Updated: September 13, 2010, 6:18 PM ET
Kiper: Stock Watch
Auburn's Fairley jumps off the tape; Oklahoma's Broyles joins a monster '12 WR class
By Mel Kiper
I came into Thursday's game between Auburn and Mississippi State focused on the Bulldogs' senior left tackle, Derek Sherrod. The guy who stood out the most, however, was Tigers DT Nick Fairley. When I spoke with people close to the Auburn program this summer, they raved about the 6-foot-4½, 310-pound junior's potential.
Well, Fairley was even better than advertised in the Tigers' 17-14 win. His tremendous burst at the snap gave him an immediate leverage advantage and allowed him to beat double-team blocking easily more than once. To say he did it all in this game is an understatement. Fairley finished with 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 of which were sacks. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery, and he showed good awareness and very good closing speed. If Fairley stays focused on the job at hand and works hard to perfect his craft, the sky is the limit for this young man.
• The wide receiver position, at least in terms of the senior class, is certainly nothing to get excited about. The opposite is true of the 2012 class. It is absolutely loaded with great talent at the top and has terrific depth. In Oklahoma's blowout win over Florida State, one member of that group, the Sooners' Ryan Broyles, showed you a bit of everything as he finished with 12 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. The first thing I liked was the way Broyles plucks the ball out of the air instead of letting it get to his body. He displayed impressive run-after-the-catch ability and did a very nice job of selling his routes. And despite lacking top size (5-10½, 179 pounds), he showed a willingness to make the tough grab in traffic. Broyles also has some experience and skills as a return man, which won't hurt his stock.
• With measurables that are off the charts, 6-8½, 313-pound Colorado LT Nate Solder entered the 2010 season regarded as one of the elite prospects at the position. Well, he had nothing short of a nightmarish first half versus California. After giving up three sacks all of last season, he gave up two in the first 30 minutes Saturday alone. He was called for five penalties last season but had a holding call in the second quarter negated only because the player who beat him badly helped to cause an interception on the play; he also was called for a false start in the same quarter. Needless to say, he'll be dropping on the Big Board this week.
• California DE Cameron Jordan, on the other hand, turned in a fine effort in that game. The 6-4, 283-pound senior was active. He did a nice job of getting off blocks and made his presence felt against the run and the pass. A 3-4 defensive end in their scheme, he excels most at getting penetration into the opponents' backfield. Concerning the latter: It's worth mentioning that last season, his big-play numbers (9.5 tackles for loss/six sacks) were very similar to those of Tyson Alualu (11.5 tackles or loss/7.5 sacks), who -- with plenty of questions from people such as myself -- went on to become a top-10 pick in the 2010 draft. Although that will not be the case for Jordan, there is no reason the son of former Minnesota Vikings and six-time Pro Bowl TE Steve Jordan shouldn't be able to make the grade as a solid starter in the NFL.
• In the past three years, the Wisconsin Badgers have sent three tight ends to the NFL: Owen Daniels (fourth-round pick in the 2008 draft), Travis Beckum (third-round pick in the 2009 draft) and Garrett Graham (fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft). On the current roster is yet another tight end who will make a living playing pro football. I'm talking about 6-3, 241-pound senior, Lance Kendricks.
The first time I took note of Kendricks was as a sophomore. He managed only six receptions that year but had an eye-popping 23.5 yards-per-catch average. As a junior, he found his way into the starting lineup nine times and saw his reception total improve to 29 grabs. In the Badgers' win over San Jose State, Kendricks had three catches for 60 yards and a touchdown. Although he's not the biggest tight end around, he is far from a one-dimensional threat at the position. He showed throughout the game that he's also a more-than-willing blocker. Another thing that NFL scouts have to like is that he keeps getting better with age. He is definitely a player on the come.
• Another tight end who got my attention this past weekend was Florida Atlantic's Rob Housler. Although he's not nearly the pro prospect Kendricks is, he looked solid against Michigan State. Housler is one of those types who immediately jumps out at you on film because of his athletic prowess. As a junior in 2008, he averaged a lofty 16.2 yards on 32 receptions. But with then-incumbent Jason Harmon returning from an injury, Housler knew he would have more of an opportunity to showcase his skills in 2010, so he opted to redshirt the '09 season. What impressed me the most about the 6-5, 235-pound senior on Saturday was the way he adjusted to balls that were off the mark. (Tight ends face this more than people realize, particularly on seam routes, as quarterbacks try to throw balls over linebackers and between safeties.) Housler made a number of very nice grabs in this capacity, finishing with seven catches for 75 yards. What he now must do is show that he can perform at a similar level the rest of the way. If that takes place and he finds a way to turn a few heads at one of the all-star game venues, he could end up being a late-round find for a team looking for an H-back type.
• Although Miami Hurricanes junior Sean Spence operates as a weakside linebacker, lack of top size (6 feet, 220 pounds) is why I think he could end up switching to safety in the pros. He may be a bit of a projection problem, but there is no denying that he is a good football player. As we witnessed against Ohio State, the young man is a terror in the box. Around the action the entire game, he displayed very good read-and-react ability and impressive speed to the football. On a team with no shortage of playmakers on defense, he currently leads the Hurricanes with four tackles for loss and is second in overall tackles with 15.
Keep up with Mel Kiper throughout the year via his home page.
The year's upcoming draft and the college game can be discussed here.
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