Risers/Sliders: Week Seven
Tony PaulineDraft Analyst Writer
Late comebacks and exciting finishes assured there were no significant changes at the top of the national rankings. On the scouting front three players from the SEC sit atop the risers column this week, which also features a pair of exciting defensive backs from the junior class.
Tim Williams/DE-OLB/Alabama: Scouts stamped Williams as a possible top 45 pick entering the season but the senior has played more like a top 32 choice. The stats from this weekend’s demolition of Tennessee don’t tell the whole story. Williams posted 2 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and 1 sack yet from the start of the game he terrorized Volunteer quarterback Robert Dobbs and annihilated everyone who tried to slow him down. Most impressive was the way Williams got pressure up the field from a three point stance as well as standing over tackle. He beat opponents with speed, power and great technique. He must improve his play against the run and I’m hoping Williams shows up at the Senior Bowl then is used in coverage drills. Regardless, there’s no denying he’s significantly improved his draft stock this season.
Jeremiah Ledbetter/DL/Arkansas: I’ve been waiting to put Ledbetter on my risers list for a number of weeks and feel his performance against Mississippi warrants mention. Most scouts did not grade Ledbetter entering the season due to poor size/speed numbers despite the fact he’s done nothing but make plays since transferring to Arkansas. His numbers against the Rebels included 5 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack. To date he leads the team with 3.5 sacks and tops all Razorback defensive linemen with 28 tackles. Ledbetter has size and scheme limitations but his approach and productively make me feel he’s worthy of a late round choice for a team needing a reserve three-technique tackle.
Jeremy Sprinkle/TE/Arkansas: Sprinkle was a prospect I highlighted in August when spoke about the need for increased offensive production. And while that has yet to materialize (1 reception against Mississippi this weekend and a total of 19 catches in 7 games) scouts are impressed with his overall game. His blocking and disciplined route running against Mississippi helped spark the Arkansas offense all evening. And when the ball is thrown in his direction he makes the catch. Sprinkle is a tight end whose contributions don’t always show up on the stat sheet and a prospect who will be under-drafted but a player that could eventually develop into a Sunday starter.
Gareon Conley/CB/Ohio State: Two Buckeyes are flying up draft boards, safety Malik Hooker who I mentioned two weeks ago and now Gareon Conley. The junior corner has really stepped up his game and he turned in a great performance against Wisconsin. Putting aside his interception and pass break-up during the game, what was most impressive was the way Conley made plays with his back to the ball and his ability to track the pass then make the play. Conley has decent size which compliments his athleticism, instincts and ball skills. It all adds up to the next top cornerback prospect from the OSU program.
Dede Westbrook/WR/Oklahoma: Graded as a late round pick before the season, Westbrook is on a tear and has improved his stock by nearly two rounds. The senior is not only proving to be a reliable receiver (43 receptions in 6 games this year) but a big play wide out as well (21-yard average on 26 catches during past three games). Westbrook has also shown a nose for the end zone catching 8 TD receptions the past three games. Forty times are critical in the lead up to the 2017 draft but Westbrook could end up as a middle round choice for a team needing a slot receiver.
Donnie Miles/S/North Carolina: Several seniors on the Tar Heel roster received high grades from scouts entering the season but I contend it is a junior, Donnie Miles, who is the team’s top NFL prospect. To date he’s performed well and looked terrific during the victory over Miami. Leading the defense with 8 tackles, Miles was constantly around the action making positive plays and selling out to stop ball handlers. He needs to pick up his production against the pass but Miles has the size, smarts and range to land in the second day of the draft.
Sleeper Prospect- Kalib Woods/WR/Florida Atlantic: The junior receiver is in the midst of a breakout season and forcing scouts to take notice of his talents. Seven games into the campaign he’s well past the numbers posted all of last year, recording 36 receptions, 496 receiving yards (13.8 yard average) with 1 score. During the loss to Marshall his numbers included 5 catches for 100 yards. Woods is a smooth wide out with sneaky speed and nice size. He needs to find the end zone more often but has set himself up as a mid-third day pick and comes with nice upside.
Small School Prospect- Keionta Davis/DE/ Tenn-Chattanooga: Scouts grade Davis as a fringe 7th round pick but on my board the small school defender ranks as one of the better edge rushers from the senior class. Firing off the snap with an explosive first step, Davis has great speed up the field and bends off the edge with balance and body control. He gives effort in all areas of the game and to date has 11 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. During the loss to the Citadel this weekend Davis posted 10 tackles. He needs to improve his strength as he struggles holding the point against the run but Davis nicely projects as a designated pass rusher on Sunday.
Peter Kalambayi/OLB/Stanford: A year ago scouts added Kalambayi, then a redshirt sophomore, to their underclassmen watch list yet the defender has shown little progress since. During the win against Notre Dame he posted two tackles and often had trouble finding the ball. In six games this season he has 2.5 sacks to go along with 18 tackles.
Se'Von Pittman/DL/Akron: Back in August I mentioned several scouts had given Pittman a second day grade, which I thought was generous. In seven games this season he’s posted 12 tackles, 1 tackle for loss and has not registered a sack. And though stats don’t completely tell the story an undersized defensive lineman from the MAC must have more impact than displayed by Pittman to warrant a second day grade.