It's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly chat about college football and, more importantly, 2010 NFL Draft prospects. We've done several posts in this series and it's been generally pretty popular - so, naturally, we're tinkering with it again today. Today, we're going to mention five players that didn't get a lot of pre-season publicity (or enough, in some cases) but have burst onto the scene as possible high-round picks with their play this season.
Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M. It's really tough to project Miller to the next level, because no one's really sure what position he'll play. The junior is listed at 6'3", 226 pounds, but some say he's playing up around 240. In A&M's defensive scheme, Miller plays the "jack" position, which is essentially a rush linebacker position. Despite his small frame for a pass rusher, Miller has been absolutely dominant in the Big 12 this year. His nine sacks lead the nation, and his 11 tackles for loss is outstanding as well. He's unique in that prior to his rush role, he played strictly outside linebacker - not many current NFL 3-4 linebackers can say that. Miller's dominance and explosive speed have opened the eyes of scouts everywhere.
Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho. Iupati was a known prospect, obviously, but some people still can't even spell his last name correctly - that's how surprising he, and his 5-1 Idaho team, have been this season. The 6'6", 325-pound senior is one of the strongest individual players in the nation, and has helped pave the way for a solid Vandals offense that averages nearly 30 points per game and over 150 rushing yards per contest. It's a weak year for guards, and Iupati's strong senior campaign is causing him to be mentioned more and more as a possible second-round pick.
Bruce Campbell, OT, Maryland. Unlike the guard position, there seems to be an endless supply of quality offensive tackle prospects in the nation. Campbell plays on a poor Maryland team that has slipped to 2-4 on the season, and many scouts will question his durability; he's missed time due to turf toe and knee injuries this season. But the 6'7", 310-pound junior was one of the nation's top recruits in 2007, and he's a rare athlete for a man of his size - he has been clocked running the 40-yard dash in well under 5 seconds before. If he can stay healthy for the remainder of his junior campaign, scouts will nudge him up draft boards based purely on his athleticism and potential. He'd do well to stay in school for his senior campaign, but with the potential for a rookie pay scale and a 2011 lockout looming, you'll see a lot of underclassmen declare earlier than they probably should.
Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech. Tech has struggled at times this season defensively, but it's not the fault of Morgan - he's double- and triple-teamed on a consistent basis. A 6'4", 275-pound junior, Morgan has been dominant for flashes this season, the most notable flash being a three-sack performance against Clemson. Players like Morgan are a rarity these days - as the NFL transitions more to 3-4 looks and split defensive ends between five-technique run-stuffers and pure rushing specialists, Morgan's ability to rush from the edge and defend the run is tough to find in young players. This guy can play, and if he has a strong close to his junior campaign and solid off-season workouts, he might be a guy that sneaks into the first round. He has that type of potential.
Ricky Sapp, DE/OLB, Clemson. Entering his senior campaign, Sapp had been a disappointment to Clemson supporters and draftniks everywhere. Blessed with tremendous athleticism, the 6'4", 240-pound Sapp had never quite lived up to lofty expectations; he was inconsistent as a pass rusher and was not the difference-maker most expected a player of his talent levels to be. That has changed this season. Sapp is far more consistent this season, and has been a headache for opposing offenses all year. Clemson's defense has been excellent, with Sapp's 7 tackles for loss a big reason for their sturdiness. Even if scouts don't like him as a pass rusher, Sapp is athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a 4-3. Athletes get drafted, and the fact that Sapp is finally realizing some of his potential is boosting his stock in a big way.