It was one of the most enjoyable weekends of college football in a long time. LSU and Minnesota both remained undefeated after knocking off undefeated teams. Baylor kept their record unblemished, but it took three overtimes and Illinois, the school who almost fired their head coach last month, is now bowl eligible after coming back from a 24 point deficit. It’s time to take a deep breathe and present the Risers & Sliders for Week 11.
2020 NFL Draft Risers
Rashard Lawrence/DL/LSU: The LSU – Alabama game lived up to its billing and disappointed no one, except maybe Crimson Tide fans. There were so many outstanding performances from both teams but Lawrence really stood out. His numbers were nothing fantastic; 4 tackles, .5 sacks, .5 TFL and 2 PBU’s but the ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage allowed Lawrence’s teammates to make plays, many which impacted the game in favor of LSU. Lawrence showed tremendous quickness, intensity, and versatility. Even before the game Lawrence was receiving a lot of positive talk in the scouting community and that will only grow after today.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire/RB/LSU: I rarely have two players from the same school listed as risers in the same week but LSU deserves the honor. Though he was outrushed by Alabama’s Najee Harris, Edwards-Helaire made more impactful plays during critical times of the game. His ability to break tackles, carry defenders or move the pile was a deciding factor in the outcome on Saturday. He’s the little man that could and while I don’t expect Edwards-Helaire to be a top-90 selection in the draft, I do believe he will be an invaluable rotational ball carrier/spot starter at the next level.
Austin Jackson/T/USC: Jackson, along with the USC team, had a rough start to the season but both have rebounded and are playing improved football. On Jackson’s behalf, he has shown terrific progress at left tackle the past 12 months and developed into a terrific pass blocker. His footwork off the edge and ability to adjust and knock pass rushers from their angle of attack is really appealing. As I reported during Saturday’s college football blog, expectations are Jackson will enter April’s draft.
Ezra Cleveland/T/Boise State: Cleveland was our featured Mountain West prospect this past Friday and he lived up to his billing. During Boise State’s important conference victory over Wyoming, the Cowboys pass rushing tag team of Solomon Byrd and Garrett Crall had just 1 sack and 1 TFL between them. Cleveland looked terrific in pass protection and on several occasions opened up the running lanes blocking in motion.
Connor Olson/OL/Minnesota: There were a number of Gophers deserving of mention this week but Olson must be singled out. I stamped him as a fourth-round prospect coming into the season but his play has since improved immeasurably. Lining up at both center and guard, Olson blocks with terrific fundamentals, instincts, and nastiness. He paved the way for a Minnesota touchdown run late in the game, did a terrific job in pass protection, and except for one miscommunication, played generally mistake-free football. Olson, only a junior, could eventually be a top-100 selection considering his versatility and upside.
Garret Wallow/LB/TCU: Over the summer I stamped Wallow as a potential last day pick but he’s shown consistent progress in his game this year. Entering the Baylor contest, the junior led the Horned Frogs with 83 tackles, more than doubling his nearest teammate, and he has 12 TFL’s to his credit. He added 11 more tackles during TCU’s triple-overtime loss to Baylor. Wallow is undersized but smart, explosive and a terrific run and chase linebacker. He’ll be a solid addition as a situational linebacker/special teams player but the NFL will have to wait as I’m told Wallow intends on returning to TCU next season.
Sleeper Prospect- Richard McBryde/LB/SMU: McBryde is proof the graduate transfer rule works and a change of scenery can be a good thing. Riding the bench and rarely seeing the field at Auburn last season, McBryde is now a force on defense for the once beaten SMU Mustangs. He presently leads SMU with 72 tackles and has 9.5 TFL’s to his credit. McBryde is a smallish run and chase linebacker who plays with a special teams mentality. He’s gone from non-entity to someone who’ll get a free agent contract.
Small School Prospect- Prince Robinson/CB/Tarleton State: Entering the season Robinson was stamped as a PFA by scouts but his play this season could move him into the late rounds. To date, Robinson has intercepted 4 passes and broke up a total of 12 throws. He’s a terrific athlete and an explosive corner who displays next-level ball skills and speed. Robinson has the ability to make an NFL roster as a dime back who doubles as a return specialist.
2020 NFL Draft Sliders
Naquan Jones/DT/Michigan State: Jones entered the season labeled as a fourth-round pick by scouts who grade juniors, but he’s been disappointing this year. Jones has recorded 10 tackles in nine games this season and was blanked when the Spartans collapsed to Illinois on Saturday.
Juwan Washington/RB/San Diego State: Washington entered the season graded as a potential late-round pick but has struggled with injury and inconsistency this year. He’s averaging just 3.4 yards on 131 carries, has only 2 TDs and is likely to go undrafted.
Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365. For more of Tony Pauline’s Risers & Sliders, check out our archives.