Latest Stock Watch for the 2019 NFL Draft's Most Polarizing Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2019

Latest Stock Watch for the 2019 NFL Draft's Most Polarizing Prospects

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    "Polarizing" might be the best one-word summation of the 2019 NFL draft as a whole. 

    Not that other drafts haven't had their fair share of disagreements amongst observers and league personnel. 

    But 2019 seems special in this regard with Kyler Murray right at the top. He's got it all in the polarizing department: elite upside on limited film, a question about commitment given the MLB ties, physical questions and odd interviews in public. Ditto for the team at No. 1, the Arizona Cardinals, who already drafted a first-round passer a year ago. 

    Clashing schools of thought, college season and pre-draft process performances and off-field history all help create division among evaluators. The stock of these divisive names continues to trend in interesting directions as a result. 

           

Ed Oliver, DL, Houston

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Much of the pre-draft chatter surrounding Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver boils down to two camps. 

    The first camp says Oliver is too small and debates his scheme fit. 

    The second says it doesn't matter. 

    Oliver is a 6'2", 287-pound force who habitually collapses pockets and blows up run plays. A summary from NFL.com's Lance Zierlein says it all: "Twitched-up ball of explosive fury from the moment he comes out of his stance, but his lack of NFL size and length creates challenges with his NFL projection. Oliver's athletic ability is beyond rare, but his ability to add and maintain mass could be the critical for his future success."

    But onlookers know the drill: guys like Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins faced some of the same criticisms before joining the league's most feared defenders who force offenses to game-plan around their abilities. 

    Granted, a team drafting Oliver to play on the edge might come away disappointed. But, if he's thrown on the inside and allowed to break upfield, he's going to wreak havoc. Such an idea would explain why his stock is rising late, with someone like The Athletic's Dane Brugler even mocking him sixth overall to the New York Giants. 

    Stock: Up, Top 10

Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State

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    Jim Lytle/Associated Press

    Jeffery Simmons is another superb prospect along the defensive line who has fluctuating stock and different ideas floating around his NFL future. 

    Simmons, 6'4" and 301 pounds, earned a Ndamukong Suh comparison from Zierlein for good reason based on his collegiate play. He looks NFL-ready physically and is scheme-versatile. He's the 11th overall player at The Draft Network's prospect rankings. 

    But there are problems. Simmons couldn't participate at the combine thanks to a torn ACL. The medical recheck went well, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, but it is still something that will work against him on draft day in what is a strong defensive class.  

    Slated to likely miss his entire rookie season and then attempt to adjust at the pro level, Simmons is a tough sell for teams who want to win now. Normally he might be a top-15 talent, but the risk baked into his game atop the injury means he's headed in the wrong direction. 

    Stock: Down, Round 2

Dexter Lawrence, DL Clemson

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    Richard Shiro/Associated Press

    The position and scheme debate for Clemson's Dexter Lawrence is a late contender for one of the draft's most polarizing topics. 

    Lawrence, who stands at 6'4" and 342 pounds, has always been viewed as a first-round prospect. The question was where, especially in a class as deep as this on his side of the ball. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently made an interesting case for Lawrence: "It would be lazy to call Lawrence a nose tackle, even if that's where he lined up at Clemson and might be where he plays often in the NFL. He has pass-rushing skills and is able to penetrate and reset the line of scrimmage with quickness, length and strength."

    A traditional nose tackle isn't going to come off the board early. Taking a two-down player in the top half of the first round doesn't make sense at almost any position, let alone in the trenches instead of an edge disruptor. 

    But if NFL teams believe Lawrence can generate consistent pressure without coming off the field, it changes things. He's always looked scheme versatile, but hasn't looked like an every-down player. It turns out some of that media buzz might not align with how NFL teams feel. 

    Stock: Up, Top 20

Jachai Polite, Edge, Florida

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    Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

    Jachai Polite continues to buzz for (mostly) all the wrong reasons. 

    The Florida edge defender played well in the SEC and seemed like a shoo-in as a first-round disruptor who would test well. But instead, Polite fell on his face at the combine, checking in at 6'3" and 258 pounds before producing ho-hum testing numbers and struggling in interviews

    Polite later said "I just wasn't ready at all" and "I took the criticism too personally," according to Kalyn Kahler of The MMQB, but the damage might already be done. 

    Like others mentioned here, the draft is too deep on the defensive side of the ball for teams to overlook red flags. Generally speaking, the college film is supposed to be the tough part for prospects, whereas showing up and showing off the elite athleticism that helped create the good film should be rather simple. 

    Not everyone responds to a high-pressure situation the same way though, and there are those who will undoubtedly argue only the film matters. But after an iffy pro day too, Polite's polarizing draft journey hasn't found any solid footing. 

    Stock: Down, Round 2

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Daniel Jones' plusses and minuses have split the opinion down the middle. 

    The Duke product is 6'5" and 221 pounds with some of the best passing mechanics to enter the draft in years. He's got a rarity in that area and won't need any refinement. 

    But it isn't all good. The other part of the equation is production and Jones didn't exactly light it up despite Duke-level competition. Last year, his third at Duke, he completed just 60.5 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It was a career high in the touchdowns department, but he's never finished a season with a higher completion rate than 62.8 percent. 

    Still, the counterargument is the supporting cast around him, which wasn't always great. And, in the broader context of this draft class, it sounds like Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins is taking a late fall, according to Lance Zierlein, which might hint how the NFL feels is starting to make its way public late in the process. 

    Provided one can look past the production, the idea pro coaches can put Jones' positive traits to good use right away suggests his stock is up.

    Stock: Up, Top 10

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The closer the draft gets, the more positive chatter folks get to hear about possible first-round wideouts like Marquise Brown, Hakeem Butler, N'Keal Harry and A.J. Brown. 

    D.K. Metcalf's name has been missing in action. 

    Metcalf blew the doors off the combine in a few flashy drills, as he should have after running a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at 6'3" and 228 pounds. But while shouted down by the impressiveness of those numbers, his agility numbers were bad and his college production so-so. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller provided some interesting perspective: "Ole Miss' D.K. Metcalf took over the world with a shirtless photo and then a blistering 4.33-second run in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, but don't let that fool you into thinking he's a lock to be the first receiver drafted. A top-level scout said Metcalf could see competition from teammate A.J. Brown or Oklahoma's Marquise Brown for the WR1 spot."

    In other words, Metcalf has a lot working against him. The combine numbers were exciting, but the deeper dive many took after the hype brought forth worthwhile draft competition and question marks about his production. 

    This doesn't mean Metcalf will fall out of the first round by any means. But, as always, the combine is just one part of the equation, though it does command the news cycle for a nice chunk of time. 

    Stock: Down, Mid-20s

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    The draft process has ripped Kyler Murray to shreds, as it always does to a handful of prospects.  

    The height conversation came up well before Murray checked in at 5'10" at the combine. But he also looked heavier, at 207 pounds, which could help in the durability department. And that height conversation ignores the idea that NFL coaches and schemes can work around it rather easily. 

    Murray also had an odd interview in February while asked about the MLB side of the equation. His interviews have since been the focal point and the MLB thing is a non-factor now. It won't matter how well Murray speaks up in public if he's putting up 54 total touchdowns and winning some individual hardware like he did last year. 

    But the potential knocks on Murray don't change that he's likely in consideration of the first overall pick. It doesn't change his interesting comparables to Baker Mayfield, as illustrated by Pro Football Focus. It also doesn't change the knocks on the passers in the class and the willingness NFL teams have to gamble it all on his position. 

    While Murray is one of the most divisive prospects to enter the draft in years, the NFL itself won't be nearly as dramatic about it on draft day. 

    Stock: Up, Top 5