College stock watch: Is Blackmon game's best receiver?

Matt Strasen / US Presswire
Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, a junior, has the skills to make an immediate impact in the NFL.


 

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.

» Justin Blackmon* is the best receiver in college football. In fact, he might be the best receiver in all of football. While fans of Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson will certainly disagree with my opinion, the Oklahoma State star is one of the best receiving prospects in years.

At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Blackmon is an athletic playmaker with size and ball skills. He tracks and adjusts well to errant throws, and provides quarterbacks with a big target who can go up and get the ball. Although he is only a junior, he's extremely polished as a route runner and is an explosive threat with the ball in his hands. His running skills evoke images of Terrell Owens in his prime. Part of that assessment is based on Blackmon's dominance over the past two seasons. He had 111 receptions for 1,782 yards with 20 touchdowns in 2010, and has snagged 93 balls for 1,142 yards with 14 scores so far this season. He has 18 games with 100-plus receiving yards and 10 games with 10-plus receptions over the past two years.

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It's hard to find a glaring flaw in Blackmon's game outside of pure speed. Although he's fast enough to stretch the field on vertical routes, he doesn't appear to have sub-4.4 speed based off tape evaluation. However, he's never caught from behind when he breaks out and the fact that he routinely gets past defenders suggests his explosiveness shouldn't be a concern.

» Virginia Tech's David Wilson* is college football's best-kept secret at running back. The 5-10, 205-pound junior has rushed for 100-plus yards in nine of the Hokies' 10 games, and is coming off a 23-carry, 175-yard performance against Georgia Tech.

Wilson is a cutback runner with speed and quickness. He has the burst to turn the corner, but also the agility to put his foot in the ground and dart through seams. He also shows surprising power and toughness between the tackles. Wilson routinely breaks arm tackles at the point of attack, and has a knack for falling forward at the end of runs.

While some will question Wilson's durability due to his size, the fact that he has seven games with 20-plus carries this season suggests he's capable of carrying the load. With smaller backs like Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy setting the pace in the NFL, it wouldn't be surprising to see Wilson create more buzz going forward.

Word on the street

» After spending most of the season regarded as one of the top linebackers in college football, Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict* is seeing his stock take a bit of a tumble due to character concerns and questions about his ability to play within a disciplined scheme. Two NFC scouts cited issues with Burfict's off-field habits as potential sticking points. Although the issues don't regard the law, they are significant enough to wonder if Burfict can assimilate in a veteran locker room. Also, the more evaluators have studied his game, the more they worry about him thriving in a gap-control scheme that limits his ability to freelance in the middle.

» With the 2012 defensive tackle class lacking depth, scouts are paying close attention to Utah's Star Lotulelei*. According to an NFC South scout who recently visited Utah, the 6-3, 325-pound defensive tackle is a rare find. He's stout against the run, capable of holding the point, while also displaying the athleticism to get after the passer. Although he still needs a little skill refinement, Lotulelei has all of the tools that scouts covet in a dominant interior defender.

Stock up

» Robert Griffin III*, Baylor, QB: He continues to put up spectacular numbers, throwing for 400-plus yards in three of the past four games with an impressive 29/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season. In Baylor's 31-30 win over Kansas, Griffin passed for 312 yards, rushed for 103 and added four total touchdowns. With stellar all-around performances becoming routine, it's not surprising scouts are beginning to take notice.

» Josh Kaddu, Oregon, DE: He's come on strong over the past five weeks, with 4.5 sacks during that span. His combination of first-step quickness and athleticism overwhelms blockers. That was obvious against Stanford, when he routinely raced around Jonathan Martin to harass Andrew Luck. Although Kaddu only recorded three stops and a half-sack, his steady pressure forced college football's top passer into an uneven performance and a loss.

» Fitzgerald Toussaint*, Michigan, RB: Since taking over as the feature back, he has posted two games with 170-plus yards rushing, including his 27-carry, 192-yard effort against Illinois. His rugged style has sparked Michigan's running game, and allowed the team to win without major contributions from Denard Robinson.

Stock down

» Andrew Luck*, Stanford, QB: Even though Luck's stock will not drop significantly, the fact that he didn't bring his A-game in the team's matchup with Oregon will lead to more scrutiny. Luck completed 27 of 41 for 271 yards with three touchdowns and three turnovers. He generally looked out of sync as his ball placement, timing and anticipation were slightly off. The end result suggests Luck still needs to work on skill refinement from the pocket. His hesitancy might have been due to the tighter coverage and increased pressure he faced against Oregon, but he was certainly off by his standards. Scouts will spend a lot of time looking at this tape searching for answers.

» David Ash* and Case McCoy*, Texas, QBs: The tandem combined for just 171 passing yards in a 17-5 loss to Missouri. Although the absence of three impact players -- Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Jaxon Shipley -- severely limited their available options, the inability of Ash and McCoy to generate any consistent production kept Texas from mounting many legitimate scoring threats.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.