With the college football season coming to a close, NFL scouts are catching their breath before the predraft process begins in earnest following the college bowl games.
Film study is under way, though, and plenty of prospects are turning heads for reasons good and bad. Here are a few who have caught our eye at Scouts Inc. recently and where they currently stand, as well as a look at some non-eligible prospects to keep an eye on down the road.
UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin (Grade: 62)
Franklin rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the Bruins' three-point loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, marking his sixth game this season with at least 150 yards.
He showed above-average patience and made the most of his blocks late in the season against the Cardinal and USC, and while he doesn't have elite top-end speed, Franklin has shown enough juice to rip off yards when he gets a seam.
Franklin has average power and he's not a bruiser inside, but he's tough for his size and has shown above-average balance when breaking tackles in space. Add in the strides he's made as a receiver, and Franklin's fourth-round stock should begin to rise. -- Steve Muench
Utah State CB Will Davis (Grade: 71)
I recently watched coach-copy tape of Davis against Louisiana Tech WR Quinton Patton (Grade: 66), and I liked what I saw. Davis has a few things to learn in terms of technique and he'll have to temper his use of his hands downfield in the NFL, but he displays quick feet and has the fluid hips to turn and run with receivers.
His movements are clean and his short-area burst is good, and Davis flashed anticipation skills when running with the receiver on a post route and breaking on the ball. He also has solid ball skills and has shown playmaking ability with an interception in each of the last five games of the regular season. Davis figures to get into the Day 2 mix and add some depth to a somewhat thin corner class. -- Kevin Weidl
LSU Barkevious Mingo (Grade: 95)
Mingo has the burst, bend and length NFL teams covet in edge rushers, and he will be a first-round pick if he enters the draft as a non-senior. However, "potential" is often a four-letter word in the NFL, and the fact that Mingo hasn't made more of an impact with his considerable physical tools is reason for concern.
He has only four sacks on the season, and none of the four is particularly impressive. The speed he showed getting to the quarterback against South Carolina and Mississippi State is excellent, but scouts already knew about that part of his game. -- SM
And while Mingo did a nice job getting off blocks to record sacks in the Towson and Texas A&M games, fellow DE Sam Montgomery flushed the quarterback right to Mingo in the Towson game, and Mingo beat a tight end against the Aggies.
Also take into account that in the Towson game, Mingo faced an FCS tackle who lined up at guard last season, a redshirt freshman making his fourth career start in the South Carolina game, and a junior college transfer in the Mississippi State game.
On the flip side, NFL prospects D.J. Fluker of Alabama and Jake Matthews of Texas A&M both got the better of Mingo when matched up against him. Mingo clearly has first-round talent, but his lack of production against top competition could cause him to slide down the board a bit. -- SM
Alabama S Robert Lester (Grade: 63)
There's no question Lester is one of the veteran leaders on the Crimson Tide defense, and his 14 career interceptions speak to Lester's instincts to break on balls and body control to make plays once he gets there.
However, he was exposed in coverage on the Texas A&M and Georgia tapes I watch recently. Lester shows some tightness in his movements and labors when forced to turn his hips and make a 180-degree change of direction.
That showed up when he dropped down over slot receivers against the Aggies, and when Georgia WR Tavarres King turned Lester inside-out on a double move in the fourth quarter of the SEC title game.
Lester was unable to recover against King after opening his hips on the initial move, and the lack of recovery speed he showed raises concerns about his ability to effectively patrol the deep middle or deep half at the next level. All of that makes Lester a Day 3 prospect in my mind. -- KW
Pac-12 tight ends standing out
Three of the top seven tight ends on our board play in the Pac-12, and all here grade out in the third round or better, including No. 1 TE Zach Ertz of Stanford. Throw in Ertz's teammate Levine Toilolo and UCLA's Joseph Fauria, and you have a solid trio.
This shouldn't be a surprise, though, given that current NFL tight ends like Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez (California), New England's Rob Gronkowski (Arizona), Jacksonville's Mercedes Lewis (UCLA), Seattle's Zach Miller (Arizona State), Baltimore's Ed Dickson (Oregon) and Indianapolis's Coby Fleener (Stanford) all played in the conference.
The tradition should continue in the next couple of seasons as well. Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Oregon's Colt Lyerla both have the tools to develop into top-tier tight end prospects over the course of the next year.
Given the way tight ends are valued in today's NFL because of their ability to diversify passing attacks and create mismatches, you can be sure scouts will keep a close eye on tight ends out West this year and in the years to come. -- SM
Bridgewater shows impressive skills
Now that the college season is over, we've begun watching film on some non-senior prospects, and it appears Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater has all the tools to make noise as a future prospect.
I was particularly impressed with Bridgewater's tape against North Carolina, which showed him seeing the entire field and getting deep into his progressions. He throws with balance, and while his ball placement isn't always ideal, Bridgewater has above-average accuracy and displays good touch on his passes.
His pocket presence and poise are also very good. Bridgewater doesn't panic and has a natural feel for climbing the pocket when pressured off the edges, and shows the toughness to hang in and deliver throws while taking hits.
I like the limited looks I've seen of Bridgewater and fellow non-seniors Kevin Hogan (Stanford) and Jeff Driskel (Florida), and while all still need some development, they clearly have the potential to become solid NFL prospects. -- KW