It is my favorite time of the month, and this time the Risers column happens to land on Thanksgiving — what a treat!
The best part of the in-season draft cycle is watching players you have never heard of rising. It's equally as fun to watch players you thought were destined for Day 3 rise and players you hoped could be risers, well, rise. Every game feels like a heat-check moment, and each one proves the momentum of a soaring stock cannot be easily stymied.
Warning: Some of these takes are piping hot.
You can find the September and October iterations of Risers here, in case you were expecting to see a player already tagged. If you still cannot find them then find me on Twitter: @BenjaminSolak. Who knows? Maybe they will make the list in December.
QB: Jake Luton, Oregon State
Put a pot of coffee on for Saturday evening and catch the fighting-for-a-bowl Oregon State Beavers as they take on their in-state rival, the Oregon Ducks, in a #Pac12AfterDark matchup. It is essentially a meaningless game for the Ducks, who were knocked out of playoff contention but already promised a spot in the conference title game.
So keep your eyes on Jake Luton. He has been around Oregon State for a while, but has never enjoyed such talented receivers or stayed this healthy. All of a sudden, Luton is seeing the field quickly, delivering accurate vertical balls and showcasing great strength in the pocket and on downfield throws. He is a later pick in a deep quarterback class, but he was not sniffing the NFL draft a couple of months ago.
RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the player I first pegged for this month's Risers. What an impossible climb for the 3-star underdog who has somehow found national prominence on the most pass-heavy LSU Tigers team we have ever seen. He has quick acceleration, great contact balance, and delightful instincts behind the line of scrimmage. LSU has leaned on Edwards-Helaire for volume production in tight situations against SEC opponents and he has delivered. He plays with an infectious earnest and is a Mark Ingram-type player at the NFL level.
WR: K.J. Hamler, Penn State
The first of two Penn State skill position players land here at wide receiver, despite the Nittany Lions’ month not going exactly as planned. K.J. Hamler is a special talent, from what I have seen. He has incredible acceleration plus devastating open-field vision and quicks. He is also a good tracker down the field. Given his return ability and long speed, this is a just-get-him-the-rock player, but Hamler also constitutes as a deep threat with his ability to outrun coverage and still win some tough catches in the air. I jokingly said he was a better player than TCU's Jalen Reagor earlier this year and I am getting closer to pretending that was not a joke.
TE: Pat Freiermuth, Penn State
Does the sudden discovery that you are eligible constitute a rise? Maybe so, maybe not. We knew coming into the season there was a chance Pat Freiermuth would be eligible, though the potential of him declaring has not come to fruition until recently. Should he declare into a frighteningly thin tight end class, Freiermuth has a better chance than not to get off the board before anyone else. He is quick enough, has good linear burst, great concentration in the air and is the ideal size. While he may not be a Round-1 player, I would imagine he goes in the top 50.
OL: Jedrick Wills, Alabama
Jedrick Wills is likely the biggest riser of the lot. Only Edwards-Helaire, who was a verifiable unknown for a while, could top Wills’ ascent but he is a candidate that will likely be drafted much higher than Edwards-Helaire, so he gets the nod.
It is rare to see a tackle move as well as Wills does up the arc — you usually only see one of those every draft — and his plus-movement skills allow him to achieve space blocks in the running game and 45-degree sets in the passing game. He also has incredible upper-body power, though I would like to see him activate his hands more in pass protection. He is a Round-1 player in my eyes.
IDL: Jordan Elliott, Missouri
I have been excited about Jordan Elliott for a while now, and nothing he has done over the last few weeks has lessened that excitement. He is an ideal athlete for the penetrating 3-technique role with great lower-body power but is still an inconsistent player. Elliott has retained flashes of greatness late into the season and is showing better conditioning than he did in recent years. Elliott is a name that will likely remain under the radar until the combine when he tests his way into national attention.
EDGE: Bradlee Anae, Utah
In Bradlee Anae's first five games of the season, he had five tackles for a loss and four sacks. Those are strong numbers.
In Anae's next four games, he posted seven TFLs and seven sacks. Those are even stronger numbers.
It has been a great senior season for Anae, who took a gamble by going back to school for his final year despite receiving a Day-2 grade from the advisory committee. He has shown an improved high-side rush, his hands have remained consistently dominant and I think he is a bit quicker off the ball than he was in his junior year. Anae remains outside of Round-1 conversation given a modest athletic profile, but at this point in his storied career, I would be surprised if he did not go on Day 2.
LB: Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State
Akeem Davis-Gaither is fun, folks. He kicked off the month with a dominant, flag-planting performance in a win over South Carolina with 2.5 TFLs, one sack and two pass breakups. It landed him a spot on the Senior Showcase.
Here, I have him listed as a linebacker instead of an EDGE, even though that is what he plays for the Appalachian State Mountaineers. Davis-Gaither will likely be a standup SAM at the next level who is blitzed just about as often as he is in coverage. He has the length and linear explosiveness to be an effective short zone defender, and I love his open-field quickness when challenged with tackles in space. The Senior Bowl is a big deal for him against top competition and figuring out his NFL role.
CB: Jeff Gladney, TCU
This pick barely made the cut. Jeff Gladney's dominant performance against Collin Johnson in Texas was the last week of October, but hey, I make the rules around here. Gladney had three PBUs in that game, including two in the red zone, to make our Senior Showcase. He followed it up with four more PBUs against Oklahoma State and Baylor as the TCU Horned Frogs defense has become increasingly stingier. Yet another Senior Bowl player, Gladney is one of the best press-man candidates in this class. Right now he excels from off coverage but it is Gladney's versatility that should get teams excited, especially if his technique continues to catch up to his athleticism on the boundary.
S: Terrell Burgess, Utah
What a rise it has been for Terrell Burgess. He is the second Utah Ute on the list and a first-year starter on the best defense on the West Coast — but that is not a product of poor play. Utah’s defense has always enjoyed great secondary play, and with an NFL-type player like Marquise Blair ahead of him on the depth chart, Burgess was only able to take advantage of rotational playing time. He and Julian Blackmon form one of the better safety duos as Burgess fills the box and underneath zones with aggressiveness, good instincts, and solid ball skills at the catch point. He will likely be ranked above Blackmon when it is all said and done.