Biggest NFL Draft Risers and Fallers After Week 13 of College Football
It was a day of symmetry for the NFL draft risers and fallers throughout Week 13's college football landscape.
Weirdly enough, two Treys (both offensive linemen), two Brandons and a pair of edge-rushers whose teams played against each other are on this list. Also surprisingly enough, there is just one quarterback.
While Washington's Jacob Eason and Georgia's Jake Fromm (still more symmetry, as Fromm beat out Eason a couple years ago for the starting Bulldogs job, sending Eason home to Washington) had forgettable days, neither warranted inclusion as a faller.
It seems at this point, Fromm is universally expected to be a low first-round pick, and Eason's inconsistency would make him a surprise selection in the first round. There were others who helped or hurt themselves more than those two.
After yet another wacky day in the sport, let's take a look at a few guys who flew up draft boards and some who may have seen their stock take a tumble.
Riser: Chase Young, Ohio State Edge
It's hard to rise any higher than Chase Young already was on draft boards.
But with Tua Tagovailoa injured, it should be a two-man battle to be the top overall pick in the NFL draft between the Ohio State junior edge-rusher and LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.
Of course, the pick will depend on need, but there's no surer thing in the draft than Young, a generational talent who has the potential to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year as a rookie.
Yes, he's that good.
After a two-game suspension, Young returned against Penn State and made perhaps the biggest impact any defensive player has in a game this year, recording nine tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
He set Ohio State single-season sack record with 16.5 in just nine games. The Nittany Lions had to scheme for him on every play, and they were still unable to block him with one man.
There's no denying Burrow has been dynamic on college football's best offense and top-ranked team, but Young has led arguably the nation's top defense for another undefeated program. If the Buckeyes and Tigers meet in the national title game, nobody will be surprised.
While he is battling Burrow for the top overall pick, it's also a two-man race for the Heisman Trophy right now, too.
Faller: Justin Herbert, Oregon Quarterback
While this year has the potential to be a transcendent quarterback class, there are question marks about everybody.
Joe Burrow wasn't even considered a first-round pick until his remarkable breakout season. Tua Tagovailoa is injured. Jake Fromm has been average at best this year. Jordan Love has struggled with a new head coach. Jacob Eason is erratic.
The one constant with a pro set of skills was Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who was enjoying the type of can't-miss season he wanted when he returned to Eugene for his senior season, leading the Ducks to what looked like a collision course with Utah in the Pac-12 title game for a College Football Playoff berth.
Then, Saturday night happened.
The tall, strong-armed quarterback looked average against Arizona State's defense. While it's normal for quarterbacks to have off nights, Herbert picked an awful time to have his, and it resulted in a 31-28 loss to the Sun Devils that knocked the Ducks out of playoff contention.
It wasn't just his fault, of course. The Oregon defense let the team down, too.
Herbert completed 20-of-36 passes for 304 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, but he was horrible for three quarters as Oregon dug a 24-7 hole. Yes, he nearly brought the Ducks all the way back in what would have been a heroic comeback, but he didn't.
This is the kind of game that could see him tumble a couple of spots in a tightly contested battle for pecking order among QBs in the draft. He still looks like a top-three quarterback in the draft, though.
Riser: Trey Smith, Tennessee Offensive Guard
There are a ton of questions about Tennessee junior offensive guard Trey Smith.
His ability to dominate defensive linemen isn't one of them.
After missing much of last season with a blood clots issue, the 6'6", 325-pound mauler returned to the Vols to play this season despite not practicing full-go at all throughout the spring or preseason drills. He played out of position as a sophomore tackle a season ago but returned to his pro spot this year.
All he's done is become one of the best linemen in the SEC. The former ESPN top-ranked high school prospect is living up to his massive billing, and, thankfully, team doctors are keeping Smith's health issues at bay by monitoring him daily.
Against Missouri, Tennessee found running lanes behind Smith despite the Vols having a paltry rushing attack much of the season. He's the team's top pass protector, and he's without a doubt a first-round talent.
But the blood clots are a major red flag, right?
Hopefully, an NFL team will know how to manage it and draft Smith high if he elects to come out this year. As strong as his season has been and with the history of issues, he should forgo his final season and test the waters.
As SEC Network analyst Cole Cubelic said during the Vols-Tigers game Saturday night after one particular dominant play, there's no question about Smith's ability. He has a bright future if he can stay healthy.
Talents like him don't stay on the board long.
Faller: Trey Adams, Washington Offensive Tackle
This has been a forgettable season for the proud Washington Huskies, who are finding it to be tough sledding in the post-Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin era. Neither side of the ball has lived up to expectations as the Huskies have sputtered to a 6-5 record.
One of the most disappointing games of the season came Saturday night in a loss to Colorado that left coach Chris Petersen shaking his head at the end.
Quarterback Jacob Eason has been inconsistent throughout the year, but his offensive line has let him down at times, too. Saturday's game was a prime example, as Buffaloes defenders muddied the waters by staying in the Washington backfield.
Coach Mel Tucker's defense produced five sacks against a Washington offensive line that was supposed to be the strength of the team, and first-round tackle Trey Adams hasn't played like one much of the year.
He didn't Saturday night. Multiple sacks went through his rush lane, and he outright whiffed on defenders a couple of times. Adams is lauded by NFL scouts for his combination of size (6'8", 314 lbs) and athleticism, but he looked slow against the Buffaloes.
This is not a great year for offensive tackles in the draft, which will help Adams' stock. But with an injury history and with some frustrating games under his belt, it's not out of the question he slips to a Day 2 pick.
Riser: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU Running Back
LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire should have been featured in this column way before Week 13.
But this is as good a time as any to talk about a player who gets overshadowed every week and is, at best, the fourth-best player on his own offense.
That still doesn't take away his explosiveness, versatility and potential pro impact.
Against a hapless Arkansas team, the junior running back enjoyed a monster game. Though he had just six carries, he finished with 188 rushing yards (a 31.3 average) and three touchdowns. The highlight was an 89-yard scoring scamper on his final carry.
Before then, he also had touchdown runs of 26 and 27 yards on his way to his fourth consecutive 100-yard game.
Displaying his versatility, Edwards-Helaire also had seven catches for 65 yards. It's that kind of full package that will make the 5'8", 209-pound runner an intriguing option if he elects to forgo his final season in Baton Rouge.
He now has 1,146 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He also has 39 catches for 289 yards as well. He surged to second in the SEC in rushing yards behind only Mississippi State's Kylin Hill.
Edwards-Helaire is making an impact on limited touches in a variety of ways, and NFL teams will take notice if he leaves early. If he stays, he could be a first-round pick in 2021.
Riser: Nico Collins, Michigan Wide Receiver
As Michigan's passing game has broken out the past couple of games, quarterback Shea Patterson has expanded the Wolverines playbook. That has allowed some of the exciting targets coach Jim Harbaugh has stockpiled to show what they can do.
Donovan Peoples-Jones is one of the players who is finally living up to his top recruit billing, but Saturday belonged to his 6'4", 222-pound teammate Nico Collins.
The junior pass-catcher torched Indiana for six catches, 165 yards and a trio of touchdowns in a tune-up game before next week's showdown with Ohio State.
Collins' big game now has him up to 649 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on the season. This is the kind of game scouts need to see to match up with his imposing physical prowess.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah already had high praise about Collins' ability before Saturday.
"Michigan WR Nico Collins adjusts to the ball very smoothly/easily," Jeremiah tweeted before the season. "He’s got a huge frame and he’s a very nimble athlete. Reminds me of Allen Robinson coming out of college."
That's high praise considering the former Penn State receiver is a big-bodied force for the Chicago Bears.
Even with the kind words, Collins needs productive outings on Saturdays. The performance against the Hoosiers certainly qualifies, and if he can have a similar strong effort next week against Ohio State, it will be a huge boost to his professional profile.
Faller: AJ Dillon, Boston College Running Back
We've come to expect massive games from Boston College running back AJ Dillon every week, and when that doesn't happen, everybody wonders why.
Against Notre Dame on Saturday, everybody saw the lack of explosion that will perhaps keep Dillon from being a top-three running back taken in the NFL draft.
He's big, and he can break games open once he gets to the second level before he initiates contact, and he isn't afraid to get the tough yards. But Utah's Zack Moss is that kind of running back, too, and he's having huge games in important tilts for the Utes.
Dillon was a nonfactor against a Fighting Irish defense that keyed on him and wound up smothering the Eagles in a 40-7 win.
The 6'0", 250-pound running back had just 56 yards on 14 carries and failed to find the end zone in a massive nationally televised game. Yes, he has more than 1,500 rushing yards this season and is among the nation's best, but when you play for a bad team, you need to show up in the marquee showdowns.
Dillon didn't for the second time in four games.
Between the speed backs like J.K. Dobbins and D'Andre Swift and stud big backs like Moss and Jonathan Taylor, as well as guys who can do both like Chuba Hubbard and Najee Harris, where does Dillon fall in the draft? Big backs like him normally aren't taken high.
If Dillon does decide to come out, he could be a fourth-round pick, and that's not high enough for a player of his ilk. Dillon already has accomplished a ton on the collegiate level, and he would risk injury coming back, but what kind of prospect is he?
It will be interesting to see which NFL team views him as a difference-maker.
Riser: Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State Wide Reciever
With one massive play, Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk's name became one people around college football committed to memory.
After Oregon had stormed back to close a shocking Arizona State lead to three points, the Sun Devils' 6'1", 206-pound receiver put on a brilliant double move on a curl-and-go, and freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels hit him for an 81-yard game-clinching touchdown.
Suddenly, one of college football's top deep threats became one of the showcase players in the biggest upset of the week and one of the biggest of the season.
Aiyuk has been a weapon all year, though. He went over 1,000 receiving yards for the season in the game, and the scoring grab was his eighth of the year. But is he just a one-trick pony?
There's no question Aiyuk can take the lid off defenses with his speed, and that is a coveted attribute for NFL teams. Against the best secondary he'll face all year, Aiyuk delivered the signature play and had his second monster weekend in a row after last week's 173-yard game in a loss to Oregon State.
Earlier this season, he piled up 196 yards and three touchdowns against Washington State.
But those big games were against poor defenses. Saturday's was not, and even though those stats were padded by the huge play, it was the game-deciding grab.
This can only boost Aiyuk's stock. Somebody is going to take him on Day 2 of the draft, and another game or two like Saturday's will only help him continue to rise.
Faller: Brandon Jones, Texas Safety
From one poster play on one end of the spectrum to another, Texas safety Brandon Jones' performance Saturday could have the opposite effect as Aiyuk's.
It's been a bad season for a Longhorns team that was expected to compete for the Big 12 and perhaps even national title this season. Injuries and defensive issues have tarnished the year, and coach Tom Herman's team barely put up a fight in a lopsided loss to Baylor that dropped it to 6-5.
Jones is expected to be one of the first safeties taken in the NFL draft, but he had a forgettable game against the Bears.
That showing was lowlighted by John Lovett plowing over him at the goal line for a touchdown. Rather than deliver a jaw-jarring hit to keep him out of the end zone, Jones lowered his head and basically laid down, barely getting in Lovett's way.
It was that kind of day for the Horns, and this was a microcosm of the tackling issues that have plagued them all season.
Baylor had success running and throwing the ball, controlling the game from the outset and looking much better in the second half than they did a week ago in a collapse against Oklahoma.
Jones has struggled at times throughout the year despite leading the team with 74 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and two interceptions. There just haven't been enough explosive plays for Jones, and Saturday was not a good look for the senior safety.
One play isn't going to see him tumble down the list, but other safeties are having better years on better teams.
Riser: Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State Edge
It's easy to get overshadowed when you're in the massive shade cast by Chase Young, the most dominant defensive player college football has seen in decades.
But Penn State edge-rusher Yetur Gross-Matos had an outstanding game against the Buckeyes on Saturday, too. While Micah Parsons and Brandon Smith made a couple of solid plays in the second half, it was Gross-Matos who saw his NFL stock surge.
He's already considered an NFL first-round pick, but Saturday should have solidified it.
The man with a relentless engine finished with nine tackles, including 3.5 for a loss and two sacks of his own. Those numbers were Young-like.
The 6'5", 264-pound junior is a dominant pass-rusher who is strong in all facets of the game, and he's exactly the kind of player NFL teams drool over in that first round. Between him, Young and Iowa's A.J. Epenesa, three can't-miss edge-rushers are in the Big Ten.
"A loss is a loss, I don’t care what the score is," Gross-Matos told the Sun-Gazette's Cory Giger. "We’ve got to find a way to win, especially in critical situations where you can win."
That's the kind of player you want suiting up, and he has the size, speed and ability to go along with it. Saturday's loss to the Buckeyes proved Penn State's junior is the complete package.