College News & Analysis

Top 10 performances from 2021 NFL Draft prospects in Week 12

University Park, PA, USA; Buffalo Bulls running back Jaret Patterson (26) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

With cancellations dwindling slates dwindling more and more as the weeks go on, there are not quite as many top performances to chose from. That’s why this week I’m highlighting some lesser-known prospects who showed up in a big way last week.

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Only one player below made PFF’s latest top 100, though all now have their arrows pointed squarely upward after their performances.

1. RB Jaret Patterson, Buffalo

When you go for 300-plus rushing yards in a game, you’re doing something right. While Bowling Green’s defense didn’t make Patterson work terribly hard for it — he broke only six tackles on the day — his blend of speed and quicks was on full display.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound junior is one of the nation's best scatbacks and easily the most productive. He went for 1,804 yards on 313 carries last season while breaking 86 tackles. He now has 513 yards on 70 carries with 19 broken tackles through his first three games of 2020.

2. EDGE Jonathon Cooper, Ohio State

We highlighted Cooper at the beginning of the year and said he desperately needed football this fall to increase his draft stock. He chose to redshirt last season when he came back healthy at the end of the year to try to up his draft stock in 2020. And up his draft stock he has.

Cooper looked like a grown man out there against Indiana on Saturday with six pressures on 41 pass-rushing snaps for a 91.4 pass-rushing grade. His down-to-down consistency has taken a massive leap from years past, and he now owns a 91.5 pass-rushing grade on the season. He would have been a Day 3 guy had he declared last year, but Cooper is making his way into the Day 2 conversation.

3. DI Dion Novil, North Texas

While his performance comes with the obvious caveat that it was against a rough Rice offensive line, Novil had one of the most dominant games of the PFF college era. He literally topped the scales with a 99.9 run-defense grade, as he racked up an absurd seven run stops on 27 snaps against the run.

Playing at head-up nose tackle pretty much exclusively, Novil won with both his first-step quickness and his bowling ball-esque leverage. This is one nose tackle prospect who I’d be surprised if he escapes Day 2.

4. WR D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan

Everyone and their mother wants speed nowadays in the NFL, and Eskridge has it. While he dropped a couple of passes this past week against Central Michigan, he still turned four catches into 212 yards and three scores. The Chippewa corners made the mistake of trying to press Eskridge consistently, and they paid the price dearly.

Through three games, Eskridge is averaging 32.6 yards per catch and has 457 yards. Those are video game-type numbers.

5. QB J.T. Daniels, Georgia

It’s unlikely to think Daniels will actually declare in 2021, as Saturday was his first start of the season after transferring to Georgia from USC this year, but it was littered with NFL-caliber throws. Daniels finished with six big-time throws against Mississippi State and opened up the Georgia offense in a way we haven’t really seen in years.

Daniels was once thought of in a similar breath as QB3 and a five-star prospect behind Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields in the 2018 recruiting class. That talent never really went anywhere, but it got passed on the depth chart by a legit pro prospect in Kedon Slovis at USC.

6. WR Ty Fryfogle, Indiana

While Whop Philyor and his tremendous nickname garnered all the attention heading into the season, it’s been Fryfogle who’s unstoppable of late. After an 11-catch, 200-yard performance against Michigan State, the senior went off again with seven catches for 210 yards and three scores against Ohio State this past week.

The 6-foot-2, 214-pound wideout flashed terrific body control against the Buckeyes. The scary thing is, his numbers could have even been better were it not for an ugly fourth-down drop early on in the game. We’re not too worried about that with Fryfogle, though, as he’s dropped only five balls on 111 catchable targets in his career.

7. RB Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma

The 6-foot, 247-pound former junior college transfer put his full skill set on display for the Sooners over the weekend — whether that was catching the ball in space…

…or cranking it up between the tackles.

Stevenson looked like the kind of running back you don’t want to see barreling down on you at full speed. The burst he possesses for a man that size is pretty special. He churned out 141 yards on 26 carries against Oklahoma State, averaging 4.5 yards after contact per attempt and breaking nine tackles. He’s been damn near impossible to bring down this season, posting 19 broken tackles on 50 attempts. While he may not be a home-run threat, he’s one of the best power backs in the country.

8. LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Collins is the lone player on this list who made the PFF draft board. It’s safe to say that, at 96th overall, Collins deserves a massive bump in the next update. He’s right up there with Isaiah Simmons in terms of freakiness, but not quite for the same reasons. The 6-foot-5, 260 pounder looks like an edge rusher who’s out of position when you see him lined up off the ball, but then you see him move in space and understand why he’s there.

The game-ending pick-six is obviously his biggest highlight from the weekend, but the ease with which he sheds blocks is his biggest selling point. He racked up six stops against Tulane and two more pressures to bring his pass-rushing grade to 91.0 for the season.

9. DI Marlon Tuipulotu, USC

In only three games, we’ve already seen Tuipulotu make this list twice; he already looks like one of the biggest risers in the country. He has been clowning guards and centers alike all season with some quicks that are hard to come by in this defensive tackle class.

What’s been as impressive is that at only 305 pounds, Tuipulotu has been stout enough to hold up at nose tackle in USC’s defense. This past week against Utah, he collected six pressures on 31 pass-rushing snaps and had that forced fumble you see above. His 70.4 overall grade last season has jumped up to 84.6 in his senior campaign.

10. QB Michael Penix Jr., Indiana

Penix is another quarterback who we’d be hard-pressed to see actually declaring at the end of this year as a redshirt sophomore. The arm strength is average and the release is funky, but if he continues to ball against all odds as he did against Ohio State, he’ll get looks from the NFL eventually.

He was under pressure nearly constantly, got victimized by seven drops from his receiving corps and still went for 491 yards and five touchdowns on the day. He now has an 88.3 overall grade on the season and a 76.0 passing grade under pressure.

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