Biggest NFL Draft Prospect Disappointments from the CFB Season So Far
The job of evaluating players for the NFL draft starts as soon as the previous year's draft ends. You talk to scouts, coaches, players and trainers about who the best players are in the next crop of players. That builds expectations, which turn into an initial ranking of the player. Then the season begins and it all falls apart.
Early-season draft rankings are similar to the college football Top 25 that comes out in the summer: They are a prediction of how good a player (or team) will be. But once the games start, the rankings shift based on performance. For the 10 players highlighted below, they've each shifted down the board.
Yet much like a college team that loses a game early in the year, there is still time for these players to rebuild their draft stock with a strong finish over the next three months.
Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Antonio Callaway entered his junior season as one of the most electric receivers in the country. He had the potential to shoot up draft boards to the top receiver spot. Instead, the team suspended him indefinitely after he was accused of defrauding the school in a debit card scandal.
Callaway can't be completely removed from NFL radars, but the 2017 season has been a massive disappointment given his off-field troubles and the suspension that has kept him off the field.
If Callaway avoids jail time, it wouldn't be a surprise if he followed in the footsteps of former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins and transferred—Jenkins went to North Alabama—to finish his college career.
Azeem Victor, LB, Washington
Azeem Victor's 2016 season ended early with a broken leg, but he headed into this year as one of my top-ranked linebacker prospects. We haven't seen that type of potential and playmaking from the junior, however.
Victor was suspended for the opener against Rutgers for a violation of team rules, which got his season off to a rocky start. He was then slow to regain his form upon returning from the suspension, as he posted just six total tackles and zero sacks in his first two games back.
The Week 4 game against Colorado may be a sign Victor is getting back into his groove—he finished with 10 tackles and one sack—but it's fair to call this season a disappointment to date.
Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State
A hamstring injury kept Mike Weber out of the Ohio State opener against Indiana, which opened the door for freshman J.K. Dobbins to take his starting job and run with it. Weber received limited touches in Weeks 2 and 3 (seven attempts, 42 yards) before not playing again this past week against UNLV.
Weber had a top-five running back ranking on my board over the summer, but his early-season struggles are plunging him down the draft board. Even on a team as talented as Ohio State, losing your job to a true freshman is a surefire way to crush your draft stock.
If Weber can't get on the field for the Buckeyes, there has to be concern about whether he can get on the field in the NFL.
Tanner Lee, QB, Nebraska
The draft hype surrounding Tanner Lee ended as soon as it started.
Following a strong Week 1 performance against Arkansas State, multiple NFL scouts texted me to check out the junior quarterback. I did so the following week when Lee threw four interceptions against Oregon. On the season, Lee now has seven touchdowns to nine interceptions and has looked lost on the field for a sinking Nebraska team. Head coach Mike Riley is on the hot seat and may have to sit Lee to restart the season.
Lee still has the arm strength and mobility that originally interested NFL teams, but his decision-making and poise aren't up to speed at the moment.
Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Here's an instance where I disagree with NFL scouts.
I routinely hear from area scouts that Washington tackle Trey Adams is a first-rounder. The games I've evaluated suggest he's closer to Round 2. His performance so far in the 2017 season does not make him look like a Round 1 player.
Adams is a big (6'8", 327 lbs), strong run-blocker, and he's able to stonewall smaller defensive ends in college. However, he hasn't shown the quick feet and lateral ability to slide with toolsy pass-rushers at a high level. Adams might be able to play right away in the NFL on the right side with some tight end help against speed-rushers, but I do not see the tape or traits that support a Round 1 grade through four weeks.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Deebo Samuel was off to an amazing start (15 catches, 250 yards, three TDs) before he broke his leg in Week 3. While his on-field performance was far from disappointing, the leg injury will end his season and likely affect his draft stock.
At 6'0" and 215 pounds, Samuel has excellent size and speed for the pro game. He's able to set up routes and beat cornerbacks with shifty hips and fast feet. Those traits were pushing Samuel up my draft board each week, but he now has to be off the board until more is known about his injury and the timetable for his return.
Arden Key, Edge-Rusher, LSU
Arden Key is one of the nation's best players when he's dialed in, but we haven't seen a full game of that yet.
Questions began about the LSU pass-rusher when he left the team in the spring only to return and undergo shoulder surgery that limited him early in the season. Key is back on the field now after missing the first two games of the year, but he's only showing glimpses of what he has been and what he can be.
As he gets back into game shape and learns how to play at his bigger size, Key could regain his status as a top-five prospect and one of the best players in college football. So far, though, he's more reputation than production.
Ohio State CBs
Talking to NFL scouts this summer, many pointed out that Ohio State had reloaded at the cornerback position and were poised to put more players in the first round of the 2018 draft. That hasn't been backed up on film yet.
Denzel Ward has had his ups and downs and may still get in the Round 1 conversation by season's end. He's a Jason Verrett-like player who makes up for his lack of size with strong, feisty style of coverage. Fellow cornerbacks Kendall Sheffield and Damon Arnette have looked lost, though.
Sheffield, a transfer from Alabama, has exceptional speed, but his coverage instincts are not developed yet. Arnette has the size (6'0", 195 lbs), but as a redshirt sophomore, he's still incredibly raw in technique and timing.
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
In conversations with NFL scouts before the season began, many believed senior quarterback Luke Falk would be the fourth quarterback drafted and a potential first-round player. Of course, for that to happen he would need to continue his high-level of play from previous seasons and make expected improvements. Falk's 2017 hasn't generated that same level of optimism from scouts.
Falk was benched briefly against Boise State only to return and suffer what looked like a head injury. Falk did come back to start the next week against Oregon State and has thrown 11 touchdowns with zero interceptions in two games. But one thing I continue to hear from teams is that a history of head injuries could be a major concern for Falk's pro prospects.
On the field, there is a lot to like with Falk's accuracy, toughness and poise. He still has time to undo the early concerns from pro teams this season.
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
If you want to start a fight on Twitter, post about Josh Allen being an NFL draft prospect.
Let's back up to last January when multiple NFL executives and scouts told me Allen had the tools of a first-round quarterback and might even be a top-five pick if he declared for the 2017 draft. Allen didn't, deciding to return to Wyoming despite losing his top two receivers and running back. The results this year have been crushing.
Through four games, Allen has thrown three touchdowns to three interceptions and is completing under 55 percent of his passes. The on-field product has been poor for Allen, which has caused major pushback from fans and analysts.
And yet NFL teams still say Allen will be a first-round pick. He might not be in the running to be the first overall pick anymore, but so much of Allen's "draft stock" will be determined in how well he performs in interviews and workouts for teams.
There is no denying that Allen's ranking as QB1 was based on potential, and he hasn't lived up to the expectations placed on him to improve his decision-making and accuracy. And while he still may be a first-rounder in April, his stock has dropped from the top of the pack to the middle of it.