Prospect Watch: Can Cedric Reed, Austin Hill revive their draft stock?
Day by day, we creep closer to NFL draft season. Our latest Big Board went live last week, and the first Mock Draft of the 2014 season will be hitting the ol' internet in a few days.
Time to start stockpiling information on the potential draft class of 2015. And here are five more names to watch this weekend:
1. Ty Sambrailo, OT, Colorado State (at San Jose State, 7 p.m. ET): Most of the country probably has not seen Sambrailo in action. Here's your chance: Colorado State has several nationally-televised games the rest of the way (CBS Sports Network this week), and the 7-1 Rams are headed toward a solid bowl game.
Sambrailo, meanwhile, is well en route to the NFL. At a mobile and strong 6-5, 310, Sambrailo could be under first-round consideration come the 2015 draft. While Colorado State comfortably asks him to cover ground in the run game, the trait that might appeal to NFL teams most is his motor -- Sambrailo almost never lets up on a block.
2. Cody Prewitt, S, Ole Miss (vs. Auburn, 7 p.m. ET): Prewitt has been flying a bit under the radar among the 2015 safeties and, quite frankly, it doesn't make a lot of sense.
Anchoring a safety spot for a team currently inside the playoff's top four, Prewitt (6-foot-2, 212) has posted 31 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season.
Perhaps his athleticism will not wow scouts like others at his position, but Prewitt shows the versatility NFL teams covet these days from their safeties -- a mix of coverage skills and tackling that could pay off at either safety spot or sliding down into the slot on nickel packages.
Already, it feels as if Prewitt will be a steal somewhere in Round 2 or beyond.
3. Cedric Reed, DE, Texas (at Texas Tech, 7:30 p.m. ET): The Longhorns are 3-5 and struggling through a rebuilding year, and Reed (6-foot-6, 258) has failed to rise above the muck so far. Is there time to revive his stock?
This is a player who entered the year riding a wave of positive chatter, off 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss last season. His production has plummeted this year, to just 1.5 sacks and four TFLs. Hardly what Reed had in mind when he opted to pass on the 2014 draft for his senior season.
"I know I’m a better player than what I’m doing," Reed said last week, via the Dallas Morning News. "I know I can play a lot better."
We've seen him do it in the past. A strong finish to this season would do wonders rebuilding his stock for the next level.
4. Jeff Heuerman, TE, Ohio State (vs. Illinois, 8 p.m. ET): During Florida State's comeback win on Thursday, several draft analysts tweeted about the relative weakness of this year's tight end draft class. The comments were brought on by the play of the Seminoles' Nick O'Leary, an athletic offensive weapon who projects to be more of an H-back than a straight NFL tight end.
Case in point: Heuerman. The Buckeyes' 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end has just eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown this season, but he made 26 grabs last year. He's simply not a main focus of the Ohio State offense, which makes it hard to notice his downfield abilities.
ESPN's Steve Muench wrote recently that Heuerman "has the tools to be a more productive player at the professional level than he has been for Ohio State". I would agree wholeheartedly there. Heuerman may not be the next coming of Vernon Davis, but he is capable as a blocker or a pass-catcher.
5. Austin Hill, WR, Arizona (at UCLA, 10:30 p.m. ET): The 2015 draft could be top-heavy when it comes to the receiver position -- Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker (who was electric vs. Florida State), Kevin White, Devin Funchess and several others will push for inclusion in Rounds 1 or 2.
There should be some legit prospects to be found a little later, though. Case in point: Arizona's Hill.
One year removed from a season-ending ACL injury, Hill (6-foot-3, 210) has been slow to get back on track. He did put up 127 yards and two touchdowns vs. Cal to end September, but he has just 21 catches in the Wildcats' other six games. Hill also is riding a three-game streak of failing to reach 100 yards receiving and he combined for 26 yards in games vs. UTSA and Nevada earlier this year.
Is the pre-injury version of Hill still stored away somewhere? Back in 2012, before blowing out his knee, Hill caught 81 passes for 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,400 yards. Working himself open with sharp routes outside and dominating from the slot, Hill was on track to be one of the best wide receivers in all of college football.
As with Reed, the production has not matched the expectations this season. That said, get him into the NFL in 2015 -- another year removed from his knee injury -- and the story could change.