Each week I list the five prospects that I'll be focusing on. In reality, I'm focusing on dozens of prospects each week, but the players listed below are playing in high profile games and against the caliber of competition that I believe provides us with an opportunity to truly assess how a collegiate player might fare when asked to make the huge jump to the NFL.
Typically I focus on senior prospects in this space. However, with it becoming more and more obvious as to which underclassmen are considering the jump to the pros, I'll be incorporating a few more juniors and redshirt sophomores in the coming weeks.
As a side note, I initially planned to include Auburn junior quarterback Cam Newton (heard of him?) on this list. With speculation Friday evening that he may not play, I elected to leave him off this list of five. Needless to say, he's among the prospects I'll be scouting closely if he plays Saturday (and any future games).
Those interested in scouting "alongside" me can follow me on Twitter @RobRang.
Without any further adieu, here are the five prospects, as well as the cable provider and time you can expect to see them.
TE Luke Stocker, Tennessee: Entering the season the Volunteer receiver I expected to be highlighting so far this season would have been Stocker and not wideout Denarius Moore. The Vols simply haven't passed the ball enough to Stocker (24 grabs for 264 yards and one TD) for him to post the type of numbers that generate much media attention, but at 6-5, 253 pounds and possessing good hands and feet for the position, he remains one of the better senior prospects at tight end. There are several highly touted, but so far disappointing prospects on the Tennessee and Ole Miss rosters. I'm looking forward to this game to see which of them (if any) can shake out of their season-long funk. This game begins at 12:00 pm EST and will be televised by CBS.
QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri*: Though he's only a junior, scouts are starting to take a long look at Gabbert and the rest of the underclassmen quarterbacks simply because this year's seniors at the position have been so underwhelming. Gabbert has the production (2,193 passing yards, 12 TDs-3 INTs), size (6-5, 240), and efficient delivery that scouts are looking for in a high-ranking prospect, but after a hot start to the season, he (and Missouri, as a whole) has struggled over the past two weeks, suffering losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech. Scouts want to see if Gabbert can bounce back this week against a quality opponent in Kansas State. This game begins at 12:30 pm EST and will be regionally televised by the FOX Sports Network.
CB Brandon Burton, Utah*: Burton, only a junior, is considered by some scouts to be the best draft-eligible cornerback in the west. While he's played very well throughout his career with the Utes, Burton was beaten for a 93-yard touchdown reception by wideout Josh Boyce last week in the humbling 47-7 home loss to TCU. Scouts like Burton's size (6'0, 185) and speed (estimated at 4.45), but want to see if he can come back with a strong performance this week. That will be tougher than it sounds, as at times he'll match up with Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, himself highly touted NFL prospect (though also only a junior) who at 6-3, 225 pounds is a much different assignment than Boyce and the rest of the Horned Frog receivers were last week. This game begins at 2:30 pm EST and will be televised by NBC.
OT Danny Watkins, Baylor: Quarterback Robert Griffin III and even defensive tackle Phil Taylor have each received their share of media attention as a result of Baylor's 7-3 season. It was Watkins, however, whose draft stock has risen the most this season. Draft Slant readers know full well how high Watkins' stock has risen as I wrote about his performance in last week's game against Oklahoma State. This week, however, Watkins will be facing an entirely different opponent in Texas A&M pass rusher Von Miller, my reigning Prospect of the Week. Watkins' quick feet and use of leverage have been impressive this season, but he'll be sorely tested by Miller. This game begins at 7:00 pm EST and will be regionally televised by Fox Sports Network.
DE Cameron Jordan, California: Those surprised with how high former Cal Golden Bear Tyson Alualu was drafted last year may want to start paying attention to Jordan, who, himself is earning top 20 grades from some talent evaluators. Jordan won't beat No. 1 Oregon on his own, but he and his Cal teammates will present the Ducks with a different look, considering that they are one of the few teams that operates out of a base 3-4 defense. Jordan has always been productive for Cal, earning all-conference recognition after each of the past two seasons. He enjoyed arguably his best game to date last week against an overmatched Washington State club, totaling 12 tackles, including four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Scouts love his size (6-4, 285), versatility and blood lines. His father, Steve Jordan, played in six Pro Bowls in 13 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. This game begins at 7:30 pm EST and will be televised by Versus.