Former College Stars Whose 2014 NFL Draft Stocks Dropped in Their Final Seasons
We talk often about draft risers, players such as Blake Bortles and Greg Robinson who emerge seemingly from nowhere to become potential top-five draft picks.
But what about the flip side of the coin?
Just as Bortles and Robinson used a breakout 2013 season to put themselves in this position, players who began the year on NFL scouts' radars used poor 2013 seasons to play themselves out of it.
The results of this can be seen in the work of B/R's Matt Miller, who put out a first-round mock draft last June and another—his final seven-round mock of the season—last week. Some of the differences in player stocks are amazing.
For the purposes of this list, we will only count players who hurt their stock by playing poorly. Not included will be players such as Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who dropped from No. 19 in the June mock to No. 112 in the May mock but enjoyed a fine season in 2013. His drop had more to do with the rise of other running backs and the devaluation of his position in NFL scouting circles.
Other exclusions from this list will be anyone, like Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin, who has dropped because of an injury. Instead, this list will focus on players who did not post the same game tape in 2013 as they did in the season prior—that being the reason they'll slip.
QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Matt Miller's June Mock: 8
Matt Miller's May Mock: 175
Tajh Boyd led Clemson to an 11-2 record and Orange Bowl victory last season, beating every team on his schedule that didn't finish in the top four of the final AP poll (and usually doing so with ease).
His performance in those losses to Florida State and South Carolina, however, was a little disconcerting, continuing an unpleasant trend for Boyd's career. On the biggest stages against the best defenses, he laid a couple eggs, posting an average QB rating of 102.5—more than 80 points lower than his average against the other 11 teams.
For someone with Boyd's size concerns (6'0"), a knock for shrinking from the moment is far less than ideal. Same goes for a lackluster performance at the Senior Bowl, where he had a chance to shine.
"I think after the whole Senior Bowl experience where it didn't go as well as some people wanted it to I started to get a whole bunch of negative vibes," said Boyd, per Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com. "That's not necessarily from the teams (but) more so the media in general."
In the same piece, Boyd says he's hearing he will go no later than the third round, but still, all in all, it was a dirt poor season for his stock.
WR Cody Hoffman, BYU
Matt Miller's June Mock: 30
Matt Miller's May Mock: 230
At 6'4", 233 pounds, Cody Hoffman has the height and weight that NFL teams covet in a possession receiver.
Coming off a junior season where he caught 100 passes for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns, it made sense for Miller to place him in the first round of his offseason mock.
However, Hoffman's stats regressed in BYU's run-first system last season, all the way down to 57 catches for 894 yards and five touchdowns. Even if the scheme had something to do with that, a cutting-in-half of his reception numbers was not a good look for someone who plays Hoffman's position.
In the end, Hoffman's height and record-setting career at BYU will beguile someone into taking him in the later rounds, but he may not have the speed or technique to last long in the pros.
OLB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
Matt Miller's June Mock: 18
Matt Miller's May Mock: 147
Adrian Hubbard is one of the few players whose potential Nick Saban and Kirby Smart could never quite unlock.
When he's on, he looks like a reasonable facsimile of Aldon Smith—an allusion Miller made in his offseason mock draft. When he's not, he looks more like a hulking bag of bones than a football player.
Hubbard was off for most of the 2013 season, recording only 33 tackles, three sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.
More than many underclassmen in this draft class, he probably could have benefited from another year of school.
WR Marqise Lee, USC
Matt Miller's June Mock: 3
Matt Miller's May Mock: 45
Marqise Lee wasn't bad in 2013—he just wasn't the Marqise Lee of old.
Some of that had to do with injuries, some of it had to do with early season quarterback struggles and some of it had to do with the toxic environment Lane Kiffin fostered before being fired as head.
Regardless, the deflated production had a noticeable effect on Lee's once-top-five draft stock. Although he is still mentioned as a potential first-round selection, he is no longer talked about as the best receiver—or even one of the three best—in the class.
Before the season, when he was coming off a runaway Biletnikoff campaign, he was almost a consensus No. 1.
DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida
Matt Miller's June Mock: 7
Matt Miller's May Mock: 243
Aaron Lynch is a former 5-star recruit and top-10 overall player on the 247Sports Composite, and before transferring to South Florida he posted 5.5 sacks in a promising true freshman season at Notre Dame.
Although his numbers were decent last season—five sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss—Lynch never became the indomitable force many thought he would be and USF struggled throughout the season.
Lynch is still raw and has the measurables (6'5'', 249 lbs) and explosive burst to one day become successful. However, his production and technique do not match his potential, which makes it hard for a team to justify taking him in the early rounds.
CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Matt Miller's June Mock: 32
Matt Miller's May Mock: 162
Loucheiz Purifoy was billed as a freaky athlete with good, long size and plus cover skills. He remains two of those things.
No one can deny Purifoy's playmaking ability, and his size (5'11.5") is ideal for the new-age NFL. However, his footwork is inconsistent and he lacks the innate skills needed to track a ball through the air or remain disciplined in zone coverage.
By the end of last season, he was arguably—no, probably—the fifth-best defensive back on Florida's roster. On a team with Vernon Hargreaves III, Marcus Roberson, Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs, there is theoretically no shame in becoming the fifth wheel.
Unless, of course, you were supposed to be the first.
CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
Matt Miller's June Mock: 9
Matt Miller's May Mock: 34
Bradley Roby might still go in the first round Thursday night, and he will almost definitely be gone by the end of Round 2.
None of that, however, will have to do with the performance he put on tape this past season, when he was beaten skewered by Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin and consistently beaten by lesser Big Ten receivers in the latter part of the schedule.
Roby is a prototypical NFL corner in his underwear, which explains his impressive combine showing—look at how fluid his hips are!—and the optimism Miller felt for his stock this offseason.
But at some point, you have to prove you can cover someone.
DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
Matt Miller's June Mock: 12
Matt Miller's May Mock: 99
Stephon Tuitt led Notre Dame in sacks and tackles for loss in 2013, but it didn't feel like he was the same player.
After finishing with 11 in both categories during the national title run in 2012, his total fell to 7.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss as a junior, and he consistently looked sluggish getting off the ball.
Tuitt is endowed with a rare frame (6'5", 304 lbs) and athleticism to match it, but he doesn't use his strength particularly well on tape and appears not to play with the edge most teams would like to see.
The potential is still there—no doubt.
But Tuitt is no longer a "can't miss" guy.