Several wide receivers have impressed NFL scouts and top the list of this week's NFL Draft risers. A pair of prospects in the secondary are also moving up draft boards around the league. Conversely, players who received high grades from scouts entering the 2012 campaign have not lived up to expectations.
Markus Wheaton/WR/Oregon State: Wheaton is in the midst of a terrific season and has impressed scouts every week. He's on pace for career numbers and his six touchdown receptions this year tops his cumulative total from the prior three seasons. Wheaton has the build to be a No. 2 receiver at the next level and his reported 40 speed of 4.4-seconds enhances his value. The senior entered the season with last day draft grades, but has since moved into the middle rounds.
Justin Brown/WR/Oklahoma: Brown left Penn State for Oklahoma prior to the start of the season and its turned out to be the right move for the senior. The big-bodied target is developing into a reliable pass catcher for quarterback Landry Jones besides being a special teams ace. His seven receptions for 107 yards against Iowa State was his best performance of the season and helped the Sooners seal victory over Iowa State. Brown has the physical skills to line up as a second wide out at the next level and could be a second day draft pick if he continues to improve his game.
Jordan Matthews*/WR/Vanderbilt: Matthews is a junior on almost every watch list around the league and a receiver with a well-rounded game. He's shown consistent improvement on the field and has turned into the go-to receiver opponents cannot stop. Averaging more than six receptions per game and just under 14 yards per catch, Matthews is another player who offers the skillset to line-up as a second wide out in the NFL.
Desmond Trufant/CB/Washington: Desmond is the latest cornerback from the Trufant family who will grace an NFL roster. Though not as talented as older brother Marcus, the younger sibling is displaying an improved game this season. Opponents have purposely avoided Trufant all year and the senior could sneak into the third round if he continues to play at a high level through the Senior Bowl.
Matt Elam*/S/Florida: The junior safety continues to impress scouts and he stood out during the Gators' close victory over Missouri. Elam does a terrific job patrolling centerfield, aggressively defending the run while capitalizing on mistakes made by opposing quarterbacks. He's a multi-dimensional safety with the ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline against the run and pass.
Barrett Jones/C/Alabama: Jones has made the seamless transition from left tackle to center this season and now ranks as one of the best pivot blockers moving towards the draft. He's not very athletic, but he's smart, tough and fundamentally sound. Jones rarely makes mental mistakes and always finds a way to disrupt defenders protecting the passer or blocking for the run.
Terrance Williams/WR/Baylor: The Bears' passing attack was expected to take a step back after the departure of quarterback Robert Griffin III and receiver Kendall Wright. Williams has filled the void at the receiver spot this season and has climbed draft boards. He's posted at least 100 yards receiving in seven of eight games thus far and is averaging 20.1 yards on 60 receptions. Williams has surprised scouts with his deep speed and ability to stretch the field vertically. He entered the 2012 season graded as a seventh-round pick, but Williams now projects as a top 60 choice.
Gerald Hodges/LB/PennState: Hodges is the second highly rated linebacker from Penn State, as scouts grade him slightly below teammate Michael Mauti. There have been times this season when Hodges seem more athletic and forceful compared to his fellow PSU defender. During the Nittany Lions' victory over Purdue, Hodges topped the stats sheet with eight tackles and three tackles for loss. He's a three-down defender who shows skill pursuing the run and ability in pass coverage. Good workouts prior to the draft could seal Hodges as a top 100 choice.
Daimion Stafford/S/Nebraska: Stafford is developing a reputation as one of the better run-defending safeties available in the 2013 draft. He ranks second on the Nebraska defense in total tackles, most recently posting 12 tackles in the victory over Michigan State. His coverage skills are NFL-caliber, as the senior has defended five passes this season. He offers the size and skill to line up at free safety and Stafford should end up as a top 75 choice next April.
Josh Boyd/DT/Miss State: Boyd struggled during the Bulldogs' blowout loss at the hands of Texas A&M. He was credited with five assisted tackles but more to the point, Boyd was handled all day in one-on-one blocking. Rated as a potential third-round pick entering the season, Boyd has played more like a last day choice this year.
Derek Hayden/CB/Houston: Hayden is another senior who was rated as a top-90 selection entering the season yet is slipping down draft boards. He was victimized several times during the Cougars 20-point loss to East Carolina, a contest in which the opponent totaled more than 300 yards passing.
Marcus Davis/WR/Virginia Tech: Davis has been a big disappointment this season and has not developed his game as scouts hoped. Rated as one of the top senior receivers entering the season, Davis has displayed a lot of inconsistency and is not transitioning his awesome physical skills into football production.
So with one month left in the college season, how is the 2013 NFL Draft shaping up in the eyes of NFL scouts? Several scouts told me the top of the draft is uninspired to this point. There is no clear-cut No. 1 choice. No player, whether it be a senior or underclassmen, comes close to matching the grades received by Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin last April. Scouts compare next April's draft to the 2008 event, one which saw Jake Long tabbed with the first selection. In layman's terms, it looks like a draft where teams select safe players and draft for need in the early going.
Scouts are excited yet at the same time concerned about Oregon's Dion Jordan. The senior has taken his game to another level this season, expanding his skills on the field and effectively handling a variety of roles. Jordan has been a forceful and disciplined defender and plays within himself. He's also been suffering from a shoulder injury which has forced an early exit from the past two games. If healthy, Jordan could end up a top 60 choice, but his shoulder will be thoroughly examined at the Senior Bowl.