Every year, the NFL draft goes through the ebbs and flows with players that should be high draft picks to sometimes falling back into later rounds.
But on the alternate end of that equation, some players tend to see a meteoric rise in their draft stock after participating in the Senior Bowl or the combine. Both risers and droppers in the draft can affect each other, but the rise is certainly more warranted for a few players in this year's draft.
A record 98 underclassmen declared themselves eligible for the 2014 NFL draft. While several were understandable, a few didn't make sense. With the Senior Bowl coming up this weekend, several players could see their draft stock immediately rise or plummet after their play.
With all of this in mind, here are three players who will see their draft stock fly in the coming months before the NFL draft officially kicks off on May 8.
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
In a quarterback heavy draft, Jimmy Garoppolo is clearly not the first name popping up on many NFL draft boards. But with a good week thus far at the Senior Bowl and several other opportunities to prove himself against other top players in the draft, he could see his draft stock rise in the coming months.
The senior out of Eastern Illinois—Tony Romo, anyone?—won the Offensive MVP award in the 2014 East-West Shrine Game after going 9-of-14 with 100 passing yards and a touchdown.
When he arrived at the Senior Bowl, he made an immediate impact among draft scouts. According to Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller, Garoppolo is just behind quarterback Derek Carr of Fresno State:
Second-best quarterback in Mobile, by far, has been Jimmy Garoppolo. Spinning the ball, quick & compact release. Like him a lot.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
Along with the praise he's been receiving during the draft-scouting process, he's also clearly coveted by one team that just so happens to have a high draft pick in both the first and second rounds.
According to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com, the Jacksonville Jaguars requested that Garoppolo be added to the Senior Bowl roster. When he was told about the situation, the signal-caller spoke to Goodbread about the opportunity:
"It's a good feeling," Garoppolo said. "It's an honor to be here and compete with the best in the nation. [...] I really didn't have an idea until my agent called me. It's a blessing."
With the Jaguars staff coaching the South squad, they will have plenty of opportunities to see his play on the field. If Garoppolo makes a good impression now, it could pay dividends when the draft rolls around.
Michael Sam, OLB/DE, Missouri
The word on Michael Sam thus far has been a mixed bag, to say the least. In terms of his play thus far in the Senior Bowl, David Morrison of the Columbia Daily Tribune summed it up best in a recent tweet:
So, depending on who you follow, Michael Sam had either a really good or a really bad day at Senior Bowl practices.— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) January 21, 2014
But what Sam has done thus far is try to transition to the outside linebacker position from defensive end. It hasn't been perfect, but he has made an impression on scouts with his explosiveness and could see his draft stock rise.
Sam's teammate, Kony Ealy, is regarded as a first-round lock and is seen by CBS Sports' Rob Rang and Dane Brugler as the No. 17 pick overall. But according to Saturday Down South, Sam actually ranked ahead of both his teammate and Jadeveon Clowney, as the twitter account SEC Logo reports:
SEC’s top 10 defensive ends for 2013 1. Michael Sam 2. Kony Ealy 3. Dee Ford 4. Jadeveon Clowney 5. Markus Golden http://t.co/4GQyDhdFL6— The SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo) January 20, 2014
Sam's status could still go in either direction, but with a good performance in the Senior Bowl and combine, he could be one of the biggest movers in the draft.
Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews is widely considered one of the best wide receivers in the draft. The only problem is that the class is very deep with quality wideouts.
But with his performance thus far in Senior Bowl practices, it appears his work ethic might be the biggest part of his game that has scouts drooling. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times points out on Twitter that both Matthews and Carr were on the field well after practices wrapped up:
Matthews led the SEC in receptions for the last two years and is a physical weapon, at 6'3", 190 pounds, for quarterbacks to look for. Along with his height, Matthews is also quick off of the line and has good moves, as Miller notes on Twitter:
Jordan Matthews very quick off the line. Poor Lavelle Westbrooks got left in the dirt. Looked like his shoes were tied together.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
With several teams like the Carolina Panthers looking for quality receivers in the late-first round, Matthews could rise quickly in the draft.
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