Biggest NFL Draft Risers and Fallers After Week 12 of College Football

Brad Shepard@@Brad_ShepardFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2019

Biggest NFL Draft Risers and Fallers After Week 12 of College Football

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    College football brought us a late-season Separation Saturday in an action-packed day. Two of the Power Five undefeated teams went down, and plenty of the powers held serve.

    While Tua Tagovailoa's injury could have NFL draft ramifications, he's not included here because it's not fair to speculate on draft status after major injuries. There was one signal-caller whose big game should help him creep further up the radar, though.

    Another pair of quarterbacks' stocks took a hit after poor performances.

    While a couple of defenders could have helped their earning potential with big games, one of the best and a first-round lock had the type of game he'd like to redo.

    There were plenty of movers and shakers with NFL scouts watching, as always, so let's take a look at the biggest risers and fallers from Week 12 of college football.

    As always, share your additions and opinions in the comments.  

Riser: Richard LeCounte III, Georgia Safety

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    LSU's Grant Delpit (more on him later) gets most of the headlines when it comes to elite SEC safeties, but there's another playmaking machine who should be surging up draft boards.

    Bulldogs 5'11", 190-pound junior safety Richard LeCounte III was once a star prospect, and he's living up to those massive expectations this year. He's rangy and can play the pass, and he's also physical enough to step up in the box and be a tackling force.

    LeCounte gives you everything you want at the position, and you'd better believe NFL teams are taking notice.

    Coach Kirby Smart has Georgia's defense playing at an extremely high level, and that continued in Saturday's 21-14 win over Auburn. The Bulldogs swarmed all around the ball, and LeCounte impacts every game he plays. It was no different against the Tigers in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

    After delivering a massive hit early that set the tone, he finished with six tackles, including one for a loss. He also recovered a fumble.

    Georgia has stars on all levels of the defense, and the Bulldogs are controlling games because of their ability to limit plays and possessions despite some inconsistency on offense. LeCounte is one of the biggest playmakers on the team, and watch him continue to surge up draft boards because of it.

    He should be firmly in the first round.

Faller: Brian Lewerke, Michigan State Quarterback

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Throughout his career in East Lansing, Brian Lewerke has been hailed as a potential NFL prospect.

    At 6'3", 216 pounds, he has the size. He's shown at times he has good enough arm strength, and his athleticism makes him an intriguing option because he's not statuesque in the pocket.

    But the production hasn't matched.

    Lewerke has been pulled from starting lineups throughout a struggle-filled final two seasons with the Spartans, and he's always had issues against rival Michigan. 

    Though Saturday's performance was nowhere near last year's 5-of-25 nightmare, he finished just 17-of-30 for 166 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions in a 44-10 loss. When Lewerke plays against fast, physical defenses, he can't produce.

    So far this season, Lewerke has thrown for 2,178 yards and 13 touchdowns along with nine interceptions. But six of those scoring tosses came against Western Michigan and Northwestern. The lone bright spot was a three-touchdown effort in a 40-31 win over a decent Indiana team.

    At this point, though, with a terrific class of quarterbacks ready to come out, it's hard envisioning Lewerke being anything more than a late-round pick.

    He has some tools, and if he gets in the right kind of system, maybe those can be developed in the pros. But this has not been the type of senior season Lewerke needed to turn heads, and Saturday's showing against the Wolverines didn't help.

Riser: Shaun Wade, Ohio State Cornerback

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    You can almost always count on Ohio State defensive backs coming off the board relatively early. The pipeline former coach Urban Meyer cultivated has been impressive, to say the least, and he recruited another few guys who are going to continue that trend.

    They've developed under first-year coach Ryan Day just fine.

    Two of the names heard most often as first-round possibilities are Jeffrey Okudah and Damon Arnette. Both are physical, do-it-all shutdown corners who have the attention of scouts everywhere.

    But don't forget about Shaun Wade, a redshirt sophomore who could wind up exiting Columbus after this season. He's more of a Minkah Fitzpatrick type who is versatile enough to play multiple positions on the back end, and that's something they're going to love in the pros.

    While Wade has work to do in press-man coverage, he reads defenses as well as any defensive back in the country and can come up and make big plays in the run game too.

    Wade was brilliant in Saturday's lopsided win over Rutgers, setting up two first-half touchdowns with an interception and a forced fumble.

    Defensive end Chase Young rightfully gets most of the attention when the Buckeyes are on defense, but there are numerous other elite defenders who have shone with Young suspended for two games. 

    The stars in the secondary have helped carry that unit all year, and Wade's big game will help him continue to climb up draft boards.

Faller: Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt Running Back

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    Much like at the quarterback position, it's not easy to find separation in scouts' eyes at running back this year, with so many legit backs churning out big games.

    Jonathan Taylor, Chuba Hubbard, Cam Akers, AJ Dillon, D'Andre Swift, Najee Harris, Travis Etienne and several other backs have everyone's attention, and so does Vanderbilt playmaker Ke'Shawn Vaughn.

    NFL scouts should love Vaughn's big-play ability, and he's proved over his short time at Vanderbilt after transferring from Illinois that he is a threat to score from anywhere on the field. But with the Commodores struggling mightily at quarterback this year, sledding has been much tougher for Vaughn.

    He still has nearly 900 rushing yards this year, but he's averaging fewer than five yards per carry. With Kentucky focusing on stuffing him Saturday, he couldn't get going. The senior finished with 58 yards on 12 carries and caught two passes for nine yards. He also fumbled.

    Early on, it looked like Vaughn and the 'Dores would give the Wildcats a handful, building a 14-3 lead. But Kentucky soon pummeled Vanderbilt's defense with its ground game on its way to a 38-14 win.

    Vaughn still has the ability to be a difference-maker in any game, but he was not at his best against a Wildcats defensive front seven that has been pretty good at times this year. There will be better days for the VU senior, who has two games left in his college career.

Riser: Jake Luton, Oregon State Quarterback

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    Steve Dykes/Associated Press

    You may not have heard of Oregon State sixth-year senior Jake Luton, who has played for three college programs throughout his winding road of a career.

    NFL teams have, though.

    After stops at Ventura College and Idaho, Luton wound up in Corvallis, where he's thrived under coach Jonathan Smith. The Beavers' terrific turnaround this year got its biggest boost Saturday with a 35-34 win over Arizona State, and Luton again was front and center.

    The 6'7", 229-pound signal-caller completed 26 of 35 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns. So far this season, Luton has 23 touchdowns against just two interceptions, and he is the prime reason why Oregon State is 5-5 and needs to upset either Washington State or Oregon to get bowl-eligible.

    Luton already has accepted a Hula Bowl invitation, which will be another showcase opportunity for him, but the biggest resume-builder will come in the next two weeks.

    Against the Cougars, Oregon State will doubtlessly be in a shootout-type game where Luton can post big numbers. Of course, if the Beavers could somehow pull off the biggest upset in the Pac-12 and beat the Ducks, Luton will make some noise too.

    He already has the attention of Pac-12 defensive coordinators.

    "They got an NFL quarterback that nobody is talking about," Washington defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake told the News Tribune's Lauren Kirschman. "This guy will be playing on Sundays. He can make all the throws."

    Don't be surprised if his size and throwing ability allow him to creep into Day 2 of the draft.

Faller: Grant Delpit, LSU Safety

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    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    There's no question LSU elite safety Grant Delpit is going to make some NFL team happy, likely early in the first round.

    But this hasn't been the greatest year for the 6'3", 203-pound safety, who has battled nagging injuries. He has just 32 tackles and one interception this season, and while everybody should be enamored with his size, athleticism and ceiling, the production has been down.

    Most of the attention has been around the Tigers' electrifying offense, and rightfully so. The defense, on the other hand, has taken some knocks. Part of the reason is it has been on the field a lot, but coordinator Dave Aranda's unit isn't as good as it has been in years past.

    Delpit would like to have his game back against Ole Miss.

    The Rebels churned out more than 600 yards of offense in rolling up 37 points, and Delpit was a nonfactor against the run. He spent much of Saturday night running after John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Ealy, taking poor angles and biting on bad reads.

    Every week, Delpit seems to be on the field despite struggling with an injury, and it's obvious he isn't himself. When he's healthy, he plays at the highest level and is one of the best defenders in college football.

    But he hasn't enjoyed a great season, and Saturday was perhaps his worst game of the year.

Riser: Chase Claypool, Notre Dame Receiver

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Chase Claypool is a problem.

    He has been all year, and he definitely was for the Navy Midshipmen in Saturday's 52-20 dispatching of the nation's No. 23-ranked team.

    Ian Book threw five touchdowns, and four of them went to Claypool, whose highlight-reel, turnaround touchdown grab was a SportsCenter highlight.

    There are plenty of standout pass-catchers in college football, but games like Saturday's will help Claypool stand out.

    "Chase is unstoppable," Fighting Irish defensive end Khalid Kareem told the Indianapolis Star's Mike Berardino. "Dude's 6'5", probably 225 [pounds]. You can't stop him. He's amazing. He's going to have huge success in the NFL."

    That size is intriguing for any NFL team, and Claypool is also smart and has a huge catch radius with his frame. Book talked in that article about how intelligent Claypool is too, and all that will test well in interviews with teams at the NFL combine.

    There are other receivers who get more headlines than Claypool, but he's the complete package. He now has 768 receiving yards and nine scoring grabs on the season. Those numbers will help him get noticed, and he has the type of traits that will stand out when it matters most.

    The Irish have a star target on their hands, and his monster game against Navy was just the latest bullet point on a strong resume.

Faller: Jamie Newman, Wake Forest Quarterback

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    When it comes to dual-threat QBs, they're all the rage in the NFL these days. The league has shifted to where nearly as many teams have them as traditional drop-back passers.

    A few college quarterbacks with those skill sets will stay firmly on the radar, such as Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts, Ohio State's Justin Fields and Utah State's Jordan Love. Wake Forest's Jamie Newman has surged at times this year with his big junior season, but the 6'4", 230-pounder ran into Clemson on Saturday, and things were not pretty.

    Newman already was hamstrung, as leading receiver Sage Surratt was lost for the season, but he still would have had a tough time with his star pass-catcher on the field. The Tigers confused him throughout the game, and it got ugly in a 52-3 loss.

    It was obvious the Demon Deacons weren't ready to compete with the best team in the nation, and Newman wasn't at his best, either. He finished with just 41 yards on 6-of-14 passing and was a nonfactor running the ball. He also threw two interceptions in a performance that had no redeeming qualities.

    This has been a strong year for coach Dave Clawson's team, and they are among the group of ACC teams battling for that No. 2 spot way, way behind the Tigers. Newman is a reason for that with 22 touchdown passes and five more on the ground.

    But Saturday was a litmus test for the Deacs and their quarterback. They did not pass, and whether you want to admit it or not, games like this are circled by scouts. Newman may be better served to return for his senior season rather than test the waters at this point.

Riser: Jonathan Greenard, Florida Defensive Lineman

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Florida pass-rushers used to come out of the woodwork every year and be high draft selections, but the past few frustrating years leading up to the Dan Mullen era saw a dip in production at the position.

    That's no longer the case.

    Not only do the Gators have Jabari Zuniga, who is on NFL teams' radars, but also Louisville transfer Jonathan Greenard. The graduate transfer has battled injuries this year at times but was on the field and near full strength Saturday against Missouri.

    He showed out in a big way, sacking Tigers quarterback Kelly Bryant twice to spearhead a dominant Florida defensive performance. Greenard was unreal, finishing with six tackles, including five for a loss, and pressuring Bryant into an intentional grounding.

    In the words of SI.com's Zach Goodall, he "earned some serious NFL cash today."

    Goodall wrote: "Now standing at seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss, an interception, three defended passes, a forced fumble and a fumble recovered for a touchdown on the season, Greenard is cementing himself as one of the more disruptive edge-rushers in the 2020 NFL draft class. PFF credited Greenard with 30 QB pressures entering the Missouri game, and that number should be around 40 when stats are updated."

    This is not the best year for edge-rushers in the NFL draft, and a player like Greenard, who at 6'3", 263 pounds can stand up as an outside linebacker or put his hand down, is exactly the kind of difference-maker every NFL team needs.

    Games like Saturday's get attention and draw major paychecks. If Greenard continues to produce, stays healthy and grades well in workouts, he'll surge.