Despite more than a dozen games being canceled or postponed due to health protocols, there was plenty of great action on the college football field Saturday. The Big Ten gave us a pair of games that will impact national rankings, and the top teams in the SEC continued to roll. From a scouting perspective, we saw a number of outstanding performances from defensive back-seven prospects who raised their NFL Draft stock in Week 12. Here are this week’s risers and sliders.
NFL Draft Stock Report: Week 12 Risers
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
How do you top making the game-sealing interception against SMU a week ago? Simple — intercept another pass and bring it back for the game-winning score in overtime. That’s been the scenario for Zaven Collins the past two weeks, and the junior is flying up draft boards — further boosting his NFL Draft stock in Week 12.
Collins is a large, athletic linebacker who plays tough, physical, and instinctive football. He’s a three-down defender who forces the action behind the line of scrimmage, makes plays in space, and effectively covers the pass. Collins amassed 15 tackles against Tulane and returned an interception 96 yards for the game-winning score. As I mentioned during last week’s live stream of The Draft Insiders podcast, Collins will enter the draft and is presently receiving first-round consideration around the league.
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
The long-awaited return of Rondale Moore, who had been sidelined with a lower-leg injury since the start of the season, finally arrived Friday, and the game-changing receiver did not disappoint. Moore finished with 15 receptions for 116 yards during a close loss to Minnesota. While that isn’t a big yards-per-catch average, anyone familiar with his game understands that’s not an issue.
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Moore, who played just four games last season before being sidelined with injury, made the right decision to play this year despite the late start by the Big Ten. I presently grade the junior as a first-round prospect, and the speedy Moore is expected to enter the draft.
Greg Newsome, CB, Northwestern
An opportunistic Northwestern defense led the way to a 10-point win over Wisconsin, helping the Wildcats remain undefeated this season. Greg Newsome, a junior who I graded as a fourth-round prospect before the season, had a terrific game. Besides four tackles, Newsome broke up two passes and made a beautiful interception that Northwestern converted into a field goal.
Newsome is a nice-sized corner who measures over six feet tall, plays tough, instinctive football, and has shown terrific ball skills the past two seasons. I’m told there’s a good chance he opts for the draft after the season.
Damar Hamlin, S, Pittsburgh
Damar Hamlin, always the leader in the Pitt secondary, has elevated his level of play as the 2020 season has progressed, boosting his NFL Draft stock in the process. His latest gem included 11 tackles during the Panthers’ 33-point victory over Virginia Tech in Week 12. Hamlin leads the Pitt defense with 57 tackles this season to go along with two interceptions and five pass breakups.
The senior has excellent size and instincts, but his speed is suspect, which will drop him down draft boards. He’ll be a terrific late-round pick for a team that needs a smart zone safety who can also line up on coverage units.
Olakunle Fatukasi, LB, Rutgers
My opinion on Olakunle Fatukasi before the season boiled down to this — he was a good athlete who played uninspired football. New Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has obviously lit a fire underneath Fatukasi, who has been playing lights-out in 2020 to boost his NFL Draft stock. The senior was one of the best players on the field during Rutgers’ Week 12 double-overtime loss to Michigan, tallying 15 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, two sacks, and one PBU. He’s been a tackling machine this season, posting 65 tackles in five games and registering double-digit tackles in every contest.
Though he’s under 230 pounds, Fatukasi is a tough, athletic linebacker who now plays hard for 60 minutes. Graded as a priority free agent before the season, good workouts before the draft could move the linebacker into the late rounds.
Isaiah Likely, TE, Coastal Carolina
Isaiah Likely is someone I graded over the summer and highlighted during the start of Saturday’s game day blog, and he did not disappoint against Appalachian State. The athletic tight end hauled in three passes for 118 yards and one TD, a 75-yard reception. Likely has struggled with a foot injury this season and has just 13 receptions to his credit, but they have amounted to 350 receiving yards and four TDs.
The junior plays the tight end position like a receiver and has incredible upside. I presently grade him as a sixth-round prospect, but if he elevates his production, Likely will move up draft boards. I’m told the heavy odds are on Likely returning to Coastal Carolina for his senior season, which is his best move.
NFL Draft Sleeper Prospect
Bryce Crosby, S, Ball State
Several under-the-radar prospects from the MAC have boosted their NFL Draft stock and made the risers list since the league’s return to the field, and Bryce Crosby is the latest in Week 12. Another defender from the MAC who was unnoticed by scouts, the senior safety has been on a tear this season. His most recent performance included a team-leading 14 tackles during a win over Northern Illinois. That’s 22 tackles over the past two games for Crosby, a high-revving run defender who can also line up on coverage units.
NFL Draft Stock Report: Week 12 Slider
Lorenzo Neal, DT, Purdue
Lorenzo Neal flashed big-time ability as a freshman at Purdue, but his game never progressed. He chose to return for another season with the Boilermakers after sitting on the sidelines in 2019, and his return has been anything but inspired.
He’s totaled eight tackles in four games this season, and Neal isn’t even doing a good job occupying gaps, as he continually gets obliterated at the point of attack. Neal has the size and style to line up as a zero-technique nose tackle in the NFL, but he does not possess the fire.