NFL Draft 2013: Players Sneaking Up NFL Draft Boards

S. DixonContributor IIIApril 3, 2013

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 27: Marcus Lattimore #21 of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes for a 28-yard touchdown in the second quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers during the game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

At the conclusion of the college football season, scouts and fans speculate where each player will be picked in the NFL Draft. Some are projected to be picked in Round 1, while others are projected for the later rounds. However, players have the opportunity to change their draft stock over four months of evaluation. This spring is no different. Marcus Lattimore, Matt Barkley and Shamarko Thomas are all examples of players moving up draft boards.

Marcus Lattimore suffered one of the most gruesome knee injuries anyone will ever see in football. He also suffered a torn ACL on his other knee the year before in a game at Mississippi State.  Most believed injuries alone would keep him from entering the NFL Draft. However, Lattimore surprised everyone and entered this year’s draft.

Many scouts and fans assumed that Lattimore would not work since he needed a long period of time to rehab. Last week, Lattimore displayed his work ethic, athleticism and football ability in front of scouts at his pro day. He received a standing ovation from everyone in attendance for his inspiring and impressive workout.

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier even speculated that Lattimore would be picked in the first round. However, many are skeptical about Lattimore’s ability to play immediately in 2013. It will most likely take time for him to begin his NFL career.

Nonetheless, Marcus Lattimore has risen up all 32 NFL draft boards because of his sheer determination in recovering from injury. Scouts also remember that he can play running back at a very high level. Lattimore went from potentially undrafted three months ago to a projected mid-round pick.

Matt Barkley, like Marcus Lattimore, did not have the 2012 season he was looking for. At the beginning of the season, Barkley was the projected No. 1 overall pick. However, USC was the biggest disappointment in college football that season, and Barkley’s play and shoulder injury were big reasons for it. Two months ago, questions lingered over Barkley, and many projected second- and third-round territory for the former USC quarterback.

Would his shoulder injury affect his play? Could he make the throws a first-round quarterback is expected to make?

Though it’s been disputed, Barkley impressed enough around the league over the last month to warrant recognition. Rob Rang and Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports project Barkley to be selected No. 8 overall to the Buffalo Bills. Note that in some other mock drafts, he is not projected to even come off the board in the first 32 selections. Nonetheless, the fact that Barkley is even in the first-round discussion means he’s rising up draft boards around the league.

Shamarko Thomas is a safety out of Syracuse that does not have the hype of someone like South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger or Florida’s Matt Elam. However, many are beginning to take note of Thomas’ presence in this year’s draft.

Thomas has impressive tape that displays his physicality. Physicality in the defensive backfield is becoming rare in today’s NFL. He is a presence defending the run and has the athleticism to develop his cover skills at the next level.

Thomas was spectacular at the combine. Weighing in at 213 pounds, he was the fastest safety there with a 4.42, and NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock mentioned that his footwork was excellent. Mayock even compared him to ex-Colts safety Bob Sanders.  

The only thing holding back Thomas is his height. He is only 5'9", but scouts will look past that and look towards his athleticism. Look for Thomas to be selected in the second round.