Two tight ends haven't been picked in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2006, but if a pair of juniors go pro, that should change. That would be Jace Amaro of Texas Tech and Eric Ebron of North Carolina. If they haven't completely passed Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins, they're close. Both Amaro and Ebron are coming off impressive performances in Week 8 of the college football season, while Seferian-Jenkins is not.
In a weekend where a quarterback ran for 316 yards, another threw the ball 89 times and a wide receiver had 369 yards receiving, Ebron's performance Thursday still stood out. Ebron had eight catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. A few of the eight catches were of the spectacular, Jimmy Graham variety. Ebron may not be the next Graham – he doesn't have the sheer size at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds – but his catch radius is impressive. Ebron's speed (he reportedly runs a 4.57-second 40-yard dash) was evident, particularly on a 71-yard run.
Here is a cut up from the game, courtesy of DraftBreakdown:
Amaro may not have Ebron's speed, but he's a bigger player at 6-foot-5 and 257 pounds. Against Iowa State, Amaro had nine receptions for 136 yards and two touchdowns. It was his sixth straight game of at least eight receptions and 85 yards. Check out the cut up here. The Iowa State game shows Amaro's ability to cleanly get off the line and better blocking than Ebron.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame: Powered by the confusion about whether or not he's decided to enter the 2014 NFL Draft, Tuitt had a big game against Southern California. For a player who has been inconsistent all season, Tuitt needed a good game and he had one. Irish head coach Brian Kelly called his 312-pound junior "a force," following a two-sack game. He was a tough block throughout the game and a key to Notre Dame's 14-10 win.
Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State: Michigan State games can be punt-filled snoozers. But Bullough is a stand out. He's not a stellar athlete and doesn't always jump off the screen like, say, Luke Kuechly did at Boston College. Bullough is a reliable player, though, and often the best part of Spartans games. On Saturday, Bullough had 10 tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. For a quick comparison, Bullough reminds me of Erin Henderson of the Minnesota Vikings. Bullough may not slide out of the draft like Henderson did in 2008, but he should be a dependable three-down linebacker in a 4-3 system.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri: This is becoming a trend. For the third time this season, Sam had a three-sack game. He now leads the SEC with nine on the season to go along with 13 tackles for loss. If you've listened to any of the MtD podcasts, you should be fully aware of Sam and his ability. If not, he's a speedy edge rusher who can get low (get low). Because he's 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, Sam often gets dismissed as only a 3-4 linebacker, but he could also work as a Leo and an end in the right scheme.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State: Although redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston got all of the headlines following Florida State's 51-14 win against Clemson, Joyner really set the tone. The converted safety forced two first quarter fumbles, the second of which was returned by defensive end Mario Edwards for a touchdown. In the second quarter, Joyner had an interception that led to a field goal. By halftime, it was 27-7, and Joyner's job was pretty much done. Joyner is a physical cornerback who can tackle and push receivers around at the line of scrimmage. Some teams will shy away because he's only 5-foot-8, but he's an otherwise complete player.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: Sometimes you have to remind yourself that quarterbacks like Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel are just redshirt sophomores. On Saturday against Stanford – in likely his hardest game of the year – Hundley looked like a quarterback in need of another year of college football. Hundley threw for only 192 yards and was intercepted twice while completing 61.5 percent of his passes. Several of Hundley's throws were off-line, especially when he tried to throw on the run. If Hundley's arm catches up to his feet, he'll regain top draft status. For now, it should be a wait and see.
Senior quarterbacks: Not to pile on quarterbacks, but the top seniors had issues on Saturday. Clemson's Tajh Boyd was picked apart by Florida State, LSU's Zach Mettenberger missed a few throws against Ole Miss he was completing a couple weeks ago and Georgia's Aaron Murray is finally feeling the effects of so many injured teammates. Then there's Stephen Morris of Miami who relies too much on his arm and will overthrow receivers. Figuring out where to slot these senior quarterbacks is going to be the hardest part of the draft evaluation process.