230-pound stature, impressive wheels and excellent arm strength. But he hasn't been able to put everything together mechanically or with his decision-making.

    Against the vaunted Ducks defense, Montez threw interceptions on four consecutive possessions en route to an embarrassing 45-3 loss. He also was not able to lead the Buffaloes to a touchdown after they had it 1st-and-goal from the 3.

    It was a nightmare night for Montez.

    He can make all the throws, juke defenders in the open field and get yardage when plays break down. But his consistency is a major issue.

    In a crop of quarterbacks that is deep and talented with Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, Jake Fromm, Joe Burrow and perhaps Jacob Eason, Jordan Love and others, Montez needs to do some things to separate himself. 

    A showing like this can plummet his stock. 

Riser: Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky Athlete

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    Kentucky is slogging through an injury-riddled 3-3 start to the season, but the Wildcats got their first SEC win of the year on Saturday night, and they did it without a true quarterback.

    That's OK. They had Lynn Bowden Jr. fill in and prove he could be the signal-caller. As a matter of fact, there's very little the 6'1", 199-pound junior superstar hasn't done since stepping foot in Lexington after a stellar career as a high school quarterback.

    While Bowden won't get any NFL looks as a quarterback, his versatility was on full showcase in Saturday's 24-20 win over Arkansas. Yes, the Razorbacks are bad, but getting any SEC win with a receiver playing quarterback is impressive.

    Bowden rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries and completed seven of his 11 passes for 78 yards and another score. When Kentucky twice fell behind, he led drives that helped the Wildcats take leads, showing his leadership and playmaking ability. 

    He could leave a year early, much like Kentucky's top playmaker from a season ago, running back Benny Snell Jr.

    A season ago, Bowden ranked fifth in the SEC in all-purpose yards per game with 111.9, and this year he's sixth in the nation with 149.3. 

    Though Bowden isn't discussed in the same breath as the top draft-eligible receivers, he can be an instant-impact player. Games like Saturday's in which you show you're a win-at-all-costs, plug-and-play star can get you firmly on the NFL radar.

    Bowden is an intriguing prospect who'll be fun to watch develop.

Faller: Marvin Wilson, Florida State Defensive Tackle

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    It has been a difficult season for Florida State, and Saturday was one of the most frustrating games, as the Seminoles barely put up a fight against an elite Clemson team that finally got everything together.

    The Tigers had struggled offensively for a lot of the year but dominated FSU's defense along with star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who was a nonfactor in the loss.

    Wilson is one of the most fearsome interior rush linemen not just in the ACC, but in the entire nation. But against Clemson's offensive front, Wilson did very little.

    He rarely got any pressure on Trevor Lawrence, and most alarming for the Noles was that Travis Etienne and the Tigers ran all over Florida State as well. 

    The rush defense woes Saturday fall partly on his shoulders. The Tigers averaged 7.3 yards per play when their first-team offense was in there, according to the Tallahassee Democrat's Curt Weiler.

    "I feel like we did OK, but not what we need to do to win the game. We need to be a whole lot better," Wilson said, per Weiler.

    This was the opportunity for Wilson to spearhead a strong effort against one of the nation's top teams. At the very least, he could have made some impact plays to keep his name on the minds of pro scouts. Instead, he struggled along with the rest of the Seminoles.