Like we did last year, we will take an in-depth look at some of the most talked-about NFL draft prospects from each week. Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner recaps Week 14 and looks ahead to Week 15. As the season progresses, we will highlight prospects who are rising up the draft boards along with others who are starting to fall off the radar due to their poor performances.
Player of the Week: Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson):
For their first win against their in-state rival since 2008, the Clemson Tigers needed an exemplary effort from their defense. The leader for the nation's top overall defense, Vic Beasley, has been a pass rushing monster during his college career. Clemson's defense is allowing an NCAA best of 4.0 yards per play this season and only 259.5 YPG.
Against South Carolina's offensive tackle Corey Robinson, who stands 6'7” and 340 pounds and is a likely second round NFL draft prospect in his own right, Beasley was able to apply consistent pressure throughout most of the game in passing situations, but had a difficult time against the run. At 6'2” and 235 pounds, Beasley relies on his speed and quickness over power and strength to apply pressure.
Against South Carolina, Beasley finished with five tackles, two sacks, three TFL, and one forced fumble
. His first sack came at a snap-to-sack time of 5.55 seconds. He chased the QB from the backside of the play, used his speed to close the gap and made a nice play at separating the ball from the quarterback as he made the tackle.
The second sack came in at a snap-to-sack time of 3.7 seconds when the quarterback scrambled outside the pocket and Beasley was able to track him down and make a play. In addition to his two sacks, Beasley also had three quarterback pressures leading to three throw-aways. The ability to apply pressure and force opponents into throwing away the football is what helps make Beasley a likely first round selection.
Beasley's size and his difficulty in separating himself from an offensive lineman are what worry scouts. South Carolina ran towards Beasley's gap responsibility a total of nine times, resulting in 29 yards, with an average of 3.2 YPC. A decent performance, but Beasley's linebackers were quick to fill the hole that was vacated by him getting shoved out of the way by Robinson.
With 32 career sacks to his resume, Beasley is one of the best pure pass rushers to come out of college in the last few years. He will most likely have to convert to a 3-4 outside linebacker, but with his skill set Beasley can be used in a variety of different sub-packages and as a situational pass rusher. His speed and short area quickness will allow him to make plays in the NFL.
Cedric Reed (DE, Texas):
A lot was expected from the Longhorns' Cedric Reed this season. Coming off of a season that saw him register 16.5 TFL, ten sacks and five forced fumbles, there was some talk in scouting circles that Reed could make the push as a possible first or second round talent.
Reed's production numbers have dropped this season. This could be attributed to a new defensive system that forces Reed to play a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, which minimizes his opportunities to rush the quarterback. At 6'6” and 270 pounds, Reed has the size to slide inside, take on guards and he can hold his ground and be a force at stopping the run. Reed has nine TFL, 5.5 sacks and only one forced fumble this season.
Against TCU, who has averaged over 5.4 YPC and 210 YPG this season, Texas held the Horned Frogs to 135 yards and only 4.4 YPC for the game. TCU ran towards Reed's side of the field on nine carries resulting in 14 yards, a 1.6 YPC average.
As a pass rusher, Reed relies on simply trying to overpower and bull rush his blocker back into the quarterback. He did register a sack against TCU at a snap to sack time of 3.05 seconds, along with another quarterback hit with a time of 3.64 seconds.
With some additional weight, Reed would be perfectly suited to for a 3-4 defensive end position. He can occupy multiple blockers, allowing his backers to roam around and make plays. He won't fill up the stat sheet but he can be an integral member of a defense who does all the dirty work. Look for Reed to be a possible 4th or 5th round selection and someone who can add valuable depth early on.
Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan):
In what has been a roller coaster of a season for the Wolverines, Funchess has surely been a glowing bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season
. Funchess is listed as a wide receiver on the Michigan website and has also played tight end, but his role in the NFL will be to line up anywhere on the field and become a matchup nightmare.
Standing at 6'5” and 230 pounds, Funchess towers over defensive backs and is quicker and more agile than linebackers. He has the length and ability to go up and snatch the ball at its highest point and the strength to wrestle it away from defensive backs. Hampered by inconsistent play at the quarterback position throughout his career, Funchess was never afforded the opportunity to put up the stats that you would expect.
Against Ohio State last weekend, he had a total of seven receptions for 107 yards. Michigan only targeted Funchess twice after the second quarter. Not a big run-after-the-catch type of receiver, Funchess is a deep downfield target who seems to be open even when he is covered due to his size. His average depth of target was 14.4 yards past the line of scrimmage. For a player of his length, I was a bit curious as to why Michigan ran a couple of screen passes to his side. Funchess only had 21 yards after the catch in the game, an average of just three yards per catch.
An agile athlete, Funchess has the ability to go low and back across his body to make the difficult catches, but has been plagued by drops this season. He does a good job of catching the ball away from his body and not allowing it into his chest.
A mismatch wherever he lines up on the field and a consistent producer throughout his college career, it would not be a shock to see Funchess drafted in the first round. He can be an immediate weapon for any NFL team's red zone and short yard situations.
Carl Davis (DT, Iowa):
With an imposing stature, Iowa Hawkeyes starting defensive tackle Carl Davis has a rare combination of size, strength and athleticism that have NFL scouts intrigued about his potential. Davis is one of the key leaders on a defense which is ranked 21st in the country, allowing just 334 YPG. At 6'5” and 315 pounds, Davis' size allows him to anchor the defensive line as he quickly closes gaps and is able to take on multiple blockers.
A foundation for the defense, Davis allows those around him to roam free and make plays on the ball. With a quick first step, he is able to get into the backfield and clog up the interior running lanes.
Against Nebraska this past weekend, Davis had three tackles, two TFL, one sack, one PB, and one blocked kicked. His lone sack came on a snap-to-sack time of 3.25 seconds. Davis was able to record two quarterback pressures and two quarterback hits. One of his quarterback hits caused the pass to float in the air, allowing for the defender to run underneath for the interception.
Davis has the strength to shed blockers and collapse the pocket with a dynamic bull rush. Against the run, he stood his ground and maintained gap responsibility. Davis didn't bite on the read-option, rather he stood stout and forced the play outside.
A contributor on special teams with his length and quick first step, Davis was able to knife into the backfield and block a field goal attempt.
NFL teams will be looking for Davis to add depth to their defensive lines and be a possible playmaker on special teams.
Rather than staying small and bending his knees, too often Davis stands tall and gets pushed up, which reduces his power and leverage. Not a classic run stuffer, Davis is capable of shutting down opponents' interior rushing attack. Nebraska had 13 carries towards Davis' gap resulting in 38 yards, a 2.9 YPC average.
Few players possess his size, length, and power and Davis will most likely be a second or third round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. With some more time to work on technique and experience, Davis could develop into a solid starter in the NFL.
Who to Watch This Week
Derron Smith (FS, Fresno State):
What he might lack in size and weight, Fresno State free saftey Derron Smith more than makes up for it with his speed and instincts. The third leading tackler for the Bulldogs, Smith has been a leader on the backend who has the speed to cover a lot of ground. Watch for Boise State to test Smith early on in the game. He had seven INT in 2013, but only one this season. He is more likely to line up in a deep center field position than down in the box. Smith is one of the more talented saftey prospects in college football and is considered a possible second round selection.
Karlos Williams (RB, Florida State):
This weekend will likely turn into an old fashioned ground and pound slugfest when Florida State takes on Georgia Tech for the ACC Championship on Saturday. Karlos Williams, the big bruising tailback for the Seminoles, has been a consistent force all season averaging 4.4 YPC and ten TDs this season. While starting quarterback Jameis Winston has been wildly inconsistent as of late, Williams has been a key component to the Florida State offense. He has excellent hands and can be lined up anywhere on the field. If Winston gets into trouble early on, look for Williams to be a key contributor.
Tyrus Thompson and Darly Williams (OT, Oklahoma):
Oklahoma has one of the nation's best offensive lines. They have bulldozed their way and opened up running lanes for freshman tailback Samaje Perine to rush for 427 yards, an NCAA single game record a couple of weeks ago. Led by senior tackles Tyrus Thompson and Darly Williams, Oklahoma has allowed just six sacks all season in 332 pass attempts, tied for second in fewest sacks allowed in FBS. Thompson, who stands 6'5” and 336 pounds, is likely to be considered as a possible first round talent. Williams, who is 6'6” and 329 pounds, is a two time All-Big 12 selection at right tackle. There is some talk that Williams could slide inside due to his overall lack of athleticism. Going against in-state rival Oklahoma State, in what will be the last home game for both these seniors, watch for the Sooners to come out and establish the run early with both Thompson and Williams leading the way.