Last week we published a ‘mock draft’. Although it wasn’t really a mock, not this early in the process. It was more an attempt to identify potential first round picks we can monitor during the college season. I won’t be starting the usual Wednesday mocks until later in the season, but that doesn’t stop us looking at who helped or hurt their stock in week three.
Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
He was the best player on the field in the Alabama vs Arkansas game. Warmack’s run blocking sparked Eddie Lacy for three rushing touchdowns, including a key goal-line push where he pulled to the right and took out two defenders. We already knew he was a great run blocker, but it was the athleticism, footwork and pass protection skills that really boosted his stock this week. He can do it all, and that boosts the range where he could go in the draft. Warmack looked like the complete package and if he keeps up this form, he’s going to be a high pick next April. He could be a top-fifteen pick, which is rare for an offensive guard. I’ve not see a left guard that’s looked as good as Warmack in college.
Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
After recording another 1.5 sacks against Wake Forest, Werner has taken his total to 6.5 in three games. He’s lost weight this year and it’s improved his speed rush – he looks dynamic off the edge and took a wide angle on the solo sack to round the tackle and close on the quarterback. In all honesty he didn’t need to lose the weight, but it seems to be having an impact on his production. He’s already well on his way to 10-15 sacks and he’ll take a lot of good tape into the draft. When he enters the league he’ll probably add the weight again and act as a more orthodox defensive end. You can see all of his snaps vs Wake Forest in the video above.
Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
This has nothing to do with the computer-game numbers Smith has posted so far (he has the same number of touchdown passes – nine – as he has incompletions). He has much tougher games on the horizon that’ll be a greater test of his progress. The reason Smith’s stock is rising, is purely down to the performances of other quarterbacks. Matt Barkley had his worst game in a long time against Stanford, Tyler Wilson didn’t feature against Alabama because of a concussion and Logan Thomas had three interceptions in a bad defeat to Pittsburgh. If Smith keeps putting up big numbers, and if other quarterbacks continue to struggle, needy teams are going to look at this guy very closely.
Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
An all-round, brilliant middle linebacker. Intangibles off the chart, he’s going to go very early next April if he tests well at the combine. Luke Kuechly really boosted his stock by pairing athleticism with intangibles, and that’s going to be a key test for Te’o too. If he can show above average athletic qualities at the combine, he’s going to go in the top-15. He’s not a tackling machine like Kuechly, but he makes impact plays – not just multiple tackles 5-10 yards downfield. He played against Michigan State just days after the death of his grandmother and girlfriend – and somehow held himself together. He’s a guy you want on your team and 32 clubs will probably feel that way next year.
Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech)
He’s received a lot of criticism, some of it unfair. Just because he hasn’t lived up to some people’s expectations, it seems a lot of people are getting on the negativity bandwagon. I don’t think that’s particularly fair, not for a guy who’s only actually played 1.3 seasons as a starting quarterback. Thomas will probably return to Virginia Tech for his senior year unless things change for the better. I see that as the most likely scenario right now so while his stock is down in a big way at the moment, he’s a good enough talent to hit back. He might not be able to do that before the 2013 draft, but he has time on his side. There aren’t many QB’s with his physical potential.
Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
It’s kind of a weird situation for Hunter. He’s still working hard to get back to 100% after suffering a very serious knee injury last year. He’s been through a lot of pain, a lot of time in the gym and a lot of moments where he probably questioned whether he could get back to his best. It’s a credit to Justin Hunter that he’s on the field to start the 2012 season and making plays. However, the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson is drawing attention away from the guy most people expected to be Tennessee’s top draft prospect this year. And with Patterson playing so well, it’s hard not to compare the two. Especially with Hunter having two bad drops against Florida.
Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
It was bad enough that Wilson missed the game he’s been waiting all year for, but watching Arkansas get blown away by Alabama must’ve hurt. Even so, you don’t throw your teammates under the bus after the game – accusing them of quitting in a press conference. If he gets healthy and leads the team back from a dark place, people may look back and say there were some positives to a ‘home truths’ interview. But until that happens, he just looks like an over-emotional quarterback who needs to let his coaches coach the team. Health worries are also obvious given he missed a key game with a concussion and has suffered some injury issues in the past.
Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
Harsh to put him on this list? I think it’s maybe a little harsh. Barkley suffered against Stanford because his offensive line couldn’t cope. He had barely any time to set and throw, the pressure was relentless. The thing is, until Khaled Holmes can get back and other members of the offensive line step up, there might be more games like this. And although it won’t be Barkley’s fault alone, some teams may over analyse his senior year – something we’ve seen many times with quarterbacks who chose not to return to the college ranks. It’s worth pointing out that as bad as USC’s line was last weekend, Barkley wasn’t faultless. He’s still on track to be the #1 pick next year, but he has to hope the Stanford experience isn’t repeated too many times this season.