It’s never too early to make a positive impression when it comes to a player’s NFL Draft stock, but it’s also never too early to make a negative one too.
There are usually two groups of college players when it comes to the NFL Draft. There is the “protected group.” Those are players that –barring a major scandal or catastrophic injury– are going to be drafted somewhere in the first 50-75 draft picks. They have enough tape and do at least one thing with extraordinary skill.
The next group’s draft status is in flux. They could go anywhere from the third to the fifth round. Those players would benefit from great tape this season and an outstanding showing in the scouting combine.
There was not a full slate of games this week. The list this week will focus mostly on the second tier of players. All of the players this week are mid to late-round draft picks. That said, there is a couple of fringe draft picks that deserve an honorable mention.
Alabama-Birmingham redshirt senior running back Spencer Brown had an outstanding performance against FCS team Central Arkansas. He paced the Blazers with 127 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Memphis fifth-year senior quarterback Brady White threw for 275 yards and four touchdown passes, leading the Tigers to a 13-point victory over the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
Here is the list of players who either helped or hurt their draft stock in week one.
Khyiris Tonga-Brigham Young (3rd Round) DT
Tonga’s statistics won’t ever tell the full story of the senior interior lineman’s impact on a football game. His job is to take on multiple blockers to allow either his fellow linemen one-on-one matchups or to keep the linebackers clean enough to make plays.
Job well done against the Navy Midshipmen. Tonga led a defense that allowed only 119 rushing yards in a 55-3 route of the Midshipmen Monday night in Annapolis. Tonga did an outstanding job of plugging the middle and taking away the fullback belly. The Utah native’s ability to take space in the middle to allow others to make plays makes him an ideal nose tackle in a 3-4 defense at the next level.
Robert Rochelle-Central Arkansas (2nd-3rd Round) CB
Senior defensive back Robert Rochelle helped his draft stock by being on television two weeks in a row. When you go to Central Arkansas, exposure cannot be a bad thing. Against the UAB Blazers, Rochelle recovered a fumble and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
Against Austin Peay in the first televised football game of the season, Rochelle did not register int he box score, but he shadowed the Governor’s best receivers for four quarters and helped hold them to 5.5 yards per completion.
Reggie Roberson, Jr.-Southern Methodist (5th Round) WR
The senior from DeSoto, Texas, had a productive game against the Texas State Bobcats with six receptions on eight targets for 99 yards and a 51-yard touchdown reception. The Mustangs need a receiver to step up and replace the production of James Proche.
Roberson seems to be Buchele’s favorite target so far. Roberson has the measurables; he’s 6-feet and 200 pounds. Roberson is their best route runner and has proven that he can separate and run past people with the ball in his hands. Roberson is a draft pick to keep your eye on this season.
Damonte Coxie-Memphis (3rd-4th Round) WR
Coxie did not have a poor game, but he did not have a spectacular game. Coxie had eight receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown on 11 targets. It was a good game for sure, but the expectation is to dominate a team that surrendered 34 points and over 260 passing yards per game last season.
This game was an opportunity for Coxie to put up big-time numbers against a secondary that is not great. Coxie will have opportunities to put up numbers, and it stands to reason that he will have better games, just not tonight.
Shane Buchele-Southern Methodist (6th Round) QB
Buchele did not precisely hurt his stock in this game, but the two interceptions were not the best of looks. Especially when they came against a team that had been taken down to the studs and is rebuilding under second-year head coach Jake Spavital; he did, however, complete 72.2 percent of his passes for 367 yards.
Not to take anything away from what they are building at Texas State, but SMU was the better team in this game. Buchele did make some big throws and showed his strength, throwing the football downfield. Buchele’s lone touchdown pass was a 51-yard beauty to wide receiver Reggie Roberson, Jr. –also on this list. When you are a later-round draft pick, however, you want to cut down the mistakes.