Risers/Sliders: Week Ten

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Week ten of the college season will result in a shake-up near the top of the national rankings after Texas A&M unexpectedly lost to Mississippi State. From the perspective of NFL prospects four linebackers lead the way while two lesser known receivers also make the list. Here are the Risers and Sliders for week ten.

Risers

Zach Cunningham/LB/Vanderbilt: The Commodores lost a close contest to Auburn but Cunningham had a wow type of performance. The junior finished with a team leading 9 tackles, which gives him 94 this season, also tops on the Vandy defense. Cunningham also forced a fumble during the contest and made a sensational play to block a field goal late in the game. The athleticism he showed jumping clear over Auburn’s long snapper then knocking away the kick is the type of stuff scouts will be impressed by during war room film work. Cunningham must improve his play against the pass and be more disciplined with assignments as he often fires up the field and gets caught out of position but his explosive style will entice a defensive minded head coach.

Micah Kiser/LB/Virginia: The Cavaliers have shown signs of life after years of being the doormat in the ACC and Kiser is leading the way on defense. The junior linebacker leads the team in all tackling categories and thus far has posted 91 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as well as a team leading 4 forced fumbles. Proving himself as a three down defender Kiser has also broken up 6 passes this season. He’s a terrific run and chase linebacker that should do well on the inside of a 3-4 alignment.

Richie Brown/LB/Mississippi State: Despite being stamped as a street free agent by a number of scouts, I graded Brown as a potential sixth round prospect entering the season and he’s very much looked like a draftable prospect in 2016. He posted a team leading 8 tackles during the upset over Texas A&M and sits atop the Bulldogs defense with 76 tackles. Brown is a terrific run stopper with the athleticism necessary to develop into a three down player.

Ben Weaver/LB/Boise State: Weaver is one of the better kept secrets at the linebacker position. Despite being ignored by scouts the senior has been a tackling machine for Boise State and presently leads the team with 87 tackles. Nine games into his senior season Weaver has a combined 306 tackles for the Broncos dating back to his freshman season. He has size limitations but you cannot dismiss his production and Weaver should catch on as a reserve linebacker/special team’s player on Sunday.

Deangelo Yancey/WR/Purdue: Yancey has been one of the few bright spots in what’s been another dreary season for Purdue. The senior wide out, graded as a mid-round pick prior to the season, has been consistent catching the ball while showing a great deal of big play ability. The past four games Yancey caught 12 passes for 384-yards, an average of 32 yards per reception. During that streak he found the end zone 5 times. The totals this season include 30 receptions for 557 receiving yards and 6 scores. The numbers are not overwhelming but the film is enough to get Yancey, who measures 6-feet/1.5-inches and 212 pounds, a combine invitation and consideration in the fourth round.

Austin Schmidt/T/Illinois: Prior to the season I voiced my surprise scouts graded Schmidt as nothing more than a street free agent while I handed the senior a sixth round grade. Thus far Schmidt has played well and he looked solid during the victory over Michigan State. He’s not the greatest athlete and must improve his playing strength but Schmidt is fundamentally sound and could easily make an NFL roster as a reserve swing tackle.

Sleeper Prospect- Jhaustin Thomas/DL/Iowa State: Thomas was another player I handed a sixth round grade prior to the season despite scouts taking a wait and see approach. The 6-foot/5-inch, 285 pound Thomas has shown consistent improvement in his game all year. Against Oklahoma he totaled 3 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and intercepted a pass. For the year Thomas has registered 15 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. And while not All American numbers he’s a prospect with size, athleticism and big play ability. Thomas will be a terrific late round pick as a developmental prospect that can line-up at defensive tackle or as a two-gap end.

Small School Prospect- Billy Brown/WR-TE/Shepherd: Scouts rated Brown as one of the top small school prospects entering the season and it’s easy to see why watching the film. Measuring just under 6-feet/4-inches and 245-pounds while running the forty under 4.6s, Brown plays big football and dominates opponents. He’s a natural pass catcher that consistently grabs the ball away from his frame and regularly wins out for contested passes. Brown is sneaky fast and though more of a long strider, makes big receptions down field. This season he’s totaled 63 receptions, 998 yards (15.8 yard average) and 14 touchdowns in nine games. In many ways Brown reminds me of a bigger version of Devin Funchess and he could make a position change as did the former Michigan star, though in this case Brown may end up moving from college receiver to NFL tight end.

Sliders

C.J. Beathard/QB/Iowa: Graded by scouts as one of the top two senior quarterback prospects, Beathard has not met expectations. Known for heady play rather than great physical skills, he’s a dink and dunk passer that’s struggled with his accuracy at times this season. After nine games Beathard has thrown for 200-yards or more only three times.

Seth Russell/QB/Baylor: Russell is another senior signal caller failing to meet the expectations of scouts, albeit for a variety of reasons. His accuracy is significantly off compared to a year ago while is touchdown-to-interception ratio is much worse.