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Nebraska's Randy Gregory and Ameer Abdullah boost NFL Draft status

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Week 9 of the college football season was a good one for a pair of Cornhusker prospects, as well as Miami running back Duke Johnson and LSU left tackle La'el Collins.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

If you look at Randy Gregory’s stat line against Rutgers, there isn’t much there. Five tackles, a tackle for loss, a sack and two quarterback hurries. It’s a solid game, and appears to be nothing more. Gregory’s game, however, was much more than those numbers suggest.

There were at least 20 snaps where Rutgers used two or three blockers on Gregory, a junior. The extra attention paid to Gregory allowed other Nebraska defenders to be single-blocked throughout the game.

It’s impossible to watch Gregory and not think of Barkevious Mingo of the Cleveland Browns. Like Mingo, Gregory is a speedy edge rusher with long arms and a slight lack of power. When Mingo was at LSU, though, he wasn’t receiving the consistent extra blockers that Gregory is at Nebraska.

On the season, Gregory has 33 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. One look at Gregory’s tape, though, and NFL teams will realize there’s more to those numbers. The way Gregory forces teams to account for him is why he’s considered to be a lock top-10 pick in April.

Running backs stand out

The Nebraska/Rutgers game can’t be mentioned without bringing up the stellar performance of Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah. The senior had 225 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. That is now his fourth game of more than 200 yards rushing this season. Abdullah is a masterful zone runner. He lets his blocks develops before using an impressive burst to hit the hole. Once he gets into open space, he has that cliched "extra gear" to turn a good run into a great one. The LeSean McCoy comparisons are alive and well.

Abdullah wasn’t the only Big Ten runner who had a good week. Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford had a season-high 177 yards against Michigan last Saturday. If teams don’t target the first two tiers of running backs in next year’s draft, Langford could be a nice fallback option on the third day. He’s a balanced running back with just enough quickness, speed and size.

Speaking of running backs, Miami’s Duke Johnson upped his stock last week against Virginia Tech. Johnson has really come on the last few weeks, and ran for 249 yards and a touchdown against the Hokies. Like Abdullah, Johnson is an excellent zone system running back. Johnson has many of the same traits as Abdullah, and is maybe a little faster. He’s had some injury issues, though, and is easier to tackle. If he finishes out the season with these types of games, Johnson should be able to lock himself into the fourth running back spot behind Abdullah, Todd Gurley of Georgia and Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin.

Offensive tackles in flux

Miami was dealt a big blow in that game when left tackle Ereck Flowers injured his knee. That will force Flowers to miss this week’s game against North Carolina and puts his season in jeopardy. Flowers is a fringe first-rounder who could elect to return for his senior season. He’s a powerful blocker capable of manhandling defenders. But if the knee injury is serious, it may damage his immediate draft stock.

LSU left tackle La’el Collins is another player who boosted his stock last weekend. He had the challenging task of blocking Ole Miss star sophomore Robert Nkemdiche and often came out the winner. Some consider Collins a guard prospect at the next level. He looks like he can hang at tackle in the right scheme, particularly in a power-based offense. Collins’ coaches have high expectations for the senior.

"If La’el Collins is not a top-five draft pick, I’ll kiss my own ass," LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson told Fox Sports.

Collins isn't going to be a top-five pick, so Wilson will have to prepare for the impossible. He should hear his name called in the first round, though. That's especially true if Flowers doesn't go pro.


This is just a record-keeper to make you sad. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa isn't eligible for the draft until 2016. He would otherwise be the highest-rated player in the draft.