29 S Ed Reynolds (6’2″ 205 pounds, SENIOR)
Simply put, Reynolds is a defensive back who knows how to get his hands on the ball. He picked off six passes as a junior in 2012 on his way to third-team All-American honors and first-team All-Pac 12 honors as well. He returned three of his six picks for touchdowns, and a fourth one he returned to the one yard line. His breakout season last year came out of nowhere to the scouting community, as Reynolds didn’t play a down in 2011 due to injury, and only recorded six tackles as a freshman in 2010. Had just 47 tackles in 2012, but plays on a stacked defense so there aren’t a ton of tackles to go around. Does a great job of following the quarterback’s eyes and reading where he is going with the ball. Knack for beating receivers to the ball and obviously has no problem catching it, and is better running after the catch than a lot of receivers in college football. Not an overly physical safety, and doesn’t play in the box a whole lot.
93 DE/OLB Trent Murphy (6’5″ 261 pounds, SENIOR)
Murphy was one of the more consistent hybrid linebackers in the country last year, regardless of conference. On a team that finished first in the country with 124 tackles for loss, he was the leader of the group with 18 of his own. Not only did he finish with 18 tackles for loss, but he made a total of 56 stops with 10 sacks and four passes broken up. Murphy is a very big rush linebacker for the Cardinal, which leads me to believe he may transition to playing some defensive end in the NFL. Watching some of his 2012 games, you probably won’t find many more 6’5″ 260 pound defenders who drop into coverage as much as this guy. He’s no lock-down cover linebacker by any means, but he is effective enough and his length allows him to knock down a lot of passes. In third down situations, Murphy has great explosiveness off the snap and gets to the quarterback with a strong, aggressive bull rush move. He doesn’t have elite bend around the edge but he gets there all the same. Heading into his senior season, he’s one of the top defenders in the nation. He looks like a potential first round pick if he can test well at the Combine, and watching him return a 40 yard INT for a touchdown against Washington, he may very well do that. This is an aggressive player who has a high motor and he has explosive ability off the edge.
54 OG David Yankey (6’5″ 314 pounds, JUNIOR)
Yankey is an underclassmen who stepped in to start at left tackle last year for the Cardinal, but he’s been moved back inside to guard as a junior where he has huge upside at the next level. This is an interior offensive line prospect with solid quickness and and lateral movement skills, as well as quickness and suddenness. Very fundamentally sound player who will probably use his final year of eligibility in 2015 as he masters his craft on the offensive interior, but this is a player to look out for in either this year’s draft or the next who could be a plug and play starter in the NFL.
11 LB Shayne Skov (6’3″ 244 pounds, SENIOR)
Senior linebacker Shayne Skov has had an interesting road to the National Football League, that’s for sure. He became a starter as a freshman at outside linebacker way back in 2009, and burst onto the scene with a huge sophomore season, racking up 83 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and seven sacks.
Skov was well on his way to being a first round caliber inside linebacker and leaving after his junior season in 2011, but the injury bug bit. Hard. Skov suffered a torn ACL in the third game of the 2011 season, getting a medical redshirt and returning in 2012 as the starter, finishing with 80 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
He wasn’t nearly as explosive in 2012 as we had seen in 2010, but he has a chance to come out bigger, faster, stronger, and better than ever as a senior in 2013. Skov is being vastly underrated right now because of the injury and the fact that the shine has worn off a bit, but make no mistake about it, he has starter potential for the NFL level.
49 DE Ben Gardner (6’4″ 277 pounds, SENIOR)
Guy who does a lot of dirty work on the defensive interior for the Cardinal, but he makes his share of plays. Gardner is a long, pretty athletic guy for his size who can get a push on the inside but isn’t a traditional speed edge rusher by any means. Very good strength at the point of attack, and I love that he is scheme diverse. Gardner has the ability to be a starter at DE in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defensive front and could kick inside if the need should ever arise.
Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Gardner has racked up 24 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, on his way to All-Conference honors in each season. In 2013, he’s expected to be a leader on the defensive front for Stanford, a very talented group of guys that are all headed for the NFL this season.
If he can continue to improve his ability to get to the QB and prove to NFL scouts that he is scheme diverse, he will be a very valuable mid-round pick.
25 RB Tyler Gaffney (6’1″ 225 pounds, SENIOR)
Gaffney took the 2012 season off to play professional baseball after being drafted in the 24th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, a story which is beautifully captured in this article here on ESPN.com.
This is a big bodied back who has been very productive to start off his senior season with the Cardinal, and he’s putting himself on the NFL radar. His size combined with the fact that he fits perfectly in this Stanford offense will bode well for his NFL prospects as he should put together a big senior season.
Gaffney is a good one-cut runner who doesn’t have breakaway speed or elite agility like a LeSean McCoy, but he’s capable of getting big chunks of yards at a time and has a nose for the end zone. I like his NFL potential and he’ll be a value pick late.