Rounding Up the Latest NFL Draft Rumors: What's the Buzz Around Top Prospects?
NFL draft rumors are only going to intensify with each passing day leading up to April 25.
Teams’ true intentions are never really known by those outside of the inner circles, yet speculation is everywhere around this time of the offseason.
Draft analysts, insiders and everyone in between will try to convince you about a prospect falling or rising up draft boards.
The combine and school pro days are certainly important, but teams will not drastically drop players for not blowing scouts away during these events. However, more information may become available through these processes that may tip teams’ hands and alter the perceived draft stock of certain prospects.
With free agency and all of the pre-draft events in the books, let’s take a look at some rumors and buzz around some of the draft’s biggest prospects.
Geno Smith, QB
Geno Smith is the best quarterback prospect of the 2013 NFL draft class—at least, that’s what many would have you think, including CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
La Canfora boldly predicted that Smith would, without a doubt, not make it out of the top five of the draft's first round.
The truth is he’s probably right. Despite Arizona, Oakland and Buffalo adding veteran quarterbacks recently, none have long-term solutions at the game's most important position.
Whether Smith ends up going in the top five or not, he is still commonly believed to be the top quarterback prospect in 2013—unless, of course, you ask Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly.
Nawrocki’s scouting report slammed Smith as a “nonchalant field presence,” having a “marginal work ethic,” and not able to handle “hard coaching.”
Take a look at some of his closing thoughts on the QB:
A cross between Akili Smith and Aaron Brooks, Smith is a gimmick, overhyped product of the system lacking the football savvy, work habits and focus to cement a starting job and could drain energy from a QB room.
Will be overdrafted and struggle to produce against NFL defensive complexities.
Character, intelligence and command are keys to being a successful signal-caller at the professional level. If Nawrocki's concerns are realized, a team is going to be making a big sacrifice for a player whose future is very uncertain.
In a class of quarterbacks with similar situations, though, teams will have no other choice.
Ryan Nassib, QB
Ryan Nassib, who has been tirelessly linked to the Buffalo Bills and former head coach Doug Marrone, has a new suitor as the NFL draft approaches.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com said recently that the New York Jets have been doing their homework on the NFL-hopeful quarterback, and scouted him “aggressively” during his 2012 season at Syracuse.
Nassib is commonly believed to be a second-round QB prospect, at best, but could see his stock rise if teams like the Jets want him bad enough.
The Jets hold the ninth and 39th selections in the first two rounds of the draft, while Buffalo holds the eighth and 41st picks.
If the Bills and Marrone want Nassib, they may have to trade up into the bottom of the first round in order to secure the young signal-caller.
There are other potential wild cards in the mix, too. The Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars are among two teams that recently held private workouts with the QB.
Matt Elam, S
Former Florida Gators safety Matt Elam isn’t going to have to wait long to hear his name called during the 2013 NFL draft.
How soon he is picked, though, has been the matter of some recent debate.
Scouts from teams vary where they rank the hard-hitting safety. Some have him as a first-round talent, while others see him going off the board in the second round, according to Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com.
Teams’ biggest concern, according to Campbell, is the safety’s 5’10” frame. They feel that he could be a liability in pass coverage, especially against larger receivers and tight ends in the red zone.
Elam isn’t in any danger of sliding much further than the second round, though. At this point we’re just waiting to see what team will take the chance with the slightly undersized but instinctive and aggressive defensive back.
Jarvis Jones, OLB/DE
Jarvis Jones, formerly the consensus No. 1 pass-rusher in the 2013 NFL draft class, was downgraded out of the first round by Gil Brandt of NFL.com (via Twitter):
Going to drop Jarvis Jones out of first round. Not sure he's a first-round talent. #NFLDraft.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) April 2, 2013
Jones, who was sidelined and forced to transfer from USC to Georgia as a result of a supposed spinal condition, received a clean bill of health during offseason medical examinations:
In a medical report that was sent to NFL teams, leading orthopedist Craig Brigham refutes that Jones ever had a significant spinal cord contusion.
When he was at Southern Cal, the pass-rusher was diagnosed with one, and Southern Cal did not allow him to play in 2010. Jones transferred to Georgia and played two seasons with no problems.
Brigham concluded that Jones either had a very mild incident of spinal cord concussion or merely a stinger that has long since resolved.
However, his decision to skip the combine and his ensuing bombing of his pro day were less than encouraging for the pass-rusher. His incredible performance in college may have been helped by a very stout defensive unit that is boasting three key prospects from its front seven in this draft.
While Brandt’s projection is certainly worst-case scenario for Jones, it may not be too out of the realm of possibility.
One scout at Jones’ pro day labeled his workout performance as “terrible,” and he followed that up by posting a poor 4.9-second 40-yard dash time.
Tavon Austin, WR
There is nothing small about former West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. If his size really was a concern, teams wouldn’t be looking into using a first-round pick (possibly a top-15 pick, according to Pro Football Talk's Florio) to acquire his explosive playmaking ability.
Despite standing at just 5’8”, the dynamic Austin weighed in at 174 pounds. That gives him a very full frame, one that will help him stay healthy at the next level. He definitely doesn’t meet the traditional “mold” of a prototype NFL receiver, though.
But with his speed and ability to get into space, who cares?
He certainly fits in a league that is valuing the slot receiver position more and more.
Austin, who was invited to attend the draft at Radio City Music Hall, has reportedly accepted the invitation (according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net via NFL Trade Rumors). That puts him in the spotlight for a big moment during this year’s first round.
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