Every NFL team is looking for difference-makers who rise to the occasion at critical moments, inspiring teammates with their talent and timing, alike.
Week 13 - characterized as "Rivalry Week" for many in college football - featured several such players, some of whom sparked huge upset wins or fared well in a critical conference showdown. All are earning a jump up NFLDraftScout.com’s player rankings.
5. Joe Jackson, DE, Miami, 6-5, 265, 4.83, Jr, # 99
With its Week 13 opponent, Pittsburgh, operating such a run-heavy offense, there were relatively few opportunities for Jackson to build upon his numbers but that did not stop the true junior from exploding for a career-best 2.5 sacks, among his six overall tackles (five solo) in a 24-3 home win. This year's dominant defensive line class could push some talented underclassmen back to the college game but Jackson is among the proven commodities, having a combined 22 sacks over three starting seasons with the 'Canes, including his career-high of nine sacks this season. Despite his production, Jackson is still a relatively raw prospect, relying more on his traits than technique to this point. Watch this clip against Duke earlier this year.
4. Trey Adams, OT, Washington, 6-7, 316, 5.30, Sr, # 72
Viewed by some as one of the elite senior prospects in the country regardless of position entering the year, Adams' NFL draft stock, instead, was quite in flux when it was announced less than a month ago that he would miss the entire 2018 season to undergo back surgery. Adams was back in uniform two weeks ago, however, and played extensively this past Saturday against rival Washington State when his replacement at left tackle - junior Jared Hilbers - suffered an ankle injury. Huskies head coach Chris Petersen said November 5 that Adams' plan was to take a redshirt this season and return to UW next year. Adams' increasingly cloudy medical (he missed half of last season with a torn ACL in his right knee prior to the back injury) could complicate that decision. The NFL is always in search of quality blockers with Adams' combination of size and agility. It is easy to see Adams' balance and quickness in this clip from last season against USC.
3. Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State, 6-3, 210, 4.58, rJr, # 11
While Adams is battling health to remain relevant to scouts and perhaps the 2019 NFL draft, Williams - a transfer from Tennessee - is hoping that a dominant performance November 24 against Air Force will help remind evaluators of the raw talented that earned him a five star rating out of high school. Though his Rams were knocked off the mountain by Air Force by a final score of 27-19, Williams was extraordinary, leading the entire nation with 12 catches for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Williams was blessed with an NFL starter kit, offering a prototypical combination of size, acceleration and natural receiving skills, including good timing and body on his leaps to high-point passes and the hand-eye coordination to track the ball over either shoulder. Williams does come with off-field concerns that scouts will need to investigate, including his suspension (for a misdemeanor assault charge involving his then-girlfriend) and transfer from the Vols.
2. Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah, 6-3, 254, 4.80, Jr, # 6
Stop me if you've heard this before but the nation is loaded with impact defensive linemen. One who has not yet generated much national attention is Anae, who finished the PAC-12's regular season as the conference's leading sack master following the Utes' come-from-behind win over rival BYU this past weekend. Anae is different than many of this year's other top edge rushers, lacking the elite length and burst off the edge to project as a double-digit QB sack threat at the next level. What separates him is core strength and aggression. Anae is one of the more combative and aggressive defenders in the country, playing with more of a linebacker mentality than that of a traditional defensive end. Of course, that aggression could play out perfectly should Anae be asked to play more of a rush linebacker role in the NFL like previous Utah edge rushers like Nate Orchard, Koa Misi and Paul Kruger, among others. This play is from earlier in the year but captures the intensity with which Anae plays, including in his seven tackle, 1.5 tackle for loss, one sack performance Saturday night.
1. Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State, 6-2, 300, 5.26, rSr, # 65
With all due respect to Adams and the rest of what I expect to be an above average crop of blockers available in the 2019 NFL draft, the most impressive offensive lineman I saw in Week 13 was the Wolfpacks' Bradbury. While perhaps lacking the size scouts would prefer, Bradbury's initial quickness, agility and balance while blocking really stood out against rival North Carolina, helping NC State rush for 205 yards and all five touchdowns in a 34-28 overtime win. Bradbury, a former tight end, is stronger than he looks and uses his lateral quickness to pave holes at the second level in the running game and to keep his quarterback upright, reportedly not surrendering a single sack (or even QB hit) all season long. With Mississippi State's Elgton Jenkins struggling in a high profile matchup against Alabama and Kansas State's Dalton Risner (NFLDraftScout.com's No. 2-rated senior center) playing his 2018 season at right tackle, Bradbury has a real shot at being the first interior offensive lineman drafted in 2019.
Check out past Risers columns: