NFL Draft 2014 Risers/Fallers: Go pro, Jace Amaro; De'Anthony Thomas struggles
Jace Amaro took to Twitter last Thursday to encourage fans Texas Tech fans to head out to the team's matchup with Kansas State, in part because "it might be my last [home] game." After the Red Raiders' 49-26 loss, Amaro backtracked a bit when asked if he had played his final game in front of Texas Tech's fans: "You know, I don't think so. I just love this place."
The odds still have to be in favor of Amaro bolting for the 2014 draft, mainly because he would be one of the most highly-coveted guys there. The 6-foot-5 tight end has taken his game to the next level this season, recording 88 catches for more than 1,100 yards ... with a couple of regular-season games and a bowl trip left.
In the process, he may have ascended to the top of the prospect list at his position. North Carolina's Eric Ebron will have something to say about that, and the same goes for Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins (who is in the midst of a disappointing year). Amaro, though, has shredded every defense he has faced since a quiet opener -- in each of the Red Raiders' last nine games, Amaro has made at least eight catches. His 7.4 yards-per-reception mark in the setback to the Wildcats was his lowest number by a significant margin. Amaro can stretch the field, find gaps and go up over smaller defenders for receptions.
In other words, he's a clear pro prospect, one who could step on the field as a rookie and contribute in a big way. Now, we just have to wait and see if he's still a Red Raider come 2014.
• James White, RB, Wisconsin: A lot of folks have spent this season drooling over White's RB counterpart, Melvin Gordon. But Gordon might head back to Madison next season, while White has no choice but to head pro. He should find several teams interested in his services there, and he showed off why again Saturday against BYU.
White carried the ball 23 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns, plus caught six balls for 47 yards and another TD. Even with Gordon cutting into his playing time, White has averaged 20.6 carries over the past three weeks, and he's topped 100 yards rushing six times. Wisconsin's style obviously deserves some credit there, but White is a versatile back with an NFL future. That White has shown himself capable of being on the field in passing downs -- either as a receiver or blocker -- will push his stock even higher in May.
• Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford: Throw a dart and you'll hit a Stanford player who helped his cause against Oregon on Saturday. Skov, who was featured in Sports Illustrated's season preview, gets the nod here. He had seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the Cardinal's huge win, two weeks after leading the team in tackles against UCLA's tough offense.
Those performances against Oregon and UCLA will stand out when scouts go through their evaluations, because those teams can stretch the field and beat teams with speed. Skov has not fallen victim.
• Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor: A plug for the folks at Draft Breakdown, who had the film of Richardson's Thursday showing against Oklahoma up by the start of this week. Go ahead, try to find a play where Richardson lost his assignment or missed his block. Richardson is the top guard available in the 2014 class (though another candidate, Stanford's David Yankey, also dominated this week), and he solidified that status last week.
• C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: My love for Mosley's game has been unabashed since we started breaking down the '14 class this summer. He can do it all in the middle of the Crimson Tide defense ... and he did do it all against LSU.
Mosley finished the Tide's impressive win with a game-high 12 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Better yet, he again showed his knack for dropping into coverage, breaking up two passes and nearly picking off Zach Mettenberger once.
• Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss: Moncrief is going to be one of those fringe guys come the end of the season -- he's talented enough to play in the NFL, but will he choose a mid-round draft selection over his senior season? He did come through this week with a great effort: seven catches, 149 yards and a TD. That score was Moncrief at his best. He ran a decent hitch route, broke the first tackle attempt, then outran the rest of Arkansas' secondary to the house.
• De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon: Thomas is a remarkable talent, and there's really no debating it. But can he be a heavy-workload guy at the next level? Can he grind out yards against tough defenses?
The results Saturday were nothing to write home about. He finished with 75 yards from scrimmage (30 rushing, 45 receiving), but Thomas remains more a player that an NFL staff will have to be creative with than a No. 1 back. Thomas has been slowed substantially by injury this season, something that's worth keeping in mind as we move forward.
Thomas still has the ability to be worthy of a selection on Day 1 or 2. The comparisons to guys like Tavon Austin and Percy Harvin will be inevitable -- and it's hard to say right now whether or not that will work to Thomas' advantage.
• Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern: Mark entered the season as one of the more intriguing offensive players in the Big Ten, off a nearly 1,500-yard season. He barely topped the 100-yard plateau this year, with injuries wrecking him. Now the question facing Mark: Does he turn pro or seek out a medical redshirt?
Certainly, he'd prefer to head to the NFL off a more productive season than this one. But after being shut down for the year because of his latest injury (broken ankle), does his recent fragility make it too risky to return to school? At least a late-round selection would get him into the league. • Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan: The year started with the dual-threat Gardner considered a possible rising sleeper for the 2014 draft. Now, he's playing like a guy who might not get drafted as a QB at all, and certainly not before 2015. Myriad issues have plagued Michigan's offense -- atrocious blocking, head-scratching play calling -- but Gardner has regressed as a decision-maker. Between his early-season mistakes and the beating he's taken in recent weeks, Gardner has dipped into a shell, choosing to take sacks rather than giving his guys a chance.