Week 10 Risers & Sliders

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

Week 10 on the college schedule turned out to be terrible for the Big Ten title contenders yet saw no other changes at the top of the rankings. Several outstanding performances were turned in by sleeper prospects on the winning side of the scoreboard. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 10.

Risers

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo/LB/Oklahoma: Entering the season, scouts graded Okoronkwo as a prospect likely to be looking for work a week after the draft was completed. Midway through the 2017 campaign, they now believe he is a potential mid-round pick. The explosive defender, who measures a shade under 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds with a 40 time in the mid-4.7s, is developing a complete, three-down game. He stacks well against the run, sells out to make plays behind the line of scrimmage and has held his own in coverage. During the Sooners' victory over interstate rival Oklahoma State, the linebacker posted just two tackles but came up with a timely sack late in the game in addition to breaking up a pass. Expect Okoronkwo to end up playing in a January All-Star Game, quite possibly the Senior Bowl, then tear it up at the combine.

Nick Nelson/CB/Wisconsin: Despite starting for Hawaii in 2014 and 2015, not much was known about Nelson, who redshirted last year. This season he’s making scouts take notice of his game with some outstanding performances. The big corner battled Simmie Cobbs during the Badgers' victory over Indiana and won out more times than not. He finished the day with five tackles and broke up four passes. For the year, Nelson has 18 PBUs to his credit and has shown terrific ball skills which complement his physical style of play. We presently grade Nelson as a fifth-round pick but fully believe if he continues to develop and looks good in workouts that he’ll land in the second day of the draft.

James Daniels/C/Iowa: When there’s a conversation on future NFL centers from the Big Ten, the names usually mentioned are Michigan’s Mason Cole and Billy Price of Ohio State. Iowa’s James Daniels, the name often left out, is not far behind and should be included in the narrative. Daniels was dominant during the Hawkeyes' victory over highly rated Ohio State and on several occasions knocked several of their talented defensive tackles off the line and back to the second level. He’s a well-built lineman with the athleticism and agility to play in a zone-blocking scheme. We stamped Daniels as a third-round prospect entering the season but he has the skill and potential to move further north on draft boards.

Demario Richard/RB/Arizona State: Kalen Ballage is the first name people mention when talking about ASU running backs headed for the next level, yet truth be told Richard is the more complete back and much more NFL-ready than his teammate. Richard has outrushed Ballage in all but three games this season, most recently putting up 189 yards and one score on 25 carries against Colorado. And while Richard may not have the pure athleticism of Ballage, his vision, instincts and dare I say intensity are more in line with the NFL game.

Devin Abraham/DB/South Florida: Abraham entered the season without a mention from scouts but is making his case for late-round consideration. The versatile defensive back, who’s lined up at cornerback and safety, has intercepted four passes this season as well as posting 36 tackles, including a team leading 10 tackles during a victory over UConn on Saturday. Abraham is vertically challenged and struggled with durability issues in the past but shows enough ability to line up as a dime back and coverage unit player on Sundays.

Jarvion Franklin/RB/Western Michigan: Franklin was stamped as a late-round pick entering the season and looks every bit the draftable prospect this year. His latest outing netted 228 yards rushing and two touchdowns during the loss to Central Michigan. It was the fifth time this season Franklin has broken the century mark on the ground, and to date he’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry with nine TDs. A bigger runner who weighs about 225 pounds, Franklin grinds it out on the inside, punishing defenders to pick up the difficult yardage. He’ll be an asset as a short yardage and goal-line ball carrier at the next level.

Sleeper Prospect - Jaleel Scott/WR/New Mexico State: One of the hottest names in scouting community, Scott is on a tear and has caught many people by surprise. The big bodied (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) receiver was understandably ignored by scouts entering the season as he caught just 23 passes last year after transferring from Ellsworth CC. This year Scott has shown flashes of dominance and performed well against top competition. In the season opener against Arizona State, he caught eight passes for 149 yards with two touchdowns. A month later against Arkansas it was nine receptions for 174 yards with one score. This weekend he caught seven passes for 130 yards and a touchdown against Texas State. In many ways his game reminds me of Alshon Jeffery, the former Pro Bowler for the Bears who is now catching passes for the Philadelphia Eagles. I would expect Scott to play in a January post-season game such as the Shrine Game, and predraft workouts will be critical in determining his final draft grade.

Small School Prospect - Michael Ford/DB/Southeast Missouri: Small-school defensive backs have been featured often in this column as well as our Tuesday Draft Notes, and Ford is one of the better prospects I’ve seen on film. The former wide receiver has been a productive three-year starter at corner for Southeast Missouri. This season Ford has accumulated 25 tackles, one interception and 12 PBUs. Well-sized at a shade under 6-foot, 200 pounds, he plays physical football and displays next-level ball skills and top instincts. Speed is a concern as are some of the technical aspects of Ford’s game, but he’s terrific making plays facing the action, which means a move inside to safety could be in the offing.

Sliders

Devin Gray/WR/Cincinnati: Eyebrows were raised when some scouts stamped Gray as a potential mid-round pick entering the season, yet thus far the senior has played like a street free agent. Nine games into the campaign, Gray’s totals include 22 receptions for 377 receiving yards. The Bearcats have issues at quarterback, but for the past two seasons Gray has shown himself to be nothing other than a streaky receiver.

Xavier Thigpen/DE/Southern Mississippi: Thigpen seriously considered entering the 2017 draft before making a last-minute decision to stay at USM, and it has not worked out. The pass-rushing specialist has three sacks and seven tackles for loss to his credit along with 16 tackles in nine games this season.