Risers & Sliders -- Week 12

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

It was a rather ho-hum week on the college football schedule as the season prepares for the home stretch and rivalry weekend. There were still some terrific performances by a number of underrated prospects. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 12.

Risers

Johnathan Abram/S/Mississippi State: Abram is a player I’ve mentioned several times during game previews and podcasts this season. He’s often overlooked during conversations about the Bulldogs' talented defense, but Abram is a prospect with a next-level future. The senior is a physical safety who dominates defending the run while also showing a lot of skill in coverage.  He’s best between the tackles and up the field, proving as much against Arkansas when he totaled 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two hurries. For the year, Abram leads the MSU defense with 89 tackles and has broken up four passes. He’ll be a solid pick during the late part of the draft’s second day and can line up as a strong or zone safety at the next level.

Darnell Savage/S/Maryland: It’s tough to make the claim a safety is rising up draft boards after his defense gave up 52 points in an overtime loss, but that’s the case with Savage. The senior has been on the scouting radar all season long and is playing productive football. He’s slightly undersized at barely 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds but plays tough, instinctive football. He finished with nine tackles and broke up one pass during the loss to Ohio State last weekend, and Savage has four interceptions this season. He possesses terrific ball skills, shows a great feel for coverage and sacrifices his body to make the tackle. Graded as a priority free agent entering the season, Savage could move into the middle rounds if he finishes the season strong and turns in good workouts before the draft.

Sutton Smith/Edge/Northern Illinois: Smith was a player I spoke highly of during our NIU scouting preview last June, as he’s an omnipresent force on film. Despite size limitations (six feet, 235 pounds), he is constantly disrupting the opponent's game plan, making plays behind the line of scrimmage and forcing the action. His stats this season include 16 tackles for loss, nine sacks, seven hurries and four forced fumbles. During the loss to Miami-Ohio last week he posted three tackles, one tackle for loss and two hurries. Smith is likely a mid-round pick when he enters the draft, and a creative defensive coordinator will find ways to maximize his talents.

Jordan Love/QB/Utah State: The Aggies are in the midst of a magnificent season and pushed their record to 10-1 after a razor-thin victory over Colorado State. They are one of the best stories in college football this season, and Jordan Love is turning into one of the better young quarterback prospects few are talking about. Love is a precise quarterback who protects the football; he’s completed 66.7% of his throws this season and has connected on 24 touchdown passes and thrown just four interceptions. Love has outstanding size and next-level arm strength and has made terrific progress in his game. I don’t expect Love to enter the 2019 draft, but keep his name on your radar moving forward.

Reggie Walker/Edge/Kansas State: I graded Walker as draftable after his freshman season, and he’s playing at a high level in 2018. During this week's victory over Texas Tech, the junior finished with six tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks. This gives him a total of 7.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss this season to go along with four hurries and two forced fumbles. Walker is an undersized edge rusher with the speed and athleticism to play in space. He presently grades as a late-round pick on my board but could move into the middle rounds if he continues to play at this pace.

Sleeper Prospect - Cody Thompson/WR/Toledo: Thompson was graded as a draftable senior entering the 2017 campaign, but his season was cut short by a broken leg after five games. He was slow out of the gate this season, but he's rounded into form and has been playing next-level football for the past month. Against Northern Illinois, he led the trio of talented Toledo receivers with eight receptions for 110 yards. Over the past four games he’s totaled 22 catches. Thompson offers nice size (6-foot-1.5 and 205 pounds), consistent hands and great football intellect. If there are no medical red flags, I believe he will slide into the later rounds and become a productive fifth receiver at the next level.

Small-School Prospect - Rickey Neal/Edge/Northern Iowa: Neal is one of the better pass rushers from the small-school ranks and has performed beyond expectations this season. In 11 games, Neal has totaled 7.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and seven hurries while breaking up three passes and forcing three fumbles. At 6-foot-1.5 and 238 pounds, Neal is undersized for the defensive end position he plays but has the speed and athleticism to stand over tackle at the next level. Neal is not only a good pass rusher but also shows the ability to make plays in space. He entered the season stamped as a priority free agent, but I could easily see Neal sliding into the late rounds based off his play this season.

Sliders

Carl Granderson/DE/Wyoming: Granderson was graded as a potential mid-round choice in large part based off his computer numbers, upside and what scouts expected of him this season. Eleven games into the 2018 campaign, Granderson has not come close to meeting those expectations and has posted just two sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and 35 tackles. Granderson is incredibly athletic with tremendous size and speed but must translate those natural skills into on-field production.