Risers/Sliders: Week Nine
Tony PaulineDraft Analyst Writer
Week nine of the college season saw several close finishes and two top rated teams fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. We also witnessed three ball carriers rise up draft boards as well as an unknown tackle from Utah who’s caught the attention of NFL scouts. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week nine.
Sidney Jones/CB/Washington: It wasn’t long ago Marcus Peters entered the draft after his junior season at Washington then was selected in the first round. All indications are Jones will follow suit. The junior is improving almost weekly and developing into a true shutdown corner. His ball skills compliment his next level size and Jones has dominated opponents all year. He displays the ability to make plays with his back to the ball and stays on the receiver’s hip out of breaks and Jones regularly beats down opponents to defend the pass. He was rarely challenged during the victory over Utah yet still broke up two passes. Expect Jones to enter the draft then end up somewhere in the middle of round one.
James Conner/RB/Pittsburgh: Besides an inspirational return to the field after defeating cancer Conner is turning in a tremendous campaign which has impressed NFL scouts. Three times this season he’s broken the century mark on the ground and his 141-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Virginia Tech was his best of the year. Conner displays terrific quickness and speed for a back close to 230lbs and turns the corner almost as easily as he pounds opponents up the middle. Physical and medical exams will ultimately determine Conner’s final draft position but there’s no denying his triumphant return has been good for his pocketbook as well as his spirit.
Jeremy McNichols/RB/Boise State: Last week it was Wyoming running back Brian Hill in the risers column and this week the attention turns towards another M-West ball carrier, Boise State’s McNichols. The junior posted 143-yards rushing on 18 carries (7.9-yard average) with 2 touchdowns during the loss to Wyoming on Saturday and he was tough to stop. McNichols consistently picks up big chunks of yardage every time he touches the ball (more than 5-yards per carry the past two seasons) and runs hard on the inside while showing the ability to create yardage and make defenders miss. I presently grade him as a 3rd round prospect and I’m told it’s presently a 50/50 proposition as to whether or not McNichols enters the draft.
Elijah McGuire/RB/Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin Cajuns had the week off but the chatter has been building around McGuire for more than a month. The versatile ball carrier has 672-yards rushing and 5 touchdowns during the season’s initial seven games, averaging more than 5-yards per touch. He’s a tough running back with the ability to make defenders miss and create yardage. Measuring 5-feet/9.5-inches and just over 200lbs, McGuire needs to show more productivity catching the ball out of the backfield but scouts have pegged him as a middle round pick. I’m told he’s made the first round of Senior Bowl cuts.
Amara Darboh/WR/Michigan: Several Wolverines were worthy of the risers list but I’m going with Darboh who had a career game against a very good Michigan State secondary. Darboh made a number of difficult catches in traffic during the games important moments and finished with 8 receptions for 165-yards, far outdistancing any of his teammates. Scouts ranked Darboh below teammate Jehu Chesson entering the year but he’s elevated his game and is turning his tremendous athleticism into on the field production.
Blair Brown/LB/Ohio: Prior to the season I stated Brown was an intriguing prospect whom liked and he’s not disappointed in 2016. Brown leads the Ohio defense with 79 tackles, including 9 posted during the victory over Toledo. Though vertically challenged Brown stacks well against the run and makes plays sideline-to-sideline. I could see him moving into the late fourth round area as Brown fits well at either middle or inside linebacker.
Sleeper Prospect- Garett Bolles/T/Utah: Scouts knew little about Bolles, a junior college transfer who’s played offensive tackle for two years, before the season but the lineman has made a quick ascent up draft boards. Taking over the starting left tackle spot after J.J. Dielman moved to center, Bolles has played next level football every Saturday. Despite giving up one sack late in the Washington game Bolles helped keep his quarterback upright against one of the nation’s best defenses. I’m told Bolles, who served an LDS church mission and will be 25 years old next May, would consider entering the draft if he receives a first round grade from the advisory committee and many believe he is top 32 worthy.
Small School Prospect- Jessamen Dunker/G/Tennessee State: On film Dunker is one of the better zone blocking guards you’ll find from the senior class. Fundamentally sound, he’s a tremendous pass protector and easily moves around the field then annihilates opponents blocking in motion. Though some scouts grade him as a tackle, the position he played for two seasons at TSU, I feel he’s best inside at guard. Dunker’s play grades as a legitimate mid-round prospect but numerous character concerns and off the field issues will raise red flags. He’ll likely end up as a late round choice but if he gets his act together Dunker could line-up with the starting unit on Sunday’s.
Charles Harris/DE-OLB/Missouri: Though some have blamed it on the defensive scheme, there’s no denying the draft stock of Harris has taken a hit this year. Entering the season as a prospect many thought could vault into the first round, the junior has posted just 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss. Those are pedestrian numbers for a prospect who’s supposed to make a living in the opponents’ backfield.
Quincy Mauger/S/Georgia: Mauger was graded as a late round/priority free agent prospect entering the year but he’s played more like someone who won’t make it past the 80 man roster. He’s totaled just 16 tackles in eight games thus far and started in just one of those contests.