Notre Dame junior Jimmy Clausen is off to a fast start this season and many feel he will be an early pick in round one should he enter the draft. Clausen has most certainly improved most facets of his game in '09, including his decision-making.
Notre Dame faces USC in South Bend this weekend, which will be a tough test for Clausen. But his biggest challenge may come at the end of the season when Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh on Nov. 14, then Stanford two weeks later. If Clausen has a kryptonite, it's playing on the road. Last season 11 of his 17 interceptions came during away games and as a freshman it was four of six picks. How Clausen performs in these games, which are likely to be meaningful for both opponents, will go a long way on how scouts ultimately grade him.
Here's the latest word from the scouting community on who's moving up and down draft boards through six weeks of college football.
Ndamukong Suh/DT/Nebraska: Suh was dominant during the Cornhuskers comeback victory over conference rival Missouri. His interception in the fourth quarter was a game-changing play, which Nebraska converted into the winning score. Suh presently leads the Cornhusker defense in total tackles (32), tackles for loss (7), sacks (3), as well as passes broken up (7). He is establishing himself as one of top three seniors available in the 2010 draft.
Mike Iupati/OL/Idaho: The Vandals have not had a player selected during the initial 60 picks of April's draft in more than 40 years. Iupati is poised to change that next year. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound senior is listed as the top guard prospect on a number of boards around the league. His dominance up front has aided Idaho's prolific offense, which is averaging 420 yards per game. NFL teams are likely start to considering Iupati in the late part of round one.
Doug Worthington/DT/Ohio State: The Buckeyes senior captain was given a late-round grade by NFL scouts before the season, but he has changed that opinion just six games into the season. He's posted 19 tackles and registered a sack yet the stats don't tell the entire story. Worthington has been a disruptive force and a tough lineman for opponents to handle. He regularly collapses the pocket, which forces quarterbacks to improvise or running backs to alter their plans. Worthington has moved into the middle rounds of the draft and could climb higher.
Brandon Spikes/LB/Florida: Spikes, whose been slowed recently with tendonitis, played like a man possessed in the Gators' victory over LSU. He posted 11 tackles and three sacks, besides forcing a fumble. Spikes is a furious inside linebacker who plays with violent nature, forcing the action up the field or in the box. Defensive coordinators around the league will be lobbying for his services in round one.
Mitch Petrus/G/Arkansas: Petrus, a former fullback who sat on the sidelines last season, is back to dominant form this year. He's a mauler at guard with the ability to open the running lanes at the line of scrimmage or remove defenders from the action blocking in motion. Petrus could land in the draft's top 90 picks in April.
Montario Hardesty/RB/Tennessee: Hardesty, a spot starter since his freshman campaign, has played lights out as the Volunteers feature ball carrier this season. He's developed into one of the best running backs in the SEC and is displaying next level ability. Scouts rated Hardesty as a "wait and see" prospect at season's start and they no doubt like what the senior has shown this year.
Roddrick Muckelroy/LB/Texas: Muckelroy does not receive the notoriety of his teammate, Sergio Kindle, but a number of NFL scouts feel he's the better prospect on the Longhorn defense. Muckelroy is a versatile linebacker developing a complete game and makes plays sideline to sideline against the run or pass. He's also added the element of making plays behind the line of scrimmage, which will be an invaluable asset in April.
Joe Haden/CB/Florida: The Gator junior is establishing himself as the best cornerback in the nation. Haden, who has been a three-year starter, shutdown LSU receivers on Saturday every time the Tigers attempted to challenge him. He possesses good size and brings a lot of toughness to the position. The speculation from Gainesville is Haden will enter the draft after the season.
Kerry Meier/WR/Kansas: Meier has come alive recently and his school record 16 receptions helped Kansas hold off Iowa State on Saturday. He's a big, strong possession receiver on pace to catch more than 100 passes with 1100 receiving yards this season. NFL scouts appreciate Meier's reliability and fast forty times prior to the draft could push him into the middle rounds.
Sleeper Thaddeus Lewis/QB/Duke: Lewis has rewritten the record books at Duke and the fourth-year starter is on pace for his most productive year to date. He's a fireball thrower with better than advertised accuracy. Lewis also possesses the ability to easily get outside the pocket, make the throw on the move or pick up yardage with his legs when necessary. These days NFL teams are always looking for versatile players to help implement schemes similar to the Wildcat offense. The skill set of Lewis fits this niché and imaginative coaches will look his way in April.
Carlos Dunlop/DE/Florida: The Florida junior was considered a potential top 12 pick by most entering the season. He flashed dominance in 2008 but has not put together a complete game. His game-day performances are plagued with inconsistency. Dunlop is an imposing physical specimen yet has not progressed on the field as most thought he should and is a long way from being NFL ready.
Geno Atkins/DT/Georgia: Atkins is part of an underachieving Georgia defensive line and his draft stock is slipping. Graded as a middle round choice by scouts, he's totaled just two unassisted tackles this season and, for the most part, has been regularly handled by opponents.
Note: Another underclassman signal caller making noise in scouting circles is Ryan Mallett. The Arkansas native has sizzled this season and has all the makings of a potential franchise quarterback for the next level. Mallett began his career at Michigan in 2007 and filled in for the injured Chad Henne on a number of occasions. Even then scouts considered Mallett a better NFL prospect than Henne, who'll finish the season as the Miami Dolphins starter. Scouts agree Mallett would be better off staying in school after this season to develop his game yet there's no doubting the more he plays the more he looks like an early first round selection.