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College stock watch: Floyd catching the eyes of NFL scouts

Tony Ding/Associated Press
In his first two games this season, Notre Dame junior Michael Floyd has 25 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns.


Each Monday throughout the college football season, NFL.com draft expert Bucky Brooks will share his notes and evaluations on potential NFL prospects for the 2012 draft and beyond. An asterisk (*) denotes players who aren't seniors.

 

» *Michael Floyd's character issues are a concern, but his talent makes him an enticing No. 1 receiver. The Notre Dame star has all the tools to be a difference maker in a pro passing game, and scouts are certainly salivating about his potential after watching him dominate Michigan's defense with a 13-catch, 159-yard performance. He consistently shook free from defenders in tight coverage by using his size and strength to create separation at the top of the route. When given free access at the line of scrimmage, Floyd's surprising quickness allowed him to gain a step on defenders on short and intermediate routes. He displays excellent running skills after the catch, and his size (6-foot-3, 224 pounds) makes him difficult to bring down in the open field. Floyd is at his best when the ball is in the air, when his superior ball skills and athleticism allow him to routinely come down with contested balls in the red zone. It's easy to forecast Floyd as a potential No. 1 receiver at the next level. To maintain his lofty standing on draft boards, however, Floyd must show that he has matured beyond his alcohol-related transgressions to become dependable on and off the field. If evaluators are convinced that his issues are a thing of the past, Floyd's remarkable skill set will entice a team to make him a No. 1 option as a pro.

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» Melvin Ingram's versatility will serve him well as a pro. The South Carolina defensive end put together a phenomenal performance against Georgia that will make him coveted as a pro. Ingram scored touchdowns on a fake punt and a fumble recovery, and also fielded the game-preserving onside kick. At 6-foot-2, 276 pounds with speed reportedly in the 4.7 range, he is an athletic edge player with versatility. He flashes explosive first-step quickness off the corner and his closing burst allows him to run down quarterbacks from the backside. He finished 2010 with nine sacks and 11 tackles for loss, while playing as a situational rusher for the Gamecocks. With another season to hone his skills as a rusher and showcase his versatility as a special teams ace, Ingram will experience a gradual rise up the charts as the season progresses.

 

» Florida International's T.Y. Hilton is college football's best-kept secret. The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year hasn't received a lot of national fanfare, but he is certain to shoot up draft boards across the league after his spectacular performance against Louisville. The 5-foot-10, 184-pound speedster is an all-purpose threat with the kind of speed that changes games. His seven-catch, 201-yard performance against the Cardinals featured a pair of touchdowns that covered 70-plus yards (a 74-yard touchdown on a slant and an 83-yard score on a deep ball). His reported 4.3 speed is complemented by a combination of agility and quickness that makes him a dangerous threat in the open field as a receiver and a returner. With 14 catches for 333 yards and three scores in only two games, Hilton is starting to generate a buzz in scouting circles.

Word on the street

» Oklahoma State's *Justin Blackmon is considered a better prospect at this stage of his career than Dez Bryant, according to multiple scouts familiar with both players. Blackmon, a top receiver in the 2013 class, is a more refined route runner and considered a harder worker than his predecessor. He also has been lauded for his football IQ and his ability to quickly grasp new concepts.

» Boise State's Doug Martin is one of the top running backs in the 2012 draft class, but he might not be the best runner on his team. According to an NFC scout who recently studied the Broncos, D.J. Harper is the most talented back on the roster. The fifth-year senior has shown glimpses of his speed, explosiveness and big-play potential throughout his career, but a pair of season-ending knee injuries have kept him off the field for the majority of the past two seasons. Although his durability remains a huge concern, flashes of talent will keep him on the radar of scouts looking for a late-round sleeper.

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Stock up

*Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB: Richardson showcased the many facets of his rugged running style during a 26-carry, 111-yard performance against Penn State. While he didn't display the flashy skills that made him a popular choice for highlight reels, his ability to grind out tough yardage between the tackles is the stuff scouts and coaches love to see in potential feature backs.

Mark Barron, Alabama, SS: The Crimson Tide's suffocation of the Nittany Lions' offense can be attributed to Barron's ability to make plays all over the field. As the designated hitter in the middle, he tallied seven tackles with a fumble recovery and an interception. His acrobatic pick showcased the range, awareness and ball skills that have scouts touting him as a top safety prospect.

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State, QB: Weeden bounced back from a subpar performance a week ago to put up 397 yards against Arizona. He was sharp and precise from the start, completing 27 of his first 31 throws, while picking apart the Wildcats coverage. His poise, awareness and accuracy were exceptional from the pocket, and he even displayed better than anticipated mobility. With a stellar showing on a big stage, Weeden made amends for his disappointing play last week.

Stock down

Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, QB: The Aztecs star is regarded as one of the top passers in the 2012 class, but he put on a lackluster showing against Army. Lindley finished 8 of 18 for 146 yards with one touchdown. Those numbers aren't awful, but his inability to find a rhythm in the pocket or sustain drives prevented the Aztecs from seizing control of the game.

Jared Crick, Nebraska, DT: Crick finished with three tackles, but failed to produce any disruptive plays against the Bulldogs despite facing an inexperienced offensive line. Although the Huskers earned the win, the lack of production from their best defender is somewhat surprising considering the competition.

Quinton Coples, North Carolina, DE: The disruptive edge player was a non-factor in the Tar Heels' 24-22 win over Rutgers. He didn't record a tackle, sack or pressure in the game, and failed to make a significant impact despite being the most talented player on the field.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks

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