2014 NFL Draft: Who's Trending In, Out of First Round?
NFL draft boards are fickle by nature. Teams' "final" boards aren't ready until a week or so before the draft, so they're constantly shifting and adjusting their opinions on prospects until the last second.
For those in the media, new information, postseason events or simply just revisiting a prospect's film can have a major impact on a particular analyst's rankings and, eventually, their mock draft.
Mock drafts at this time of year are more for entertainment and "what if" scenarios, leading to host of unique yet well-researched first-round predictions.
After assessing various mock drafts and factoring in adjustments to prospects' grades, here's at look at who is trending in and out of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Trending In: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
After a strong senior season where he put up Heisman-worthy numbers, Derek Carr was a trendy top draft prospect, and for most evaluators, he has remained there ever since.
However, once juniors Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel declared, Carr quickly became the forgotten man, pushed aside in the quarterback discussion and in a majority of mock drafts.
While some mock drafters (myself included) have kept Carr in the first-round mix, it took NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah to discuss why Carr may be an option for the Browns at No. 26 overall to remind everyone just how talented the Fresno State passer is.
Trending Out: The Running Back Class
Last year's draft didn't feature a first-round running back thanks to a good—not great—crop of runners as well as the NFL's continuously diminishing value placed on early round running backs. While that wasn't expected to change this year, it's all but solidified that we won't see a running back go within the first 32 selections on draft day.
Charles Sims of West Virginia came into the year with high expectations, but a poor team around him led to him receiving a second-round grade. Carlos Hyde's breakout season for Ohio State and power-running style intrigues some, but like Eddie Lacy and Le'Veon Bell last year, he's destined for Round 2 at the earliest. And of the host of juniors who declared, none are in the first-round mix at this stage in the draft process.
Trending In: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
As a junior, Brandin Cooks ended his career at Oregon State with one of the most productive seasons for a receiver in recent college football history. Not only did he finish with over 1,700 receiving yards (and 217 rushing yards on top of that), but he had over 190 yards in a single game on three different occasions.
For a sub-6'0" receiver, it's not easy to land in the first round of the NFL draft.
“They say I’m not the tallest,” Cooks said to Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times, “but I feel like there’s so many guys in this game today that are potential Hall of Famers like Steve Smith, who’s killing the game right now. Or DeSean Jackson. I can go down the list. There are guys under 5-10 that are definitely great receivers.”
For Cooks, the concern on his scouting report is whether he could play outside receiver at all in the NFL and whether he's a slot only receiver. While those will persist as concerning aspects of his transition from college, a 4.33-second 40-yard dash time and a 3.81-second 20-yard shuttle time in front of NFL coaches and general mangers at the combine was enough to make him a trendy first-round option in mock drafts.
In the previously mentioned first mock draft of the year that Greg Gabriel and I wrote for National Football Post, Cooks landed with the Panthers at No. 28 overall, a solid landing spot due to his similarities with Steve Smith and the Panthers need for young receivers.
Trending Out: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio had his fair share of supporters and detractors after his college career wrapped up and he declared for May's draft. Those in support pointed to his elite strength, hand power and mauling capabilities against power rushers and in the running game. Those with concerns looked at his lack of elite lateral quickness and a rawness to his game that may take time to clean up.
But once NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that several teams failed him at the combine due to an arthritic knee, all were in agreement that it's a concerning addition to his scouting report.
However, it's important to keep in mind that not every team failed him, and one can assume that at least one team leaked the otherwise private information to the media in an effort to suppress his value.
Regardless, it's tough to expect any offensive lineman with injury concerns to get picked in Round 1. Still, don't be surprised if some team scoops him up in the middle of Round 2 and gets an immediate NFL starter.
Trending In: Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville
He's not in the consistent first-round discussion yet, but Louisville's Marcus Smith is working his way up up draft boards. After almost zero buzz coming into his junior year, Smith finished his senior season with 14.5 sacks, routinely generating pressure and allowing for the talented Louisville secondary to reap the rewards.
Smith then went to Mobile for the Senior Bowl, where he was among the best pass-rushers in attendance, particularly as a wide-rusher. And now, after participating in the combine, where he finished in the top five defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash and the broad jump, the excitement over Smith has continued to build.
Don't be surprised if he's mocked as a first-rounder in multiple spots in the weeks leading up to the draft as his draft stock continues to rise.
Trending Out: Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
Dee Ford was certainly outspoken during his combine press conference, but he never got the chance to back it up on the field while in Indianapolis.
Flagged as an injury concern and ruled out on the morning he was set to perform for evaluators, Ford wasn't able to follow up a remarkably impressive Senior Bowl week with a display of his athleticism at the combine.
Now, similar to Cyrus Kouandjio, the question is how far he will fall on draft day. With the value teams place on pass-rushers, I wouldn't expect him to fall too far.
But if the injury concerns are considered to be an issue over the long-term, there's a real chance Ford could fall out of Round 1. Keep him in your mocks as a top-32 selection for now, but be wary of the information related to his injury that likely will come out closer to draft day.
Trending In: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
While I wrote a bit about Kyle Fuller as a potential first-rounder at OptimumScouting.com shortly after the Senior Bowl, it took a Mike Mayock conference call just before the combine for those in the major media to consider Kyle Fuller as a legitimate option in the first round of May's draft.
Best used as an off-coverage, Cover 3 cornerback who utilizes plus ball skills and anticipation to make plays in coverage, Kyle Fuller seems firmly entrenched as a top-five cornerback in this class, regardless of where you look on the Internet.
In the previously mentioned mock draft at National Football Post that Greg Gabriel and I collaborated on, Greg, a former NFL player personnel director, selected Fuller for the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 20 overall pick.
Trending Out: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
For most mock drafters, Bradley Roby is considered to be a late first-round option. For a cornerback with his elite speed (4.39 40 time at the combine), flashes of shutdown capability as well as the fact that he hails from a program known for pumping out top-notch NFL defensive backs, the two-year All-American candidate Roby seemingly should be firmly entrenched within the top 20 picks.
While that's still a possibility, his struggles against physical receivers (see his performance against Wisconsin, via Andrew Worstell of DraftBreakdown.com) and prior off-field issues could make him a tough sell on draft day.
With Darqueze Dennard, Justin Gilbert, Jason Verrett and Kyle Fuller being safer and likely more consistent options for teams looking for cornerback help, Roby shouldn't consider himself a lock to go in the first round on draft day.