2014 NFL Draft: Latest Stock Reports for Rising, Falling Prospects
We're just a few weeks away from the 2014 NFL draft, and with all the pro days, team visits and the rest of the rigmarole out of the way, we have a good sense of what to think about most prospects and their value.
Or at least some. Maybe a few.
OK, we're still catching up.
The "smoke" has been dense this year, so picking "risers and fallers" ends up being an exercise in reading tea leaves. And even when you do it, it might turn out that your tea was very weak coffee.
Seriously, the extra couple of weeks before this year's draft have merely made it harder to figure out who is really worth what.
So as usual, this is merely my interpretation of the media's current mindset. Ultimately, we won't know who is rising, falling or anything else until teams make their picks in May.
Rising: Tom Savage, QB, Pitt
The world is high on Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Tom Savage.
It started a few weeks ago when ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projected Savage would be selected with the first pick of the second round in his mock draft (Insider subscription required). Then NFL.com’s Gil Brandt predicted Savage would be taken in the first half of the second round. Brandt also ranked him among the top 50 players in the draft as his sixth quarterback overall.
Meanwhile, Peter King of MMQB.com reported that Savage has visited with more than 20 teams during the draft process. King feels Savage’s arm is the reason for the buzz.
According to King, “Savage is popular because he’s got an above-average NFL arm right now—some are calling it the best in the draft—and showed well over the last half of last season with a bad offensive line at Pitt.”
More recently, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah reported that he too thinks Savage could land “atop the second round,” and DraftInsider.com’s Tony Pauline capped off the insanity by saying the New England Patriots are “incredibly high” on Savage and that some in the organization are calling him “Tom #2.”
Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst told the Pittsburgh Press-Gazette, “I think a lot of the buzz that comes before he wasn’t as much a part of because he hadn’t played for two years,” Chryst said. “I think what he did in the season, the combine, individual workouts, it’s been great to see. Hopefully everyone is right and his stock is rising.”
Clearly, at least in terms of media buzz, Savage’s star is rising. The NFL does love a big arm, and he has that. He played reasonably well at Pitt later in the season, but he left Arizona when the scheme changed and Rutgers when the competition at quarterback got hot. He tried to return to Rutgers, but as Tom Luicci of NJ.com reported, the NCAA told him he’d have to sit a year.
He was recently invited to the NFL draft but declined the invite.
Not long ago, the constant school switching was a big knock on him, but that arm—oh, that arm—has at least analysts seeing stars.
Falling: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
While Savage is flying up media draft boards, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is still getting creamed by the media.
The latest entrant into the “bash Teddy” sweepstakes was former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, as reported by Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
According to the report, Dominik says, “There were things you saw on tape when you watched him. Something that scouts internally, we talked about it in Tampa with Teddy Bridgewater last year.”
What are those “things” Dominik mentioned? Like so much criticism of Bridgewater, there was no explanation.
Then NFL analyst Phil Simms unveiled his top quarterbacks, with Savage at No. 3 and Bridgewater...nowhere to be found.
Finally, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. (Insider subscription required) recently had Bridgewater dropping to the top of the second round in a mock but still has him has the top quarterback in the class. Kiper's explanation: “My reading of the tea leaves in speaking with many evaluators around the league is that Bridgewater could drop if he slides past a couple of points early on.”
Kiper says the top of the second round would be a steal and expects someone to trade for Bridgewater if he falls.
Still, the discussion of his tumble continues.
Rising: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
In my opinion, Murray’s ascension started back in the Senior Bowl, when he chose to attend despite being hurt and unable to play. Showing up allowed him to meet members of the NFL teams that were present, tell them how he was doing and get across what he was about.
One of the most accurate passers in this draft class (as noted by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock in an interview on Houston's SportsTalk 790 AM), Murray’s value was definitely hampered in part by his injury, but now that we’ve seen he’s mended, it appears to be coming back up.
Aaron Murray told Mary Kay Cabot at Cleveland.com, "The film says it all. I've played against some of the biggest guys in the country in the SEC and I had no trouble finding passing windows and being able to make plays.''
He’s a good option for teams that want to wait a round or so before grabbing a quarterback.
Falling: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
Recently, Bleacher Report’s B.J. Kissel wrote an extensive piece on the issues surrounding Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin. At one point, many considered him a borderline first-rounder, but his stock has taken a tumble since, for the reasons Kissel pointed to in his piece and Matt Miller touched on in a recent Scouting Notebook.
Benjamin is a raw prospect to begin with, but as Kissel mentions, his height and speed have kept him on the radar. Both he and Miller have pulled together concerns being voiced around NFL media circles, though.
He’s been overweight, per Chase Goodbread at NFL.com, and skipped a workout because he was tired, according to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt. As Greg Peshek of Rotoworld points out, Benjamin has a pretty high drop rate as well.
All that has combined to drag Benjamin’s value down. In a deep and talented receiver draft class, why pick up a project when you can grab a player who is more polished and effective?
Rising: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
When 2014 began, Anthony Barr was in the discussion of top defensive players in the NFL draft, but the talk cooled...until now.
SI.com’s Chris Burke and Doug Farrar even ranked Barr at No. 6 overall in his top 64 players. And NFL.com recently polled seven of its draft experts, and three of them chose Barr over Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
Barr might have been sliding, but it seems his star is back on the rise.
Falling: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
Recently, Louis Nix III’s value has taken a bit of a hit.
On a recent podcast, ESPN’s Todd McShay said that NFL teams are worried about two things in regard to Nix: his weight and focus.
With his weight, it’s been about conditioning. As CSNNE.com’s Tom Curran wrote, “His conditioning and knee situations will be a concern for teams at the top of the draft. His weight fluctuated quite a bit during his stint with knee issues and that caused his stock to drop quite a bit after the 2012 season, when he figured to be an early first-rounder.”
Curran also mentioned knee tendinitis and the five games Nix missed last year with a meniscus tear.
Back in the podcast, McShay remarked that some teams are concerned that his focus isn’t where it should be. While Nix has been active online (with his Irish Chocolate personality), it didn’t seem to detract from his overall production (though his injury definitely did), and he has been working on his weight with a strict diet, according to the staff of CBS Sports' Eye On Football.
The final issue may be a practical one. As Mark Eckel on NJ.com reported, at least one NFC personnel man feels Nix can’t fit into a 4-3 scheme, which means if you don’t need a 3-4 nose tackle, you aren’t taking him.
That could hurt his value and drop his stock, assuming it’s true.
All these doubts seem to have deflated Nix’s value a bit. Once in the top 15 of most mock drafts, it seems to be fluctuating.
Rising: Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Being 5’9” has limited Verrett’s upside, or at least the perception of it...until recently at least.
In the last week or so, Farrar and Burke ranked him at No. 28 in their SI.com list of the draft's top 64 players. Their analysis of Verrett warned that anyone who passes on him will regret it and that Verrett’s ceiling, if he has the right defensive coordinator, “might be a legit lock-down cornerback.”
CBSSports.com’s Rob Rang gave him the same ranking in his recent big board. Both Rang and SI.com ranked Verrett as their third cornerback off the board.
Meanwhile, NFL Films' Greg Cosell told Ross Tucker on a recent podcast that you can make a strong argument that that Verrett is actually the best corner in the draft and is held back only by the tendency for teams to go with longer, taller corners.
All that adds up to a player on the rise—a guy who might have been overlooked early but definitely is trending upward.
Falling: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Seantrel Henderson wasn’t exactly a top-end tackle prospect, but ditching out of his pro day (as relayed by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen) hurt him even more.
The Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero reported it was because Henderson was dehydrated and felt ill, but regardless of the reason, the early exit exacerbated existing concerns about work ethic and consistency.
Henderson’s size and potential might have made him a third-round pick, but now it appears he may be looking at a drop, perhaps to the middle of Day 3 if rankings like CBSSports.com’s are accurate.