NFL Draft 2014 Risers/Fallers: Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray put on a show
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger closed the 2012 season with enough momentum that people were excited to see his progress in 2013. Would he continue to develop as a senior, into a player NFL teams could envision building around? Or would he slip back into his inconsistent ways, thus setting himself up as a mid-round, project QB?
Mettenberger has answered definitively that he is the real deal. The latest evidence came Saturday, when he turned in a mesmerizing performance during a 44-41 loss to Georgia.
Obviously, Mettenberger and the Tigers would like to have their final series back — Mettenberger fired four straight incompletions, including a fourth-down attempt that sailed well over a slipping Odell Beckham. But he tortured Georgia’s defense to that point, finishing 23-of-37 for 372 yards and three touchdowns.
Neither LSU nor Georgia possesses the old-school SEC defense we’ve become accustomed to, but don’t take anything away from Mettenberger. He stood tall in the pocket, made smart read after smart read and flashed a strong and accurate arm.
Georgia QB Aaron Murray certainly deserves his fair share of props, too. Murray walked away victorious from this one — a key victory for Murray, who’s struggled to lock down wins in big games. He threw the afternoon’s lone interception but also tossed four touchdowns and chalked up 280 yards.
The 6-foot-1 Murray may not be on the same level as Mettenberger when it comes to looking ahead to the 2014 draft, but there is plenty to like about the Bulldogs’ quarterback. That’s especially true when he has time to work from a clean pocket, as he did for much of Saturday in shredding LSU’s defense.
Murray considered entering the 2013 draft and said he received a Round 2-to-Round 3 grade from the NFL’s draft advisory board. His stock probably will settle back in that area again for 2014, thanks in no small part to Saturday’s performance.
• Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin: This week’s Risers/Fallers is a little Wisconsin-Ohio State heavy — there’s more on Bradley Roby, who covered Abbrederis, later. It’s impossible to ignore what the 6-2 Abbrederis did on a national stage Saturday night, though.
He continued an impressive senior season with 10 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown, complete with a couple phenomenal grabs in traffic (like his TD with Roby draped all over him). Abbrederis may not have off-the-charts measurables, but he has solidified his case as a second-day prospect and he might even be able to make a Round 1 push.
• Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: The NFL Network’s Albert Breer wrote in anticipation of Saturday’s Wisconsin-Ohio State game about Miller’s rising NFL stock, with one executive comparing Miller to Donovan McNabb. Making his return from a knee injury, Miller showed why the hype is starting to grow around him.
He threw for four touchdowns and rushed for 83 yards in the Buckeyes’ win. His TD pass just before halftime, on a bullet to Corey Brown, was huge in the outcome. But Miller’s off-balance 26-yard TD strike to Devin Smith was the more impressive toss.
• Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia: Though the West Virginia offense has struggled this season, Sims keeps adding to his resume. In the Mountaineers’ 30-21 upset of Oklahoma State, the senior transfer led his team in both rushing and receiving, while showing the versatility to pass block or split out wide. A very complete effort.
• Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma: NBC documented on at least one occasion how the Sooners were doing what they could to help the 6-3, 298-pound Ikard against potential first-round pick Louis Nix. And while it’s true that Ikard received plenty of assists, including from intriguing H-back Trey Millard, he more than held his own. Without Ikard negating Nix’s push off the snap, all the help in the world would not have accomplished anything.
• C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: It may seem like little details, but the fact that Nick Saban, HaHa Clinton-Dix and other members of the Crimson Tide talked up Mosley’s leadership after a 25-0 win over Ole Miss will resonate for NFL teams. Mosley was noticeably charged-up during the contest, culminating in a fourth-down pass break-up late in the third quarter.
Alabama’s highly talented linebacker finished with seven tackles, including one that dropped Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace for a safety.
• Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: Blame it on a rocky offseason that resulted in Roby being suspended for Ohio State’s opener, but the potential top-10 pick has seemed a little out of sorts so far in 2013. Abbrederis highlighted that for the viewing public Saturday night, torching Roby for more than 200 yards. That’s despite Roby attempting to play what some might call an overly physical game — ABC pointed out multiple plays in which Roby could have been flagged for holding or interference.
Roby remains one of the top defensive prospects in college football. There’s also a good chance that he blows up the combine, given his combination of speed and athleticism. Until then, he needs to step it up on the field.
• Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU: Hoffman toyed with entering the 2013 draft off a 1,250-yard season and, well, perhaps he should have. The BYU senior was suspended for Saturday’s game on a violation of team rules, marking his second missed contest already. (Hoffman sat out BYU’s opener with a hamstring injury.) Extremely inconsistent QB play has made it hard to get a real read on Hoffman’s progress, too — he currently sits on 10 catches, 90 shy of his 2012 total.
• Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell: Mathews probably will make or break his stock after the college season wraps, at the Senior Bowl or Shrine Game and then the combine. He still would like to avoid outings like the one he had on Saturday in a loss to Yale. Mathews turned the ball over three times (two interceptions, one fumble), mistakes he can ill-afford given questions that already are present about the level of competition Mathews is facing.
• Dominique Easley, DT, Florida: One of the better defensive linemen in college football, Easley tore his ACL last week. Florida coach Will Muschamp then confirmed that the junior will enter next year’s draft.
That’s probably a wise move on Easley’s part, given that he has two ACL injuries (one on each leg) to his credit now and has little left to prove at the college level. Unfortunately, Easley also may not be at full strength again before May’s draft, making the breakdown of his game that much more difficult.
• Stephen Morris, QB, Miami: Morris reinjured his troublesome right ankle Saturday against South Florida — he later called USF “dirty” and accused the Bulls of twisting his leg in a pile. The Miami gunslinger should be ready to go next Saturday vs. Georgia Tech, but a mounting injury history could give NFL teams a little pause. Morris needed offseason back surgery before the 2012 campaign, and now has been hobbled twice in four 2013 games.