Although draft prospects have an idea where they currently stand on most big boards, the draft process is designed to give players a chance to improve their stock. Every year there are at least a couple college stars who take full advantage of the opportunity.
Some players weren't able to put their complete range of ability on display at the collegiate level for a myriad of reasons. Whether it be nagging injuries, crowded depth charts, poor units around them or something else, things just didn't go according to plan.
Furthermore, when you factor in a very deep draft class, some prospects have gotten lost in the shuffle at the outset. With that in mind, let's examine a trio of players who are likely to make a move up draft boards in the coming months.
Carlos Hyde (RB, Ohio State)
No running back in the 2014 class has been able to separate himself from the pack quite yet. If one is going to do it before draft day arrives and push into the first round, it's likely Hyde. He's coming off a strong senior season that saw him rack up over 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.
He's a powerful back capable of taking on a workhorse role at the next level. The most impressive thing from his college career was how he made progress in other areas, such as blocking and receiving, to become a more complete prospect by the time his senior season ended.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compared him to Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers:
If you're upset that your team passed on Eddie Lacy, just hope they draft Carlos Hyde.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 4, 2014
Hyde will have to outshine Tre Mason, Ka'Deem Carey and Bishop Sankey, among others, to earn the distinction of being the top back available. His all-around game gives him a great chance to do that and could allow him to hear his name called in the second half of Round 1.
Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Cooks had a monster final season with Oregon State. The lightning-quick wideout reeled in 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns. The yardage total led the nation. Yet, even with those numbers, he's on the first-round fringe due to a crowded wide receiver group.
Which of these players has the brightest NFL future?
Aside from a talented group of fellow wideouts, Cooks' other issue is concerns about whether his game will translate to the next level. He doesn't have ideal size at 5'10'' and 186 pounds, which means he must prove his quickness and playmaking ability is enough to offset that.
When front offices consider the success Tavon Austin, a fellow small receiver with a little more natural speed, had in his rookie season with the St. Louis Rams and see Cooks brings similar open-field ability, he should begin to climb draft boards. He could end up closer to the middle of the opening round.
Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Donald is another player dealing with questions about his lack of size. While the defensive tackle was often dominant during his time with Pittsburgh, he's just 6'0'' and 285 pounds. It leads to questions about whether he'll be able to make a consistent impact against NFL offensive lines.
He says the smaller frame makes it easier for him to gain leverage against bigger lineman, and he uses his other skills to get into the backfield. Brent Sobleski of USA Today passed along comments from the defensive lineman about his strengths:
It's a bonus for me to have the leverage. When you're double-teamed by two guys that are 300-plus pounds, it's important for me to get low and use my technique. It's important for me to get up under those guys and push up to control them.
Having that first step, using my natural instincts, and keeping my hands inside; it allows me to get that guy that's over top of me. I don't worry about the [offensive] tackle. If he's trying to come down on me, I use my hands, push them up and dip my shoulder. It's hard for a guy to come down and get a block if you pushing back the other lineman.
Donald's success in college proves it's not all talk—he can back it up. Considering the top defensive tackle spot is still very much up for grabs, he has a terrific opportunity to fill the void and help his draft stock with some strong showings in the coming months.