2013 NFL Draft Stock Report for Key Underclassmen
With the college football season complete, the draft stock of those not competing in postseason all-star games will remain steady until the combine.
So here's a quick look at 10 underclassmen who enter their offseason with significant questions that may impact their draft stock once scouts starts to get some answers.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
No prospect will be followed more closely this offseason than Lattimore, even if there is a very real possibility that we won't hear anything from him until draft day.
Lattimore's most recent knee injury could prevent him from working out until after the draft, which would severely limit his draft stock. However, it's likely that he will attend the Combine and/or private workouts in order to be examined by team doctors.
Until Lattimore is examined by team doctors his stock remains in limbo. Any team considering spending a second-day pick on Lattimore will want their own physicians to poke around to give them an estimate of when he will be on the field and just how effective he will be when he resumes playing.
Robert Woods, WR, USC
Prior to the season, Woods' name was popping up as a potential top 10 pick. A few months later he'll need to revive his stock just to come off the board in the first round.
During his career at USC, Woods never had a problem putting up stats, but a close look at his performance shows a receiver with limited upside. The vast majority of his receptions came on short and intermediate throws that require the most basic of route running skills.
To improve his stock, Woods needs to demonstrate the ability to separate from defenders. His 40-yard dash time will be critical at the combine and scouts will also want to see crisp route running in all of his drills.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Mathieu's stock couldn't get much lower right now, coming off a season away from football during which he spent time at a rehab facility. To make matters worse, he was arrested once again for possession of marijuana in late October.
But none of that will matter if Mathieu can convince one team to take a chance on him.
This offseason will be all about the interview process for Mathieu. NFL teams know what he can do on the field, but they will want to get to know Mathieu the person and determine how he will fit into their locker room. How Mathieu answers their difficult questions could be the difference between a third and sixth-round grade.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
After a somewhat inconsistent season, Hankins' stock has slipped, at least in the eye of the general public. But Hankins will have an opportunity to regain some momentum during his offseason workouts.
Hankins possesses a rare combination of size and athleticism for an interior linemen and that typically leads to high draft picks, regardless of on-field production (Dontari Poe, anyone?). If Hankins shows up at the combine in shape and impresses scouts, he should lock up a spot in the top 15 picks.
Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
There are so many questions that Bray needs to answer this offseason it's tough to know where to begin.
For starters, Bray's throwing motion is tough to watch. It's vaguely reminiscent of Bernie Kosar or Philip Rivers, but there aren't many other recent examples of quarterbacks who have made the awkward sidearm, three-quarters motion delivery work in the NFL. Teams won't necessarily force Bray to change his mechanics, but they will want to know where he stands on the issue. If he's open to working with coaches at the next level to improve it certainly couldn't hurt his stock.
Bray will also need to answer questions about his maturity, relating to multiple off-field incidents during his career. Teams will scrutinize his responses to difficult interview questions to determine if he has what it takes to be a leader in the locker room.
Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford
Toilolo is one of the most fascinating prospects in this draft class and has as much to gain or lose during his workouts as any prospect.
Had he returned to school, Toilolo could have emerged as Kevin Hogan's go-to target in the absence of Zach Ertz. Instead, he opted to enter the Draft with limited film available on him.
Toilolo's size will make him an immediate threat in the red zone, but he needs to answer questions about his athleticism. Is he just a tall statue out there, or does he have the skills to develop into another Jimmy Graham-type receiver? He may have only scratched the surface of his potential, but he'll need to demonstrate that at the combine in order to boost his stock.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Watch a Justin Hunter highlight reel and you'll assume he's the top receiver in the 2013 Draft class and, based purely on raw talent, he is just that.
But Hunter's junior year was marred by lazy route running, drops and an overall apathetic approach to the game. At times, he played like he just didn't care. When athletes struggle with motivation when playing for free, they rarely turn things around when the sport becomes a full-time job.
So while Hunter clearly has the tools to make an A.J. Green-like impact at the next level, he will have to answer some difficult questions about his inconsistent performance in order get his draft stock trending in a positive direction once again.
David Amerson, CB, N.C. State
After a record-setting sophomore year, Amerson was hyped up as a potential top-10 pick. But when people began to focus on Amerson's skills rather than his stats, many realized there's a lot more to playing cornerback than coming down with a few interceptions.
Not only is Amerson no longer a first-round prospect, but he may not even be considered a cornerback on most draft boards.
This offseason, Amerson will need to either demonstrate the speed necessary to play corner or a willingness to transition to free safety at the next level.
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Arguably the nation's most explosive pass rusher tallied just 4.5 sacks in 2012, raising some doubt as to whether or not he is destined to be a top-10 pick as many assumed entering the year.
Mingo is still in position to be a high draft pick, but it all rests on his athleticism. To make up for his relatively modest performance at LSU, Mingo needs to meet lofty expectations at the Combine or risk falling down draft boards.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Can he play left tackle? That is the question that must be answered in regards to Fluker's draft stock.
Fluker is a massive lineman who excels as a run blocker but, in order to boost his stock, he will need to answer questions about his athleticism. He played exclusively on the right side at Alabama and a poor showing at the combine could cause him to be penciled in as a guard on some draft boards.
With an impressive showing in his offseason workouts, however, especially if the 330-plus-pund Fluker drops some weight, Fluker could generate some buzz as a potential left tackle prospect which may push him into the top 20 picks.