Players that used to be first-round locks will fall on draft day, and their standing as players worthy of being taken on Day 1 of the 2014 NFL draft is currently in question.
There are a handful of explanations as to why players fall on draft day. For some, off-field issues are the problem. For others, poor pro days or showings at the NFL Scouting Combine can do the trick. Oftentimes, many players fall because they simply can't rise at the same level as others previously ranked below them.
Players will fall on draft day—good ones. Here are the three that I have my eyes on.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater was once the consensus No. 1 overall pick. Then he dropped, then he rose again, and how he's back on the downswing.
Bridgewater is a vexing case for NFL scouts. He appears to have all the tools to succeed at any level, but his size continues to worry them, as does his lack of experience against top-notch competition. A poor pro day didn't help his case, but that was a result of not using his signature glove on his throwing hand.
Lance Zierlein of Sports Talk 790 in Houston believes that all of this together will result in him falling out of Round 1:
I said Teddy Bridgewater wouldn’t fall out of the 1st round. The more I gather info, the more I believe I will be wrong. Sorry Teddy fans.— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 7, 2014
Now, I'm still not sure myself if he'll drop completely out of Round 1. I think it's safe to say that he won't go in the first 15 picks, and probably not in the first 20 either. I could see a situation where he goes No. 24 to the Cincinnati Bengals or No. 26 to the Cleveland Browns, but that's a far cry from No. 1, where he was originally projected.
Bridgewater has the tools to be at least a decent quarterback, though, so it might be a steal for either team.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Kelvin Benjamin has been mocked anywhere from the mid-20s to No. 32. The San Francisco 49ers have a compelling need for a wideout at No. 30, though they might move up to grab someone more talented. The Seattle Seahawks could use someone to replace Golden Tate, but it makes sense for them to wait until Round 3 or 4 for a wide receiver.
With this being the case, don't be surprised if Benjamin hears his name called some time in the second round.
That 17 of them almost unanimously exclude him from their top five, however, doesn't reflect the potential first-round pick that Benjamin has been projected to be. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel polled 17 NFL personnel men "with national responsibilities" (read: veteran and/or high-level front-office status) for the draft's top five receivers, assigning five points for first-place votes, and the results weren't favorable for Benjamin: 1) Sammy Watkins (83 points); 2) Mike Evans (59); 3) Odell Beckham Jr. (55); 4) Brandin Cooks(25); 5) Marqise Lee (22).
Not only is Benjamin missing, he's not even on the radar. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews was next with just three votes, followed by Indiana's Cody Latimer, Colorado's Paul Richardson, and Benjamin with two each. First of all, that's an awfully steep drop from Lee to the rest of the pack. (Penn State's Allen Robinson, by the way? Nary a vote. ... but back to Benjamin.) That means between 14 and 16 of the 17 polled left the Seminoles star off their top five entirely. Then there was this hammer from one of them: "He's stiff and lazy. Can't separate. Inconsistent catcher. I don't think he has off the field what it takes to be great on field. Other than that he'll be fine."
Those definitely aren't things you want to hear about a potential first-round selection.
There are certainly better receivers in the draft than Benjamin, but it's a bit jarring to see just how some NFL executives and scouts view him. This could lead to a fall on draft day.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Pure speculation on my part, but I could see former first-round lock Louis Nix III dip out of the first round and into the early portion of the second round. His weight (342 pounds) is concerning, as are the questions that inevitably surround him regarding longevity.
If I'm a team looking for a defensive tackle in the middle of Round 1, then Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan would be my choices ahead of Nix.
That's not to knock his game, however. Nix is a physical monster who excels in getting into the backfield. He's also deceptively fast for a big lineman, giving him the ability to outmaneuver offensive linemen in his way.
The concerns are real, however, and his chances of sliding into Round 2 are real as well.