Risers & Sliders -- Week 14

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The final weekend on the college schedule saw several exciting games, with almost a dozen conference champions crowned. It was also a weekend where a trio of cornerbacks improved their draft stock, as did one of the most understated edge rushers in the nation. Here are the Risers & Sliders for the final week of college football’s regular season.

D’Andre Walker/Edge/Georgia: Georgia suffered another heartbreaking loss to Alabama, but Walker and the Bulldogs defense kept the Tide’s offense in check for most of the game. Walker was a menacing force all night and finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack while also forcing a fumble and breaking up a pass. His stats this season are nothing spectacular with 11 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks, but his ability to force the action and make quarterbacks or ball carriers break off plays is something that’s very attractive to NFL decision-makers.

Byron Murphy/CB/Washington: The redshirt sophomore is expected to enter the 2019 draft, and he proved why so many grade him as a mid-first round selection in the Pac-12 title game. Murphy deserved to be named as a riser numerous times this season, but his play against Utah was special. Though he finished with just a single tackle, Murphy intercepted two passes, brought one back for the game’s first touchdown and broke up a pass late in the fourth quarter as Utah was driving for the game-tying score. Murphy has the athleticism, speed and ball skills to start at the next level, although measuring under six feet tall will be a red flag for several teams.

Tae Hayes/CB/Appalachian State: A consistent force for the Mountaineers all season long, Hayes played mistake-free football to help Appalachian State win the Sun Belt title and posted nine tackles in the game and intercepted a pass. For the year he totaled 31 tackles, posted six pass defenses, intercepted two passes and blocked two kicks. He offers solid ball skills and special-teams ability, but Hayes is another who comes up short on the measuring tape, touching just 5-foot-9. I could absolutely see Hayes sliding into the late rounds of the draft for a team needing a dime back, slot corner and special teamer.

Jalen Embry/CB/Northern Illinois: In what was yet another exciting MAC title game, Northern Illinois erased a 19-point second half deficit and scored in the closing minutes to win the contest and the title. Once again Week 12 riser Sutton Smith was terrific, but it was also a strong performance for Jalen Embry. The senior corner broke up two passes and registered three tackles to give him totals of eight  and 60 tackles for the season. Embry was given a priority free-agent grade by Draft Analyst.com entering the season but was completely ignored by scouts. He has the size and ball skills to line up as a dime back and special teamer on Sundays.

Bobby Evans/OL/Oklahoma: I’ve reported numerous times since the summer that Evans will enter the draft, and he looked NFL-ready during the Sooners' victory over Texas, which secured another Big 12 title for the program. Oklahoma’s offense had a tough go of it early in the game before switching into high gear late in the second half. Evans held his own during all four quarters and looked terrific in pass protection. He blocks with outstanding fundamentals and displays a nice degree of agility and movement skills. Evans must improve his run-blocking strength and there is some question as to whether he’ll line up at guard or tackle at the next level. Regardless, I fully expect Evans to land somewhere in the draft’s initial 125 selections next April and compete for a starting spot in the NFL.

Jakobi Meyers/WR/North Carolina State: Beating up on a program going nowhere which just fired another head coach in a rescheduled game means little, but Meyers' performance against East Carolina must be mentioned. A terrific next-level prospect who has played second fiddle to teammate Kelvin Harmon, Meyers finished the game with 13 receptions for 163 receiving yards. He’s slightly smaller than Harmon but has more speed and is a legitimate deep threat. Don’t be surprised if Meyers follows his teammate into April’s draft, where he grades as a top-100 choice.

Small-School Prospect - Jay-Tee Tiuli/DT/Eastern Washington: I gave Tiuli a late-round grade entering the 2017 season, but an injury during the second game sidelined him the rest of the year. He’s slowly returned to form in 2018 and played well during the team’s playoff victory against Nicholls State, registering five tackles. Tiuli is not much of a playmaker but is a true gap occupier and space eater up front. He has the size (6-foot-3.5, 330 pounds) and mentality to line up at nose tackle in the NFL.