With only seconds left on the clock, Florida State was facing first-and-goal down by four against Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game. Rashad Greene (nine catches for 147 yards) may have been Jameis Winston's favorite target on Monday night, but it was obvious where the Heisman Trophy winner would go with the football.
He dropped back and tossed the ball into the end zone, where redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin had established advantageous position on the cornerback. Benjamin then outmuscled his man in the end zone and came down with the game-winning touchdown in the most important game of his career.
Benjamin has two years of eligibility left, but his latest performance is another in a sophomore season that has featured plenty of them. The big-bodied wide receiver has shown his NFL skill set often in 2013. His hands have been an issue, but on Monday when Florida State needed him most, he was able to come through. He was one of a handful of players who helped themselves in the eyes of NFL evaluators in the title game.
Here are three others who improved their stock:
Tre Mason, Running back, Auburn
Tre Mason bounced off tackle and ran straight toward a Florida State defensive back. Instead of making an extra move, Mason lowered his shoulder, bounced off the tackle with ease and strolled 20 more yards to the end zone to put Auburn on top 31-27 late in the fourth quarter of the BCS National Championship Game.
Florida State would end up putting together a last-minute drive to win the game, but Mason's performance was enough to get him even more momentum leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft. Mason is only a junior, but after a 34-carry, 195-yard performance against the Seminoles, he now has just under 500 yards in his last two games. He's showing his ability to handle a huge workload and despite his size, he's showing consistent strength between the tackles. If he declares, he's nearly a lock to be a Day 2 pick.
Dee Ford, Defensive End, Auburn
He may be undersized by NFL standards, but Dee Ford was too much to handle for Florida State offensive tackle Bobby Hart on Monday. Unlike some other defensive ends who lack the size and length, Ford uses his hands well and is able to convert his speed into power. He did that continuously against the Seminoles and managed to sack Winston twice.
Ford has worked his way into the second-round discussion with yet another strong outing in an outstanding senior season. He's only 6'2 and just under 250 pounds, but Ford's polish as an edge rusher will appeal to some 4-3 teams early in the 2014 draft.
Timmy Jernigan, Defensive Tackle, Florida State
Linebackers are often considered the key to slowing down Auburn's running game. If the linebackers read their keys and fill the appropriate lanes, the option attack is beatable. Of course, it helps when you have a player like Timmy Jernigan wreaking havoc in the middle of the defensive line.
Auburn had a tough time keeping Jernigan blocked and out of the backfield. He's quick off the ball and had success penetrating as well as holding down the point of attack. With linebackers like Christian Jones and Telvin Smith, Florida State just needed a solid effort up front to give them room to make plays. Winston and the offense will get a lot of credit, and the 200 rushing yards allowed may not look good on the stat sheet, but Florida State's front seven held their own in the national title win.