We’re kicking off the seventh week of the college football season, and we’re starting to find names that weren’t high on the draft radar making upward swings. It’s easier for those playing for programs publicized nationally, but for others, it’s their body of work that’s catching the attention of NFL scouts.
Javon Ringer, RB, Michigan State
Back in August, I questioned that the 2009 running back class only went as deep as C.J. Spiller, Chris Wells, and Knowshon Moreno. Those were the 3 names that appeared on many early mock drafts, with first round projections. Here in October, as we look across the landscape, the Spartans’ Javon Ringer may have easily moved himself into that first round. Ringer is second in the nation in rushing, only 12 yards shy of 1000, after playing just 6 games. Ringer has rushed for 200 yards or more 3 times this season giving the look of an NFL workhorse, with 212 carries.
Jeff Byers, OL, USC
Jeff Byers is one component of a makeshift line at Southern Cal. This was a unit that was supposed to struggle early and often, replacing 4 of the starting 5 from last season. The often injured Byers is making the most of his senior opportunity, appearing as pass blocking force and hole creating tool for the nation’s 8th ranked Trojans. Recruited as a 5-star prospect and the nation's top offensive lineman out of high school, Byers is finally living up to the expectations. Through 6 weeks of the season, he’s gone from a “wait and see” to a possible first day selection.
Max Hall, QB, BYU
Playing in the Mountain West conference, Max Hall flies under the Radar. This BYU slinger continues to put up big numbers for his undefeated Cougars, and comes with an NFL skill package. Early drafts listed Matthew Stafford and Rudy Carpenter as two of the top prospects for 2009, but Hall is easily at (or maybe beyond) their skill levels.
Brandon Tate, WR, North Carolina
Brandon Tate is to North Carolina what Percy Harvin and Jeremy Maclin are to Florida and Missouri. This all-purpose player has skyrocketed on the scene, while playing for a program with very little exposure. He currently ranks third in the nation in all-purpose running, making his feats hard to ignore. If a franchise is looking for a do-it-all player in April’s draft, they can find a good one wearing Carolina blue.
Jarrett Dillard, Wr, Rice
While NFL scouts anticipate Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree’s decision to stay or go at the end of this season, Rice’s senior receiver will be a definite entry. Dillard’s numbers mirror those of Crabtree, including the 112 receiving yards per game, while playing in a less explosive offense. His 46 receptions and 11 touchdowns exceed the production of Crabtree, yet his name is never shown in the same light. And for anyone quick to say his production comes against lesser foes, Dilliard wracked up 158 yards and a touchdown, on 9 receptions, against the 5th ranked Texas Longhorns.
Clay Matthews, DE, USC
Matthews is the son of the former NFL star bearing the same name. He went from a walk-on at USC to starting in his first game last week against Oregon. Although they list him as a defensive end, he is a hybrid, the same as Brian Cushing, able to also drop back and play linebacker. Matthews was likely not on any draft boards in any round at the start of the season, but according to Scott Wolf of the L.A Daily news, after only one start, he’s moved among those considered for first day selection.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Pittsburgh
McCoy is the second back on this list, but unlike Ringer, his name was already being mentioned. 2008 has proved Shady to be no fluke, as he continues to perform at a high level. McCoy averages 4.6 yards per carry and 106 yards per game. He has a golden opportunity to increase his stock further with a nationally televised game against the Golden Domers in upcoming weeks. In a draft year that wasn’t supposed to see the running back class deep, if McCoy elects to forgo his remaining years at Pitt, the draft gets deeper.