NFL Prospects who HELPED themselves this weekend:
QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon
As the No. 2 overall quarterback prospect in college football according to NFLDraftScout.com, Mariota already has high expectations on his shoulders. But great NFL prospects exceed those expectations and that's what the Oregon redshirt sophomore continues to do as the Ducks roll through their schedule this season. Against Washington on Saturday, Mariota was brilliant and his stats reflect it, finishing 24-for-31 (78.4 percent) for 366 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Huskies, who entered the game ranked No. 10 in the country in total defense, kept the game close until the fourth quarter thanks to the quarterback-running back tandem of Keith Price and Bishop Sankey. But Mariota made too many crucial plays, showcasing terrific field awareness, arm talent and composure to stay calm, cool and collected in every situation that was thrown at him. Through the first half of the 2013 college football season, the Heisman Trophy is Mariota's to lose and he definitely looks capable of challenging Teddy Bridgewater for that No. 1 overall pick if he decides to go pro and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
A quarterback prospect who isn't quite as well-known, Garoppolo has been creating a little bit of a buzz in NFL circles over the last few months. And his productive senior season has only helped those whispers grow louder and louder. Garoppolo is completing 65.9 percent of his passes (172-for-261) with 2,359 passing yards and a notable 28-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio, leading Eastern Illinois to a 5-1 record this season. He has faced two FBS-level defenses in 2013 (Northern Illinois, San Diego State) and answered both challenges with impressive performances: 65-for-95 (68.4 percent) for 711 yards, nine touchdown and two interceptions. Garoppolo is a good-sized, rhythm quarterback with excellent accuracy, timing and a quick release that really helps him be efficient from the pocket. He sets up quickly and shows good lower body movement skills to evade pressure and deliver from different platforms. Garoppolo will get dinged by some teams for his “ordinary” arm strength and probably won't be a fit for every team, although he sure looks like he can make all the necessary throws in the NFL. He grades as a top-100 prospect for several with one scout telling me first round is a real possibility.
RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
Oregon left Seattle on Saturday with the victory, but it was another impressive performance by Sankey, who has gone over 160 yards in four of six games so far this season. Against the Ducks, he finished with 28 carries for 167 yards (6.0) and a pair of touchdowns, adding five catches for 38 yards. Sankey shows good patience to follow his blocks and despite a bad habit of bouncing too many runs outside, he displays little hesitancy to lower his pads and take on contact. Although his build isn't quite as thick, Sankey is reminiscent of Ray Rice with his lateral movement skills and ability to anticipate and feel the hole at the line of scrimmage to turn short yardage runs into big chunk plays. His balance and low pad level allows him to bounce off defenders with enough wiggle to win in one-on-one opportunities in the open field. He already has 899 rushing yards on the season, and if he continues his production down the stretch, Washington will have a chance at double-digit wins and Sankey an opportunity to be one of the first running backs drafted in May.
Prospects who HURT themselves this weekend:
CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
It was a poor performance by the Sooners' defense as Texas gashed Oklahoma through the air and on the ground on Saturday. And it was an especially forgettable performance by Colvin in this year's edition of the Red River Rivalry as the senior cornerback showcased the good and bad of his skill-set. He finished with nine tackles and two tackles for loss, playing with a physical and tough-minded approach against the run and in coverage. But that aggressive mentality also got him in trouble on several occasions against the Longhorns, attracting a pass interference penalty for his hands-on approach and biting on fakes while the receiver sped past him. Colvin, who left in the third quarter after suffering a left shoulder injury and didn't return, has NFL talent, but he needs to harness it and eliminate the mistakes.
DL Cassius Marsh, UCLA
A versatile defensive lineman, Marsh lines up both inside and outside for the UCLA defensive front and at 6-4 and 265 pounds, he has a little bit of a tweener skillset. Playing opposite future top-10 pick Anthony Barr, he has flashed next-level skills, but consistency has been an issue for him. Saturday against Cal, he showed a quick get off and pursuit speed for the position, but his snap anticipation became a problem in the second quarter when he jumped offsides on back-to-back plays. The first penalty gave the Cal offense a first down and the second flag prompted a little frustration from Marsh, who was ejected after "throwing a punch,” according to the official. While his tape hasn't been all that impressive, Marsh won't help his draft stock if he can't keep his emotions under control either.
Other Draft Notes:
•Over a dozen NFL scouts were in attendance for the Cornell-Harvard matchup Saturday, presumably to see Big Red senior quarterback Jeff Mathews. But despite passing for 472 yards (the most given up in school history by a Harvard defense), Cornell couldn't keep up as Mathews tossed a pair of interceptions, which pushes his season total to six in just four games. He has the size and arm strength that will give him a fighting chance in the NFL, but his inconsistent footwork, which greatly affects his ball placement, continues to be a problem.
• Only six quarterbacks at the FBS-level have double-digit interceptions on the season, including Michigan junior quarterback Devin Gardner, who threw two more pickoffs in the overtime loss at Penn State on Saturday. He has 11 passing scores on the season, which matches his 2012 total, but with four multi-interception performances in six games this year, Gardner has Michigan toeing the line. On the flipside, he set new career-highs with 24 rushes for 121 rushing yards at Beaver Stadium, although it was also the first game in 2013 that Gardner failed to score with his legs.
• In LSU's win over Florida, Tigers senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger recorded just nine completions, the first time he finished with single-digit pass completions in his career. While his final stats weren't overly impressive (52.9 percent completions, 152 yards and zero touchdowns), he also limited the mistakes and made a few clutch third down throws. Against maybe the most talented secondary he'll see all season, Mettenberger didn't blow anyone away, but he also didn't make any fatal mistakes to put his team behind the eight ball.