Risers & Sliders -- Week 11

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

There were no major upsets on the college football schedule last weekend, as all the teams ranked in the top 10 came away with a victory. We saw another outstanding performance from the nation’s top program in Alabama, and in an unusual circumstance, two players on the Tide roster make our risers list this week. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 11.

Quinnen Williams/DL/Alabama: Williams name could’ve have been added to this list at any time during the past two months, but his performance against one of the best centers in the nation was nothing short of dominant. Williams finished with six tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack against Mississippi State, but his dominance went further than stats. His ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage caused a great deal of discomfort for quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and forced MSU running backs to alter the angles of their runs. His ability to anchor against double-team blocks allowed teammates to make plays on the ball. Williams beat Bulldogs center Elgton Jenkins, graded as a potential first-rounder by scouts, with quickness, power and athleticism. It was a tremendous performance by a prospect who projects as a top-10 pick in next April’s draft.

Irv Smith/TE/Alabama: Like his teammate, Smith could have been listed as a riser multiple times the past 10 weeks. But given the talent and makeup of the Mississippi State defense and its half-dozen NFL prospects, I thought it best to wait, and Smith did not disappoint. He led the lethal Alabama passing attack with five receptions for 70 yards, including a 25-yard catch when Smith looked like an oversized receiver in the secondary. While he must improve his blocking strength, Smith’s intensity and effort are next-level worthy. The senior class of tight ends leaves a lot to be desired, but Smith is one of a handful of underclassmen who presently rank as top-75 pick.

Otaro Alaka/LB/Texas A&M: I stamped Alaka as a mid-round pick after his sophomore season of 2016 but dropped him into the sixth round after a disappointing junior campaign a year later. Alaka is playing beyond expectations this season and is really picking up where he left off as a sophomore. His latest gem included 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one hurry during the Aggies' victory over Ole Miss. Otaro leads the Aggies in tackles (64) and tackles for loss (11) this season. He has a terrific build, plays tough, explosive football and will be really good as an inside or middle linebacker at the next level.

Amani Oruwariye/CB/Penn State: The senior was graded as a potential late-round selection entering the season, but he's played better than expected and is now graded as a mid-round prospect. In 10 games this season, he has three interceptions and 11 pass breakups and has totaled 45 tackles. Against Wisconsin this weekend, Oruwariye intercepted a pass late in the second quarter as the Badgers were driving for a score. A late bloomer of sorts, Oruwariye combines outstanding size with next-level athleticism, and if properly coached, he could develop into a next-level starter.

Mike Bell Jr./DB/Fresno State: Bell was a player I initially mentioned during the Journey to the Draft podcast with Fran Duffy back on October 30, and the junior continues to impress. Even during the Bulldogs' loss to Boise State on Friday, Bell played well with eight tackles and one pass breakup. As I mentioned two weeks ago, he’s an athletic defensive back who can line up at safety or corner and displays range in center field as well as next-level ball skills in man coverage. I continue to hear that there’s a definite possibility Bell enters next April’s draft, and I expect he’ll make a late move up draft boards as more people become acquainted with his game.

Mike Weber/RB/Ohio State: I graded Weber as a potential second-day pick after his redshirt freshman season, but the ball carrier has played backup to J.K. Dobbins the past two years. Weber still shows he can be a dominant running back when given the chance to carry the load for the Buckeyes offense, and he has the stuff of a next-level player. Such was the case on Saturday, when Weber posted 104 yards rushing with one touchdown on 22 carries against Michigan State, the top rushing defense in the Big 10. Weber has terrific size, next-level power and good short-area quickness. He considered entering last April’s draft before returning to Columbus, and when Weber decides to go pro he will be great value outside the top 100 choices.

Sleeper Prospect - Travis Fulgham/WR/Old Dominion: Fulgham is the third ODU senior to be listed as a riser this year -- pass rusher Oshane Ximinis was a Week 4 riser after his tremendous performance against Virginia Tech, and he was soon followed by receiver Jonathan Duhart, a Week 5 riser. Fulgham makes the list this week after an eight-catch, 155-yard, one-TD performance during ODU’s upset victory over North Texas, a week after he totaled 10 receptions, 215 yards and one TD in a loss to Middle Tennessee. Graded as a street free agent entering the season, Fulgham has performed at a much higher level than anyone expected. He combines incredible size (6-foot-2.5, 212 pounds), decent speed (mid 4.5s) and reliable hands. Fulgham is starting to pull the pieces together and translate his athleticism into consistent football production. It could all add up to a draftable grade next April.

Small-School Prospect - Johnny Robinson/DT/Charleston Southern: Robinson is a fireplug type of lineman who plays with great quickness, leverage and explosion. Measuring six feet tall and 295 pounds, he has the style and substance of former USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. He beats opponents with great first-step quickness as well as lower body power and athleticism. In nine games this season, Robinson has totaled 33 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. He could slide into the closing picks of the seventh round next April, and I expect Robinson to compete for a spot as a three-technique tackle at the next level.


Elgton Jenkins/C/Mississippi State: I won’t beat a dead horse, but Jenkins was graded anywhere from anywhere from an early second-round pick to a potential late first-round selection entering this season, and he was hammered by riser Quinnen Williams this week. He looked stiff, sluggish and at times intimidated. This is a performance Jenkins will be asked about during Senior Bowl and Combine interviews.