NFL Draft Stock Watch: Who Is Rising and Falling After Pro Days?
In what was a pro day season that got more media attention than any I've seen in the past, the long March and early April circuit has finally come to a close, other than a few schools going through a second round of team workouts this week.
It was an eventful month for NFL franchises, one that featured two top quarterbacks move their stocks in opposite directions, two receivers put themselves firmly on teams’ minds in the top 100 and three highly touted athletes wasting their final opportunity to impress teams publicly before the draft.
Here are 10 prospects who rose or fell due to their pro day workouts.
Rising: Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
At the Senior Bowl, Derek Carr stayed late after multiple practices to work with his receivers, impressing NFL teams with his work ethic and desire to have success in an all-star-game setting.
In the morning of his March 20 pro day, Carr reportedly was vomiting, sick to the point of needing an IV during the day, according to CBS' Rob Rang. Despite his sickness, Carr opted to perform in the workout and completed 56 of 63 passes, demonstrating his arm strength and velocity at all points of the field.
His performance alone likely would've shown scouts he’s talented enough to eventually be an NFL starter, but performing while sick shows his competitiveness as well, and teams may be able to rest easier about his ability to stick in the NFL for the future.
In a pro day circuit that received much fanfare, Carr's workout flew a bit under the radar, but he gave himself ammunition to be one of the top quarterbacks selected on draft day.
Falling: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
In a near-opposite situation compared to Carr, Teddy Bridgewater had every reason to succeed during his pro day. However, in a scripted workout designed to highlight his strengths, Bridgewater struggled. Quoted by Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock claimed Bridgewater's performance was "very average at best."
At a post-workout press conference the QB remained upbeat (via Jaguars.com). "I think I did pretty good today," Bridgewater said. "Competed. Threw the ball on time [and] in rhythm."
While pro days for quarterbacks tend to be over-valued when they’re strong (see: Blaine Gabbert and JaMarcus Russell), it’s generally concerning when a passer struggles in a workout that he should be prepared for. Teams expect quarterbacks to be on point throughout, not displaying placement or timing issues like Bridgewater reportedly had to work through.
As the draft gets closer and reports work toward finalization for all NFL franchise, every negative step along the way for Bridgewater adds more doubt as to whether a team should invest a high pick in him.
Rising: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
The best part of the pro day circuit, and one of the key reasons teams value it, is when prospects who didn't get a great chance to thrive in college build buzz and force evaluators to reconsider where they had them ranked.
Cody Latimer played at Indiana, one of the lesser teams in the Big Ten, and was a bit forgotten about during his junior season. After declaring, he didn’t get the chance to build any excitement about his game until his March 26 pro day due to foot surgery that limited him to the bench press at the combine.
The 6'2" receiver, who finishes catches at a high level, boasted 4.39 and 4.43 40 times along with a 39-inch vertical leap, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, all highly impressive workout results. After posting numbers like that, Latimer may have put himself in the top-64 discussion.
Falling: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
In a class that features plenty of depth, it’s stiff competition for every tight end prospect for draft position. That's bad news for Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was ruled out of the NFL Scouting Combine due to a stress fracture found during medical checks and also missed his pro day while recovering from surgery.
According to CBS' Rob Rang, he may not be able to work out for teams prior to the draft either.
While his length and red-zone ability is still likely to intrigue teams, having an injury teams won’t be able to confirm is OK before draft day could very well force him deep into Day 2, if not further. Teams may opt for prospects like Troy Niklas of Notre Dame, C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa or Richard Rodgers of California instead.
Rising: Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
While the Wyoming pro day was supposed to be all about quarterback Brett Smith, one of the bigger combine snubs, receiver Robert Herron, made sure to steal some of the spotlight and remind teams why he produced at such a high level in college.
According to Benjamin Allbright, Herron was clocked at 4.25 and 4.29 in his 40 time, both highly impressive for a slot receiver who, on film, extends away from his frame very well as a pass-catcher to complement his polished interior routes.
Nearly every team relies on slot receivers as a key part of its offense, and combining his pro day numbers with film from his senior year, Herron has a chance to be viewed as one of the premier slot options in the 2014 draft.
Falling: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami (FL)
One of the highest-rated players in the country out of high school, Seantrel Henderson has been a constant disappointment throughout his career, including starting just half of his games at Miami as a senior.
Despite those inconsistency and work ethic concerns, NFL teams still have interest in bringing in the ideally built, high-upside blocker into their organizations to try to tap into the potential the Hurricanes coaching staff wasn't able to.
However, Henderson did himself no favors at his April 3 pro day, leaving the individual workout early, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.
Henderson’s agent told the Miami Herald that he was unable to finish due to being sick and suffering from dehydration, both realistic possibilities to explain his seemingly abrupt departure from practice. Whatever the reason, Henderson needed to answer questions about his ability to play at an NFL level, and he didn't come close to resolving those concerns at his pro day.
Rising: Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
At Missouri's pro day on March 20, Michael Sam received most of the attention. He’s emerged as one of the most discussed prospects in the 2014 NFL draft since announcing he is gay and could become the first openly gay athlete to play in the NFL.
However his more talented teammate, Kony Ealy, was the featured performer, posting 40 times in the mid-4.6s, impressing in his three-cone drill and posting a strong individual workout, according to CBS’ Rob Rang.
After his notable workout, landing in the top 20 picks isn't out of the question for the versatile pass-rusher. He could go as high as 11th overall to the Tennessee Titans, who are in need of depth and a potential defensive end/5-technique in new defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s defense.
Falling: Yawin Smallwood, ILB, UConn
In a relatively lackluster linebacker class, the athletic and rangy Yawin Smallwood has a chance to be a trendy late riser for teams in need of immediate help at the position, especially in 4-3 defenses.
But after being limited during the combine with an injury, Smallwood again was bothered by a hamstring injury at his pro day on March 11, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.
While teams don’t “need” to see Smallwood perform at his pro day to draft him, it may give teams pause as to whether they’re ready to invest a high pick in a player who twice has been unable to perform when scouts were present. Hopefully he’ll get the chance to work out for teams again before the draft, but Smallwood missed his opportunity during the pro day circuit.
Rising: Jimmie Ward, Safety, Northern Illinois
Jimmie Ward is one of my personal favorites at the safety position thanks to his versatility as a strong safety or cornerback, especially in nickel situations. However, after being unable to perform at the NFL Scouting Combine due to a foot injury, he needed to re-establish himself as a top safety during his pro day workout.
Fully recovered, Ward posted a 4.47 40 time in front of multiple teams, including Ravens defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Lions defensive backs coach Alan Williams, according to Derek Harper of CBS.
Shortly after the workout, Ward decided to have surgery on his foot, getting a screw inserted. His recovery timetable should allow him to return before the draft in May, which could allow Ward to take advantage of a mediocre 2014 safety class.
Falling: Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, CBs, Florda
Both Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy needed to come up strong at Florida's pro day after their mediocre junior seasons, and they failed to do so.
According to Rob Rang of CBS, both had 40 times in the mid-4.5s to low-4.6s, neither all that impressive for two cornerbacks who tout plus-athleticism as their prime strength on their scouting reports.
Roberson is the better prospect of the two, but despite the high expectations set for them coming into the season, neither has shown enough to be a top-100 lock.
In a cornerback class that could have used a fast riser due to the lack of top-end talent, both Roberson and Purifoy missed a golden opportunity, and I personally wouldn’t vouch for either one early in the draft.