2014 NFL Draft Stock Update: Who’s Rising?

Tre Mason, who helped lead the Auburn Tigers to the BCS Title Game, has run his way into the first round discussion (Photo: US Presswire)

By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer

Even though most prospects don’t go through fundamental changes in their talent level or skill set during the year, their stock certainly fluctuates like it does. The same phenomenon occurs in finance as stock prices surge and dip daily despite very little actually changing at the company level. It’s a little different scenario when you’re dealing with evaluating people like us draftniks do, but that is part of the fun. The bowl season is over and the All-Star or Senior circuit is just underway, so let’s take a look at whose stock has risen the most recently.

QB Blake Bortles, UCF
6’4 235

One of the hottest names going into the offseason has been Blake Bortles. As UCF surged all the way to a BCS Bowl victory Bortles proved he was the main reason why. In terms of size the 6’4 235 lb quarterback is the exact prototype teams look. He has the height to see over his line and the strength to shrug off defenders while climbing the pocket.

His play down the stretch wasn’t impressive because of eye popping stats or flashy performances, but more because he looks so comfortable pro doing it. Whether it was a cold weather win in surprisingly frigid Dallas against SMU or a big time upset of Louisville and fellow quarterback prospect Teddy Bridgewater, Bortles has shown he has pro potential.

Edge Rusher Dee Ford, Auburn
6’2 238

The current NFL landscape has changed and allowed players like Ford to be in the Top 100 conversation. Ford, similar to Clemson’s Vic Beasley and Seattle Seahawks rusher Bruce Irvin, might be undersized and struggle mightily in the run game but because so many teams now run a 3-4 there is a natural position open to them. As an edge rushing 3-4 outside linebacker teams can plug in undersized defenders like Ford and ask them to utilize their skill set and do what they do best. And that is to simply rush the passer. Against a talented offensive line of Florida St. Ford was disruptive and constantly in the Seminole backfield. Using a spin move and active hands Ford showed he can impact a game off the edge and scouts will love that high revving motor as well.

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
6’1 205

Sammy Watkins has proven his explosiveness and ability to change a game in a flash ever since he burst onto the scene as a freshman. He only built upon that reputation this season and capped a tremendous career with 16 catches for 227 yards and two TD in the Tigers Orange Bowl victory. It seems people forget that Watkins isn’t just a burner as his size (6’1), large hands and body control often gets overlooked, but should make him a complete NFL receiver.

OT Greg Robinson, Auburn
6’5 320

Much like Eric Fisher did last season Robinson has absolutely exploded up draft boards late in the year to challenge an Aggie tackle Jake Matthews (Luke Joeckel last year for Fisher) for the top spot at the position. Unlike Fisher though Robinson did it dominating top notch SEC competition, which makes his tape even more impressive. In the Tigers run heavy attack Robinson is a major catalyst opening up holes for Tre Mason and company. The 6’5 320 tackle has great feet and strength to handle any style of pass rusher possessing the agility rarely seen in a road grading type tackle.

DE Marcus Smith, Louisville
6’2 252

Smith, a former quarterback, has built up some steam heading into the pre-draft process. The American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year looked every bit like the impact defender he was all year in the Cards finale versus Miami. Smith added two sacks to his 14.5 total, which left him just a half a sack behind Trent Murphy for the most in college football and was disruptive all day against a good Hurricanes squad.

WR Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina
6’3 190

As a small school prospect its imperative to make the most of any opportunity you have to play against the big boys. Most often that chance comes in the form of All-Star games like the Senior Bowl or East West Shrine Game. Hazel has used to latter to showcase his route running technique and smooth footwork while getting the attention of pro scouts. He still looks underdeveloped physically and needs to gain more muscle to match up in press coverage but his size and footwork are more than enough to work with.

DE Scott Crichton, Oregon St.
6’3 260

Crichton is a top pass rushing prospect without having the explosiveness most scouts crave. He remains effective because he’s a hard worker, rarely out of position and plays with tenacity on every snap. Against Boise St. in their bowl game, he came off the right edge giving a slight step to fake going inside then executed a flawless swim move on his way to the quarterback. He forced a sack, fumble which was picked up and run into the end zone for a defensive score. Not too long after he used his hands to disengage and dismiss multiple blockers stopping the running back for a loss.

One thing I noticed is that Crichton understands the nuances of the game and routinely sets up an outside swim move with a quick step inside, where he plants and drastically shifts his weight back outside. It’s that heady play paired with a relentlessness coaches love which makes the Beaver a fringe first round prospect and very safe selection.

ILB Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
6’4 230

The UCLA program is rising fast and one of their less heralded defenders is also making a similar leap up draft boards. Jordan Zumwalt delivered some punishing hits, including knocking out Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, in the Sun Bowl victory for the Bruins. A tough player who reads the game well, Zumwalt lacks the speed and explosion to excel in coverage. That’s evidenced by the fact he rarely plays in passing situations. While his ability to be an every down player is in question he makes his mark as a ferocious hitter who can be a physical presence in the run game and likely best suited as an inside 3-4 backer.

DT Timmy Jernigan, FSU
6’2 298

Jernigan was one of the players who got the chance to shine on national TV during the BCS Championship Game and took full advantage. The former blue chip recruit was able to manhandle the interior line of Auburn as his explosive hands and quickness caused them fits. The 6’2 298 pound Seminole has always had the talent, but now looks to ride an impressive year of production to a first round selection.

DE Larry Webster, Bloomsburg
6’7 250

Most former basketball studs who turn to football play the role of a pass catching tight end, but the 6’7 Webster has taken to the defensive end position and shown why many consider his potential to be sky high. Understandably he’s still incredibly raw so his timeline for actually seeing the field will likely be much longer than most rookies. However, as a long and fast athlete he’ll no doubt have a shot to see the field as a pro with time. You can teach him technique but his length and natural athleticism cannot be taught.

RB Tre Mason, Auburn
5’10 205

Not many players can make the meteoric rise that Mason has of late. An afterthought in terms of the 2014 draft to start the year despite running for over a thousand yards in 2012, Mason simply ran through the SEC totaling an insane 1,816 rushing yards in 2013 including 499 in his last two outings. Mason isn’t special in any one category and likely benefited from the wizardry of Gus Mahlzan’s rush heavy attack, but his power and vision through the hole are more than enough to succeed at the next level.

Mason always seemed to find openings in the defense and his patience allowed him to hit them consistently then burst into the secondary with his above average acceleration. Teams will also love his ability to be a workhorse averaging 40 carries a game over those final two contests.

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
6’1 210

Last but not least is Mr. Johnny Football who now tops Mel Kiper’s 2014 Mock Draft. The Texas native is getting mentioned in the top five by numerous sources coming off a brilliant Chick-Fil-A Bowl performance leading the Aggies back from a 38-17 deficit. Manziel was near flawless going 30/38 (78.9% completion rate) for 382 yards, 4 TD and no picks. The strides he’s made as a passer this year have been paramount in his return to glory and when added to his unique ability to elude defenders while on the move could help a team in the top five overlook the maturity issues that we all know are present.

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15 Responses to “2014 NFL Draft Stock Update: Who’s Rising?”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    FB/DT JC Copeland LSU was the MVP of the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, i’ve been telling people not sleep on this guy!

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    QB Jimmy Garappolo E.Illinois was the MVP of the East vs. West Shrine Bowl, his draft stock has risen! He’s also a replacement for QB AJ McCarron ALA. for the Senior Bowl .

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    Here are some notables from the NFLPA collegiate bowl practices:
    QB Connor Shaw S.Carolina
    QB Dustin Vaughan 6’5″ 220 W.Texas A&M He’s the NCAA passing leader with 5,401 and 53TDs
    He’s recieving praise for am strength and precision passing and NFL readiness.
    RB Trey Watts Tulsa 5’11 200
    WR Isaiah Burse 6’0 185 Extremely quick and sudden movements, good route runner and hands catcher, a natural! i could see him in a Pats uniform.
    DT Khyri Thornton 6’3 300 Southern Miss. good get off and great power, impressing scouts.
    OC Jonotthan Harrison 6’3 310 Florida Elite football iq and probably the most polished linemen there.
    OG Trey Hopkins 6’4 300 Texas has good first step and leg drive, and has good angles while blocking.
    LB Kevin Pierre-Louis 6’1 225 BC Raw, aggressive and his motor never stops.
    QB Kolton Browning ULM watch for him!
    FB/DT JC Copeland 6’1 285 He’s a pure talent!!! a destructive blocker at the point of attack, good leg drive, very fast and agile for man of this size and a good catcher, was asked to play TE/ H- back in practice. He weighed in at 285 but wants to be at 260. Lots of personality ! I could definitely see him in a Pats uniform.
    OLB Marquis Spruill Syracuse pure standout!
    American team:
    DE/LB Kasim Edebali 6’3 246 BC scouts standout!
    DB Brian and Brandon Dixson 6’0 195 NW Missouri The twins, very good press corners, extremely competitive, but Brandon is better!
    RB Franklyn Quiteh 5’10 206 Bloomberg The 2013 Marlon Hill award winner, rushed for 2,198yds.this season 2nd in the NCAA. He has 3 2000yds. seasons, a Div.2 record. He’s also ranked 2nd in Div.2 in yards all time, #1 Danny Woodhead Pats take a note of this kid, comparisons to Ray Rice
    RB/WR Roy Finch 5’8 170 OKLA. is a lightening bug, he does it all, scouts have been impressed.
    WR Corey Washington 6’4 200 Newberry Good size and length, good route runner and separation from defenders, and hand catcher.
    QB Kenny Guiton Ohio st. Team captain and back up to Braxton Miller, has recieved lots of praises throughout practice. he has a very slight build.
    TE Chris Coyle 6’4 235-240 Arz.st. a true h-back, good route runner and tough
    LB Andrew Wilson 6’3 240 Mizzou is a run stuffing LB. there’s some buzz.

    • acm says:

      Like LB Spruill but he’s “undersized” by Pats’ standards. Maybe they try him out if he goes undrafted but doubt they spend a pick on him. Similar concerns with LB Telvin Smith from FSU – great work ethic and instincts but way too undersized for a LB at the NFL level (may well get looks at the SAF position).

      Really like CB Brandon Dixon as a late pick or UDFA.

      • MarcSluis says:

        I really like Spruill and Telvin Smith despite the lack of size, but they will not fit for some teams period. The Pats might be one of those teams unfortunately for them. I like they can play in sub packages and still have an impact

    • Stephen J says:

      Thanks JH T for the list good reading
      QB Dustin Vaughan sounds intriguing just wondering if he would be another Case Keenum though highly productive in college but doesn’t translate into NFL
      WR Isaiah Burse also intriguing just reminded me of Thompkins (KT) though
      RB Franklyn Quiteh another productive player like it just wondering about fit and heart stuff stats can’t measure.

  4. acm says:

    Aah, what the heck – assuming they keep Talib but lose Blount or Ridley in FA/trade, get a vet LB in FA and trade down from 1st for a 2nd, 4th and 5th in 2014 and a pick in 2015:

    2nd – OL Joel Bitonio / Zach Martin
    2nd – TE CJ Fiedorowicz
    3rd – CB EJ Gaines
    4th – RB Jeremy Hill
    4th – DE Aaron Lynch
    5th – CB/S Anton Exum
    6th – DL Jay Bromley/Shamar Stephen
    6th – OC Gabe Ikard
    7th – QB Jeff Matthews or LB Preston Brown/Howard Jones/Glenn Carson

    P.S. I think Hill and Lynch should both see their stock fall due to off-field issues or other concerns.

    • acm says:

      forgot to add OC Russell Bodine – 6’4″, 310 with sub 5.00 40-yard and strong technician – as an alternative to Ikard in the 6th.

    • MarcSluis says:

      Agree about Lynch falling but in the 4th I would take him every time

      • acm says:

        what’s your take on J. Hill’s stock? Unlike Lynch, he had a really good year in terms of production but also a hell of a lot of character/off-field baggage. I doubt he can do anything more at the combine than what people already know about him as an athlete, yet the character concerns remain … an that’s not too long after Hernandez’ eventful, to say the least, summer. It’s that last part that make me think Hill’s great senior season may well not be enough to save his stock. Off course, that may be more true for the Pats than any other team in the league.

        As for Lynch, I think he may improve his stock with a great combine but not higher than the 3rd round, imo. That homesick, switching programs thing would still weigh him down, me thinks.

  5. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    Lb Skov has moved up Mock boards as well , from mid-third to mid-second.
    Here’s my updated mock 1/17/14;
    1st- CB Kyle Fuller
    2nd- DE/LB Michael Sam
    3d- TE C.J. Fiedorwicz
    4th- OC Bryan Stork
    6th- RB LaDarius Perkins
    6th- QB Connor Shaw
    7th- DT Dante Rumph

    • MarcSluis says:

      As you know I love Fuller! You’re right about Skov, prior to his injury he was one of my favorite prospects at any position. Now that he’s regaining his ability to cut again he looks like a second rounder and the type of tenacious defender coaches love

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        Thanks Marc, I feel very good about the Patriots going after CB Fuller and LB Skov. Bill make some trade moves that may make it happen.

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