There won't be many better games for draftniks than what we saw Saturday night with Alabama/LSU and USC/Oregon. Those two games are the focus of our look at which NFL Draft prospects helped and hurt themselves.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
I've been saying for a couple of years that Barner was the best running back on Oregon, but he never received a brunt of the carries with LaMichael James in Eugene. He's always been noted for being able to make the big play, and now he's getting the opportunity to do it on a consistent basis. After a game of 38 carries for 321 yards and five touchdowns, Barner is racing up Heisman Trophy lists and into the conscious of NFL talent evaluators. Barner's speed is obvious, but his running strength is often understated. He showed it a few times against USC and at 192 has room to add strength (particularly in his lower body).
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
I've written plenty positive about Milliner this season. He's currently my top-rated cornerback prospect, but he's still showing improvement. Against LSU Saturday, Milliner was aggressive. Perhaps more so than any other Alabama game I've reviewed. Milliner was getting off wide receiver blocks pretty easily and getting into the back field. He's not an elite coverage cornerback at this point, but he has the all-around game that could make him a top 10 pick.
Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Before the season, the wasn't a completely clear consensus on who was the best offensive tackle prospect in the nation. It is now clearly Joeckel. The junior has routinely been dominant this season and put in another good game against Mississippi State. The left tackle can handle speed to the outside, but his biggest challenge could be against the powerful Alabama line on Saturday. Joeckel has the look of a top five pick.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
What Texas A&M's Damontre Moore has been at defensive end this season, Richardson has been at defensive tackle. The former blue chip recruit continued his excellent play against Florida Saturday with six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Missouri is having a down year, but it's not because of Richardson.
Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
I've been meaning to write something about Archer for several weeks. The diminutive running back is one of the most exciting players in college football. He torched lowly Akron on Saturday for 126 yards rushing on 11 carries. Archer leads Kent State in rushing and receiving and he's dangerous returning kicks. Archer has taken three kicks back for touchdowns this season and averaging 42 yards a return. He's a junior likely to return for another season.
Matt Barkley, QB, Southern California
In April, Matt Barkley may be a top 10 pick in the NFL Draft, but that's only because of how highly quarterbacks are valued. Barkley is not a top 10 player, and showed it Saturday against Oregon. He had two more interceptions, and his 10 for the season is more than he threw last year. Now NFL personnel people are starting to wonder about Barkley. Here's what one told Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated:
"People are going in there and saying, 'This is the top guy?' All the writers anointed him the top pick before the season began. But the scouts come out of there saying, 'He really doesn't make great decisions."
Thamel had a little more on what NFL types think of Barkley, so make sure to check that out here. The evidence against Barkley is mounting. The Senior Bowl may be the only thing that can save his draft stock.
T.J. McDonald, S, Southern California
Note: This week's stock up/down notes aren't an indictment on USC. But it has to be said that McDonald isn't having a good season. His stats (team-leading 76 tackles, five tackles for loss) are deceiving. McDonald doesn't take good angles to the ball and isn't a sound tackler. He was exposed a little bit against Oregon and, like Barkley, needs to show off at all-star practices.
- It was nice to finally see LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger put together a good, complete game. Mettenberger's arm strength is his biggest asset and he routinely throws a tight ball. But his accuracy has been poor all season, particularly on deep throws. Against Alabama, Mettenberger completed a variety of throws to seven different receivers. He's still a project quarterback who should return for his senior season, but the raw tools with Mettenberger remain intriguing.
- It was also nice to see Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham put in a big game against Notre Dame. He's finally looking healthy after tearing his right ACL last October. Graham is a shifty runner, and had easily his best game of the season against the Irish with 172 yards rushing.
- Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle should be rising up draft boards as quickly as he makes a cut back. Randle may not be the most imposing running back at a listed 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, but he gets more than half of his yards after contact. He only had 43 yards against Kansas State, but he often looked good as a pass blocker. Randle is an all-around back who should get picked earlier than most think.
- Few talk about Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton, probably because the Beavers have little in the way of NFL prospects other than cornerback Jordan Poyer. Wheaton may not be a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, but he has good skills. He consistently catches with his hands instead of letting the ball hit his chest and has the body control to make tough catches.
- Other than Mark Barron this year, safety has been a down position the past few drafts. Florida junior Matt Elam should receive high grades at the position because he's solid in coverage and can be a devastating hitter.
- North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon continues his up and down season. After looking good against North Carolina two weeks ago, Glennon struggled against Virginia. To me, he's Nick Foles. A player with good physical attributes who needs to be refined before given a full-time chance in the NFL.
- Alabama's Jesse Williams is a load up front. He might be the best true 3-4 nose tackle prospect in the draft, even in front of Star Lotulelei and Johnathan Hankins.
- Since his game of 656 yards against Baylor, Geno Smith hasn't topped 300 yards passing in a contest.