Make no mistake, the NFL will take notice of how Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel struggled two consecutive years against LSU. Whether or not that dings his draft stock, we won't know until May.
Manziel is expected to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. At this point, everyone knows as much. But how much was he exposed against a single team? The LSU games showed that Manziel struggled against disguised or late blitzes. In last year's game, LSU's defensive ends played contain more.
"They came out and mixed a lot of things up and kept us guessing," Manziel told reporters after the game. "It really took us a while to figure it out."
By the time A&M had things figured out, LSU was killing too much clock in the second half and had too great of a lead to overcome.
The key for Manziel is to get completions early to suck defenders back in coverage allowing him to run the ball. Completing just 16 of 41 passes, Manziel missed his target a few times early, namely a deep out to star receiver Mike Evans. With Manziel's throws being off, that allowed LSU to keep its linebackers closer to the line of scrimmage.
It helps that LSU was able to match Manziel's athleticism – something that Alabama can't do, but NFL defenses can. Namely, junior defensive end Jermauria Rasco was able to get free and chase Manziel down.
As he gets ready to go pro, the book on Manziel it out.
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: Linebackers who don't rush the passer don't often get a lof of attention from the NFL Draft community. But give Shazier some credit for his performance against Indiana. He finished the game with 20 tackles, five tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble. The Butkus Award finalist, while athletic, isn't flashy. He's a workmanlike 4-3 outside linebacker who can stuff the run and drop into coverage. There should be a spot in the first round for a player like Shazier.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State: There is always room in the NFL for a wide receiver with speed. Lockett scorched Oklahoma for 278 yards and three scores, often by beating defensive backs over the top with pure speed. Lockett's hands may be somewhat average, but once he has the ball, he can beat almost anyone to the end zone. At the worst, Lockett can be a fourth or fifth wide receiver on a roster and a special teams contributor.
Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa: Defensive end Frank Clark got the better of Scherff a couple times, but the Iowa junior left tackle looked against Michigan. If there's an immediate comparison for Scherff, it's D.J. Fluker of the San Diego Chargers. Scherff isn't as big as Fluker, but they have a similar mauling blocking style. Scherff likes to get physical with defenders and drive them off the line. Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz should also get credit for a good game. He's criminally misused in Iowa's offense.
Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: Don't look now, but Central Florida is poised to make a BCS game thanks in large part to the play of Bortles. The Knights have to win out, and if they do they could be playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Bortles, a junior, has been on point the past several weeks and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him jump early to the NFL. He's a good athlete with size and a good arm. He's improved dramatically throwing from the pocket and capable of vaulting into the first round.
Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: Arizona was able to beat Oregon into submission because of Carey, who carried the ball 48 times for 206 yards and four touchdowns. Much like the book on Manziel is out, it is as well for Oregon. If a team has a good running back who can eat the clock, Oregon can be beaten. Arizona had the ball for 10 more minutes than Oregon because Carey consistently got positive yards and was capable of turning a couple big plays. This game was good for Carey's draft stock because it showed he can carry a big load and still be fresh late in the game. The speed was always there, and so is the stamina and effort. Also, a below-average game for Marcus Mariota of Oregon. He needs a big game.
Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU: Hill didn't have an overly terrible game against LSU. He finished with 76 yards on 14 carries. But early in the game, before LSU sat on the ball and ran a lot in the second half, Hill was outshined by backup Terrence Magee. This game also showed Hill's average hands in the pass game.
Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma: After missing the Kansas State game because of suspension, Williams was kicked off Oklahoma's football team. At the start of the season, Williams had promise because he's a back with good vision and enough size and speed. But he's had a down year, rushing for just 553 yards and punctuated by poor performances against Texas and Baylor.