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2020 NFL Draft: College football risers and sliders

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Which players have been the biggest movers during the 2019 college football season

College football’s regular season is complete and the conference champions have been crowned. Before we here at Buffalo Rumblings get all into the College Bowl Season, it’s a good idea to press the reset button and review any new developments that have come to light in 2019 regarding draft prospects. Below is a list of players who can be considered risers and those prospects who massively hurt their draft stock during the most recent college season.


Risers

QB Joe Burrow (LSU)

After transferring from Ohio State, Burrow’s first season with LSU in 2018 was nothing to write home about, with a 57% completion percentage to go with only 2,800 yards. But starting from his second game of the 2019 season, when he threw for 471 yards against Texas, Burrow produced one of the most prolific seasons for an SEC quarterback. His touch, decision-making, ability to throw on the run, and poise were all very improved. It was such an unbelievable improvement, that the Heisman front-runner should expect his name to be called within the first five picks of the 2020 NFL Draft.

WR Michael Pittman Jr. (USC)

Coming into the college football season, most draft analysts couldn’t spare a thought for the 6’4”, 220-lb Trojans receiver. Despite a decent junior season, most initially felt that although he’s dominant at the catch-point, he lacks true speed and isn’t an NFL route-runner. However, after watching him beat up the talented Utah secondary for ten receptions and 232 receiving yards, those same analysts started to change their tune. The senior proved that he isn’t just a “go up and get it” player—he can make plays and get open at every level of the field. With a good combine, Pittman could even sneak his way into the first round.

Austin Jackson, OT (USC)

Pittman’s teammate at USC, Jackson entered campus and immediately was forced to gain more than 45 lbs in order to hold up as a college left tackle. The young man made it happen and earned his first starts at left tackle for the Trojans during his sophomore season and played admirably, if unspectacularly. With his body maturing to the point where he is now 6’6” and 310 lbs, Jackson was able to establish himself as a starter and the premier PAC-12 left tackle. Still very athletic, he has the feet and smooth movement skills to be a first-round prospect.

LB Akeem Davis-Gaither (Appalachian State)

There were several things holding Davis-Gaither back. For one, he plays for a smaller school in Appalachian State. Secondly, he’s a linebacker who possesses safety size at 6’2” and 218 lbs. However, he spent his senior season proving that lack of size isn’t necessarily a handicap, as his speed more than makes up for it. His crowing achievement of the season, and the game that brought him to most peoples attention, was App State’s upset of UNC. In that game, the senior linebacker finished with eight tackles and an interception.

Sliders

TE Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Pinkney dominated analysts’ tight end rankings to begin the season. Most had him ranked as a sure-fire first- or second-round prospect while many scouts stamped him as a first-round prospect. His 2019 production wasn’t able to match the hype however, as the senior finished the regular season with a meager 20 catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns. That just doesn’t cut it for a player expected to be a pass-catching tight end. Perhaps he can raise his stock a bit at the Senior Bowl next month.

QB Jordan Love (Utah State)

Jordan Love received a lot of hype from scouts and analysts willing to dig deep into Utah State’s film. After throwing for 32 touchdowns to go with only six interceptions and a 64 percent completion percentage during his sophomore season, scouts must have been salivating to see how he’d improve during his junior year. His junior season was a massive letdown however, as Love’s interception rate skyrocketed to 16, his touchdowns plummeted to 17 and his completion percentage dropped by ten points. While he’s still an elite athlete at the position, he has a lot to learn and may be more of a project.

DE Alton Robinson (Syracuse)

Big things were expected from Syracuse’s defense, and in their star pass rusher Robinson during the 2019 season. Robinson’s 2018 saw the defensive end rack up double-digit sacks and he was expected to feast on a weak ACC schedule. Those expectations were never met, as Robinson finished the season with only 4.5 sacks and a single forced fumble. Worst of all, his production disappeared during the Orange’s biggest games. Like Pickney, the senior has a chance to repair his image down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl.

RB Eno Benjamin (Arizona State)

A running back with both size and speed, Benjamin was highly thought of nationally in 2018 and was predicted to be a second-day prospect. His 2019 season hasn’t really gone as planned, however, as Benjamin’s yardage total dropped precipitously and his yards per carry number sunk to 4.4 from 5.5 yards. He needs to shake off the fact that analysts now see him as a tweener: too small to be an inside runner, but not shifty enough to make a career as a third-down or scat back.