NFL Draft Prospects Who Could Experience Draft-Day Slides

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IApril 15, 2013

NFL Draft Prospects Who Could Experience Draft-Day Slides

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    There is no worse feeling for a prospect than having to sit in the green room for countless hours only to hear his name called much later than anticipated. 

    I have spoken to players about this, and they concur. 

    Aaron Rodgers, who was expected to go within the top 10 picks in 2005 only to be picked 24th overall by the Green Bay Packers, is one such example. 

    This has been repeated many times through the years, and there are certain factors that go into draft-day slides. 

    First, a player is hyped much more by the media and exterior scouts than he is by NFL teams. 

    Second, the framework of an initial round can play a role for a prospect. If team needs do not match a player's specialty, he might find himself dropping on the board. Again, we saw this with Rodgers. 

    Don't expect anything to change next week when the NFL world turns its attention to Radio City Music Hall in New York City. I wouldn't be surprised to see multiple quarterbacks go much later than they anticipate. In addition, off-field issues play an equally important role, and this doesn't even take into account lingering health issues for a myriad of players. 

    This article will focus on draft prospects who could experience draft-day slides. 

Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia

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    It sure looks like quarterback-needy teams have made their peace with the 2013 NFL draft being relatively weak at that position. 

    The Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs have acquired veteran quarterbacks to compete for starting gigs with incumbent players. This seems to indicate that all five of those teams won't look quarterback in the first round. 

    This leaves the New York Jets as the one team in the top 10 likely to select a QB. By no means am I indicating that a team such as Buffalo won't, but it doesn't seem to make much sense at this point. 

    What does that mean for Geno Smith? 

    He is the consensus No.1 quarterback in what is widely considered a weak draft class at that position. Could we be looking at a quarterback-less first round? Might he squeeze into the bottom half of the initial round to a team looking to trade down from the top 10 or trade up from the second round? 

    These are questions that will be answered in short order. 

    I will say this: If Smith were to fall past the Jets at No. 9, I see no reason to believe that he'll go anywhere in the top 25. 

    That's simply insane considering that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. 

Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama

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    It seems that Chance Warmack is a top-10 prospect, according to nearly every single mainstream scout. I have him ranked second overall. Obviously, this doesn't mean that he is going to go anywhere near where most of us have him ranked. 

    Despite being the consensus No. 1 overall interior line prospect, history tells us a story that isn't kind to the possibility of him going in the top 10. 

    The last natural guard to go in the top 10 of the NFL draft was Chris Naeole in 1997. All said, the only guard to be picked in the top 20 since 2002 was Mike Iupati to the San Francisco 49ers in 2010 (via NFL.com). 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had David DeCastro ranked No. 6 overall on his final big board of the 2012 draft season. This didn't stop the guard from falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers at 24. 

    What does this mean for Warmack?

    Well, it's important to look at trends. In that regard, the Alabama product will probably be pretty anxious next Thursday. As it relates to this specific draft, Warmack might be a victim of the numbers game. 

    Many had expected the Tennessee Titans to select him as a replacement for Steve Hutchinson at No. 10 overall. But Tennessee signed the best free-agent guard on the market, Andy Levitre, once the new league year began last month.

    This seems to indicate that the Titans will look in another direction. 

    Other possible fits inside the top 10 would be the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. That being said, neither seems to be looking guard with their first selection. Arizona needs a blindside protector for Carson Palmer, while Buffalo has been linked to multiple quarterbacks. 

    If you go further down in the first round, it gets trickier.

    The San Diego Chargers need upgrades all along their offensive line, but seem content with going cornerback if one of the top three tackles doesn't fall to 11. The only other likely landing spot until Dallas picks at 18 would be St. Louis, which could use an upgrade over Shelley Smith at left guard and the "expensive" Harvey Dahl at right guard. 

    If I were a betting man, I'd put money on Warmack falling to the Cowboys at 18. He seems like a natural fit on the inside and would represent a major upgrade over what they have. 

    This represents a far cry from his top-five value. 

Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee

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    Cordarrelle Patterson might have the highest upside of any top receiving prospect in the 2013 NFL draft, but he is still relatively raw compared with those who have gone high in the draft over the last few  seasons. 

    When drawing a conclusion about picking a wide receiver in the top 10 or first half of the initial round, a team must look at what type of production he can generate as a rookie. I am not sure that Patterson has the capability of yielding a 1,000-yard campaign in his freshman season. 

    Bleacher Report's Ryan Lownes had the following to say about Patterson in his recent scouting report: 

    Incredibly, in only one season at the BCS level, Cordarrelle Patterson played well enough to thrust his name to the forefront of the debate. Many evaluators, however, see him as too raw to make an immediate impact.

    Rinse, wash, repeat. This sentiment has been repeated by mainstream experts. While neither Michael Floyd nor Justin Blackmon made a huge impact as a rookie, they were seen as more "pro ready" last season. 

    Couple this with the meteoric rise of Tavon Austin recently, and you could look at a bit of a surprise come draft day. 

    Patterson has met with the Buffalo Bills, who are selecting No. 8 overall. That seems like a logical fit, considering they're looking for a complementary receiver to Stevie Johnson. They also wouldn't necessarily be looking at needing immediate WR2 production from the talented youngster. 

    Outside of that, Patterson's four likely landing spots sit from picks 14 to 17. 

    If Austin is the first receiver off the board, which is becoming increasingly likely, Patterson could find himself fall to the Rams at 22 or Vikings at 23 and 25.  

Jarvis Jones, Linebacker, Georgia

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    You don't produce in the SEC as Jarvis Jones did without being able to transition to the NFL. 

    When all was said and done in his years at Georgia, Jones recorded 28 sacks and nine forced fumbles. Those are impressive numbers. 

    Gary Davenport filed the following report immediately after Jones' less-than-stellar pro day performance: 

    Talented as he may be, the spinal stenosis he suffers from (a narrowing of the spinal column) has already cast a huge shadow over his draft stock. It's caused some NFL teams to drop Jones on their draft boards

    Davenport went on to mention a report by Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk that indicated some teams have completely dropped Jones off their big board "altogether": 

    Last weekend, multiple reports emerged that multiple teams had taken Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones off their draft boards, for the same reason USC took Jones off the Trojans roster.

    Jones completely rebuffed these reports and seemed upset about them. 

    It isn't uncommon for teams to throw out false rumors to push the draft stock of a prospect down to where they're picking, but it's still alarming. 

    Even if it wasn't for injury concerns, where does Jones fit in as a pass-rusher? He doesn't fit in as a 4-3 defensive end and might not have the pure athleticism to translate into a pass-rush threat as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He is what you call a "tweener." 

    Interestingly, Jones was considered a top-10 lock just a few months ago. Some now have him falling to the late 20s or early 30s. Either way, don't expect the former Georgia standout to go as high as many of us expected.

Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama

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    First, it was Marcus Lattimore who was slated to be the consensus No. 1 running back in the 2013 NFL draft. But another unfortunate knee injury and questions about his durability have led to a dramatic drop down the draft board. 

    Then it was Eddie Lacy who was pegged as the top running back in the draft after a stellar BCS National Championship Game performance. However, Lacy was unable to participate in the combine due to a hamstring injury (via NFL.com). 

    While Lacy gave it a go at Alabama's "second" pro day, he was less than impressive. CBS Sports filed the following report about his performance:

    Alabama running back Eddie Lacy ran slow and had a hard time holding up during his Pro Day workout. Lacy reportedly ran 40-yard dash times between 4.57 and 4.60 and seemed out of shape. He had been battling a hamstring tear that kept him out of the combine in February. 

    This equated to what NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks had to say in a series of tweets immediately following the event.

    Disappointed in stamina and conditioning. Stopped twice during workout to catch breath. Didn't give maximum effort in drills. No finish.

    Coaches cut the workout short due to his struggles. Only asked Lacy to do 3-4 cone drills, them spent the rest of day catching passes.

    Scout and coaches left with questions about Lacy's work ethic and preparation habits. Some wondered why he wasn't ready for his big day.

    That's alarming for several reasons.

    First, you would expect Lacy to be ready and prepared for his only postseason workout prior to the draft. Second, whenever work ethic is brought up as a negative, you pay attention. 

    With solid postseason performances by Giovani Bernard, Stepfan Taylor, Le'Veon Bell and Johnathan Franklin, it appears that Lacy's stranglehold on being the No. 1 running back off the board might be loosening. 

    As it is, teams just don't value running backs high in the draft anymore. While Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson all went in the first round last season, this year's class doesn't seem to be as top-heavy. 

    If you look at the first-round order, we could look at a first day of the draft without a running back coming off the board. 

    Let's just assume that no running back, Lacy included, goes in the initial half of the first round. This would seem to indicate that the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams are the three likeliest landing spots for Lacy. However, they appear to have more pressing needs and could go in another direction. 

    While Lacy likely is still going to be the first running back off the board, he might have to wait until the Bengals, Cardinals or Jets select at the top of the second round. 

Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC

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    It's obvious that Matt Barkley's decision to return to USC for his senior season didn't turn out too well. He was considered one of the top prospects of the 2013 NFL draft heading into his last college season, but struggles and injuries have caused him to drop off the radar. 

    Instead of being a certain top-10 pick, Barkley is in the mix to be the second quarterback off the board after Smith. His competition for that status includes several mediocre or raw quarterbacks. While someone such as E.J. Manuel might have more upside, at least NFL teams know what they're going to get from Barkley.

    What does this mean for No. 7 heading into the draft? 

    While Barkley could go as high as the Buffalo Bills in the top 10, a more likely scenario is that he isn't drafted on the first day. 

    Barring a team trading up into the latter half of the first round, I just don't see a landing spot for Barkley outside of the top 10. 

    Each team selecting from 11 to 32 seems to have a starting quarterback in who they have invested time, money and draft picks. Why would a team such as the Minnesota Vikings, one of the only "possible" fits, take Barkley when it has a young quarterback on the roster? 

    The only way Barkley does end up going on the first day is if a team reaches for him in the top 10 or trades up from the top of the second to the bottom of the first. 

    Do you see that happening? 

Zach Ertz, Tight End, Stanford

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    While Matt Miller has Zach Ertz as the first tight end off the board to the San Francisco 49ers at 34 in his most recent mock draft, I doubt that happens. 

    My top tight end in the class is Tyler Eifert, and it isn't even that close. As someone who watched nearly every Stanford game over the last couple seasons, I am not sold on Ertz as being a top tight end in the NFL. 

    I see a player who might not be able to handle a full-time role in the NFL. He doesn't possess the separation ability at the line, dominance after the catch or blocking skill needed to succeed in the pros.

    I view Gavin Escobar and Vance McDonald closer to Ertz than he is to Eifert at this point.

    At the least, the gap between Ertz and "mid-tier" tight end prospects seems to have narrowed. This could indicate a steep slide for the Stanford product next week. 

Matt Elam, Safety, Florida

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    Ryan Lownes had the following to say about Matt Elam this month.

    I like Matt Elam, but I do wonder if the negatives out-weigh the positives in the NFL. Not big/athletic enough to recover from mistakes.

    — Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) April 8, 2013

    That's about where I stand on the Florida product. He doesn't seem to possess the athleticism to overcome below-average cover skills and technique along the back end of the defense. 

    Strong safeties who lack above-average coverage skills are abundant in the National Football League. We saw this with the lack of interest in Bernard Pollard in free agency last month. Teams are really looking for natural cover free safeties to team up with the strong safeties they have on their rosters. 

    Even when looking at strong safety prospects, Jonathan Cyprien and D.J. Swearinger stand out as better options. 

    I wouldn't be surprised to see Elam last to the late second or early third round. That would be a hard fall. 

Tyrann Mathieu, Cornerback, LSU

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    Tyrann Mathieu has to be one of the most divisive prospects in the draft. There are some, including myself, who believe that he has matured and should be given a shot early in the third round. Others simply believe he isn't worth the headache or the risk. 

    There is no reason to rehash the old story. 

    The overriding unknown is whether teams will look beyond Mathieu's past and take a chance on him earlier than we believe.  

    The enigmatic former Heisman Trophy finalist has met with the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, among other teams (via NFL.com)

    To succeed, he needs to go to an organization with a strong foundation in the locker room and within the coaching staff. San Francisco and New England fit that bill. 

    San Francisco selects early in the third round and needs help in the secondary, so it makes a lot of sense at this point. 

    But what happens if Mathieu does start to slide toward the end of Day 2? Have certain teams taken him completely off their draft boards?

    If so, there is a possibility that the LSU product lasts until midway through the final day. This would make him a low-risk, high-reward proposition for multiple teams. It also would indicate that franchises are starting to value "character" and "off-field" issues more than we imagined. 

    For his part, Mathieu isn't shy about taking responsibility for his mistakes. When asked by an assistant coach how many drug tests he has failed, the talented defensive reportedly stated, "I quit counting at 10. I really don’t know" (via SI.com).

    Mathieu added that he "has been clean since October." 

    Will his honesty and willingness to take responsibility come in handy on draft day? That's the million dollar question here. 

Marcus Lattimore, Running Back, South Carolina

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    Remember when Chris Polk was considered an early second-round prospect in the lead up to the 2012 NFL draft? I know it seems like ages ago, but his dramatic fall completely out of the draft last April might be a sign of things to come for Marcus Lattimore. 

    Polk, a former standout at Washington, didn't get drafted after concerns surfaced over an injured shoulder (via The Sporting News). 

    Lattimore was considered the consensus No. 1 running back in the 2013 NFL draft before another serious knee injury. The South Carolina product declared for the draft a couple months after injuring his left knee (via ESPN). 

    At that point, many concluded that he wasn't even worth a draft pick. After all, running backs have taken on less of an importance on draft day in recent seasons, and teams need to be assured that a running back can shoulder the load if they're going to take one high in the draft. 

    Interestingly enough, Lattimore seems to be vaulting up draft boards after various reports indicated that he was well ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation (via CBS Sports). 

    Still, I am not entirely sure that any team will take a chance on him in the first two days of the draft. Instead, he appears to be a project pick in the middle rounds. 

    Again, the San Francisco 49ers, who have a ton of draft picks, seem to be a possibility. 

    As it is, expect the South Carolina product to fall much further than what is projected. I wouldn't be surprised to see him last into the fifth round. 

Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU, and Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

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    Sam Montgomery, Defensive End/Linebacker, Louisiana State

    Montgomery was considered a first-round prospect during the 2012 season, but concerns over work ethic and attitude have plagued him during draft season. 

    For his part, Montgomery hasn't done himself any favors by making dumbfounding comments (via CBS Sports):

    "You know, some weeks when we didn't have to play the harder teams, there were some times when effort was not needed."

    This comment was in response to a question raised to Montgomery about whether LSU played harder against more difficult opponents. 

    Montgomery is now considered a Day 2 prospect by mainstream media outlets. In fact, I have him falling all the way to the triple digits in my most recent big board. Yes, that would be a dramatic fall for someone with the talent that he possesses. 

     

    Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California

    Again, this is one of the primary reasons it makes little sense to take a look at big board or mock drafts early in the process. Allen was considered the consensus No. 1 wide receiver in the draft this past season at California. 

    This was long before Patterson and Austin caught the attention of scouts. 

    It also was before Allen missed the combine in Indianapolis and Cal's pro day. He is now considered an early Day 2 prospect. 

    That said, we could see him fall more than that. Besides the two receivers I mentioned, Da'Rick Rogers, DeAndre Hopkins and Robert Woods might end up going higher than Allen. 

     

    Vincent Frank is an NFL featured columnist here at Bleacher Report. He was hired prior to the 2011 season and couldn't be happier working with a great group of individuals here. In addition, Vincent is the head sports editor over at eDraft, co-host of Draft Sports Radio, which airs every Monday and Wednesday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET, and a fantasy writer for Pro Football Focus.

    Go ahead and give him a follow on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.