Like we did last year, we will take an in-depth look at some of the most talked-about NFL draft prospects from each week. Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner recaps Week 12 and looks ahead to Week 13. As the season progresses, we will highlight prospects who are rising up the draft boards along with others who are starting to fall off the radar due to their poor performances.
Player of the Week: Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin):
It was without a doubt one of the most impressive performances from a running back that I have ever seen. The vaulted black shirts of Nebraska were waving the white flag during the game, having surrendered an NCAA record of 408 rushing yards on 25 carries and four touchdowns in just three quarters to Wisconsin's running back Melvin Gordon.
I have already written about Gordon's skill set earlier this season, feel free to read up on my review of his NFL potential
. The space below is a breakdown of his performance from this past weekend with stats that go beyond the traditional box score. Gordon had a total of 151 yards after contact, an average of 6.0 YPC, and broke a total of nine tackles. Using more subjective statistics, he amassed a total of 118 yards after significant contact.
Wisconsin didn't run gadget plays to get Gordon open. In fact, most of his carries were simply designed interior running plays.
: 14 carries 132 yards, 9.4 YPC, 42 yards after contact, 37 yards-after-significant contact, 4 broken tackles, and 2 TDs.
: 11 carries, 276 yards, 25.1 YPC, 109 yards after contact, 81 yards-after-significant contact, 5 broken tackles, 2 TDs.
Nebraska can hang their hat on the fact that they were able to shut down Gordon on third down. Unfortunately for Nebraska, they forgot to stop him on first or second down.
: 15 carries, 263 yards, 17.5 YPC, 92 yards after contact, 62 yards-after-significant contact, 6 broken tackles, 3 TD.
: 9 carries, 146 yards, 16.2 YPC, 59 yards after contact, 56 yards-after-significant contact, 3 broken tackles, 1 TD.
: 1 carry, -1 yard
While Gordon's name will be in the record books, the offensive line for Wisconsin did a phenomenal job of opening up running lanes the size of Lake Superior for Gordon. The entire offensive line could be seen on a few of the long runs deep in the second and third level picking up blocks and sealing running lanes. The game film will be used for years to come as an example of how dominant blocking and teamwork can produce historic results.
Laken Tomlinson (OG, Duke):
A late bloomer to the game of football, Tomlinson has been a consistent force along the offensive line at Duke for the past couple of seasons. After breaking into the starting lineup as a freshman, Tomlinson has more than held his own against some tough competition, including a shutout performance against Florida State in last year's ACC Championship.
At 6'3” and 320 pounds, Tomlinson is best suited to stay inside once he reaches the NFL. A mobile offensive lineman, he is highly skilled at getting outside and up into the next level to spring his tailback for big gains. He is a dominant run blocker and can maul and overpower smaller defensive tackles. Tomlinson is best suited for a man or power blocking scheme and has enough agility and quickness to adapt to a zone blocking scheme in the NFL.
Against Virginia Tech this past weekend, Tomlinson pitched an almost perfect shutout. He only allowed one quarterback pressure, but did not give up any sacks or hits. On designed runs to his gap or when he acted as the lead blocker, Duke had 18 carries for 84 yards, an average of 4.7 YPC, and one touchdown.
Tomlinson and the rest of the Duke offensive line have been one of the most dominant units in the country. They have allowed only eight sacks all season and are tied for fifth best in the country.
Tomlinson has issues with inside speed rushers and Virginia Tech didn't provide much competition in this department. He should get an invitation to the Senior Bowl and it will be there that scouts will be watching to see if he can hold his own with those inside speed rushers.
Tomlinson has a good arsenal of size, speed, quickness, and strength to develop into a solid starting NFL guard. While he won't be a first or second round pick, don't be surprised to see him as an early third round selection in next year's NFL Draft.
Jamison Crowder (WR, Duke): Too small. Doesn't have the blazing speed needed to dominate in the NFL. Suspect hands.
These are all things that I have heard said about Jamison Crowder in various scouting reports. It is no surprise to find out that Crowder is 5'9” and 175 pounds, but he is built from the same mold as Tavon Austin and Brandin Cooks, two former first round selections.
The talk about Crowder having suspect hands is nonsense; he is currently second in ACC history with 262 career receptions.
Crowder is an exciting and dynamic playmaker, not only at wide receiver, but also on special teams. He was an All-American second team selection at punt returner in 2013. Last season he had 25 returns for 401 yards and two touchdowns with an average of 16 YPR.
Against Virginia Tech, he was matched up against one of the nation's top cornerbacks, Kendall Fuller. Crowder finished the game with six receptions for 73 yards, an average of 12.2 YPC. He was targeted a total of ten times, with an average distance of intended target of 9.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he can be dangerous; Crowder had a total of 32 run-after-the-catch yards.
While Crowder is consistently looking to make the big play, in some cases he would be better suited to simply run straight versus looking to run east and west. In one particular play, he failed to pick up a critical first down by running horizontally while looking for the big play versus taking what the defense gave him and focusing on moving the chain.
Crowder is a good route runner who will have spent his entire college career playing in a pro-style offense for Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe, one of the better talent developers in college football. While Crowder won't be a first round selection like Austin and Cooks, he can be a valuable impact player at the next level. He has tremendous value as a punt returner and a skilled possession receiver. Similar to an Andrew Hawkins, he can play the slot position and add tremendous depth to a receiving core. While he won't light it up at the combine in terms of measurables, Crowder has dominated college football during the past couple of seasons and that should be enough to impress scouts.
Markus Golden (DE, Missouri):
A junior college transfer, Markus Golden has had to wait his turn with Kony Ealy and Michael Sam holding down the starter spots for the past two seasons. With the departure of Ealy and Sam to the NFL, Golden has made the most of his opportunities this season. Last season, he was one of the most efficient players on defense. Even though he played in just 40% of the defensive snaps, he still managed to rack up 55 tackles, 13 TFL, 6.5 sacks and eight PB.
A relentless pursuer to the football is how I would describe the style of play of Markus Golden. While some scouts use the term high motor, Golden doesn't give up on plays that are run to the opposite side of the field. In one of the most impressive plays that I witnessed this past weekend, Golden chased a receiver 17 yards downfield to make a tackle. Most ends would give up on a play downfield, but he didn't.
The matchup against Texas A&M this past weekend proved to be a big test for Golden and the rest of the Missouri defensive line. Golden was matched up against right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, a likely first round selection and an All-American last season. Golden more than held his own against Ogbuehi, beating him for one of his two sacks on the evening with an outside speed rush move that caught Ogbuehi flat-footed.
Showing impressive speed at the snap, Golden was able to consistently get to the corner and get underneath the reach of his blocker. He finished the game with nine tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, and three QB pressures. His two sacks came on an average snap-to-sack time of 3.9 seconds. Showing an impressive skill set on his first sack, Golden was able to beat the H-Back on an outside swim move, chase down the quarterback who flushed to the outside and came away with a forced fumble and sack.
At 6'3” and 260 pounds, Golden doesn't possess the long arms and stout run-stopping ability of a traditional 4-3 defensive end. His speed and quickness make him a dangerous pass rusher and someone capable of being a situational pass rusher for his first couple of seasons. With his recent performance against Ogbuehi, Golden should have proven to scouts that he is capable of being a playmaker on defense in the NFL. Don't be surprised to see him as a day two selection in next year's NFL Draft.
Shane Ray (DE, Missouri):
Shane Ray's performance against Texas A&M was outstanding and he deserves a much longer and more in-depth scouting report which will come in the next couple of weeks. Ray has been the leader of the Missouri Tigers defense this whole season with 52 tackles, 18 TFL, 11.5 sacks, two FF, and one PB.
Against A&M, it was Ray's ability to shut down the Aggies rushing attack and make them one dimensional that really stood out. A&M rushed to Ray's side of the field on nine designed run plays resulting in just 13 yards, with an average of 1.9 YPC.
Ray consistently shut down the perimeter and forced the ball carrier back towards the middle of the field. He was matched up against left tackle Jarvis Harrison, a former guard who stands 6'4” and 325 pounds. Ray, at 6'3” and 245 pounds, was able to stand his ground and not give an inch of space to Harrison the entire game.
In addition to his run-stuffing performance, Ray had one sack and one quarterback hit against A&M. His snap-to-sack time was an impressive 2.76 seconds, highlighting his speed and quickness to get around the corner and cause havoc in an opponent's backfield.
Ray will likely be a first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft as teams will be enamored with his agility and quickness. He will likely move to a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he can be a three down player and an impact player in both run and passing situations.
Who to Watch Next Week:
Gerod Holliman (FS, Louisville):
Only a redshirt junior and in his first year as a starter for the Louisville Cardinals, Holliman has made the most of his opportunities this season. He is currently the FBS leader in interceptions this season with 13. At 6'2” and 213 pounds, Holliman possesses the speed to cover a lot of ground in the back end of the secondary. He should have a few more chances this weekend to add to his total when Louisville rolls into South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame's starting quarterback Everett Golson has seven straight games with an interception and six interceptions in the last three weeks.
T.J. Clemmings (OT, Pittsburgh):
Coming into the season, scouts gave Clemmings a second to third round grade. His play this season has likely vaulted his status to warrant a possible first round selection. At 6'5” and 305 pounds, Clemmings has the frame and measurables that most scouts want in a NFL left tackle. With a leaner frame, he has the ability to put on weight if asked, but his quickness and agility make him a highly sought after prospect for a zone blocking scheme. Pitt takes on Syracuse this weekend and Clemmings should be able to dominate and add a few extra pancake blocks to his resume.
Ben Koyack (TE, Notre Dame):
In what looks to be a thin tight end class coming out for next year, Koyack is at the top of the list as one of the nation's top tight ends. Koyack came on late this season as Golson's go-to target in critical moments and hasn't been targeted a whole lot this season as a receiver with 27 receptions for 289 yards and two touchdowns this season. Koyack is one of the better run blocking tight ends in the country and he will be counted on to help protect Golson against the Louisville front seven. Watch for him to be targeted in the middle of the field and attack some of the zone coverages that Louisville plays in.