Big games bring out the best in the top college prospects and you can be certain the the NFL scouts will be looking hard at the tapes of last week’s 2013 Conference Championship contests. It’s not only the competition level these players must deal with, but NFL talent evaluators are looking to see how potential draftees handle the “big stage” as well. With everything on the line for a shot at a BCS bowl game, the pressure is more in line with each of the sixteen weeks in the National Football League.
The Football Educator has been tapping into Taber Small’s work all season as he breaks down the progress of next season’s NFL rookie class. Here’s some of the standouts from the best of the FBS and one from the FCS as well.
NFL Prospects – Championship Weekend Report
By Taber Small – NationalUnderclassmen.com
Tre Mason, Auburn RB
Mason broke the SEC Championship rushing record with 46 carries for 304 yards and 4 TDs against Missouri tough defense. He is an elusive, shifty running back with an amazing combination of speed and power. Mason is an extremely talented running back who possesses the vision and burst of speed to quickly accelerate through the hole. He’s runs hard between the tackles and keeps his legs moving after the initial contact. Mason finished the regular season as the SEC leading rusher and scorer with 1,620 yards and 22 TDs. He doesn’t have perfect size for the NFL running back position but he does possess a short stocky build to take some pounding. Mason is a junior prospect who’s impressed scouts all season long with his outstanding production. There are reports stating that he is leaning towards coming out for the draft where he will be a top 75 prospect.
Jalen Saunders*, Oklahoma WR
The Fresno State transfer is a small but explosive playmaker who is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Saunders quickly releases off the line and can immediately get to top speed. He is a tremendously quick elusive receiver that easily separates from defenders and quickly gets in and out of his breaks. Saunders is also a dangerous punt returner and had a return for a TD against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship game. He is Oklahoma’s primary slot receiver and effectively works the middle of the field mostly running underneath routes. Saunders caught the game winning TD with a few seconds left in the Oklahoma game showing good hands, body control and concentration. He has been Oklahoma’s most exciting player to watch this season and is rated as a 3rd to 4th round prospect by NFL scouts.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State WR
Benjamin is a big body and athletic receiver who has been QB Jameis Winston primary target the last few games. The redshirt sophomore is built more like a TE but he runs like a receiver and is an incredibly talented pass catching prospect. Benjamin has king size at (6-foot-5 234-pounds) and shows the speed to vertically threaten defenses deep. He is also a threat in the red zone as he easily beat defensive backs on jump balls. In the last two games, Benjamin has combined for 14 catches, 331 yards and 5 TDs against Florida and Duke respectively. He has impressed scouts with his body control and acrobatic catches downfield. Benjamin still needs to improve his route running and also recognizing coverages on the fly but his elevated play over the last couple of games has created a buzz regarding him possibly declaring for the 2014 NFL draft. If Benjamin decides to come out he would be a top 60 rated prospect as he could possibly land in the bottom of the first round.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State CB
Dennard is the top rated senior CB on most draft boards and did not disappoint on Saturday night in the Big Ten Championship game, as he was terrific in his match up against Ohio State receivers. He is an incredibly athletic cornerback with good length, size and a closing burst of speed. He can quickly open his hips in transition to run with receivers, showing outstanding awareness while locating the ball in the air. Dennard displays excellent body control and the ability to stay with receivers out of breaks while also possessing good ball skills. He is also aggressive in the run game and will come up strong in support. Dennard has definitely solidified his status as a first round pick and possibly the first cornerback taken in next years draft.