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.
DE/OLB Chis Carter, Fresno State: Fresno State ranked second to last in entire country last season with only nine combined sacks. This season, they rank sixth with 27 sacks through nine games. A big part of that is the play of 6-2, 240 pound pass rusher Chris Carter, who has nine sacks, himself this season. Carter will be going up against Boise State junior left tackle Nate Potter, a legitimate NFL prospect. The winner of this individual battle could go a long way in determining whether Pat Hill's bunch is able to throw a scare into the No. 4 team in the country. This game begins at 9:30 pm EST tonight and will be televised by ESPN.
WR Jerrel Jernigan, Troy: Draft enthusiasts certainly know Jernigan's name by now, but they'll get an opportunity to see NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2 rated senior WR against an SEC defense Saturday morning when the Trojans travel to meet Steve Spurrier's No. 17 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. Jernigan is only 5-09, but he can fly. He'll see time as a receiver, returner and potentially even in some Wildcat formations. The Gamecocks feature a superstar receiver of their own in sophomore Alshon Jeffery, but don't be surprised if Jernigan is statistically up to the challenge. This game begins at 12:21 pm EST Saturday and will be televised by ESPN.
DT Jerrell Powe, Mississippi: Entering the season Powe was viewed as a potential Top 10 prospect. Now, his disappointing season has him fighting to remain in the top two rounds. Powe reminded the media this week that he could return for another year. An academic non-qualifier previously, Powe is on pace to earn his Criminal Justice degree and thereby trigger an NCAA rule that would grant him another season if he wanted to put off an NFL career. It has been a disappointing season for Powe and for the 4-6 Rebels (1-5 in the SEC), in general, but a strong performance Saturday against LSU could be just the breakout each needs. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.
DT Christian Ballard, Iowa: Everyone knows that this game pitts two of the top senior defensive ends in the country in Ohio State's Cameron Heyward and Iowa's Adrian Clayborn. Ballard rarely gets the media attention, but I assure you, scouts know him well. In fact, I've had some tell me they believe Ballard could prove to be a first round pick based on his athletic upside. The 6-4, 298 pounder has experience inside and out, making him one of the more verastile defensive linemen in the draft and one potentially capable of playing effectively in the 3-4 and 4-3. Ballard has had his moments in previous games I've scouted, but hasn't dominated. His play could prove critical in this game. If Iowa is able to contain Terrelle Pryor with just their front four, they could pull off the upset at home. This game begins at 3:30 pm EST and will be televised by ABC.
QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas : Though I'm not nearly as high on Mallett as some, I certainly do recognize that he has a first round arm. His poise and feet will be tested Saturday night against a physical and aggressive Mississippi State team playing at home. I don't care what Mallett's statistics are at the end of the game. Bobby Petrino's offense leads to big numbers. Remember Brian Brohm and Stefan LeFors under Petrino at Louisville? I want to see how Mallett's accuracy is affected if the Bulldogs are able get him moving throughout the pocket. This has been a concern of mine throughout Mallett's career and it was the reason why the SEC star collapsed late against Alabama. If Mallett has improved in this area, it could lead to a significant jump up draft boards -- especially with the continued struggles of the senior quarterbacks. This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be televised by ESPN.
Those interested in scouting "alongside" me Friday night and throughout Saturday's action can follow me on Twitter @RobRang .