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Steve Muench's Stock Report
Up: Penn State DT Jordan Hill (Grade: 69)
Hill recorded 12 tackles (3 TFL, 2 sacks) in Penn State's win over Wisconsin, proving he can be disruptive against the run and provide a pass rush from the interior. His blend of quickness and upper-body strength gave the Badgers' offensive linemen problems most of the day. Hill showed the ability to stack and shed blockers in time to make the play as a run defender -- when he wasn't using his lateral quickness to sidestep lunging blockers at the snap. He is an effective hand fighter as a pass-rusher, preventing blockers from locking on and countering effectively when he didn't win with his first move. Hill lacks ideal size (6-0, 295) and struggled to anchor when he didn't play with leverage, but his motor ran nonstop and he finished his college career on a high note. He's making a strong case to be taken on Day 2 of the draft.
Down: Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner (Grade: 82)
Wagner is a three-year starter with prototypical size (6-6¼, 317) for a right tackle prospect and the potential to develop into an effective run-blocker at the next level. However, his struggles in pass protection are reason for concern. The two biggest issues are his hips and hands. Wagner's inability to sink and stay balanced affects his ability to slide and mirror when defenders change directions quickly. Being beaten by a spin move late in the Penn State game is an excellent example. Wagner's failure to deliver a violent punch and lock out affect his ability to sustain. And while Wagner matched up well initially with Ohio State DE John Simon (Grade: 72), he couldn't stay in front of Simon, who was the better hand fighter. Meanwhile, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews (Grade: 81) is just behind Wagner on our board, but has fared better in pass protection and against more formidable competition in the SEC. Finally, it's worth pointing out that Wagner strained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in the Purdue game and missed the next two games. Teams have to take into account what kind of impact that might have had on his mobility, but Wagner showed average foot speed before the injury and now has to answer questions about his durability. All that has him on the fringe of the second round at this point.
Kevin Weidl's Stock Report
I was on hand for Austin's otherworldly performance in a shootout loss to Oklahoma, a game in which he set West Virginia and Big East records with 572 total yards (344 rushing, 146 KOR, 82 receiving). That outing was a clear illustration of the versatility he brings to the table. Austin lined up at running back much of the game and looked natural there, showing the ability to be a third-down weapon out of the backfield in the NFL. He has elite top-end speed and the ability to make cuts without losing momentum, and his open-field running skills are excellent. Austin can also be a slot receiver and burn opponents as a return man. He's undersized (5-8⅜, 173), but is a mismatch waiting to happen and is capable of ripping off a big play every time he touches the ball. Some of the NFL talent evaluators in attendance expressed a feeling that Austin could sneak into the back end of the first round; if he does, that Oklahoma tape will be one of his calling cards.
Down: Florida State QB EJ Manuel (Grade: 76)
Manuel certainly has impressive physical tools. He's 6-4⅝ and 236 pounds, is athletic and mobile enough to make plays with his legs, and has a good arm. However, his inability to handle big moments and pass-rush pressure have hurt his team in both its losses this season. Manuel threw a second-half interception and could not help the Seminoles close things out in their 17-16 loss to N.C. State, a game FSU led 16-0 at halftime. Last week's loss to Florida exposed Manuel's problems handling the pass rush. The Gators brought pressure throughout the game and did a good job taking away Manuel's first read, which often caused him to take the ball down and move his eyes to the pass rush. The physical talent is there, but Manuel's weaknesses have his stock in the middle of the third round at this point.
Scouts Inc. Observations
Muench: Most college football fans are focusing on conference championship games and bowl possibilities at this point, and NFL fans are preparing for the season's stretch run. The draft isn't on many people's minds, but the process has already begun for those prospects not playing in bowl games. Players like Utah DT Star Lotulelei (Grade: 96), Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins (Grade: 95) and Auburn DE Corey Lemonier (Grade: 90) won't get on the field again until postseason all-star games roll around nearly two months from now. While other players stay sharp during bowl practices, these players will have to shake off the rust that other invitees won't have. They could choose to skip those games given that disadvantage, but later-round picks like Arkansas RB Dennis Johnson (Grade: 73) don't have the same luxury. They'll want to take advantage of any opportunities to improve their stock and can't afford to lose ground with teams by deciding not to participate. Finally, conditioning and testing becomes that much important for any prospects who don't play in all-star games. Many will work with trainers to get stronger and faster, but no matter how they do it, the next few weeks will be important for those whose seasons are over.
Weidl: It's no secret the SEC has been a talent pipeline for the NFL in recent years, and the upcoming conference title game is one of the most loaded in memory. Alabama brings 10 prospects with draftable grades to Atlanta. Georgia has 10 on defense alone, 12 overall. There will be five first-rounders on the field at various times throughout the night: Alabama's Chance Warmack and Dee Milliner; and Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Johnathan Jenkins and Alec Ogletree. The Bulldogs might have more individual talent, but the Crimson Tide might have an advantage because they play more fundamentally sound football. The SEC title game is college football at its highest level, and NFL fans whose teams are out of it should tune in to see players who could help their favorite squad next season.