The crowd at the top of the college football mountain thinned out a bit this weekend after Stanford suffered their first loss. And while most of the talk in the NFL Draft world has centered around Andrew Luck, several other signal callers have built a buzz around themselves. So, too, have a few run-stuffing linebackers, and one really big sleeper on the defensive line.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue*: Short has been on a tear throughout the year, and turned in one of his best performances of the season against Ohio State. The junior finished with 3 sacks, 3 tackles for loss and 6 total tackles. For the year Short has posted some impressive numbers, including 15.5 tackles for loss and two blocked kicks. He's athletic, explosive and impossible to stop. Short presently grades as a top 45 choice.
Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: The Broncos had their undefeated season go down in flames for the second consecutive year after another makeable field goal sailed wide of the goal posts. Yet that doesn't dampen the feeling many scouts have for the team's quarterback. Moore has been referred to by many, including this columnist, as a great college quarterback who doesn't possess NFL-worthy physical skills. Scouts coming out of Boise State feel differently, though, and think Moore is reminiscent of Drew Brees at similar stages in their careers. Many have stamped Moore with a second round grade and are of the opinion he offers starting potential in the NFL.
Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois: Harnish is well thought of in the scouting community, and has lived up to expectations this season. The athletic quarterback has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 2,256 yards with 20 touchdown strikes and just 4 interceptions in 2011. He's also added 1,022 yards on the ground with 9 additional scores. Harnish still needs to work on his game, but his improved decision-making has scouts believing he's headed in the right direction.
Joe Adams, WR-RS, Arkansas: Adams has been adequately productive at receiver this season, totaling 43 receptions, 563 receiving yards and two scores. But returning punts is how the slightly built skill player continues to alter the momentum of games. Adams ran a punt back 60 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee on Saturday, his third this season and the fourth of his career. Adams is a speed merchant who has run under 4.4 seconds in the 40. Though he'll be drafted primarily for his return skills, he'd be terrific as a slot receiver in the NFL.
Eric Page, WR, Toledo*: The junior's production has been astounding this season, as it was the prior two years. Page has averaged more than 8 receptions per game this season and on four occasions topped 100 receiving yards. He is a go-to receiver who cannot be stopped, beside being the Rockets' premier kick and punt returner. The junior is perfectly built to be a third receiver/return specialist in the NFL and presently projects as a solid middle-round choice.
David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech*: The Hokies have sent a number of talented running backs into the NFL, and Wilson is ready to keep the tradition moving forward. He offers a great combination of quickness, creativity and speed carrying the ball. In 10 games this season Wilson has posted 1,360 yards rushing. He's a developing running back with an exciting NFL future.
Chris Marve, ILB, Vanderbilt: Marve has been a force for a Vanderbilt defense that's been one of the top run-stoppers in the SEC. His 7 tackles on Saturday helped limit Kentucky to just 32 yards on the ground during the Commodores' win, and Marve's 72 tackles on the season lead the team. Considered by scouts as nothing more than camp fodder entering the season, Marve will get looks in the late rounds from teams wanting to sure up their run defense.
Najae Goode, ILB, West Virginia: Goode barely made a ripple on the scouting radar prior to the season, as most scouts didn't even consider the senior free-agent worthy. His play in 2011 has changed that opinion. Prior to the weekend Goode had totaled 61 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and an interception in the Mountaineers' nine games. During their victory over Cincinnati, he led the defense with 8 tackles, including 3 tackles for loss. Goode is a tough run-defending linebacker who will make a good addition in the late rounds for a team that employs a 3-4 defense.
Travian Robertson, DL, South Carolina: On a defensive line loaded with star players, it's easy for someone to slip through the cracks. That's the situation Robertson finds himself in. Yet scouts who have closely monitored the 6-foot-4, 300-pound defensive lineman have come away impressed. For the season Robertson's marks include 35 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss, but it's his quickness and intensity, intangibles which don't show up on the stat sheet, that has scouts buzzing. In all likelihood Robertson is a later-round pick, but NFL teams like his game and the potential to use him at a variety of defensive line spots.
*Sleeper* Hebron Fangupo, DT, BYU: The transfer from USC was overlooked by scouts prior to the 2011 campaign, but has caught their attention with his play this season. The athletic defensive lineman is large (330 pounds) but moves and plays in ways reminiscent of three-time All Pro Haloti Ngata. This is the first season Fangupo has seen extensive action in almost two years, the primary reason he went unnoticed by scouts. NFL decision-makers now believe Fangupo has a future in the NFL due to his versatility.
Notes: Receivers Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State and Ty Hilton from Florida International continue to impress scouts. Blackmon has totaled 32 receptions, 480 receiving yards and 6 scores in the last three games. He's established himself as a top-eight selection in April's draft. Hilton, on the other hand, has been moderately productive catching the ball but dynamic returning punts and kicks. On Saturday he returned a punt 97 yards for a score, helping the Panthers secure victory. Hilton has already received an invitation to the Senior Bowl and is the first player from FIU expected to attend the all-important event.
But the news is not as good for Stanford wideout Chris Owusu. Since being laid out, then taken off the field, in the game against Oregon one year ago, Owusu has had multiple issues with concussions. He was forced to sit on the sidelines in the rematch against the Ducks on Saturday as he recovers from his latest concussion, and his status for the remainder of the season is in question. Initially considered a second-round choice at the start of the season, sources have indicated that Owusu could fall into the very late rounds based on his recent concussion history.