In an effort to brainwash you even more with my weekend observations, every week I will be posting brief glimpses into players that have helped or hurt their evaluations in recent games. I will stick mainly to seniors (as usual) unless another draft-eligible player jumps off the screen in a very positive or negative way. Keep in mind these are just off of a couple of exposures and not full evaluations, so no conclusions have been made. As always, you can send observations, comments, or criticisms to me on Twitter.
+ Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor (#33/5’11/215) - Taylor had a couple of excellent performances last year, specifically against Washington, but without Andrew Luck he is forced to shoulder more of the offensive burden. The senior has done that well, breaking numerous tackles due to a wide base and decisive cuts along with showing solid straight-line speed. An early third-day selection appears likely.
+ Alabama DT Jesse Williams (#54/6’3/320) - Williams offers a different look at nose tackle than last year’s fire hydrant from Bama, Josh Chapman. Instead, Williams plays more upfield and uses a slight burst when shedding after active hand use. However, when facing double teams, the senior has a solid anchor and locates ball carriers to run the line well.
+ Fresno State RB Robbie Rouse (#8/5’7/190) - Admittedly, I have a soft spot in my heart for undersized runners that run with power to break tackles off of explosive cuts. I won’t even count Rouse’s 144 rushing yard and two touchdown effort on nine carries against Colorado. Instead, look at his performance against Oregon, where he made decisive moves and worked well in trash against free Duck defenders.
+ Louisville C Mario Benavides (#55/6’4/286) - Prior to the season, I considered the senior center a priority free agent with an outside shot of being drafted. Now, Benavides has played with solid pad level on first contact and has done a much better job mirroring upfield rushers, including this past weekend against UNC’s Sylvester Williams.
+ Ohio State CB Travis Howard (#7/6’0/196) - Howard has shown excellent ball skills in the early part of the season, picking off three passes to go along with two deflections. If the senior can quit staring in the backfield from his field corner spot, Howard will continue to show improved play, especially when closing on receivers at the catch point.
+ UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin (#23/5’10/198) - I was not overly high on Franklin heading into the season and noted that he ran too skinny, especially in trash at the second level. This year, however, Franklin has shown a wider base, specifically on cuts to evade linebackers, and has consistently run away from chasing defenders. For my money, Franklin has been the most satisfying surprise, in terms of prospects, thus far in 2012.
+ Florida State junior DE Bjoern Werner (#95/6’4/256) - Werner is on a rampage early this season, showcasing more burst than last season and an added dip to turn the corner and close on the quarterback. Couple that with the juniors hand use and strength to extend, and the top half of the first-round seems like a very reachable goal.
+ TCU junior QB Casey Pachall (#4/6’4/226) - I like to call the junior a refined gunslinger, in that he is not afraid to take a shot downfield while getting clobbered in the pocket, but Pachall’s touch and placement are excellent. Right now, he is one of the forgotten draft-eligible quarterback prospects and even though it is doubtful that the Horned Frog will declare, he’s a name to keep an eye on as he starts to face stiffer competition.
+ Texas A&M junior DE Damontre Moore (#94/6’4/250) - Moore has benefited the most from the Aggies switch to a four man front, consistently using his length to extend on the edge and athleticism to turn the corner and close on the quarterback. He flashes real dominance and could put out a great resume against SEC caliber tackles.
- Virginia Tech junior QB Logan Thomas (#3/6’6/260) - Many touted Thomas this year’s top quarterback prospect, but he continues to make erratic throws without showing progress as a passer. Sure, his arm talent, size, and athleticism are enticing, but his flashes fail to become consistent, and that will need to change if he hopes to be drafted higher than one of his most popular player comparisons: Josh Freeman (17th overall pick).
- Arkansas junior RB Knile Davis (#7/6’0/226) - Many expected a big season out of Davis after he missed all of 2011, but the redshirt junior seems to have lost the ability to make tacklers miss at the second level, or at least to the same capacity that he once had. In fact, I consider senior teammate Dennis Johnson the better prospect at this point.
- Utah RB John White IV (#15/5’8/188) - I was excited for White before this season kicked off, a burner with some elements of power. However, he has looked far more tentative this season in his decisions at the line and has failed to break first contact. Perhaps he is being affected by a struggling Utes offense, but White certainly is not helping the cause.