Prior to the 2009 NFL Draft, nobody was climbing the first-round ladder faster than LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson.
When the Kansas City Chiefs were on the clock, Scott Pioli decided to pull the trigger on Jackson and made him the No. 3 overall pick.
Conversely, Southern Cal linebacker Rey Maualuga was regarded as a solid selection in the middle of the first round of that same '09 draft.
By the time Maualuga's free fall was over, he had slipped all the way down to No. 38 overall and the Cincinnati Bengals.
Each and every year, in the NFL Draft, we see guys make big sweeping moves up and down draft boards in the final hours.
Teams get panicky that they won't "get their guy," and become willing to reach or trade up to secure the player they covet. Meanwhile, other teams nitpick and obsess over certain elements (size, 40-time, motor, etc.) of college players' games, and those guys begin to slide uncontrollably once the selection meetings begin.
Tyson Jackson and Rey Maualuga are merely two examples of this, and it still remains to be seen how their respective careers will play out.
One thing is for sure, though, we will see more last-minute surprises in New York City tonight at Radio City Music Hall.
The following is a list of the 10 players most likely to rise and fall when the 2010 NFL Draft kicks off at 7:27 p.m. EST.
Mike Iupati was, without a doubt, one of the biggest risers at the Senior Bowl back in January.
Since then, the bruiser from Idaho has held pretty steady on most teams' boards as a mid to late first-rounder. Many prognosticators have had him going to either Pittsburgh at No. 18 or Green Bay at No. 23.
However, the word out of Oakland now is that Al Davis loves Iupati, and that the Raiders now plan to take him with the No. 8 overall selection. Last year, there were rumors, dismissed by many as silly, about Darrius Heyward-Bey that materialized into the No. 7 overall pick.
Don't say you weren't warned.
There are two dramatically divergent schools of thought on Jimmy Clausen. One side believes that Clausen could actually be the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's draft and will be selected among the first 10 overall picks...I'm looking at you, Mel Kiper.
The other side views Clausen as overrated, lacking the leadership and decision-making ability to ever become an elite-level NFL QB.
I happen to fall into the latter category.
I don't believe that there is any way we'll hear Clausen's name called by commissioner Roger Goodell before the 18th pick, at best. In fact, I truly do not see Clausen even being drafted on night one.
Expect Jimmy Clausen to lead off a run on QB's early in the second round on Friday night.
With the advent of so many 3-4 defenses in the NFL these days, nose tackle has become a premium position. For evidence of this trend, look no further than New England, Pittsburgh, and Green Bay where each club slapped the "franchise player" designation on their big men in the middle.
Combine the added importance at the position and the scarcity of true "power pig" types to man the nose, and you get why Linval Joseph has been rising so fast.
Anyone familiar with the San Diego Chargers knows that the team has a need for a guy like Joseph, and a general manager, A.J. Smith, who doesn't care what you and I think about him and his draft picks. See 2009 first-rounder Larry English.
You may ask, "But what about Terrence Cody?"
The primary differences between Joseph and Cody, agility and physical endurance, are why Linval fits better in a place like San Diego. Joseph is a three-down nose, while Cody as viewed around the league as solely a run stopper.
Mount Cody may be bigger and more polished, but look for Linval Joseph to be the one off the board tonight.
The slide began for Dez Bryant the moment the wideout was suspended for the remainder of his junior season by the NCAA for lying about his contact with Deion Sanders. From October 7 until now, no player in this year's draft pool has had his character assassinated more often than Bryant.
Despite the questions surrounding the young wide receiver, many believed that there was no way he would slip in the draft past the Denver Broncos at No. 12 overall. Now, even that seems to be in danger.
Bryant's immaturity, bad decision making, and diva attitude now have him likely falling into the 20's to either Cincinnati or Baltimore. The Bengals, of course, are known for taking guys with character questions, so this pick would shock no one.
For the Ravens, on the other hand, selecting Bryant would be a risk worth taking with their young nucleus of offensive talent.
Seattle may bail Bryant out and take him at No. 14 with their second first-round pick, but it will not shock me to see him fall.
On my board, Kareem Jackson has been a first-rounder since last season. Jackson has a nice skill set. He's good at virtually all elements of the cornerback position and plays extremely physical at the line of scrimmage.
Jackson's a tough corner whose ceiling may not be as high as some guys, but his floor may already be high enough to make him a starter in the NFL.
Evidently, most NFL scouts and execs are just getting on board with Jackson. He has been a steady riser since his pro day at 'Bama, and now projects as the second or third CB off the board in the middle of the first round.
Look for teams like the Titans, Steelers, Texans, and Patriots to all be possible landing spots for Jackson if he doesn't go sooner.
Here's a 'Bama product headed the other way in the draft process.
Talent notwithstanding, Rolando McLain is becoming a victim of the system in the NFL. Simply put, the inside linebacker position is not valued highly by teams, because there are always so many good guys available and true difference makers a la Patrick Willis are few and far between.
Very few people doubt that McLain is the most gifted inside linebacker on the board this year and his production while at Alabama was beyond compare.
Like Rey Maualuga a year ago, McLain is a future Pro Bowler who could fall all the way to the 30s.
Unlike Maualuga, however, don't expect to see McLain land in the second round. Defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans, with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, would gladly take Rolando off the board if he is still available at No. 32.
No player in the 2010 NFL Draft has improved his stock since the end of the season more than Rodger Saffold.
Despite possessing underrated athleticism, a powerful lower body, and prototype size (6'6", 318 pounds) for an NFL tackle, many scouts viewed Saffold as nothing more than a late-round flier who could add depth along the offensive front.
After an impressive performance in the East-West Shrine Game though, this kid has been on fire.
Now, we are hearing reports that the Indianapolis Colts are prepared to grab Saffold with the 31st overall pick if he is still available. That kind of rise would be astronomical.
Many are comparing him to Sam Baker of the Falcons, but that doesn't tell the tale. While Baker had been viewed by many, at various points, as a first-rounder, Saffold was strictly a third-day selection four months ago.
Brian Price is the kind of guy you want to root for. Growing up in the Crenshaw area of South Los Angeles, Price lost two brothers in gang-related shootings. Throughout it all, Price has managed to persevere, making it to college and thriving as a football player in the PAC-10 conference.
The on-field productivity was certainly there for Price. As a junior, he was named First Team All-America and won the Pat Tillman Award as PAC-10 defensive player of the year. All of his accolades initially led to Price being projected as a mid-first round pick in the NFL.
The problem is, upon further review, Price appears to be a tweener. At 6'2" and 300 pounds, he isn't big enough to be a dominant nose tackle, and he hasn't shown the athleticism and quickness in workouts needed to become a stellar 4-3 defensive tackle.
Seemingly every team that was really high on Price has cooled on him, and it looks like Price is going to wind up being an interesting value for someone in the second round.
Watching Jerry Hughes play his relentless style of defensive end for TCU the last four years makes it hard to imagine that he came to school as a running back.
Now, in 2010, Hughes has two First Team All-America nods under his belt and could still be facing another position change.
The 6'2", 257-pounder could very likely wind up being moved, a la Brian Orakpo last season, to outside linebacker in the NFL...even if he gets drafted by a 4-3 team.
Hughes possesses elite athletic ability and is arguably the best pass rusher available in this year's draft. Just as Orakpo did, Hughes will have to learn how to drop and cover as an NFL player, and this had many scouts and draft pundits concerned enough to slot him as a second-rounder in the beginning stages.
After the NFL Combine and individual workouts, many of those same scouts and draftniks are now in love with Hughes and have zero question about his ability to transition.
Thanks to other successful "undersized" guys like Dwight Freeney and Elvis Dumervil, expect Hughes to be selected somewhere in the middle to late first round.
Ahhh, the NFL Combine. It can make you, and it can break you. While I don't necessarily think the combine has completely broken Joe Haden, it certainly did the young man no favors.
Before Haden's fateful trip to Indianapolis, it was almost written in stone that he would be a Top-10 pick and likely wind up wearing another orange helmet up in Cleveland.
Since Indy? Not so much.
Haden, a former high school QB, is still a tremendous athlete who has fluid hips and the footwork needed to play corner at the next level. Unfortunately, Haden's 40-time was underwhelming, and scouts have started to notice that Haden doesn't like to come up and make tackles in run support.
There are even teams in the league who have Haden rated behind other CBs in this class like the aforemntioned Kareem Jackson and Kyle Wilson from Boise State.
The dream of being a Top-10 pick may be lost for Haden, but a solid career is still in sight, and the odds are still in his favor to be the first cornerback drafted—probably somewhere in the teens.