Film study is in high gear now that the college regular season has ended and there are bowl matchups to break down, which means plenty of prospects are standing out based on their performances in 2012.
Here are five who have caught my eye recently, including a possible first-round cornerback from the SEC:
Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks (Grade: 90)
Banks has an above-average blend of length (6-foot-2⅛, 185 pounds), ball skills and instincts. There is some concern about his ability to stay with quicker receivers into and out of breaks, but he has enough foot speed to match up with bigger receivers and is big enough to line up at safety, which he has done at times with the Bulldogs.
He is the No. 2 corner on our board and this year's Thorpe Award winner, which is given annually to the best defensive back in college football. He didn't play like it against Ole Miss in the season finale, though. Banks lost a battle for a 50-50 ball downfield, resulting in a 42-yard gain, and he was beaten over the top for a touchdown after biting on play-action on the Rebels' opening drive of the game.
Banks is willing and active in run support and plays a physical style in coverage, but he will have to assure scouts of his movement skills in order to lock down a spot in the first round.
UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin (Grade: 62)
Franklin has been one of the most productive backs in the country, and his 194-yard performance against Stanford's third-ranked run defense in the Pac-12 championship game was impressive. The Bruins' offensive line did a nice job creating seams, but Franklin showed good vision and patience while making the most of those blocks.
The 5-10, 205-pounder masks his average power with balance and effort and is able to pick up yards after contact. He didn't show great top-end speed against the Cardinal, but he is quick enough to get outside, can reach the second level in a hurry and is able to make defenders miss when he gets into space.
Add in his ability to contribute in the passing game and Franklin has positioned himself to improve his midround grade with a strong showing during the evaluation process leading up to the draft.
San Jose State TE Ryan Otten (Grade: 44)
Otten is a hybrid receiver/tight end cut from the same cloth as Stanford's Zach Ertz and Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert. He doesn't separate as well as Ertz or have the ball skills of Eifert, but Otten does line up in the slot, out wide or as a traditional inline tight end.
He is a zone buster regardless of where he lines up. Otten (6-5⅝, 240) doesn't show great burst as a route runner and will have some problems shaking defensive backs working against man coverage, but he knows how to box defenders out and can make plays working against tight coverage.
In terms of big-play ability, he is fast enough to work the seam and flashes the ability to pick up some yards after catch. There are concerns about the level of competition he faced at San Jose State, and playing Bowling Green in a bowl won't help that perception. It's important that Otten ease those concerns with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl if he wants to solidify a spot in the later rounds and possibly get into the middle rounds.
Rice TE Vance McDonald (Grade: 41)
McDonald missed two games with an undisclosed injury in 2009, two with a shoulder injury in 2010 and three with a foot injury this season, so durability is an issue. He doesn't appear to have great top-end speed or burst but has the frame (6-5, 255) to develop into an every-down tight end.
He is an effective positional blocker who can cover up linebackers at the second level, and there's a lot to like about McDonald's ability to work the middle of the field. He has an above-average feel for coverage and does a nice job uncovering when zone defenses try to collapse on him.
He handles contact well, has reliable hands and is tough to bring down after the catch. The Senior Bowl should provide him with an opportunity to move past Otten on our board.
Fresno State S Phillip Thomas (Grade: 30)
Thomas missed the entire 2011 season after breaking his leg and dislocating an ankle during the preseason, and those injuries played a role in him not receiving a full evaluation heading into this season. However, look for his grade to jump once we get a chance to fully break down his 2012 film.
He leads the nation with eight interceptions -- three of which he turned into touchdowns -- and while critics will point out that three picks in the Colorado game inflated that number, he is still a ball hawk with above-average hands, instincts and range for a safety prospect.
Thomas can do a better job of wrapping up as a tackler at times, but he fills hard in run support and has good size at 6-0 and 208 pounds. Finally, he shows good closing speed and the ability to deliver the big hit when he blitzes.
He could be headed for a mid-round grade before all is said and done.