Stock Up, Stock Down for 2013 NFL Draft Prospects, Week 4 Edition
First, Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson and Logan Thomas tumble down the board. Who is next?
The 2013 NFL draft is still seven months away, but it's never too soon to start taking a look at those players who are moving up and down our draft board.
A heavy week of film study has added insight and perspective on prospects. As top prospects continue to fall down the board, new names are added, and others who maybe carried a low preseason grade are making up ground.
Here's our Week 4 edition of Stock Watch for the 2013 NFL draft.
Stock Up: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Last Week: No. 93 | This Week: No. 64
Last week, we highlighted the rising stock of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. This week, it's his top wide receiver's turn.
Austin has really taken off this year, showing a level of speed and burst that is rare among this year's class. Similar to Percy Harvin at Florida with a little Kendall Wright (Baylor) mixed in, Austin is this year's best slot wide receiver and return man prospect.
The Mountaineers use Austin as a utility-type player, which is good for his stock. NFL scouts will get a chance to see Austin working out of the backfield, split wide and in return situations. This allows him to show off his dynamic skill set and is the reason his stock is soaring.
Stock Down: RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Last Week: No. 82 | This Week: No. 102
If I've said it once, I've said it 1,000 times: College statistics do not matter to scouts and evaluators.
Montee Ball may have assaulted NCAA record books in 2011, but there was a good reason he didn't pull the trigger and enter the 2012 NFL draft. Ball's stock was never higher than the third round during the run-up to last year's draft.
Ball is struggling this year with two of his offensive linemen now in the NFL, and the loss of Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler only highlights that Ball isn't quick enough out of his stance to make it as a feature back in the NFL.
Ball will get drafted, likely in the late third-round or early fourth-round range, but his chances of becoming an NFL star are diminishing.
Stock Up: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Last Week: No. 18 | This Week: No. 8
Luke Joeckel started the year as a late first-rounder on my board, but that's changed in a hurry.
The major concern with Joeckel before the year was how well he could hold up against the speed-rushers of the SEC. He's put those concerns to bed and then some. Joeckel has emerged as this year's top left tackle prospect.
Not only has Joeckel shown the needed quickness to cut off edge-rushers, he's actually better in the run game this year, showing better knee bend and a quicker first step. Don't be surprised to hear this Aggie's name called in the top 10 come April.
Stock Down: QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Last Week: No. 10 | This Week: No. 22
This should look familiar to loyal readers. Logan Thomas' stock has gone from a slight bump to full-on free fall.
Thomas famously entered the year as our top overall player, with the caveat that to hold on to that top spot, he would have to develop more as a passer. There's no doubting Thomas' raw ability, but to remain the top overall player, he needed to marry production and on-field performance with potential. That hasn't happened.
Just a junior this year, Thomas would be wise to return to Virginia Tech for his senior season. Given one more year to mature as a passer and work on his decision-making, Logan would have a shot at redemption in the 2014 draft.
Stock Up: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Last Week: N/A | This Week: No. 104
Damontre Moore didn't start out the year on our watch list. He's definitely on there now.
Moore has taken the college football world by storm with six sacks in three games, including a three-sack performance against Florida in the season opener. That was enough for Moore to catch our attention.
Playing as an edge-rusher and defensive end, Moore is displaying the first-step quickness and flexibility to become an NFL starter. His development from 2011 to 2012 has been incredible, and more than any other Aggie defender, Moore is capitalizing on the new regime.
Stock Down: CB David Amerson, North Carolina State
Last Week: No. 7 | This Week: No. 9
Interception machine David Amerson has gotten back on track lately, recording three interceptions in his last three games. What's causing Amerson to slip isn't his lack of interceptions; it's that Week 1 play against Tennessee.
Amerson's fall isn't dramatic, but it's worth noting. A player once considered a top-five prospect now looks to be closer to the 10-15 range. Time will tell if NFL teams bite on the athletic junior earlier than projected, but Amerson's fall shouldn't be seen as a dramatic tumble down boards.
More than anything, this is a readjustment based on preseason expectations and his struggles against the only top-level quarterback he's played, Tyler Bray.
Amerson is still my top-rated cornerback, but he's no longer a top-five overall player.
Stock Up: DE Bjoern Werner, FSU
Last Week: No. 15 | This Week: No. 11
Bjoern Werner has moved up again this week, putting himself close to the top 10 overall players. The FSU defensive end has become the best player on the Seminole defense and is making a strong argument as the best defender in college football.
Werner has been dominant both in production and performance. Not only is he racking up sacks (6.5 in four games), but he's playing better against the run than expected. We saw flashes of this against Oklahoma last year, but Werner's development has been one of the early stories of the season.
If he keeps this up, a top-10 draft slot is almost guaranteed.
Stock Down: LB Nico Johnson, Alabama
Last Week: No. 25 | This Week: No. 63
Nico Johnson carried a strong preseason grade into the season, and he was falsely benefiting from that early grade. Once the game film was reviewed, it was clear to see that Johnson isn't playing up to his reputation.
Johnson is a good linebacker, but he's playing stiffer than we saw in previous seasons. Where Johnson used to be an athletic outside defender, the player we see this year is struggling with range and vision.
It's very possible that Johnson was able to stand out on a defense featuring Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron, Josh Chapman, Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower because of the talent around him. Now that Johnson is asked to be the man, he's struggling.
Stock Up: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
Last Week: No. 14 | This Week: No. 10
The gap between David Amerson and Dee Milliner continues to close.
The Alabama cornerback has quickly become the best defender on a loaded depth chart, showing off a penchant for finding the football as a run defender and in coverage. Milliner is the type of all-around cornerback that NFL teams will fall in love with.
Milliner's size (6'1", 198 lbs) and range are ideal for today's NFL. Much like a young NFL version of Charles Woodson, Milliner is able to affect the game no matter what the offense tries to do.
Stock Down: RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
Last Week: No. 9 | This Week: No. 17
There are a few reasons why Marcus Lattimore sees a shift down the board this week. Not all of them are his fault.
1. The value of a running back in the NFL is fading. Use Trent Richardson as an example if you want, but the best teams in the league right now drafted their running backs outside the first round. Atlanta, Houston, San Francisco, Baltimore...they all have backs drafted outside Round 1.
2. Lattimore's knee is likely to be an issue. We haven't seen the same cutting ability and explosion post-cut from him. Yes, it takes time to fully rehab a knee, but NFL teams will be very picky about where they draft a running back who has had major knee surgery.
Lattimore is still the most talented running back in this class, and probably in all of college football, but that doesn't mean any team should consider drafting him in the top 15.