Stock Up, Stock Down for 2013 NFL Draft Prospects, Week 11 Edition
What a difference a week can make.
While USC players find themselves free-falling down the board, Texas A&M's big win over Alabama allowed one of their top prospects to show he belongs in the top-10 conversation, while one of the Crimson Tide defenders also moved himself up the board considerably with a strong showing against the high-flying Aggie offense.
The 2013 NFL draft gets closer and closer, and as it does, here are five players moving up the board and five who find themselves falling this week.
Stock Up: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Last Week: No. 18 | This Week: No. 12
If you missed the Texas A&M/Alabama game this week, not only did you miss exciting football, but you also lost out on a chance to see one of the nation's best offensive tackles do his thing.
Matthews plays right tackle for the Aggies, but he's showing the quickness, balance and strength to warrant a move to the left side in the NFL if needed. Matthews easily handled the Alabama pass rush, oftentimes stone-walling defenders as they crashed off the edge.
That balance and agility will make Matthews a very high draft pick if and when he decides to enter the draft. Just a junior, it is no lock that Matthews will enter the 2013 class.
Stock Down: QB Matt Barkley, USC
Last Week: No. 32 | This Week: No. 38
Oh, Matt Barkley. You should have left school a year early.
Barkley has long been overrated by the folks at ESPN, but there's no doubting the USC quarterback should have entered the 2012 draft. One more season of film—and some pretty poor play—has sent Barkley's stock crashing this season.
I'll have more on this Saturday morning in Barkley's scouting report, but the basic issues are that he lacks the arm strength to stretch defenses and his downfield decision-making has been very bad. His 13 interceptions this season speak to that.
Barkley's stock was never as high as most believed, and once NFL teams looked deeper into his ability, the word would have gotten out. His returning to USC only made that more evident this year.
Stock Up: QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Last Week: No. 25 | This Week: No. 14
While Matt Barkley's stock has suffered from returning to school, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson has seen his stock headed back toward the top of the first round.
Consider that Wilson is playing this season without his head coach (Bobby Petrino), without his top three wide receivers (all in the NFL now) and behind an offensive line that might as well open the door and hold it open for defensive linemen.
The fact that Wilson is still performing well speaks to his toughness and leadership abilities. Not to mention the fact that he has great intermediate accuracy and is one of the few 2013 quarterback prospects who throws with velocity and touch.
Wilson had had a tough year, but he's battle-tested and NFL ready.
Stock Down: QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Last Week: No. 37 | This Week: No. 72
Speaking of quarterbacks whose stock is plummeting—meet Logan Thomas.
The Virginia Tech quarterback actually opened the year as my No. 1 overall player—based on athletic ability, past performance and his vast potential. The problem with preseason rankings is that they're based on where we think a prospect can be by season's end. In the case of Thomas, that was off. Way off.
There is a very good chance that Logan Thomas' fall down draft boards will keep him from entering in 2013, but should he enter?
Thomas, at least in my opinion, would be better off entering the 2013 NFL draft as a third-round prospect than heading back to Virginia Tech and risking injury in a system that's not going to further develop him into an NFL quarterback. Heading to the pros now, even with his lowered stock, makes the most sense for Thomas.
Stock Up: QB Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Last Week: No. 92 | This Week: No. 37
Just like Logan Thomas was ranked high to begin the year based on his potential to develop into a star, Tyler Bray's stock is starting to rise based on that same logic.
The difference here is that Bray is actually performing well. Sure it helps that he has an All-Conference offensive line and two NFL-caliber wide receivers, but Bray is executing well as the leader of the Vols offense. His production—plus his size and arm strength—make him an exciting prospect as a potential franchise quarterback.
Bray has some issues, namely his mechanics, but quarterbacks without his natural ability and production have been drafted higher. And in a year with no elite quarterback prospect, Bray's potential gives him room to move up the board with a strong pre-draft showing.
Stock Down: ILB Nico Johnson, Alabama
Last Week: No. 88 | This Week: No. 98
The Texas A&M/Alabama showdown didn't just help prospects like Jake Matthews, it also allowed other prospects to fail.
Nico Johnson was the highest ranked Alabama defender on my big board in the preseason (again, that dirty word "potential"), but his play this year has been less than inspiring. Johnson hasn't shown the same athleticism as he displayed in 2011, and he's not making as many plays. As others on the Alabama defense step up, Johnson continues to fade away.
Stock Up: FS DJ Swearinger, South Carolina
Last Week: No. 98 | This Week: No. 68
If you love big-hitting safeties, the 2013 NFL draft will be good to you. South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger definitely fits that mold, but he's also bringing solid playmaking skills to the table.
Swearinger is a late-riser on my board, but after taking time to view his last three games, I'm impressed. Free safeties as a rule aren't generally great tacklers, but Swearinger has a toughness and violent streak about his level of play. He shows good range and pursuit, but he's also willing to step up and lay the wood on tight ends crossing the middle.
Keep an eye on Swearinger as the draft season kicks off.
Stock Down: DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Last Week: No. 13 | This Week: No. 18
My affection for Sam Montgomery's ability is still strong, but where I would draft him in the first round continues to move back.
Montgomery has struggled at times this year against bluechip left tackles. Against both Alabama and Texas A&M, Montgomery was held in check by athletic, balanced tackles. If his two showings against future NFL linemen is any indication of his NFL ability, teams should be a bit concerned.
There's a lot to work with in Montgomery's skill set, but he's not a finished product. Until he can learn to use his hands to separate from blockers, he'll be at a disadvantage against stronger tackles who can outflank him with their long arms. Developing a counter move to his bull rush will be key too.
Stock Up: LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Last Week: No. 17 | This Week: No. 9
Just like Jake Matthews was able to parlay his great performance against Alabama into a move up the board, so does C.J. Mosley for his play against Texas A&M.
The Alabama linebacker has great scheme versatility, meaning he can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Taking that one step further, Mosley can play either inside or outside linebacker in either scheme. His strength and athleticism will allow him to be a versatile defender no matter the scheme or alignment his NFL team uses.
Like a more developed Dont'a Hightower, Mosley will find himself playing very early once he's drafted. And he should plan to be drafted early.
Stock Down: WR Robert Woods, USC
Last Week: No. 22 | This Week: No. 36
Just like Matt Barkley's fall down the board, USC's Robert Woods is seeing his own tumble this week.
When it comes to evaluating wide receivers, I'm a big stickler on being able to separate from defenders. During the run up to the 2012 NFL draft, I knocked Justin Blackmon for this same reason, and so far that assessment is paying off. Woods, just like Blackmon, shows a tendency to struggle when asked to pull away from defenders. Without great speed, this will be a problem for the 6'1" Woods in the NFL.
Great route-running can oftentimes overcome a lack of speed, and that's a positive for Woods, but no team should expect instant impact from a player who looks more like a possession receiver than a game-breaker.