It can be hard to live up to pre-season billing, just ask Matt Barkley. But Barkley wasn't the only one who saw his draft stock change over the course of the year. It happens to almost any NCAA player, but UCLA was thin on NFL draft talent before the year, so did Jim Mora do much to help out the case of a few Bruins?
Before the year, CBS Sports ranked the top five Bruins as NFL draft prospects. Immediate bad news? Punter Jeff Locke made the list. What other players for UCLA made the list and what does their stock look like now?
1. Joseph Fauria, TE :
With just nine career starts entering the 2012 season, Fauria remains rough around the edges and far from a first round lock but the physical upside is such that he's currently ranked as NFLDraftScout.com's top senior tight end in the country.
As of today, Fauria ranks 16th among tight ends for NFL Draft Scout. It's probably safe to assume that Fauria goes some time after Day 1 and fights for a job as a blocking tight end with some pass-catching ability on some team. It's not really a knock on Fauria that he was the Bruin's top NFL draft prospect, it says more about the program as a whole.
2. Datone Jones, DT/DE :
As a five-technique defensive end, Jones' numbers aren't expected to rise significantly in 2012. However, this doesn't mean that scouts won't be impressed, necessarily. With so many NFL clubs incorporating hybrid fronts, a versatile and battle-tested defender with Jones' size and athleticism could earn a surprisingly high grade.
NFL Draft Scout currently ranks Jones as the #4 defensive end, but he played all over the line in 2012 and could be some team's 3-tech in 2013. He's got a good chance to be one of the steals of the draft if he can create significant interior push and continue to be disruptive at the next level.
3. Patrick Larimore, LB:
To earn serious NFL consideration, Larimore will thus first have to prove he can remain healthy for a full season. He is a classic college middle linebacker, demonstrating better instincts and open field tackling skills than the dominant athletic traits that will generate buzz among NFL scouts.
Sadly, Larimore retired from football due to concussions.
4. Johnathan Franklin, RB:
Franklin boasts NFL-caliber speed and the ability to make defenders miss in tight quarters. He attacks the line of scrimmage and can squirt through in a blink, consistently giving the Bruins a big play option from the running game.
Like Jones, Franklin has seen a significant boost in his stock over the course of the year. NFL Draft Scout ranks him as the 7th best RB in the draft. He had 1,700 yards as a senior and 6.3 yards per carry. Given the right situation, Franklin could end up being a star at the next level.
5. Jeff Locke, P:
Locke, however, does possess the leg strength and versatility to potentially earn a draftable grade. Possessing a legitimate NFL frame for the position and a booming leg, Locke certainly looks the part.
In review of this top 5 list, Franklin and Jones really upped their stock, while Fauria will probably fight for a position during camps and preseason. It's not something atypical of UCLA NFL prospects, and there could be one or two special players in this class.