2018 NFL Draft: Stock Watch for This Season's Biggest Risers and Fallers so Far
It's inevitable that players will move up and down draft boards once the season starts. Injuries, good or bad play, won or lost starting jobs and development or regression all affect where NFL teams value players. For some, playing well early on has bolstered their stock. Others have seen diminished roles lead to a drop in value.
Which players are moving up and down the board the most as we hit the midway point of the football season? Taking into account all the reasons—both on and off the field—below is a look at 12 players who have made major moves on my big board since the summer.
Some of the players below are now considered top-10 players, while others are off the board completely. And one player who started the year as the top overall player but has struggled so far doesn't make the list.
Why no Josh Allen? The Wyoming quarterback was my top-ranked player over the summer and has indeed struggled this year. That said, every NFL scout or executive I talk to continues to say Allen will be a top-10 pick in April. Going from top overall to top 10 doesn't warrant mention here.
Stock Up: RB Bryce Love, Stanford
Replacing Christian McCaffrey looked like an impossible job after the junior running back was a Heisman finalist in 2016. His replacement, Bryce Love, wasn't on my radar as a draft prospect when the season began. That changed about two quarters into the year.
Love has been on fire, showing excellent vision and balance on his way to almost 1,400 yards rushing in seven starts. And while he hasn't shown great ability yet as a receiver, Love's low center of gravity and ability as a between-the-tackles runner has him moving up draft boards.
Going from unranked in the summer to a potential first-rounder now is a rise worth talking about.
Stock Down: WR Antonio Callaway, Florida
It wasn't that long ago I was calling Antonio Callaway the potential WR1 in the 2018 class. Unfortunately, he hasn't seen the field yet, and it's all his doing.
Callaway has been suspended for the entire season thus far and is facing felony charges of fraud after he, and other teammates, made purchases on school-issued debit cards and sold the goods. The players then reported the cards stolen and disputed the charges. That's a felony.
On the field, the 5'11", 190-pound Callaway looked like a college version of Antonio Brown. The University of Florida might be patient with Callaway, who has been in trouble three times in three seasons, but the NFL will not be willing to overlook criminal charges and a history of off-field issues.
At this point, Callaway shouldn't be considered draftable. Not after a sexual assault allegation in 2016 and a suspension due to marijuana use. Until he gives us a reason to put him back on the map, Callaway is off my board completely.
Stock Up: RB Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
The best player the casual fan hasn't heard of yet in the 2018 draft class is San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny. The 5'11", 220-pound senior sat behind Donnel Pumphrey until this season and has already amassed 1,000 yards rushing in half a year.
Penny actually went over 1,000 yards rushing last year on just 136 carries in a backup role. As a contrast to Pumphrey, who is 5'9" and 170 pounds, Penny's size and speed are a perfect mix for the NFL. He's been an asset running between the tackles and has even been used well in the return and receiving game. As a three-tool threat, Penny looks to be drafted much higher than Pumphrey (pick No. 132 last year).
Stock Down: LB Jerome Baker, Ohio State
The athletic coverage linebacker is very much needed across the NFL right now, and the thought this summer was that Ohio State's Jerome Baker would be highly sought after to fill the role. He may be still, but the tape this fall has Baker falling down the board.
The Ohio State defense is loaded with enough talent that Baker, playing linebacker, is free to attack the ball without many blockers getting to him at the second level of the defense. That should allow him to run clean alleys to the ball. The film shows Baker being hesitant to mix it up on run downs.
The athleticism and potential Baker brings to the table could still put him in the first round, but my ranking on him has slipped from top 15 to the top of the second round.
Stock Up: DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
The notable names at pass-rusher when NFL scouts started sharing notes this summer were Arden Key (LSU) and Harold Landry (Boston College). My summer notes on North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb had him as a fringe first-rounder but probably a second-round guy. Not anymore.
Chubb, who ranks inside my top 10 players, has shown a combination of burst and power that will turn the heads of every scout and executive who walks in the door. At a listed 6'4" and 275 pounds, Chubb has the size to be a true 4-3 defensive end at the next level. The way he uses his length and hands to get free from blockers is also pro-level.
Testing times are very important for pass-rushers, so Chubb's stock could fluctuate some, but he looks locked in as a top-20 pick.
Stock Down: QB Luke Falk, Washington State
When you talked to NFL scouts and college coaches in August, many were hyping up Luke Falk as the No. 4 ranked quarterback in the 2018 class behind Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold. Now he's closer to No. 7 or 8.
Falk lacks elite NFL arm strength, and the spread scheme he's coming from at Washington State under head coach Mike Leach will receive plenty of criticism from NFL clubs due to the quick-read style with a ton of space for the receivers that simply isn't there in the pros. Falk has also suffered at least one head injury this year and was briefly benched by the Cougars.
I liken Falk to an Andy Dalton-type passer. His short-area accuracy and touch are very good, but he needs to be limited to a West Coast Offense. That could still make him a second-rounder, but it's more likely he slips outside the top 64 picks.
Stock Up: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
Looking at the cornerback class before the season began, there were a number of big names expected to have breakout seasons. Tarvarus McFadden at FSU, Jaire Alexander at Louisville and first-time starter Denzel Ward at Ohio State all showed up on top lists. One name I don't recall seeing was Isaiah Oliver of Colorado.
Oliver was stuck behind Ahkello Witherspoon and Chidobe Awuzie last year but has been a standout player so far this season. With ideal NFL size (6'1", 195 lbs), length and agility, Oliver might be the best cornerback in the 2018 class based on the first half of the season.
As an athlete, Oliver will test very well, and coaching staff contacts at CU say he's a great leader on and off the field. Don't be surprised if he's a consensus first-round prospect once the draft rolls around.
Stock Down: RB Mike Weber, Ohio State
Junior running back Mike Weber was supposed to be the man for Ohio State's offense this season, but a hamstring injury suffered in camp limited him early in the year. That opened the door for true freshman JK Dobbins. Weber lost the starting job after Dobbins rushed for 181 yards in the opener against Indiana.
At the midway point of the year, Weber has just 45 carries and a very limited role in the offense outside of his 18 carries against Nebraska in a blowout win. A player who once had top-50 potential is now an almost forgotten piece of the offense.
Weber could still rebound with a strong second half, but there's no doubt that his stock has fallen with the emergence of Dobbins.
Stock Up: TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
The best tight end in the nation wasn't even ranked on my preseason big board.
Mark Andrews has played exceptionally well in Lincoln Riley's offense, and with the development of quarterback Baker Mayfield, he's becoming more of a weapon down the field. Andrews torched the Texas Longhorns (four catches, 104 yards, 1 TD) and has been a consistent weapon for the Oklahoma attack all season.
He might not see huge targets and reception numbers, but Andrew's size (6'5", 254 lbs) and pass-catching ability are worthy of top-40 talk.
Stock Down: OT Mason Cole, Michigan
A move to left tackle for Mason Cole was made to help the team, but in turn it's affected his draft stock in a negative way. Cole as a center last season was being talked about as a top-50 player over the summer in my conversations with NFL scouts. On my own board now, after the experiment in space, he's looking more like a third-rounder.
Cole's stock could rebound once he gets into the postseason and we're able to see him at center during the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. If graded purely at tackle, he doesn't have starter talent at the pro level. Looking at Cole as a center, which is his most natural position, he could still be a second-rounder, but the season away from the middle of the line has hurt him. Will Cole be able to shake off the rust of playing tackle and recover well back at center?
Stock Up: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
No player has moved up my board as much as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield this season.
In August, Mayfield was ranked as a Day 3 quarterback based on his 2016 game film. I saw a great athlete but a short quarterback who lacked the arm strength to push the ball vertically or take advantage of the entire field. Mayfield's arm, and his ability to hit on all levels of the field, look completely different this year.
As a passer, Mayfield has improved what he does from the pocket while still being a dangerous runner. It's easy to look at what he does on the field and think he could be a poor man's Russell Wilson.
As long as he checks boxes off the field, Mayfield has a real chance to be a first-round pick in April.
Stock Down: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Lamar Jackson is one of the most exciting players in college football. He might be in the 10 most exciting players of the last 10 years. We have to remember, though, that being great on Saturday doesn't automatically mean you translate to being great on Sunday.
Jackson entered the year with a blank slate on my rankings due to him being a true junior (I don't study non-eligible players). After seeing him in person and evaluating the first half of the 2017 season on tape, I see a great athlete who can make flash plays but struggles with consistency in his accuracy and in his reads. Jackson can beat any defense in college with his legs, but that's not a skill set that can translate to the NFL full-time. Your primary trait as a quarterback in the NFL can't be as a runner, and for Jackson, it is.
So much of a quarterback's final grade happens after the season once there's time for interviews and complete studies of field vision and progressions, but currently Jackson sits at QB7 on my board.