With Week 12 of the college football season in the books, here's a look at who's on the rise and who's in decline based on the weekend's action.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, RB: It's hard to find explosive playmakers with the ability to score from anywhere on the field, but the Cardinal have one of the most prolific offensive weapons in college football in McCaffrey. The 6-foot-1, 201-pound sophomore is a "touchdown waiting to happen" as a runner-receiver-returner on the perimeter. McCaffrey showcased his explosive potential in a spectacular performance against Cal where he amassed 389 all-purpose yards and three scores. Although his impressive feats as a runner (192 rushing yards and a score) pop off the stat sheet, his skills as a receiver and returner will make him a coveted prospect in NFL meeting rooms. McCaffrey's flashy combination of speed, quickness and burst reminds some scouts of Reggie Bush, which is a testament to his dominance in the Pac-12. If he continues to torch opponents as a "triple threat," he could emerge as the Heisman Trophy winner at the end of the season. As a sophomore, McCaffrey won't have an opportunity to enter the NFL draft until 2017, at the earliest.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State, QB: Given the lack of a clear-cut front-runner in the 2016 quarterback class, Prescott's strong play down the stretch could make him a viable option for a team in search of a developmental prospect at the position. The Mississippi State standout flashes tremendous potential as a dual-threat playmaker, displaying a splendid combination of athleticism and arm talent in directing the Bulldogs' version of the spread. Prescott accounted for 554 yards and scored seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) in a 51-50 win over Arkansas on Saturday. While the 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior has exhibited big-play ability throughout his career, he showed exceptional poise and confidence leading his squad to a comeback win vs. Arkansas. With leadership skills and football intelligence valued as key components in the evaluation of quarterbacks, Prescott could creep into Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) consideration by the end of the pre-draft process.
Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma, CB: Whenever a cornerback shows the instincts, awareness and ball skills to blossom into a playmaker at the next level, scouts certainly take notice. Thus, there is plenty of buzz in the NFL scouting community regarding Sanchez's prospects as a CB1. Oklahoma's star corner snagged a pair of interceptions against TCU on Saturday, pushing his season total to six. He continued to exhibit the exceptional playmaking skills scouts covet from elite cover corners. Although Sanchez's slender dimensions (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) and gambling ways are a concern, it's hard to bypass defenders with a knack for creating turnovers on the perimeter.
Jordan Payton, UCLA, WR: Offensive coordinators are always looking for a "move-the-chains" receiver to feature in the game plan. That's why NFL scouts are quietly smitten with Payton's skills as a possession receiver. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound senior is a natural pass catcher with strong hands and superb ball skills. He's also a crafty route runner with sneaky short-area quickness and burst. Additionally, he is a rugged runner on the perimeter, exhibiting surprising strength and power on an assortment of "catch-and-run" plays for the Bruins. With Payton poised to finish his career as the Bruins' all-time leader in receptions, scouts are paying close attention to the ultra-productive receiver in Westwood.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State, QB: It's too early to determine whether Barrett will develop into a top prospect at the position, but scouts should be concerned about his inability to guide the Buckeyes' offense in a big game. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore couldn't find his rhythm as a runner or passer against Michigan State on Saturday. His lack of production grounded the Buckeyes' explosive offense. Although the play calling left a lot to be desired, Barrett's inability to make unscripted plays will leave some scouts wondering about his explosive potential as a dual-threat playmaker. Given the added dimension "runner-throwers" are supposed to provide for a dynamic offense, Barrett's pedestrian play in a big game will lead to serious concerns about his ceiling at the next level.
Devontae Booker, Utah, RB: The Utes' spectacular runner has been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury (meniscus) that will require surgery. Although the injury is not considered severe or career threatening, the loss of playing time will prompt scouts to take a serious look at his medical history to see if he is capable of handling a heavy workload at the next level. In addition, scouts will pay close attention to Booker's rehab and attempt to determine whether the injury will have a lasting impact on his running style and production.