Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas)
We saw the best and worst of Mallett today. At times he flashed the big arm and made some excellent throws. With the score at 20-7 to Arkansas, you had the feeling this was going to be a potential career-definer for Mallett. However, he had what is fast becoming an all too often second half slump and just when his team needed a cool head at QB, he lost his. One ill-advised interception led to the game winning score and the other killed a potential clinching drive for the Hogs.
Having said that, there are too many naysayers with Mallett. I appreciate his issues and his talents – he is what he is. Big, superb arm, capable of making mind-blowing plays but also capable of hitting a cold streak at any moment and making a big error. I don’t accept that footwork is a major problem, it’s simply consistency. He made some excellent plays today moving around (especially for a 6’7″ QB) but nobody can legislate for trying to throw it out of bounds and simply lobbing it gently into a DB’s hands (as Mallett did to seal ‘Bama’s win).
Overall Mallett hit a lot of underneath throws and is starting to complete a lot of his passes – against good teams too – which is what he was criticised for most last year. He didn’t beat the nations #1 team today, but nobody can say he hasn’t taken a major leap forward this year. With good coaching, that will continue especially at the next level. I’m not convinced his stock changes now compared to 24 hours ago.
Mark Ingram (RB, Alabama)
I’d have no issues giving Ingram a top-ten grade. In fact, in a year when nobody appears to want to justify such a high mark it wouldn’t surprise me if he went higher than a lot of people think. All he does is score yards and touchdowns with almost a complete package of skills. His big TD scamper in the first half was a jaw-dropper and flashed all his skills in one snap. First he makes a brilliant cut, showing off his vision to find the right running lane. He bursts through the hole and shifts two gears quickly before delivering a powerful one handed punch to get away from the first tackle. He maintains his balance despite being knocked off course, before re-adjusting to hammer one more punch and tip-toe into the end zone for a 54-yard score.
You could put him on a NFL roster tomorrow and he’ll thrive. Ok – he doesn’t have Chris Johnson speed. If Knowshon Moreno can go 13th overall with his lack of breakaway speed, Ingram can go higher. He always finds an extra 2-3 yards after the tackle. At one stage in this game, he carried what appeared to be every member of the Arkansas defense an extra five yards in an incredible scrum. He’s a work horse and a playmaker who never seems to take a snap off. Even when he’s met in the backfield, Ingram always seems to get back to the original LOS.
Did I mention he does it in the big games too? Mark Ingram is just a stud who’s grade suffers because of his position. In a draft year that isn’t likely to be the deepest or richest in quality, Ingram could be a rare sure-thing who walks in on day one and just starts winning.
Julio Jones (WR, Alabama)
I wanted to see a more disciplined Julio Jones this year and nothing in this game suggested that wasn’t the case. Jones will never put up the big yardage because he plays in a run first offense with a game-manager at QB. He had five catches for 55 yards in this one and did everything asked of him. There were no clumsy drops and he generally got into his routes quickly and looked like the mismatch he should be. Jones’ stats would’ve looked a lot better had Greg McIlroy spotted him wide open down the field on a blown coverage.
In terms of potential Jones has the lot. He’s got NFL size (6’4″, 220lbs), his deep speed should test well at the combine and he’s shown he’s got value in YAC. He’s on pace for a little less than a 1000 yards and 8 TD’s. If he can better that and maintain his concentration and focus for a full year, he can be a top-20 pick next April.
Marcell Dareus (DT, Alabama)
This wasn’t a great day for Dareus and I’m starting to wonder how all the NCAA suspension issues have hampered him early in 2010. Of course he missed games, but he looks a yard off the pace to me. He picked up an injury in this game which essentially restricted him to being a space eating scarecrow on the defensive line. Largely anonymous throughout, he looked a shadow of the player that lit up the BCS title game against Texas last season. There’s still time for Dareus, but if he’s going to follow Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy in being a top five pick next year, he has to step up now. He got 6.5 sacks last year and he needs to start producing. Can he do it?