Week 7 Risers & Sliders

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

A crazy weekend in college football saw two undefeated teams taken down in convincing fashion on Friday, which caused a domino effect the next day. The end result will be a seismic shift in the national rankings, yet there were some outstanding performances from players on the losing side of the scoreboard. Week 7 Risers & Sliders includes four linemen moving up draft boards while two pass rushers are moving in the other direction.

Maurice Hurst/DT/Michigan: Prior to the Wolverines' overtime victory over Indiana, several people told me Hurst was receiving first-round grades, and the explosive defensive tackle proved why during the win. Finishing the game with six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks, he was an unstoppable and disruptive force for all four quarters. Hurst made several big plays, including a fourth-down stop early in the game as Indiana was on their way into the end zone. One of the few Wolverines underclassmen to bypass the 2017 draft, Hurst fits into the late part of Round 1 and can line up as a three-technique tackle, a conventional tackle or even a 3-4 end in certain schemes.

Clelin Ferrell/DE/Clemson: The Tigers may have lost the game, but it was a "wow" performance for Ferrell. He was an omnipresent force all game long, finishing with 7 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He showed off his incredible athleticism, explosion and quickness from start to finish. On one down Ferrell was dropped off the line of scrimmage then made the play 20 yards downfield. On more than one occasion he showed great pursuit speed, chasing then catching ball carriers from the backside. Ferrell was graded as the sixth-best player on our big board and as we mentioned last week in during Tuesday draft notes, many expect the redshirt sophomore to enter the draft.

James Looney/DL/California: Looney was a player we highlighted as underrated before the season began, and the senior has played beyond expectations this season. He played a large part in helping Cal hold the lethal Washington State offense to just three points last week. During the upset victory, Looney finished with four tackles, two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The senior is an athletic lineman who makes plays up the field or quickly changes direction then pursues to the action with speed to make the tackle in space. Entering the season with a fifth-round grade, Looney has moved up a full round and could sneak into the draft’s second day with good workouts and performances during a January All-Star game.

Nicholas Falah/C/USC: While everyone fawns over Sam Darnold, they pay little attention to the man snapping the ball to the quarterback, which is a shame. Falah has been a consistent force in the middle of the Trojans line and looked terrific against Utah’s talented defensive tackles. He consistently opened up the middle of the field for Trojans running backs, turning the highly rated Lowell Lotulelei from the play or getting out to the second level then sealing off linebackers. Despite being graded as a free agent by scouts, I believe he’s the most underrated center from the senior class and could end up in the middle rounds next April then develop into a starter at the next level.

Steve Ishmael/WR/Syracuse: Entering the season scouts stamped Ishmael as a marginal free agent, but I disagreed and graded him just outside of draftable range. The senior is in the midst of a career year and has produced more in seven games this season than he did in all of 2016. He led the Orangemen with six receptions during the upset victory over Clemson, also totaling 73 receiving yards and a score. Ishmael needs to improve his route-running but comes with nice size (over 6-foot-1, 205 pounds) reliable hands and the ability to win out for contested passes. He’ll make a nice fifth receiver at the next level.

Tre'Quan Smith/WR/Central Florida: Tre’Quan Smith is on a tear, and the junior is off to a sizzling start. His totals after six games include 25 receptions, 523 yards and seven touchdowns. Averaging well over 20 yards per reception, Smith displays himself as a reliable pass catcher and a big-play receiver. He offers enough size and skill to make a next level roster as a fourth wideout.

Sleeper Prospect -- Darius Allensworth/CB/Cal: Allensworth was not rated by scouts entering the season, but I stamped him as a priority free agent after watching him since his sophomore season. Suffering through an injury plagued 2016, Allensworth has once again displayed next-level ability though the first half of this season. During the upset victory over pass-happy Washington State, he made several nice plays on the ball while also showing his grit on the blitz. Allensworth has the size (5-foot-11, 200 pounds), toughness and ball skills to line up in dime packages.

Small School Prospect -- Abdullah Anderson/DT/Bucknell: Last year Julien Davenport of Bucknell was highly rated entering his senior campaign, went to the Senior Bowl and then was selected in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. And though Anderson doesn’t grade out as highly as his former teammate, he’s a legitimate next-level prospect. The explosive defensive tackle has an amazing first step off the snap, gets a lot of pressure up the field and constantly disrupts the action. Besides 21 tackles and four tackles for loss in five games this season, Anderson has also broken up three passes, evidence of his athleticism. He has the quickness and movement skills the line up as a three-technique tackle as well as the growth potential to help him complete his game.


Freedom Akinmoladun/DE/Nebraska: The Cornhuskers are in the midst of a disastrous season and will likely be looking for a new head coach in the near future. The defense has been abysmal, and Akinmoladun defines the unit’s problem. Entering the season as a middle-round choice, the junior pass rusher has recorded one sack, one tackle for loss and 18 tackles in eight games this season. During the humiliating loss to Ohio State, he was rag-dolled throughout the contest and never made an impact.

Trevon Young/DE-OLB/Louisville: Young was rated as a fringe first-round choice entering the season despite missing all of 2016 with a serious hip injury. Off the 2015 film the ranking was understandable, as Young was a terrific pass rusher who tormented opposing quarterbacks weekly. He’s been a fraction of his former self this year and has just 1.5 sacks and six tackles for loss after seven games. Young’s injured hip will be medically grilled during the combine, and it’s safe to say he’s no longer a fringe first-round pick.