2012 NFL Draft: 6 Prospects Who Have Hurt Their Draft Stock
While all but two NFL teams having hung it up for this season, pro football hopefuls are putting the pedal down and trying to catch the eye of NFL scouts and draft experts.
It's a tough gauntlet to run, as three or four years of heroics at the college level suddenly seem insignificant next to stats such as one's height or time in the 40-yard dash.
Having gotten the chance to see a large number of NFL prospects on the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl, it's now much clearer who has improved their odds of securing a high draft position and whose stock has declined.
Here are six players whose NFL prospects have dropped.
There's no arguing that Russell Wilson pieced together a pretty impressive college career.
With an enviable combination of arm strength and mobility, Wilson managed to terrorize two automatic BCS-qualifier conferences before ending on a somewhat strange, sour note in the 2012 Rose Bowl against Oregon. We will never forget "the spike."
It's not that Wilson's 11,720-yard, 109-touchdown career is drawing the ire of draft experts. Wilson's exploits are duly noted. However, he might fall victim to his lack of ideal height and size.
At 5'11" and 200 pounds, Wilson is better built to be running seam routes than throwing them.
The Richmond, Va., native reminds me of West Virginia legend Pat White, who had a similar pedigree. White's jump to the NFL was, well, not very spectacular.
What people do remember about White, though, is that like so many other spread-option quarterbacks, his slight frame was not built to withstand the bigger, stronger defenders at the pro level.
Wilson may have been a force in big-time college football, but it will be hard to convince NFL front offices that a sub-6 foot quarterback who may end up going the MLB route is worth the type of investment typical of a guy drafted in the first three rounds.
Foles might be a controversial pick for this list because of a redeeming performance at the Senior Bowl, where he completed 11 of 15 passes for 136 yards.
But if I'm having to either buy or sell on Foles, I'm going with sell.
While the Austin, Texas, native had a huge senior year at Arizona, throwing for more than 4,000 yards, coaches and scouts questioned his ability to see the field and get out from under center during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala.
Think about that for a second. Foles had to relocate to the sidelines to practice taking snaps from under center. Teams looking to take a quarterback in the first two rounds are going to look at facts like that and cringe.
Let's also not forget that Foles was never projected that high in the first place. That's all the more reason why a flawless showing at the Senior Bowl was so crucial.
While Foles certainly has the physical skill-set and the build to be competitive at the next level, he showed flashes of inconsistency and looks to be a mid-rounder to a team that isn't searching high and low for a plug-and-play type quarterback.
Let's face it—there are only two guys like that in this entire draft class, neither of whom went to Arizona.
Chris Polk turned in a good performance his senior year at Washington. He rushed for 1,488 yards on 293 carries and 12 touchdowns. At 5'10" and a stout 224 pounds, Polk displayed the ability to be a bruising runner with a bit of burst.
Now the bad news.
Polk had a horrible showing at this year's Senior Bowl. He had a hard time gaining separation during his routes and even looked slow hitting his holes. It's hard to feel confident about a guy catching balls out of the backfield when he's having a hard time breaking away from linebackers at the college level.
If that's the case, guys like Clay Matthews and Patrick Willis will have a field day with him on Sundays.
While he still has time to make amends, he probably will need to take a page out of Monte Ball's book and shed a few pounds to make himself quicker.
As it stands, Polk is looking at a third- to fourth-round selection.
Dwight Jones was a force at receiver this year in the ACC and has the requisite physical tools to be the same player at the next level.
However, he was a huge letdown at the Senior Bowl, and highlighted his poor showing with less than stellar route-running.
At 6'3" and 226 pounds, Jones is a monster out wide and could pose a threat to smaller, less physical corners. But Jones revealed that he needs a lot of development at the next level to reach his full potential. Basically, he's no Justin Blackmon.
If Jones has any hope of reproducing his 2011 numbers (85 receptions, 1,196 yards) at the next level, he will have to arrive at the combine ready to work.
Right now, Jones appears to have the makings of a third-rounder.
For the second year in a row, it appeared to many that Nebraska would produce another big-time corner in Alfonzo Dennard.
While the dream is not entirely dead, Dennard hasn't made the case that he's on the same level as 2010 first-rounder Prince Amukamara.
Like most of the other players on this list, it doesn't help to show up poorly at the Senior Bowl. The biggest concern with Dennard was his ability to run with receivers in the open field and, more importantly, change direction while doing so.
While this wasn't a problem during the 2011 season, Dennard was carrying a hip injury with him when he arrived in Mobile and, needless to say, it greatly affected his ability to perform.
The good thing about injuries is that they tend to get better, and with a little time for recovery, Dennard will have the chance to get back into top-32 form.
Still, it should be noted that taking a week to recuperate could have been time far better spent than showing up in front of NFL coaches and scouts slowed by an injury.
I have nothing against the Tar Heels. In fact, I'm a huge fan. But it's a shame that two of their best athletes in this draft class are the subjects of so much concern.
Quinton Coples, freak athlete that he is, is probably the biggest question mark at the moment.
There is no denying his athletic ability. At 6'6", 285 pounds, he tends to just jump off the page as a shoo-in first-round pick.
But there are serious doubts about his work ethic. And when going against equally talented offensive linemen, Coples had a tendency to become ineffective and consequently disappear.
While his size, strength and natural ability provide him with an enormous upside, many feel there's a real danger that he could become lackadaisical once he signs a huge rookie contract.
Still, I wouldn't be surprised to hear his name called in the first round.
Whether he lives up to his high selection is something else entirely.