- Mel Kiper Jr., Football analyst
Rankings prospects is never about telling you who the best player is right now. It's about who is going to be the best in the years to come. That's why a guy having a so-so year (see No. 1 on this list) can hold that spot and I don't hear too many questions about it.
But now and then you have that great confluence of potential and performance. You can see the potential, because maybe the refinement isn't there, and simple mistakes pile up, but the player is so clearly a special talent that it doesn't matter, because he can dominate on this level even as he works out the kinks. I think this year we're seeing some of that from Marcus Mariota, who jumps into the top 10 after yet another exceptional performance, this week in a convincing win at Washington.
In that game, the Ducks were without their biggest offensive threat in De'Anthony Thomas, who was out because of injury. They were without Colt Lyerla, a tight end who'd been dismissed from the team. They even had wide receiver Josh Huff get dinged and leave the field for a while. But Mariota was unstoppable, and made everyone else better. The Ducks won going away. Those kinds of performances, that ability to elevate the entire team, are what make a special player. And, in Mariota's case, a prospect as well.
As always, scouting reports remain similar week to week, with updates on matchups. Asterisks denote juniors; two asterisks denote redshirt sophomores.
Jadeveon Clowney *
Clowney's inability to get to 100 percent this season has been the big storyline, but I also wouldn't be offended by a lot of caution. When he's right, Clowney has great strength and quickness as well as strong hands to quickly shed blocks. He's not just an edge rusher looking to quickly turn the corner, as he beats average tackles both inside and outside, which causes many double-teams. His quickness can get him in trouble with overpursuit, but that's a good problem to have.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 1 | PLAYER CARD
Teddy Bridgewater *
Bridgewater has looked comfortable and in control all season, which can raise questions about the competition, but is also about his general poise and increased polish. He moves his eyes quickly and often scans the whole field. When he sees a target he has a quick release, plenty of arm strength and good ball placement. I really like how he calibrates his throws, not using too much arm when he doesn't need to.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 2 | PLAYER CARD
Now with 10.0 tackles for loss through five games, he has been impossible to block consistently. A former fullback, he has a powerful lower half and has a long frame and reach. Had 13.5 sacks last year and could have left for the NFL, but if he's able to grow with another year of seasoning at the position, it's only going to make him a more attractive talent.
PREVIOUS RANK: No. 3 | PLAYER CARD
Mel Kiper updates his Big Board, the ranking of the top 25 prospects in college football. Oregon QB Marcus Mariota climbs from No. 19 to No. 7 while Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel makes his debut.