Biggest NFL Draft Risers and Fallers After Week 10 of College Football
There were not a lot of must-see showdowns in college football on Saturday, but there were plenty of can't-miss NFL prospects going at it.
A number of games had elite players on both sides of the ball trying to make some noise. For some, it was about padding stats against lesser opponents. Others had opportunities to make plays when the brightest lights were on.
In some cases, like with Memphis' game against SMU, another fringe prospect stole the show from a definite draftee.
While some, like Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm, got back on track and just missed the list, others found their way on as the biggest risers or fallers. In the case of Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, he flashed some worrisome traits even while being the Irish hero.
It was an odd day to make heads or tails of the stars who helped their cause or who would love a do-over. Let's take a look at the biggest movers and shakers in this week's NFL draft risers and fallers.
Riser: Andrew Thomas, Georgia Offensive Tackle
If there was any question who the No. 1 overall offensive lineman taken in the 2020 draft should be, Georgia's Andrew Thomas put that to rest Saturday afternoon.
It's probably between him and Washington tackle Trey Adams, but Thomas is a mauling force who was the best player in college football's best game.
A Georgia offense that has struggled to find its footing under new coordinator James Coley got right against the Gators, and Thomas was a big part of it. He controlled the line of scrimmage, helping pave the way for D'Andre Swift's 86 yards against a normally stingy Gators front seven.
Most importantly, Thomas was a big part of keeping Jake Fromm's pocket empty and his jersey clean. Yes, the Gators were without a healthy Jabari Zuniga, whose snaps were limited, and Jonathan Greenard wasn't 100 percent, either. But Thomas controlled the line of scrimmage.
The Bulldogs churned out 398 yards of total offense and were in command for the majority of the 24-17 win. Thomas is a guy who can play tackle or guard in the NFL, and any team needing a franchise lineman should be salivating over his ability.
Faller: Ian Book, Notre Dame Quarterback
There may be some hatred thrown in this direction for including Ian Book in the "Fallers" category, especially after his Saturday heroics against Virginia Tech.
The senior signal-caller led Notre Dame on a game-winning drive against the Hokies in a 21-20 victory, threw for 336 yards, ran for 50 more and accounted for all three Irish touchdowns.
Here's the thing: It never should have been that close.
The Irish were more than 17-point favorites over a Hokies team without its starting quarterback. They're 66th in total defense and have struggled mightily at times in legendary coordinator Bud Foster's final season.
NFL teams want to see Book throw the ball better and make quality decisions, and he didn't do that. He had an atrocious interception in the red zone in the first half when it looked like he never saw Dax Hollifield.
Book wound up throwing a pair of interceptions, and he made another awful decision on a jump-ball pass that was picked off late, but the turnover was negated because of a roughing-the-passer penalty. Book, to his credit, made the most of his second chance.
Yes, he's a gamer and a terrific college playmaker. But he is not a sure-fire NFL signal-caller, and Saturday went further in showing that.
Riser: Jamie Newman, Wake Forest Quarterback
There are a ton of excellent quarterbacks who are NFL draft-eligible in what could be a banner year for the most important position on the field. Franchises are licking their chops at the chance to get their hands on several of the can't-miss guys across the country.
One under-the-radar player, though, is Wake Forest's Jamie Newman.
As a redshirt junior, he doesn't have to go to the league, and it's probably smarter he doesn't. But Newman is about to turn 22 years old, and he has the ability and the acumen to do things with his arm or his feet. This season has proved that.
With a weapon like Sage Surratt at his disposal, Newman has shone. He diced North Carolina State on Saturday for 287 passing yards and three scores, and with the Wolfpack keying on him, he still managed an additional 30 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Newman has 20 passing touchdowns against five interceptions this year and, most importantly, has shown improved accuracy. He also has 305 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground for a team that needs every bit of his running threat.
The Demon Deacons are one of college football's surprise teams with just one loss. Newman likely will stay for another season, but if he elects to go to the NFL, the 6'4", 230-pounder is an intriguing option.
Faller: CJ Henderson, Florida Cornerback
Florida's vaunted secondary was exposed Saturday, and the most frustrating thing for the Gators is it came against a Georgia team whose biggest weakness has been its young and inconsistent receiving corps.
That wasn't the case in a 24-17 win, and the biggest surprise perhaps to some came with Miami transfer wide receiver Lawrence Cager dominating CJ Henderson throughout the game.
It was Henderson's mistake that led to Cager's 52-yard catch on blown coverage to make the score 24-10 in the fourth quarter after a two-point conversion. Henderson was also flagged for a defensive pass interference, and though he wasn't the culprit on all of Cager's seven catches for 132 yards, it was enough.
Just this week, SI.com's Jeremy Klump hailed the 6'1", 191-pounder as the NFL's next shutdown cornerback, but the past two Gators defenders who were supposed to be elite (Vernon Hargreaves III and Teez Tabor) haven't panned out yet.
Is Henderson next?
He has the size and speed and has shown flashes of brilliance, but Saturday definitely wasn't one of them. It's one he'd like to have back.
Riser: Juwan Johnson, Oregon Wide Receiver
It was a massive day for transfer receivers.
While Georgia's Lawrence Cager (discussed on the previous slide) probably made himself some money, Oregon transfer receiver Juwan Johnson did his own damage against USC's talented, young defensive backs in the Ducks' easy 56-24 win.
The former Penn State pass-catcher could have been Sean Clifford's top target had he stayed in Happy Valley this season, but he instead went West, where Justin Herbert was slinging darts for the Ducks.
With a number of NFL scouts watching the marquee, prime-time game between the Pac-12 powers, Johnson showed out.
He wound up with seven catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns in a big win to help the Ducks maintain control over the Pac-12 North and knock the Trojans down a couple of notches. It's looking like Oregon and Utah are on a collision course for the conference championship.
When Johnson transferred, he was supposed to be the man who replaced Dillon Mitchell as Herbert's top target, but a calf injury caused him to miss the first four games of the year.
Then Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III became the primary weapons, while Jacob Breeland and Mycah Pittman rounded out the rotation. Now healthy, the 6'4", 231-pounder showed everybody why Mario Cristobal was excited to get him.
If this is just the beginning of Johnson's big second half of the season, he could be an X-factor for the Ducks and make a name for himself in the NFL.
Faller: Cam Akers, Florida State Running Back
Everybody is talking about the quarterbacks in this year's class, but the runners are pretty remarkable too.
Between Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard, Travis Etienne, Zack Moss, AJ Dillon, D'Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, Ke'Shawn Vaughn and others, it's going to be a jumbled pack of talented, all-around runners.
A talented playmaker may wind up sliding down the list, and what if it's Florida State's Cam Akers, perhaps the most physically gifted of the bunch?
FSU had struggled mightily under coach Willie Taggart, and Akers' issues Saturday personified the program's struggles from the past two seasons.
With offensive line and quarterback problems, it's obvious the Mississippi product and 5-star prospect won't live up to his immense potential while in college, even though he's posting solid numbers.
He has a definite chance to break out in the pros, but Saturday's 27-10 loss to rival Miami was another struggle for him. He ran the ball 22 times for just 66 yards and could never get going.
The 5'11", 212-pound running back is just shy of 1,000 yards on the season and is without a doubt the Seminoles' biggest star. But with Taylor, Hubbard and others doing damage, Akers may slide.
That would be a major mistake by NFL teams to pass on his talent, but he needs better days than Saturday.
Riser: Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State Running Back
What more do you want to see from Chuba Hubbard?
The redshirt sophomore is the best running back in college football this year, and that's lofty praise, considering the amount of talent across the country.
On Saturday against a TCU run defense that was first in the conference and 15th nationally, allowing just 103 rushing yards per game, Hubbard finished with 223 yards on 20 carries and scored two times in the big win over the Horned Frogs in Stillwater.
He leads the nation in rushing yards and has now scored 18 touchdowns. Not only can he grind out the tough yards between the tackles, but he's also a home run threat.
The backbreakers killed TCU, as Hubbard had scoring runs of 62 and 92 yards.
"Obviously, Chuba was fantastic," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told the Fort Worth Star Telegram's Drew Davison. "He ran his plays. He has done the same thing he has always done for the most part. The difference being that when Chuba gets through there, nobody can catch him. That makes him different from other players."
He still has two years of eligibility, so it's possible Hubbard could return and team with Spencer Sanders to form a formidable duo for the Cowboys next year. But why? He's showing everybody he's the top back in the country already.
NFL teams have to see that too.
Faller: Alton Robinson, Syracuse Edge
One of the biggest surprises of Syracuse's resurgent 2018 season was its defense, but that hasn't carried over into this disappointing season. The 3-6 Orange allowed 58 points to Boston College on Saturday in what was perhaps their most embarrassing showing so far.
'Cuse had no answer for Boston College's AJ Dillon (242 rushing yards, three touchdowns) or David Bailey (172 rushing yards, two touchdowns).
One of the biggest NFL potential prospects on coach Dino Babers' team this year has struggled, and he routinely got out of his rush lanes against the Eagles. That is defensive end Alton Robinson, who too often pins his ears back and just goes after quarterbacks rather than playing his position and the ball.
Even though the talented edge-rusher consistently gets in the offensive backfield, he's struggling to disrupt plays. That was the case against Boston College as well.
Some NFL team is going to take a shot on the fearsome 6'4", 260-pound pass-rusher, but there's no glossing over his disappointing year. Robinson has just 6.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks, and two of those quarterback takedowns came against Western Michigan.
If the Orange are going to turn things around, they need Robinson to help carry them.
Riser: Damonte Coxie, Memphis Wide Receiver
It's not every weekend scouts get to watch an American Athletic Conference game that is loaded with NFL prospects, but Saturday night's prime-time showdown between the unbeaten SMU Mustangs and the Memphis Tigers was one of them. In the Tigers' 54-48 win, there were plenty of playmakers all around.
From T.J. Carter to James Proche to Shane Buechele to Joey Magnifico to Brady White, there were several guys who could play on Sundays.
Plenty of pro scouts probably were there to see Proche, the SMU receiver who is expected to follow in Courtland Sutton's footsteps. He didn't disappoint, either, with 13 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown.
But it was another receiver on the other side who showed out just as much if not more.
Memphis' Damonte Coxie torched SMU for seven catches, 143 yards and two TDs in a huge win for coach Mike Norvell's program. Yes, his teammate Antonio Gibson splashed onto the radar, scoring three different ways (rushing, receiving and kick return), but Coxie is a legit riser.
NFL teams are going to love Coxie's size at 6'3", 197 pounds, and he's going to get plenty of targets from gunslinging quarterback Brady White all year.
But there won't be a bigger stage for him than Saturday night's game on ABC, and he performed in a major way, probably making himself some money in the process.
Faller: Jordan Love, Utah State Quarterback
If you've watched a Utah State game on television this year, you've heard the excuses.
"He has a brand-new coaching staff."
"His supporting cast is completely different."
"The offensive line isn't giving him enough time."
All of these things are true, but the bottom line is Aggies uber-talented signal-caller Jordan Love isn't the same quarterback he was a year ago when he was the most unheralded dynamic player in college football.
This season, he's more turnover-prone, and he's running for his life. He also hasn't adapted as well to new coach Gary Andersen's offensive scheme. Against a 3-4 BYU team Saturday night, Love threw three interceptions and was also stripped of the ball, fumbling in the fourth quarter.
He had another fumble overturned because replay showed his arm was moving forward, and it made for a forgettable night for one of the most explosive quarterbacks in the country.
NFL teams are going to love the mixture of size (6'4", 225 lbs), athleticism and arm strength for the Aggies quarterback, but he was the perfect player for former coach Matt Wells' offense. Now, Wells has moved on to Texas Tech, and the Aggies are 4-4 and trying to find their way.
They were physically dominated Saturday night, and Love's body language and statistics weren't ideal. How much will games like the one against the Cougars hurt him with the NFL scouts?
Riser: Shaq Quarterman, Miami Inside Linebacker
It hasn't been the easiest career for Miami middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman, who has seen plenty of ups and downs throughout two coaching tenures (Mark Richt and Manny Diaz).
Through it all, he has been a steadying force.
That was the case again Saturday against Florida State in a 27-10 win. He was dynamic at times in helping slow down Cam Akers, the best running back the Hurricanes will play this year.
The 6'1", 241-pound middle linebacker went from a third-team All-ACC selection his freshman year to a second-team pick to a first-team pick last year as a junior. He'll probably repeat that this year because of games like Saturday's.
Quarterman bottled up Akers, holding him to 66 rushing yards. He finished with nine tackles to lead a relentless, aggressive Hurricanes team, and he also registered 3.5 tackles for a loss.
According to CBS Sports, Quarterman isn't even among the top 10 draft-eligible linebackers this year, which seems ridiculous after the consistency he's shown.
Just this week, the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson had a story where one NFL executive said Quarterman was a late-round pick because of speed concerns. If that's the case, somebody is going to get an excellent, heady defender with a chip on his shoulder.
Games like Saturday's against elite runners can help Quarterman slide into perhaps the middle rounds.