Week three approaches and already the pictures has begun to take shape for the 2014 NFL draft. There is no shortage of surprises. Which NCAA talents absolutely need a big game in order to keep their stock from tanking?
Jadeveon Clowney vs. Vanderbilt
When a guy is considered a Heisman favorite on defense, he must be pretty good. That was the feeling by most scouts about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Yet through two weeks the play has not matched the hype. Clowney does have a sack but has not looked like the dominant force everybody expected him to be. There is still time in the season for that player to emerge. After all he only had one sack through two games in 2012 before exploding for 13. He will need a big game against Vanderbilt to rescue his image though.
Marqise Lee vs. Boston College
The USC offense bottomed out in week two, scoring just seven points against Washington State and wide receiver Marqise Lee was their biggest victim. Widely considered the best receiver prospect for the 2014 draft, he still has not caught a touchdown pass and has only averaged 8.7 yards per pass. That is way down from his 14.6 yards average last season. Already there is turmoil with the coaching staff and given the question marks around the quarterback position, it’s unclear if Lee can rescue his image before its too late. That is why he needs a major rebound game against Boston College.
Anthony Barr vs. Nebraska
Considered one of the top outside linebacker pass rushers in the country, Anthony Barr has a lot of expectations from fans and the media given his vast potential. Unfortunately, like Clowney he has struggled on the stat sheet out of the gates. He failed to record a sack in his first game against Nevada and must prepare for week two against a Nebraska program that likes to run the ball to help balance out the pass. That means Barr must show patience and burst when the chances are there, otherwise questions will start to raise about his validity as a top prospect.
Bradley Roby vs. Cal
After missing his first game due to a suspension, Bradley Roby has lots of ground to make up to prove his status as the best corner prospect in 2014 NFL draft isn’t a mirage. To do that requires good game tape but also stats. At present he has little of both. He was never really challenged against San Diego State, collecting four tackles. The hope is that he will see significantly more action against Cal and their top ranked passing offense. Roby likely draws the assignment of covering Chris Harper, a 6’1″ receiver who had 209 yards and two touchdowns through two games. Shutting him down would certainly get Roby back on the good side of scouts.
Louis Nix III vs. Purdue
Defense seems to be the theme. None have been more disappointing than Louis Nix III of Notre Dame. The massive nose tackle for the Irish hasn’t just gotten off to a tough start, he’s been virtually invisible. Through two games he hasn’t registered a tackle or a sack. Coaches and media around the team insist this isn’t a bad thing. As a nose tackle his job isn’t making tackle but drawing double teams and stopping the run so his teammates can make plays. If that were true then he didn’t do enough last week because Michigan hung 41 points on his defense, including 166 rushing yards. The hope is his presence will be clearly felt against Purdue, otherwise the NFL draft might see him beyond the first round.