Week 13 Risers & Sliders

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

It was a wild weekend in college football as most of the teams around the nation closed out the regular season. The top-ranked teams lost their first games of the year and a fury of coaches were fired -- and hired. Defense paves the way this week as does the first appearance of a highly rated passer. Here are the Risers & Sliders for Week 13.

Tremaine Edmunds/LB/Virginia Tech: Back on October 11 I reported that Edmunds was likely headed to the draft, and the junior gave a memorable performance during what could be his regular-season finale. The dominant linebacker led Hokie defenders with nine tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks as Virginia Tech shut out interstate rival Virginia, 10-0. Edmunds is a tremendous force disrupting the action up the field and behind the line of scrimmage as well as outside the box. If he enters the draft as expected, Edmunds will be in the conversation as a potential late first-round selection.

Kameron Kelly/DB/San Diego State: We graded Kelly as a draftable safety after his sophomore and junior campaigns, but the switch to cornerback this season has resulted in his draft stock exploding. Kelly quickly took to his new position in 2017, intercepting three passes and breaking up eight more while also posting 62 tackles, third-best on the Aztec defense. Kelly has the size (6-foot, 200 pounds), speed (4.52s 40) and ball skills to line up in nickel packages at the next level. And though he must improve his skill making plays with his back to the ball, Kelly could jump into the draft’s second day with a good postseason.

Derrick Nnadi/DT/Florida State: The sometimes-dominant, sometimes-inconsistent Nnadi put a beat down on the Florida Gators and showed why scouts think so highly of his potential. His totals included three tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as well as several pressures. On a number of snaps, Nnadi did not get credit for any statistics but collapsed the pocket forcing ball carriers to re-route runs or making the quarterback to find a new safe space. The senior has first-round potential but questions about his motor and intensity will be addressed in the lead-up to the draft.

Khalil Hodge/LB/Buffalo: We mentioned Hodge last June during our Buffalo preview, and the junior is having a monster campaign. In 12 games this season, he’s posted 154 tackles, intercepted two passes and forced a pair of fumbles. During the Bulls upset victory over Ohio, a win which made the team bowl-eligible, his stats line read 13 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception as well as a pass breakup. Just his second year at Buffalo since transferring from San Francisco Community College, Hodge is a dominant run defender best making plays up the field or in pursuit. He’s a natural MLB/ILB with starting potential at the next level.

Jarrett Stidham/QB/Auburn: Stidham is one of the few quarterback prospects who has lived up to expectations this season. The former Baylor signal caller has proven his grit against top competition and fared well against the dominant Crimson Tide defense this weekend. Stidham completed 21 of 28 passes for 237 yards during the Iron Bowl victory over top-rated Alabama. Most importantly, Stidham threw no interceptions against a 'Bama secondary that lines up a pair of first-round prospects and another player who's expected to land in the draft’s second day. For the season, the junior has 16 TDs to just four INTs. Stidham possesses next-level physical skills and gets it between the ears, effectively reading defenses and staying away from poor decisions. Many inside the Auburn program believe Stidham will enter the 2018 draft, and if he enters he’ll likely end up a second-day selection.

Brian O'Neill/T/Pittsburgh: The former right tackle had a rough start after moving to the left side but showed improvement as the season progressed. During the Panthers' upset victory over Miami, O’Neill helped keep his quarterback upright as the Hurricanes ended the game with only a single sack -- and it came from the defensive back seven. O’Neill is a large, athletic blocker who shows flashes of ability on the left side but still has inconsistency in his game. As we mentioned on October 25, the junior intends on going through the process of getting draft grades and opinions as to whether or not he should leave for the NFL. If he receives convincing information that teams are sold he can stay at left tackle, O’Neill may just want to make the jump.

Sleeper Prospect - James Gardner/WR/Miami-Oh: Gardner was a player we featured during our Miami-Ohio preview this past June, and the big-bodied receiver has played beyond expectations this season. The junior totaled 47 receptions, 927 receiving yards (19.7 yard average) and caught 11 touchdown passes in 2017. The big-play ability of this 215-pound receiver is startling, and so is his nose for the end zone. Gardner is setting himself up to be one of the higher-graded receivers from the senior class next year.

Small School Prospect - Max Mickey/RB/Sioux Falls: The Cougars' season is long over, but it’s never too late to talk about Mickey. The senior missed the month of October with a leg injury yet totaled 937 yards in the six games he played this season and crossed the goal line nine times. Mickey is a smallish (5-foot-8-inches, 195 pounds) ball carrier with a tremendous burst and the speed as well as balance necessary to turn the perimeter. Mickey also comes with great instincts and vision, making great use of blocks and run angles to get the most from every carry. He needs to improve his pass catching as well as prove he can return punts, but Mickey offers the ability to line up as a change of pace/situational ball carrier at the next level.


Mike Boone/RB/Cincinnati: Boone entered the season stamped by scouts as a potential late-round pick but leaves 2017 as an undraftable player. Durability has always been a concern for Boone, and the ball carrier missed time again this season with an ankle injury. Boone was never able to top his sophomore season, when he totaled 749 rushing yards and nine TDs, and his production has fallen off significantly the past two years.

Shay Fields/WR/Colorado: Fields is another who entered the season with a late-round grade, though he was stamped as a solid sixth-round pick, but he finished his senior campaign worse for the wear. Shay caught 10 fewer passes (46) for 260 fewer receiving yards (623) and more than half as many TDs (4) than one year ago. His yards per reception also dropped, a red flag for someone considered a speed receiver.