2017 NFL Draft Week 10 Risers and Fallers


In the continuing search for diamonds in the rough or lesser known players, I continue with players who have emerged as prospects in the eyes of NFL evaluators.  This week's edition has 3 Redshirt Sophomore QBs and while they are technically eligible to declare for the draft they are unlikely to do so as more seasoning is definitely in order for each of them.   And while it is true that Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel left college after their Redshirt Sophomore years, they had each played a full two seasons while the 3 QB Risers herein have only had one season as starters.  Moving forward these QBs have high upsides.



1.  WILTON SPEIGHT - QB - 6-5 254 - SOr - MICHIGAN - in a stat line of 19-24-79.2%-2TD-0I in the romp over Maryland he had a limited number of throws but it was "the third straight week that he had a better week than the week before."  He hit on many throws but it was his deep ball accuracy that was really impressive in leading his receivers perfectly.  His improvement over the season is noticeable and while he isn't a great runner he can run if he has to.  And as Coach Harbaugh has said, "moving, throwing, accuracy, extending plays" are all part of his game.  He has games coming up against Iowa and Indiana for which he can prep for his big test against Ohio State on Nov. 26, 2016.  Coach Harbaugh will do everything he can to keep him in the fold for next year by enticing him with thoughts of a possible national championship and being a Heisman Trophy finalist.

2.  JOSH ALLEN - QB - 6-5 222 - SOr - WYOMING - after being overlooked in H.S. Allen went the JC route for one year before moving on to Wyoming and early in the 2nd game of 2015 went down with a broken collarbone in 7 places.  On to 2016 when the Cowboys caught the college football world's attention on Oct. 29 by upsetting Boise State and followed that up this week with a 52-28 thrashing of Utah State leaving Wyoming with a 7-2 record.  After Head Coach Craig Bohl, QB Allen is the driving force behind the upstart Cowboys success and has gone from being overlooked to being a prospect on every NFL team's draft board because of his size, throwing ability and ability to keep plays alive with his feet. He has also made good decisions on when to take off and run.

3.  NICK FITZGERALD - QB - 6-5 235 - SOr - MISSISSIPPI STATE - while only having a stat line of 18-31-58.1%-209 yards - 2TD and 2 I in the upset win over No. 4 ranked Texas A&M and while his completion percentage for the year is only 56.3%, Fitzgerald has a lot to work with as he has a strong arm and throws tights spirals.  He seemed to be playing with confidence against a stronger Texas A&M team and while he is a work in progress with his passing, he made some clutch throws to WR Fred Ross and he really hurt the Aggies with his 184 yards rushing and on one play carried a number of Aggies into the EZ with him for a TD.  His passing running combo had the Aggies unbalanced. He appears to be faster than Dak Prescott and has designed running plays much the same as Prescott did.  Any improvement in his accuracy would make for a big rise on draft boards as the size, arm and athleticism are all there.

4.  JOHN ROSS - WR - 5-11 196 - JRr - WASHINGTON - after missing the 2015 season with a torn ACL and meniscus injury, there was a question as to how he might perform in 2016 and Ross has responded as one of the biggest Risers on the collegiate scene. His 6 receptions for 208 yards, a 34.7 per catch average with 3 TDs in the win over the California Bears is indicative of how he has performed for most of the year.  He doubles as a Kick Returner where he also excels and is now considered a possible first round draft choice or second round choice at the latest.  He has good hands with the unquestioned speed and has good run ability after the catch and is a difference maker that will draw the attention of a defense.

5.  TARELL BASHAM - DE - 6-4 262 - SR. - OHIO - not well known outside of the MAC and not highly rated as an NFL prospect, he has a chance as an OLB more so in a 3/4 defense as his size and speed would be more suited to that defense.  And while his stats in the win over Buffalo on last Thursday night were not overwhelming with 1 Solo Tackle, 2 Assists, 1.5 Sacks, 1 Pass Break Up along with some hurries on the QB, he did show some athleticism with short area quickness, closing speed to the QB and range to go with his long arms.  He is now up to 9 Sacks after 10 games this year while he had 5.5 Sacks last year in 12 games.  He also has 9 Quarterback Hurries and 2 Forced Fumbles so far this year and has shown enough to be considered a prospect as an OLB.

6.  KYLE HICKS - RB - 5-10 210 - JRr - TCU - after modest production his first two playing seasons, Hicks became the feature back in 2016 and was having a good season leading up to a career game in the 62-22 drubbing of 6 win 1 loss and 13th ranked Baylor.  Hicks displayed his quickness, spin moves and tackle breaking ability en route to a 26-192-7.4-5TDs along with 2 receptions stat line in a much needed win for the Horned Frogs.  During the course of the season he has shown his pass catching ability and run after the catch ability.



1.  JOE MIXON - RB - 6-1 226 - SOr - OKLAHOMA - having a prototype frame for the RB position and extraordinary ability, he is a great runner and receiver out of the backfield; and he even blocks. He has again hurt his stock value with the NFL teams as he has been suspended for the game against Iowa State for a minor incident on the Oklahoma campus.  But this comes on top of his being suspended for the 2014 season for punching a woman.  Based upon his performance so far this year (119-813-6.8-5TD-65Long with 24 receptions and another 4 TDs), I would have placed him only behind Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook as the top Running Backs in what is possibly the strongest RB draft class of all time.

2.  O. J. HOWARD - TE - 6-6 251 - SR. - ALALBAMA - the top rated TE on many draft boards, he had 1 catch for 3 yards in the hard fought defensive battle against LSU.  While his blocking was good and has been good he should be more of a contributor in the passing game.



1.  COREY DAVIS - WR - 6-3 210 - SR. - WESTERN MICHIGAN - his 12-272-22.7-3TD stat line in the 52-20 rout of Ball State showed that Davis is clearly superior to the talent in the Mid-American Conference.

2.  CHAD HANSEN - WR - 6-1 190 - JRr - CALIFORNIA - was an early part of the season sensation and previously a Riser in this series, he missed 2 weeks with a bum ankle and retuned in a limited role against Washington and proved that he is a class athlete and player as he got deep on highly rated CB Sidney Jones of the Huskies and made a couple of catches against him.  He had a 5-70-14.0-1TD stat line in limited reps because of the ankle but he just looked like a class receiver against top competition.

3.  ARDARIUS STEWART - WR - 6-0 204 - JRr - ALABAMA - in the 10-0 win over LSU Stewart had just a 3-55-18.3-0TD stat line and was used once on a jet-sweep but was impressive with his speed and athleticism.  He has been somewhat limited with a knee injury, but is a player that could be a nice addition to an NFL team once he leaves Alabama.

3.  TAYOR MOTON - RT - 6-5 328 - SR - WESTERN MICHIGAN - is a player who has drawn attention as an NFL prospect that I was able to view in the same Ball State game as Corey Davis above.  And while Moton has a well-proportioned frame with long arms and fairly quick feet, good knee bend and hip flexibility, he has a long way to go in blocking technique as he doesn't anchor properly on Pass Pro, doesn't always work his feet quick enough on his kick-slide and sometimes lunges on run blocking.  He has tools but lacks refinement.  At this point he would be a player for the practice squad who may or may not develop but if he did, he has enough ability to develop into a starter.

4.  BRIAN HILL - RB - 6-0 219 - JR. - WYOMING - is having a terrific year as a key member of the Cowboys rise to prominence with a 7-2 record with Hill gaining 1,298 yards with 13 TDs in those 9 games, BUT he only has 4 receptions in those 9 games.  Last year he did have 20 receptions over 12 games while also going over 1,000 yards (1,631).

5.  FRANK RAGNOW - CENTER - 6-5 314 - JR. - ARKANSAS - in the Razorbacks upset win over the Florida Gators, Arkansas took control of the Line of Scrimmage with Ragnow being the ring leader.  He has already been in my Risers column so I only mention him here for his outstanding performance.  He got movement in run blocking to create lanes and he was solid in Pass Protection and on some run plays even made two blocks. And, in addition, was able to pull and make blocks on wide plays.  I don't recall him being beaten on any play but he was flagged for a hold on a run play very late in the game which I thought was a bad call.  It was just that he stayed with the block for such a long period that the official thought that it was a hold as the defender couldn't get away from him.  And Frank must take his performance seriously because instead of celebrating with his teammates after the big upset win he was pleading his case with the official who made the call. 

6.  TIM WILLIAMS - OLB - 6-3 237 - SR. - ALABAMA - Coach Nick Saban had wanted him to become more of a full time linebacker instead of just a pass rush specialist and he was used as such in the 10-0 win against LSU and made some plays showing that he could drop in coverage and read and react to what he sees.  This would greatly enhance his draft status as previously he was considered just a pass rush specialist as that was all that he had shown.  On the other hand his arrest for carrying a gun will be a huge red flag for many teams.