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Posted on: December 10, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Two mistakes may have cost Mathieu the Heisman

Two years ago I campaigned hard for Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to join former Michigan great Charles Woodson as the only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy in the modern era.

Considering the fact that LSU sophomore cornerback and punt returner Tyronn Mathieu made plays every bit as dramatic and consistently as Woodson did for the 1997 Wolverines, he too should get strong consideration for the award. Whether it be with his interceptions, fumble recoveries or returns, Mathieu unquestionably had more "Heisman-esque" moments this season than Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson and Montee Ball. Mathieu's chances at the trophy would seem even better with none of the other four finalists having an obvious edge over the others. Like Baylor's Griffin (affectionally called RG3), Mathieu even had the benefit of a spectacular nickname (Honey Badger) to aid in the hype-building that has unfortunately become so important in building a Heisman campaign.

Two critical mistakes, however, will keep Mathieu from winning the award -- an October 21 suspension for using synthetic marijuana and a controversial hit from behind against Alabama cornerback 'Dre Kirkpatrick that some labeled a cheap shot and felt deserved another suspension.

I do believe Mathieu deserves to have been among the finalists for the Heisman Trophy. His exploits on the field and in helping LSU finish the season undefeated and in position to win the BCS Championship in my opinion demanded that he be there.

However, the Heisman Trophy carries with it not only the expectation of athletic supremacy, but playing and carrying oneself with integrity, as well.

As such, for those interested, my Heisman "ballot" would read:

1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor
2. Andrew Luck, Stanford
3. Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama
5. Montee Ball, Wisconsin


Posted on: November 18, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Five Prospects I'll Be Scouting Closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL. 

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks. 

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here. 

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

DT Kendall Reyes, Connecticut: Reyes wasn't a highly touted prospect when signing with UCONN, but has built himself into a legitimate top 100 prospect. Experienced inside and out, teams running the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, alike, will be interested in acquiring his services. Reyes will have his hands full against a much improved Louisville team, but with a strong showing the senior could secure a spot on one of the premier all-star game rosters. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by ESPN.

DT Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State:  The afore-mentioned Reyes is underrated in some circles. Few outside of the SEC know much about Cox, a 6-4, 295 pound junior who has been running the conference ragged. Cox, you may be surprised to learn, has earned the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week three times this season. Arkansas generally does a great job of protecting the quarterback, but Tyler Wilson will certainly have to keep his eyes open for this Bulldog.  This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be broadcast by CBS.

OT Mike Adams, Ohio State: When Adams, Terrelle Pryor and three other Buckeyes were suspended over "Tattoo-gate" last season, I made the argument that the man whose stock might be impacted the least was Adams. The reasoning behind it was simple -- Adams was the best prospect of the group. The 6-6, 320 pounder has proven to be worth the hype thus far in his abbreviated senior campaign, though he'll get a tough test Saturday against a very talented Penn State defensive line. Adams is NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior at the position and, quite frankly, the only senior tackle I've seen this year that I've given a first round grade.  This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN/ABC. 

QB Matt Barkley, Southern Cal: A week after the Oregon Ducks' talented (albeit young) secondary shut down the presumptive No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinal offense, Barkley and the Trojans will get their chance. The Ducks contained Luck in large part due to the fact that Stanford was missing their top speed threat on the outside, senior wideout Chris Owusu. Barkley could be without his star receiver, Robert Woods in this contest, as the sophomore is battling nagging shoulder and ankle injuries. Barkley is blessed to have better weapons on the outside to help shoulder the possible loss of Woods, but this matchup nonetheless poses quite a challenge for my No. 2 rated prospect overall.  This game begins at 8:00 pm ET and will be televised by ABC. 

QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor: Possessing quick feet and a strong, accurate arm, RGIII has been dazzling, at times, this season. He is fortunate to have one of the more criminally underrated wideouts in the country in senior Kendall Wright, an explosive playmaker that some scouts have compared to DeSean Jackson. This combination has been enough to beat the also-rans on Baylor's schedule, but with the Sooners coming to town Saturday night, Griffin will need to be able to spread the ball around to have much of a chance. Griffin has steadily maintained that he's likely to return to Baylor next season, but a strong performance against a team as talented as Oklahoma could create such a buzz that he'd have to explore his potential NFL options sooner than maybe even he expects.  This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by ESPN.



Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:04 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL. 

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks. 

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here. 

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Jeff Brantley, Florida:  Brantley was an extremely highly touted prospect when he signed with Florida, but his career has been marked by inconsistency and injury. His size (6-3, 220) and arm talent are enough that the Senior Bowl is rumored to be considering Bradley. A strong performance on the road against a talented South Carolina defense could make the decision an easy one. This game begins at noon ET and will be televised by CBS.

WR Marvin McNutt, Iowa:  Overshadowed by Derrell Johnson Koulianos for much of his career, McNutt has emerged as one of the country's most feared receivers. Big (6-2, 215), physical and a better athlete than most think, McNutt has been difficult to stop this season, catching 57 passes for 959 yards and nine scores. McNutt will have his hands full against the conference's elite defense in Michigan State. This game begins at noon ET and will be broadcast by ESPN2.

DL Billy Winn, Boise State: At 6-3, 300 Winn has the size and athleticism to intrigue scouts working for three and four man fronts, alike. Unfortunately, he's battled with inconsistency throughout his career. Viewed as a potential first round pick heading into the season, Winn's stock has already slipped to the second round on many boards and is even lower on others. With TCU the best opponent he'll face the rest of the regular season, Winn could go a long way towards steadying his stock with a strong game.  This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by Versus. 

DE Nick Perry, Southern Cal: A better athlete than football player early in his career, Perry is starting to iron out some of the wrinkles to his game. The 6-3, 250 pounder beat potential 2012 first round pick Jonathan Martin (Stanford) with speed on multiple occasions to pressure Andrew Luck and currently has 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks this season. Like Winn, Perry is a player that intrigues scouts from both defensive schemes. The Washington Huskies featured an underrated left tackle in Senio Kelemete, a potential top 100 choice in his own right, so this should make for a very interesting individual battle that could impact which team wins the game. This game begins at 3:45 pm ET and will be televised by FX. 

TE Coby Fleener, Stanford: Chip Kelly has built the University of Oregon into an annual Rose Bowl contender largely based on scheme. The Ducks aren't churning out NFL prospects with the regularity one might expect considering the fact that Kelly is 30-5, including 23-1 in conference since he took the head coaching job. The one position in which Oregon has consistently produced NFL caliber prospects, however, is in the secondary. With Andrew Luck's best big play wideout Chris Owusu sidelined with a concussion, the pressure will be on Coby Fleener and the rest of Luck's targets to get open against the Ducks' athletic defensive backs. The Ducks won't have their best one -- as junior cornerback Cliff Harris remains suspended -- but Oregon still boasts a physical safety in John Boyett and athleticism -- abeit young athleticism -- at cornerback to challenge this Stanford offense. Fleener will never get Luck's hype, but he's even been overshadowed by multiple members of Stanford's offensive line. It's a shame. He's been NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior tight end since September and is earning top 50 grades from scouts. This game begins at 8:00 ET and will be televised by ABC.


Posted on: November 2, 2011 4:09 pm
 

Phil Simms not alone in calling Luck overrated

Former Super Bowl MVP and CBS' analyst Phil Simms made waves yesterday with his proclamation that Andrew Luck was being "hype[d] a little too much" and that he didn't see "big time NFL throws" from the Stanford redshirt junior quarterback.

By ranking Luck as the top prospect I've seen in 12 years of scouting, obviously I disagree.

Simms isn't the only one who has concerns about Luck, however.

During the Stanford-Southern Cal game I spent about 45 minutes talking to a high level scout who also had reservations about the Stanford quarterback.

The scout began the conversation about Luck by asking my assessment of Luck's arm strength. I told him that I did not believe that arm strength was Luck's greatest asset, but that having scouted Luck in person and off of video I believed him to have plenty of zip on the ball to make every NFL throw. I also pointed out that Luck's anticipation and accuracy -- arguably his two best features -- more than made up for a lack of a howitzer for a right arm.

The scout agreed that Luck's anticipation and accuracy "were what make him special" but used April's No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton as a comparison to drive a point home about how much Luck has been over-hyped thus far.

"I'm not so sure that after scouting each of these guys closely that some scouts wouldn't favor Newton over Luck," the scout said. "Newton is so much more of a physical specimen. He's bigger, stronger, faster and has a gun. Luck, for all of the things he does have, doesn't have an arm like that. I think the perception is that Carolina would have taken Luck in a heart beat over Newton. Maybe they would have. But I think it would be a closer call than most people think based on the hype."

Newton's instant and continued success in the NFL has taken many of us by surprise, so I asked the scout if perhaps this fact wasn't clouding his comments. He chuckled and acknowledged the quality work that the Carolina Panthers (specifically offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) had done in adapting his offense to tailor to Newton's strengths, but also pointed out that "talent is talent and when you've got a lot of it, a little coaching can go a long way."

"The reality is, Luck is a pretty special talent, but he's not Superman. I don't know that anyone could be as good as the hype he's getting right now." 

Posted on: September 23, 2011 3:43 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Ryan Lindley, San Diego State: Throughout Brady Hoke's tenure as the Aztecs' head coach, Lindley demonstrated the live arm and understanding of defenses to help turn around the San Diego State program. Now, with Hoke on the opposite sideline, the pupil will have his opportunity to show up the teacher. Lindley is a bit of a gun-slinger. He's shown a willingness to throw off his back foot and into coverage a bit more than I'd like, but he does possess the size, arm and accuracy to be a legitimate NFL prospect. He currently ranks 8th on NFLDraftScout.com's QB board for the 2012 draft. Michigan isn't loaded defensively, but they are certainly a step up athleticism-wise from anything the Aztecs will see this season. Furthermore, I want to see how Lindley handles the noise and pressure in such a hostile environment.  This game begins at 12:00 pm ET and will be televised by The Big Ten Network.

WR Greg Childs, Arkansas:  Ryan Mallett and Knile Davis received much of the attention last season, but the most consistent performer last season for Bobby Petrino was his high-flying junior wideourt, Childs. Childs, of course, suffered a knee injury that robbed him of any thought of coming out early. He was hobbled early this season coming back from the injury and missed last week's game due to a death in the family. Against what I believe is the best coached and most talented secondary in the country, Childs will definitely have his work cut out for him. However, when healthy, Childs has shown a combination of size, speed and body control to rank as a legitimate top 50 prospect. This game begins at 3:30 pm ET and will be televised by CBS.

QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M: A former wide receiver who only made the switch to quarterback last season after the incumbent starter struggled, Tannehill has made as much progress as an NFL prospect as any player in the country. The improvements he's made in reading coverages, setting up and delivering passes and simply understanding the nuances of Mike Sherman's pro-style attack in less than a full season operating at quarterback have been impressive, leading some scouts to view Tannehill as this year's out-of-nowhere first round pick. Tannehill certainly isn't coming out of nowhere in my mind, nor that of NFLDraftScout.com. We've rated him the top senior QB prospect in the country since August. Tannehill and his Aggies face their first real test this weekend, however, as they host Oklahoma State, who boasts their own legitimate pro QB prospect in Brandon Weeden and his Biletnikof-winning receiver Justin Blackmon. Sure, I want to scout this game because it pits two top ten teams, but don't fool yourself, this is a huge showdown for the quarterbacks. This game begins at 3:30 ET and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE Andre Branch, Clemson: Quite frankly, I wasn't impressed with the play of Florida State's left tackle Andrew Datko in last weekend's game against an athletic Oklahoma defense. Branch boasts the combination of size, strength and speed that could also give Datko troubles, which is why I want to focus on him. Those wanting to see one of the better senior prospects at any position in the country can simply look to Branch's left, as senior defensive tackle Brandon Thompson has been impressive, thus far. In past games that I've wanted to focus on Branch, Thompson has stolen my attention. We'll see if Branch can't steal back some thunder in this exciting ACC matchup. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN. 

CB Cliff Harris, Oregon: Heisman finalist LaMichael James was the primary reason for Oregon's rise to the BCS Championship game last season, but Harris was arguably the most dominant player on the team, earning All-American honors as a returner and ball-hawking cornerback. His well-documented off-field troubles have hurt his stock, as has his spindly frame (5-11, 168). Harris hasn't seen much time yet this season as he works his way back into head coach Chip Kelly's good graces. The Ducks will be sure that Harris is on the field against an explosive Arizona offense, however, that features their own talented pro prospects in QB Nick Foles and WR Juron Criner. How the slim Harris matches up with Criner (6-4, 215) should give scouts a good idea as to how well he'll handle the bigger, more physical receivers of the NFL. This game begins at 10"15 pm ET and will be televised by ESPN2.

p.s. At the request of some diehard Seahawk fans, I'm also including the QBs to watch this weekend. They are:

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State visiting Texas A&M. 3:30 pm ET on ABC/ESPN
Landry Jones, Oklahoma hosting Missouri. 8 pm ET on FX.
Nick Foles, Arizona hosting Oregon. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN2.
Matt Barkley, USC visiting Arizona State. 10:15 pm ET on ESPN.*

*As well as Lindley and Tannehill, mentioned above.

Posted on: September 16, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 5:39 pm
 

Five prospects I'll be scouting closely Saturday

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough. I also try to tweet comments on prospects throughout Saturday's action. You can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.

Sometimes it also leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter breaks down six more players in Filmroom Notes, updates our Top 64 prospects overall and offers extensive previews of the next week's action. Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

RB Tauren Poole, Tennessee: There are some huge games this weekend, but few have the longstanding rivalry that Tennessee-Florida boasts. Poole is currently NFLDraftScout.com's No. 7 rated running back, but he boasts a combination of size, speed, elusiveness and power that could translate into a starter at the next level. When you take into account all of the talented underclassmen, Poole is our 16th rated RB and that seems waaay too low based on the tape I've seen. With a strong game against an athletic Gator defense playing in front of their home crowd, he could get my vote to move up significantly in our rankings. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.

DT Alameda Ta'amu, Washington: For all of the attention that Jake Locker and running back Chris Polk gained for their roles in Washington's surprising Holiday Bowl victory over Nebraska in January, the emergence of this 6-3, 337 run-stuffer was a critical piece tot he puzzle. Ta'Amu and the Huskies will be facing a more motivated Huskers offense this time around, so it will be fascinating to see how these two teams perform in the rubber match. A strong performance in this game could lead to the underdog Huskies giving Nebraska a tough game and also push Ta'Amu into legitimate first round consideration. He could follow Phil Taylor and BJ Raji as recent run-stuffers whose strong senior seasons catapulted them into the top 32. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State: One could argue that for Michigan State to beat Notre Dame, the pressure is most on senior quarterback Kirk Cousins.However, considering the way the Irish defense has played, Cousins could have a field day. The greater pressure (and thus, why I, scouts will be paying close attention) will be on the Spartans' defense to bottle up the Irish offense. Worthy shows flashes of the penetrating quickness and power that can result in a first round pick, but needs to be more consistent. This game could go a long way in determing whether Worthy (a junior) should consider making the early leap to the NFL. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by NBC.

OLB Sean Spence, Miami: It wasn't that long ago when Miami-Ohio State would have ranked as the top game of the weekend. Now, for many it has become an after-thought. Not to me, however, and certainly not to scouts. Spence is one of the better chase linebackers in the country, but is undersized. He struggled handling Terrelle Pryor last year in this contest. While Pryor is obviously now an Oakland Raider, it will be interesting to see if Spence remembers his atypical performance a year ago and improves his open field tackling this time around. I expect that he will. This game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.

QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma: In case you haven't seen my Top 32 "Bigger Board," let me just say right now that I'm lower on Jones than most. While he undeniably has an NFL combination of size and arm strength, I question whether he has the accuracy and poise to be an elite pro quarterback. The fact that he's coming out of a spread offense that significantly inflates his production and typically protects him from pressure doesn't help his cause at all. However, to beat a fast, aggressive Seminoles' defense in Tallahassee, Jones will have to show improved accuracy and calm in the pocket -- which could lead me to re-evaluate him quickly. There is legitimate NFL talent on both sides of the ball for both of these programs. No one has more riding on their performance, however, than Jones, a junior passer who some compare to Sam Bradford and view as a potential top five pick in the 2012 draft. This game begins at 8:00 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.


Posted on: December 31, 2010 12:37 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2010 12:39 pm
 

History, prospects make Sun Bowl one to watch

In today's era of corporate sponsored bowl games often pitting "small school" teams, there is something refreshing about the Miami/Notre Dame matchup in this afternoon's Sun Bowl.

The Hurricanes and Fighting Irish have obviously had their on and off-field struggles this year. Randy Shannon's firing and the tragic death of Declan Sullivan, the Notre Dame student killed while attempting to film Irish practices, have dominated the headlines.

For NFL scouts, however, the story remains the same. Miami and Notre Dame, as always, feature plenty of NFL talent.

In fact, one of the most intriguing one on one matchups of the bowl season will be on display when Hurricane cornerback Brandon Harris and Irish wideout Malcolm Floyd, a pair of first round caliber juniors, face off.

They may be the most entertaining matchup, but there is plenty of other prospects to keep an eye on. The following is the list of top prospects in today's game to focus on, courtesy of my fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter.

--Notre Dame DT Ian Williams (6-2, 305, 5.17): The wide-body nose tackle has missed the last four contests but expects to suit up in his last college game.

--Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd (6-3, 228, 4.52): If his leg is healthy and he's on the same page as freshman QB Tommy Rees, Floyd will use his big body against fellow junior prospect CB Brandon Harris.

--Notre Dame TE Kyle Rudolph (6-5, 265, 4.64): A hamstring tear ended Rudolph's season early and he won't be on the field today, but the junior could wind up as the first tight end drafted, whether he elects to leave school early this year or return for his senior campaign.

--Miami (Fla.) DE Allen Bailey (6-4, 285, 4.79): Excellent athlete who flashes pass rush (seven sacks) across from junior DE Adewale Ojomo, but needs to have a consistently strong effort against an average Irish line to impress scouts.

--Miami ILB Colin McCarthy (6-2, 240, 4.67): Heady, versatile, productive (106 tackles, 10 for loss) player scouts believe can play inside or on the strong side at the next level.

--Miami WR Leonard Hankerson (6-3, 208, 4.52): Tall strider who can stretch the field, but faces a strong corner in Notre Dame's Darrin Walls.

--Miami LT Orlando Franklin (6-7, 315, 5.30): Impressive just stepping off the bus, if Franklin's footwork begins to match his strength, he could become a starting NFL left tackle.

--Miami CB Brandon Harris (5-11, 195, 4.45): A highly touted prep prospect, Harris has emerged as the latest in a long line of Miami defensive backs worthy of first round consideration. Only a junior.

This game begins at 2pm EST and will be televised by CBS. 


As always, for the best in NFL draft coverage, check out NFLDraftScout.com.


Posted on: November 26, 2010 1:03 pm
 

Five Prospects I'll be Focusing on This Weekend

Each Friday I list my "Five prospects" that I'll be focusing on for the upcoming weekend. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.

Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.

Because I'm scouting them in real time these players make an early impression, often leading to consideration as my Prospect of the Week or Diamond in the Rough.

Even more often, however, it leads to the player being featured in Draft Slant , NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com's weekly NFL Draft preview. In each PDF issue of Draft Slant Senior Analyst Chad Reuter and I break down six more players in Filmroom Notes, update our Top 32 prospects overall, Top 10 per position, Risers/Fallers for multiple games and offer extensive previews of the next week's action. I boast about our product for a simple reason: Having seen everything else out there - it is the most complete weekly NFL draft guide on the planet. 

Here is the link to this week's issue of Draft Slant. Or for the entire season click this link . Looking for a specific week? Download past issues from the past three years here.

Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.

QB Cam Newton, Auburn : Newton has been dazzling this season and could lock up the Heisman Trophy with a strong performance against Alabama. More importantly to those of us eager to see how well he'll translate his game to the NFL is how well Newton is able to decipher the exotic blitz and coverage schemes Nick Saban and his staff have devised. In terms of Newton's pro stock, this is the most important regular season game of his life. This game begins at 2:30 pm EST Friday and will be televised by CBS.

CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado : The Buffs don't get a lot of national exposure considering their struggles recently, but this important Big 12 showdown against Nebraska will pit Smith, one of the top senior cornerbacks, against a receiver in Nebraska's Niles Paul every bit his match in terms of size and athleticism. The Cornhuskers, of course, rely mostly on their running game and should be able to do so again Friday to beat an overmatched Colorado team. How Smith is able to keep up with the multi-talented Paul, however, should give scouts a good idea as to how the 6-2, 205 pound Smith will be acclimate to the speed of the NFL. I've spoken to scouts who have compared Smith to former Pro Bowler Chris McAlister. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST Friday and will be televised by ABC/ESPN.

DE/OLB Dontay Moch, Nevada: The pre-game hype will focus on the offense, but it could be whatever defense shows up in the Boise State-Nevada showdown that gives their team the victory. Moch enters this game as the country's active career leader with 60.5 tackles for loss. The 6-1, 242 pound Moch lines up as a defensive end for the Wolfpack, but projects best as a standup pass rushing OLB in the NFL. Moch wowed scouts in the spring by clocking in at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but there are concerns that Moch is overly reliant on his speed. While fast in a straight-line, scouts are more interested to see how well he changes directions. Moch won the WAC Defensive Player of the Year as a junior (61 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks) and is on pace to exceed those totals this season (52 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks). This game begins at 10:15 pm EST Friday and will be televised by ESPN.

QB Jake Locker, Washington: The Huskies have struggled with teams that are more physical on the offensive and defensive lines than they are and that is precisely what awaits them Saturday against Cal. Washington and California are each fighting for their bowl lives and the Golden Bears have revenge on their side after the Huskies trounced them 42-10 last season in Seattle. Locker entered the year rated by most (including me) as the No. 1 prospect in the country based largely on how he played down the stretch last season. His best game was his last one -- againt California -- in which he completed 19 of 23 passes for 248 yards and three TDs (0 INTs) and ran for another 77 yards and two scores. A performance like that would almost surely result in a win for the Huskies and spot back in my first round projection. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST Saturday and will be televised regionally by Fox Sports.

WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State*: With the three top-rated teams in the country playing on Friday, there hasn't yet been a great deal of focus on this year's Bedlam rivalry outside of the state of Oklahoma, but it's coming -- after all, the Big 12 South division title is riding on this game. This game features two of the elite young receiver prospects in the country in Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles and Blackmon -- the favorite to win the Biletnikof Award as the nation's best at the position. Blackmon has been spectacular this season, catching an eye-popping 94 passes for 1,560 yards and 17 touchdowns. It is his consistency that has been perhaps most impressive. Blackmon has caught at least five passes for at least 125 yards and one touchdown in every game he's played this season (he missed the Kansas State game). A redshirt sophomore, Blackmon is eligible to leave OSU early for the NFL. He hasn't faced a secondary as talented as Oklahoma's yet this season, so this game provides scouts an excellent opportunity to see him matched up against quality athletes and a sound defensive scheme.  This game begins at 8:00 pm EST Saturday and will be televised by ABC/ESPN. 


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com