NFL Draft 2017 Stock Watch: Who's Rising, Who's Falling Post-Senior Bowl
Now that the game is over, we can finally cement whose stock went up and whose stock went down during the Senior Bowl. Though most of the evaluating took place during practices, simply because of the volume of practice time relative to game play, there is still an emphasis put on evaluating the game, though most scouts depart Mobile, Alabama, by kickoff.
We'll go through and name players whose stock is rising while also discussing prospects who disappointed during the week. Some of these players had huge games, while others were consistent forces in practice reps.
Either way, this list of players is the crash course you need to use as your Senior Bowl takeaways.
Stock Up: Nathan Peterman, QB, Pittsburgh
No quarterback rose more during Senior Bowl week than Nathan Peterman, even though some passers outperformed him in the game. Peterman's first win was at the weigh-in, when he measured in at over 6'2", according to Optimum Scouting, and he had more wins throughout the week.
Lance Zierlein of NFL Network even said he expects Peterman's rise to take him into the draft's second round. This shouldn't be too surprising, since NFL Draft Scout had listed Peterman as the top senior quarterback prospect before the week began.
Peterman started his career at the University of Tennessee, where he lost the starting job to Josh Dobbs, who was also at the Senior Bowl. After throwing just 43 passes, one of which you can find on YouTube under the title "Amazingly Bad Pass," Peterman decided to move on with a transfer to Pittsburgh, where he started for the majority of his final two collegiate seasons.
With the Panthers, he threw 47 touchdowns to just 15 interceptions, and he evidently caught the attention of Phil Savage, the Senior Bowl executive director and a former Cleveland Browns general manager. If you're going to make a comparison of Peterman to any NFL starter, the easiest one to make is Kirk Cousins, who was at Michigan State when current head coach Pat Narduzzi was a defensive coordinator with the Spartans.
Stock Down: Dawuane Smoot, EDGE, Illinois
Coming into the season, there were high expectations for Dawuane Smoot of Illinois. According to Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout, he was a first-round candidate, and he had received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board before returning for school in 2016.
Smoot posted 14.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks as a junior, and there was a realistic possibility that he could develop into a Shaq Lawson-type talent in 2016. The Buffalo Bills drafted Lawson 19th overall in the 2016 draft, despite the fact he had a lingering shoulder issue, which surgery corrected prior to his rookie season starting.
Smoot's senior season—in which he had 15 tackles for loss and five sacks—didn't elevate him much. That's an issue, as he aged a year and was playing under a new staff at Illinois that had several defensive coaches with NFL backgrounds, ranging from head coach Lovie Smith to defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson to defensive line coach Mike Phair.
In Senior Bowl practices, Smoot was invisible, doing nothing to positively or negatively stand out.
Smoot has a chance to once again trend upward with a quality NFL Scouting Combine, but his week in Mobile didn't bode well for his stock, considering that he was considered arguably the best edge defender heading into the week.
Stock Up: Jordan Willis, EDGE, Kansas State
Jordan Willis of Kansas State didn't make much noise in practice, but there's no doubt he had the best performance of any pass-rusher in Saturday's game. Willis had two sacks, two forced fumbles and a pass breakup, and that will attract the attention of all 32 NFL franchises, since it was in the draft cycle's premier all-star game.
Willis' style of play is odd. He has explosive ability off the line of scrimmage, which can lead to pressures, but his ability to bend doesn't correlate to NFL success. In some ways, he's like a sawed-off version of Emmanuel Ogbah, who also produced in the Big 12 Conference at Oklahoma State.
Ogbah was drafted 32nd overall in the 2016 draft. Another comparison that will come up, because their style of play and athleticism are so similar, is Nick Perry, who was drafted 28th overall in 2012. It took Perry up until his fifth NFL season—2016—to total more than four sacks in a season.
Christian Page of Optimum Scouting was told Willis will likely be a top-50 pick, and even in a pass-rushing class this deep—considering where players of his skill level have come off the board in recent years—that seems like a strong possibility.
Stock Up: Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
There was no offensive tackle more consistent in Mobile than Western Michigan's Taylor Moton. Coming into the event, there was a lot of hype surrounding Antonio Garcia of Troy, an athletic tackle, and Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky, who performed well against Alabama in their 2016 matchup.
Garcia looked the part of a Terron Armstead-type, but he had some up-and-down reps, especially early on in the first practice. Lamp struggled at bookend, but he looked solid as a guard before he was scratched out of the game with an injury.
Moton was originally listed as a guard when he accepted his invitation, but he played tackle for the vast majority of the week, including in the game. He played almost exclusively on the right side of the line, where he played in 2016 for the Broncos, but he did flip from tackle to guard to tackle in his last three seasons.
Pat Kirwan, a former NFL scout who now works with Real Football Network and Sirius XM, said Moton was the tackle he liked the most this week. Moton is almost assured a spot on Day 2 of the draft, and if his combine plays out how we expect, he might be able to flirt with a top-40 selection, considering how weak this offensive line class is overall, particularly at offensive tackle.
Stock Down: Zach Banner, OT, USC
For whatever reason, USC's Zach Banner played on the North squad this year, and he struggled in practices. Listed at 6'8" and 361 pounds, Banner was the slowest-moving offensive lineman in North practices, and that shouldn't come as a surprise.
According to Emily Kaplan's MMQB article, Banner was 385 pounds during the 2015 season, and he was 345 pounds in the following camp. He acknowledged that he could fluctuate five to 10 pounds a day, but the fact that he's gained 16 pounds since camp started until now, when he should be getting lighter, is a problem.
Banner has flirted with declaring for the draft, dating back to the 2014 regular season, according to Tony Pauline, who used to write for a now defunct site called TFY Draft Insider. Though the original source is gone, it is still archived on Rotoworld's blurbs:
Banner is the son [of] former top 10 pick and longtime starting NFL tackle Lincoln Kennedy, so obviously he has a great pedigree which is something NFL teams frequently bring up. Banner stands at a monstrous 6'9/350 pounds and has seen most of his time as the school's starting right tackle.
Banner is mostly living off his father's name, his size and his recruiting ranking. He hasn't done enough at the college level to warrant being an NFL starter, but he's a good story, so he gets press at a fairly boring position. Expect the correction to come when media members start digging into his film and start receiving opinions of scouts on projected mid-round selections.
Stock Up: Haason Reddick, LB/EDGE, Temple
Temple's Haason Reddick, a hybrid defender who was praised by just about every soul in Mobile, was the star of the week.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock said he had the best week of anyone at the Senior Bowl. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said he helped himself more than anyone. This was all after Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout said before the weekend he was one of the best prospects at the Senior Bowl.
Reddick has an incredible background. He attended Temple as a walk-on cornerback recruit but converted to linebacker and eventually defensive end for the team. For the Senior Bowl, he was not only moved off the line of scrimmage, likely due to his sub-240-pound size, but also to inside linebacker, instead of outside linebacker.
From an athletic standpoint, he could be as close as we can get to a Derrick Johnson-type in this draft class. Reddick can be a run-and-chase linebacker or a pass-rusher, but he's going to struggle in the size battle in the ground game no matter what scheme he plays in.
If he can find a team that pairs him with a thumper as a 3-4 inside linebacker, or he's allowed to drop down as a pass-rusher and/or blitzer as a 4-3 outside linebacker, he has Pro Bowl potential because of his athleticism. Recently, the Cleveland Browns' Jamie Collins signed the fourth-largest NFL contract for any linebacker, the most for an off-the-ball linebacker by average salary, and that was after he flashed just one Pro Bowl season with his athleticism.