NFL Draft Stock Update: 10 Guys Whose Draft Stock Doesn't Tell the Full Story
Out there are guys like Patrick Peterson, Da'Quan Bowers and Ryan Mallett, guys who have the talent and the numbers to solidify their positions in the top 10 of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Then there are guys like Adrian Clayborn, Julio Jones and Jonathan Baldwin, who all show exceptional talent and abilities but have sunk in the draft due to conditioning concerns, bad hands or off-field problems.
Then there is the funny grey area that people try to deny exists.
When evaluating draft talent, ultimately a list forms of talent from top to bottom, and that tends to stay pretty solid. A player puts on a few very impressive performances early on in his career, and his stock tends to hang around its highest point, barring serious injury.
That can be fine for some, but for others it can become deceptive.
These are the guys whose draft stock is too high for their own good.
Then there are the guys that get passed over by scouts because they're on a bad team or face subpar competition, but who deserve a look nonetheless.
These guys, plus the "draft stock is too high group," make up a group of players whose draft stock doesn't quite tell the full story, and that can be dangerous.
With that in mind, let's do some demystifying and break down 10 players whose draft stock doesn't quite tell the full story.
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Jake Locker is the stereotype for "guys whose draft stock remains roughly the same based on previous performances."
Had Locker declared for the draft in 2010, he probably would have been up there with Sam Bradford and the like on account of the great season he had at Washington.
While there remains no doubt in my mind that Locker still has some of the best intangibles of any quarterback out there (iron will, football intelligence, etc.), his 2010 season at Washington has led me, and a lot of other talent scouts, to cast some doubt on his ability to make the transition to the NFL.
Granted, Locker didn't have much talent around him at all in Washington, but his production in his senior season is still something of a deterrent. He ended the year completing 55.4 percent of his passes for 2,265 yards (535 less than last year), 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions (similar in ratio to his 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last year).
Take this into account, though: Locker was sacked nine more times last year. While that is partially an indication of his ability to move around in the pocket and escape pressure, it also has some bearing on the way we look at his stats. His completion percentage is down, his yardage is down (which is fair on account of injury) and his touchdown to interception ratio didn't improve. That doesn't bode well.
His injury issue didn't help him much either. He is going to have to stand up to worse punishment in the league.
Locker's high stock doesn't tell that story, does it?
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I feel bad about ripping Jake Locker so hard, so here's a make-up call for the Washington Huskies.
Mason Foster is one of the guys I've been plugging for a couple weeks now in my draft articles, and for good reason.
On a defense that was unspectacular at best, Foster stood out as a talent that was above and beyond the rest.
At 6'2", 242 pounds, Foster could stand to gain a few pounds to fit the right measurables for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he could still be an effective weapon as an undersized player.
In two years as a starter, Foster has posted 10 sacks, six forced fumbles, four interceptions and one touchdown.
He plays with a lot of intelligence and vision, plays well sideline-to-sideline and has shown the ability to get into the backfield regularly despite being a 4-3 linebacker in college.
Just look at what he did during Washington's bowl game against Nebraska. Foster led a standout defensive effort that contained a Cornhuskers offense that tore the Huskies apart earlier in the year, and Foster himself posted two sacks and thee tackles for loss.
As it stands, Foster is considered a fifth to seventh-round talent, which is just plain wrong. He's no first or second-round guy, but a smart team would do well to look at him in the late third round and the fourth round, because something tells me this guy could end up being a big deal in the NFL.
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Now, before you start going crazy on me, hear me out on this one.
First and foremost, Amukamara is good. I mean really good. He deserves to have high draft stock.
For the most part.
I point to one incident in particular that should have people somewhat doubting his shutdown corner abilities. I'm talking, of course, about Nebraska's game against Oklahoma State.
Amukamara wasn't facing a spectacular quarterback but instead allowed himself to get worked up and down the field by Justin Blackmon, who exploded onto the scene this year as one of the best receivers in the draft.
The concern here is how Amukamara matches up against quicker players. Blackmon made a lot of plays on Amukamara because he could run a hook route (or something similar), create separation, make the catch and, depending on how much space was left, use that quickness to pick up extra yardage.
Those aren't easy routes to cover by any means, but he needs to learn to anticipate that sort of stuff against NFL-level athletes, because he isn't going to be able to outpace most of those guys.
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Much like Mason Foster, Jimmy Smith is one of those guys that doesn't get a whole lot of recognition because he plays for Colorado. Sure, the Buffs produce some top-end talent every year, but they are a small market team that has become notoriously bad.
Smith has been a bright light on an otherwise dark defense, and his unique size for a cornerback (6'2", 203 lbs.) makes him a great weapon to defend against size matchups in the NFL.
He has the speed and the physicality to compete. The only real knocks against him come in his coverage abilities, where he can struggle at times to change direction.
Smith will need a bit of coaching, but he would be a good upgrade for a lot of teams and deserves to be looked at higher than the late second to third rounds, because need combined with talent really do put this guy a step above what people expect out of him.
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John Clay is a great example of what happens when you get injured and end up being replaced by another very talented running back (see Alabama, Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram).
With the emergence of Montee Ball over the last year, Clay has seen his stock fall a decent amount.
Admittedly, there are a few drawbacks to Clay. For one, injuries don't often speak well for running backs, even small ones like what Clay suffered through this year.
Secondly, Clay is a big guy, and I don't mean big like Michael Turner big. I mean big like Mike Tolbert big.
John Clay is 6'1", 255 pounds.
This guy is a bruiser tried and true but has the measurables of a guy who will likely enter the league as a fullback.
While that would probably be a good assignment for him, he has nonetheless proven that he is capable of breaking off big runs and taking on full loads.
Clay could end up being a big draft steal for a team looking to add some physicality to its running game. As it stands, most see him as a fourth or fifth-round draft pick, but he should honestly get some looks in the third round. He really is good enough.
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To head back to the other end of the spectrum, Mark Ingram is representative of the kind of guy who is still riding the wings of a great sophomore season.
As most of you know, Ingram won the Heisman Trophy last year over Stanford running back Toby Gerhart in the closest Heisman race in the history of the award on the wings of a national championship run by the Crimson Tide.
This year, however, Ingram has seen a marked drop in production.
From last year, Ingram is down 783 yards and four touchdowns.
While a good amount of that has to do with the return of Trent Richardson to the Alabama lineup, some of it also has to do with a slip in the abilities of Mark Ingram to perform.
Don't believe me? Well, here's the telling stat change:
6.1 to 5.5.
Those were his yards per carry averages for 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Ingram has not been the same runner that he was last year, and while he does appear to remain the best running back on the board this year, he has significant bust potential and should really be considered a low first-round prospect at best.
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I know, Cam; I'm surprised too.
Cam Newton is a great athlete and undoubtedly one of the best college football players in 2010. He is a big, physical guy who made big plays both on the ground and in the air.
He has a cannon of an arm and surprisingly good accuracy to go along with patience behind the line of scrimmage that could translate well to the NFL.
The problem with Newton is the fact that he comes from an option system in Auburn. He is not used to taking snaps from under center, which puts him at a disadvantage when it comes to reading defenses, and it takes away the every-down play action effect of the option.
Like all option quarterbacks, Newton has to prove that he is capable of operating well in a pro-style offense. Until then, Newton really shouldn't be rated as a top 10 pick. There's just too much risk.
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Greg Salas is another one of those guys that I find myself plugging a lot these days, even though I haven't watched him play more than a few games.
Salas is the sort of player who you throw to in short yardage not because you need a short gain, but because you know that he can work wonders with cushions given to him by defenders.
For a relatively small receiver (6'2", 210 lbs.), Salas plays a very physical game and couples that with surprising burst and top-end speed that can take a small separation and turn it into a big one.
Considering that he is only 6'2", there aren't a whole lot of teams looking at him as a wideout, and that's totally fair. Salas isn't the kind of guy that will burn a defender on a go route or out-leap a defender.
Salas is likely best suited as a slot receiver, but he's still the kind of receiver that is worthy of second or high third round consideration. Like a good tight end, Salas in the slot can draw a lot of attention towards the middle of the field, opening up the outsides for the bigger guys.
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Every time I bring up Robert Quinn in discussions like this, the first thing I get is the Sam Bradford defense (which is basically that if Bradford can come out to the NFL after missing a full season and still dominate, anyone can).
To me, that's just ridiculous.
I'm not saying anything against Sam Bradford or the Robert Quinn of 2009, because both are great. I'm simply saying that it's difficult to jump to conclusions about someone who has been out of the game for so long, especially at a position like defensive end, where maintaining game shape and strength is just as important as continuing to develop basic skill sets.
Considering that Quinn has been out of the game for a year, most people have no idea where he is at physically at this point. If he has been hitting the weight room regularly, perhaps he is still at the same level. If not, though, he may have lost his edge.
That aside, the lost year of game experience is a killer as well. That means a longer transition time and learning period, something that interested teams might not be willing to afford.
There is plenty of quality defensive end talent on the board this year. At the very least, Quinn should be moved below guys like Cameron Heyward, J.J. Watt and Adrian Clayborn, who have all proven their worth this year.
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It seems like no one has been looking at Casey Matthews, and I can't blame them: When you're scouting the Oregon Ducks, it's a little hard to look past their dominant offense.
That having been said, Matthews seems to be getting the shaft in terms of draft stock this season.
Matthews is by no means a second or third or even fourth-round talent, but there should certainly be teams looking for inside linebackers that consider him in the fifth round, or perhaps even the fourth.
Matthews practices against the best and plays against some of the best, and he has proven that he is capable of playing fast, physical football and has shown that, as a part of the Oregon Ducks philosophy, he is perfectly capable of playing at 110 percent through an entire game.
If that doesn't convince you, just look at the success of his family, starting with Clay Matthews III, with whom you are all probably familiar.
Added to all of this is the most recent piece of his résumé, the BCS National Championship Game. Matthews had sacks and made big plays, but none were bigger than the fumble that he forced late in the fourth quarter, a fumble that ended up setting up the tying touchdown for the Oregon Ducks.
With strong pre-draft workouts, Matthews could be a solid mid-rounder.