The lead-up to the NFL Draft is always volatile as a combination of bowl performance, workouts, interviews, and positional needs send certain players shooting up draft boards and others tumbling down to the later rounds.
This year, offensive stars at quarterback and offensive tackle appear set to do well on draft day. But there is a glut of good-but-not-great talent at the wide receiver position, which could push several players down draft boards.
Let's take a look at seven offensive stars who could fall on draft day...
The word "tumble" does not truly apply to Blackmon but his draft spot may be in danger. NFL executives originally viewed him as a top five pick but some draft boards, including Mocking the Draft's post-Senior Bowl mock, have him falling to the bottom of the top ten.
In Blackmon's case, the fall is not performance related, which is why he may climb back into the top five before draft day and will not fall past the top 12. It's a combination of team needs, positional value, and relative projections: the top five teams look likely to take quarterbacks (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III), offensive tackles (Matt Khalil and Riley Reiff) or defensive stars (Quinton Coples and Morris Clairborne). Blackmon is seen as an excellent wide receiver but not a once-in-a-decade star like last year's A.J. Green.
Mike Adams is a talented, natural left tackle from Ohio State. Unlike many tackle prospects, he is a natural fit for the left side. He possesses elite height and size at 6'8" and 320 pounds and has excellent footwork, which should help him make the transition to the NFL.
But Adams has several major issues that could send him tumbling down draft boards. He was suspended seven games last season as part of the Ohio State tattoo scandal, which will not sit well with NFL talent evaluators. Adams also lacks the mean killer instinct that the best linemen seem to have and is a relatively raw prospect. In particular, his zone blocking technique needs serious work and he needs to put more effort into his run blocking.
So Adams is a top five prospect on talent but his suspension, perceived attitude problems and raw technique will push him to the middle of the first round.
Michael Floyd is an elite talent at wide receiver. He has produced to the tune of 100 catches for 1,147 yards and 9 touchdowns in his senior season. Combine that with his 6'3" size and smooth technique and you have a top receiving prospect. Even better, Floyd separates himself from the pack with his ability to make plays after the catch, which makes him possibly the safest bet—on talent and performance alone—of the 2012 wide receiver class.
But Floyd may fall down draft boards due to a mix of positional devaluation and character concerns. Floyd had problems with alcohol throughout his time at Notre Dame and, while his character concerns don't come close to Janoris Jenkins', they may still affect his draft stock. Worse, NFL executives see three top receivers—Justin Blackmon, Alshon Jeffrey, and Michael Floyd—but none are truly special talents along the lines of last year's A.J. Green. If Blackmon falls out of the top six, then Floyd is likely to go in the late teens.
But he won't make it past the Bears at Number 19.
Lamar Miller is the 2012 NFL Draft's second-best running back. Miller is the perfect size for an NFL back and he has great speed—including elite burst and a second gear when crashing through an open seam—and the ability to see blocks well and move to exploit open running lanes. He has injury and durability concerns but those are relatively minor at this point.
But Miller could fall down draft boards due to rawness and positional devaluation. Miller has only one starting season under his belt, which will make NFL executives wary of committing a top pick to his success. Worse, Running backs are not valued or drafted like they used to be, which means Trent Richardson could fall out of the top 10 and Miller to a likely late first-round choice.
Kendall Wright's meal ticket is speed and acceleration. No other receiver in this class mixes burst, downfield speed and the polished ability to produce like Wright.
But Wright's draft position could suffer because of his size and glut of wide receivers in this draft. Wright is less than six feet tall, which has not hampered his productivity in college but will worry NFL executives. Prototypical NFL wide receivers are usually 6'2" or 6'3", which is why NFL decision-makers will likely take both Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd before Wright.
It's true, this list is overweight on wide receivers. Why? It's because the very best offensive prospects in this draft are offensive tackles and quarterbacks. After that, there are a couple abnormally good offensive guards (David DeCastro and Cordy Glenn), and one excellent center (Peter Konz). There are only two great running backs, Trent Richardson and Lamar Miller, and Richardson is the kind of once-in-a-decade talent that will transcend the devaluation of the position.
At wide receiver there are four excellent—but not truly elite—prospects in this draft: Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, and Alshon Jeffrey. All four could fall and of them Jeffery is the most likely to tumble down draft boards.
Jeffery's best assets are his physical attributes: he is an enormous 6'4" specimen who will be able to out-muscle any defensive back. But his production has trailed his physical promise and he lacks both top notch burst and downfield speed. Combined with a reputation for sometimes lackluster effort, he could fall out of the first round despite his talent.
Peter Konz is a leader. He is a tough-as-nails Big Ten center who can slide in and start on any NFL team. So why will he fall on draft day?
The short answer: centers almost always fall during the NFL draft. The position is rarely seen as a critical need by NFL scouts and most football decision-makers are confident they can find hard nose players in the later rounds (think John Moffitt and Jeff Saturday) to fill their needs at offensive guard and center.
But one team at the end of the first round will select Konz and he is certain to reward them for years.