Like we did last year 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 covers Week 10. 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.
Ameer Abdullah (RB, Nebraska):
The finish of the Northwestern vs. Nebraska game is one for the ages with Nebraska winning the game by completing a 49-yard Hail Mary pass. Ameer Abdullah was a pivotal piece of Nebraska’s offense during their last drive. He took a check-down pass on fourth and 15 and picked up 16 yards, evading three tacklers and lunging at the last possible second to reach across the first-down line.
At 5’9” and 190 lbs, Abdullah will have scouts and draft analysts who want to compare him to Darren Sproles. Abdullah is not Sproles; he isn’t the receiver or interior runner that Sproles was coming out of Kansas State years ago. Abdullah has fantastic speed, and his size, while smaller than ideal, also means he rarely takes a clean hit; rather, defenders typically miss him high, and he is able to pick up extra yards after contact.
Against Northwestern, Abdullah had 24 carries for 132 yards. He is currently fifth in the country in total rushing yards with 1,108, averaging 138.5 per game. An all-purpose threat, he is tenth in the country in all-purpose yards, averaging 165 per game.
His speed, agility and the ability to pick up key yards after contact will help move him up draft boards. He looks to be, at best, a third-round prospect, but a player who could be a key offensive weapon in the NFL.
Lamarcus Joyner (DB, Florida State):
A semifinalist for the Thorpe Award given annually to the top defensive back in college football, Lamarcus Joyner is the defensive leader for Florida State, the nation’s third-ranked team. There are more than a handful of wide receivers thinking they can outmuscle and overpower Joyner, who is just 5’8” and 190 lbs. They quickly learn that he won’t allow it.
A versatile defender, Joyner has played every position in the defensive secondary at Florida State. Joyner has not backed down in big games; in fact he tends to shine when the bright lights and all eyes are on the FSU defense. Against Clemson earlier this season, Joyner had two forced fumbles, one sack, and one INT.
This past weekend when Florida played Miami, the Hurricanes took a different approach and merely avoided Joyner. He was only targeted a couple of times throughout the game, mostly later in the second half with the game well out of reach. He finished the game with 5.5 tackles and one TFL, giving up three receptions for 17 yards, while being targeted just six times.
On the season, Joyner is leading the FSU defense in sacks, with three so far this season.
Joyner will have a disadvantage against bigger wide receivers in the NFL. But really who doesn’t have a disadvantage when going up against Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green or any other elite wide receiver?
Joyner is a perfect fit for covering the slot receiver in the NFL. He has the elite ball skills and the ability to run step-for-step with the quicker, speedier wideouts, specifically between the hashmarks. Scouts also love Joyner’s leadership ability, which matches his aggressive style of play.
Max Bullough (ILB , Michigan State):
An absolute dominating performance was put on by the Michigan State defense this past weekend against in-state rival, Michigan. The Spartans defense has quietly been one of the country’s top-rated defenses the past couple years; it currently stands at No. 1. Michigan State is holding opponents to 210 yards of total offense per game, 34 yards per game better than No. 2-ranked Louisville (244.5). The defense is led by three-year starter Max Bullough. At 6’3” and 245 lbs, Bullough has the measurables teams are looking for in an elite middle linebacker in the NFL.
With a nose for the football, Bullough has 275 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 27.5 TFL, four FF, three INT and eight PD for his career. Bullough’s interceptions and pass breakups show that he can either drop into coverage, cover a tight end or take a running back coming out of a backfield. He isn’t the fastest or quickest player out on the field, however, which can hurt him against covering athletic, mobile tight ends.
His biggest strength is taking on blockers and clogging opponents’ running lanes. Last week, the Spartans held Michigan to -48 rushing yards. Yes that number is correct: Minus forty-eight yards rushing. Bullough had two quarterback hits and five quarterback pressures, but most importantly, he didn’t have a missed tackle all game.
A fundamentally sound player who should be a late second or early third-day selection, Bullough is best suited for the inside linebacker role in a 3-4 defense scheme.
Brandon Scherff (LT, Iowa):
There must be something in the water at both Wisconsin and Iowa, because both schools are able to turn out top-tier NFL linemen each and every season. This year, Brandon Scherff is leading the charge. Scherff is just starting to get some national attention, partly due to his play so far this season against some of the nation’s top defensive linemen in the Big Ten.
Standing 6’5” and weighing 315 lbs, Scherff has started every game this season, after having missed the last half of the season last year when he suffered a broken leg against Penn State. He looks to have regained his old form, showing the ability to quickly get outside and handle the speed rush.
Against Wisconsin this past weekend, he didn’t give up a sack or a quarterback pressure. He excels in run blocking when he is able to get upfield into the second level and become a road grader. On designed runs to his side, Iowa averaged over 5.8 YPC.
While still only a junior and having only played two full seasons, Scherff is quickly getting some attention from NFL scouts. He will have to make a decision in the next couple of months on whether he is going to jump to the NFL or come back to school for his senior season. Either way, he has the look of a future first-round selection.