2019 NFL Draft: Highlighting Last-Minute Fallers Down Big Boards
Every year there are a handful of draft prospects who, once considered potential high selections, fall on draft day. These prospects can drop for a variety of reasons, including weak combine performances, injury concerns or poor interviews.
The 2019 NFL draft is no different as a handful of "big" names are already seeing their draft stock fall at the wrong time. Today, we look at seven players who could wind up being selected a lot later than anyone could have anticipated. From fit and ceiling concerns to questions about athleticism and health, here's why seven major prospects are falling down NFL big boards.
OT Jonah Williams, Alabama
For most of the 2018 season and during the first few months of the draft process, Alabama's Jonah Williams has been considered the top offensive lineman in the 2019 draft. The 20-year-old Williams was dominant at Alabama, allowing just 12 pressures all year, according to Pro Football Focus.
In 2017, Williams was named a second-team All-American and in 2018, he was a unanimous first-team All-American. During his three years at Alabama, he started every game, 29 at left tackle and 15 at right tackle. Considering his production, the level of competition he faced and his accolades, it's not hard to see why he was viewed early on as a top-five pick.
However, since the season ended, some are wondering where he fits in the NFL. Many believe that he will have to move to guard in the NFL due to his short arms (33 ⅝") and his below-average athleticism (17th percentile, according to 3 Sigma).
Williams was once considered a lock to be the first tackle drafted and now it's fair to wonder if he will even be the second tackle off the board, as Andre Dillard and Jawaan Taylor have both begun receiving more hype.
While Williams' "stock" might have fallen some over the last few months, don’t forget just how good of a football player he is. It wouldn't be shocking to see him fall to the teens and then thoroughly outplay his draft position.
QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
One of the most surprising "fallers" in the 2019 draft is quarterback Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State. When he declared for the NFL Draft just after winning the Rose Bowl, he was expected to be the consensus top quarterback in this class. But, after Kyler Murray decided to give up baseball and pursue an NFL career, Haskins' stock immediately fell.
However, things have continued to trend in the wrong direction for the former Ohio State signal-caller. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Haskins is projected in the "10-17 range" as several teams don't even have a first-round grade on him.
Despite his colossal sophomore season when he was a Heisman Trophy finalist, teams are wondering what his ceiling is. Haskins doesn't throw the ball down the field often and certainly lacks the athleticism to make defenses worry about him as a runner. He's strictly a pocket passer who does his damage in the short to intermediate portion of the field.
While anything can happen on draft day, it's becoming more and more likely that Haskins will be the third or even fourth quarterback selected on Thursday.
EDGE Jachai Polite, Florida
You can make a strong case that no player has had a worse pre-draft process than Florida's Jachai Polite.
Once considered a potential top-10 pick, Polite is now in danger of not being selected in the first two days of the draft. In Bleacher Report’s NFL 400, Polite is currently listed as the eighth-ranked edge-rusher despite having "legitimate top-20" talent. How has he fallen so far? Let’s go back to his weekend in Indianapolis.
Polite's fall started at the NFL combine, where he ran a 4.84-second 40-yard dash at 258 pounds. After running his poor time, Polite cited a hamstring injury as the reason he wasn't able to participate in the other drills. To make matters worse, Polite admitted that he interviewed poorly at the combine, saying that he was "a little intimidated by the setting."
Then, at his Pro Day in Gainesville, his stock tumbled even further. Polite ran a 5.03-second 40-yard-dash and a 7.59-second three-cone drill, according to NFL Draft Scout. Polite looked heavier at his Pro Day and his hamstring looked like it was still bothering him.
There have been some questions about his maturity and now his athleticism is also a major concern. Don't be surprised if Polite has an Arden Key-like drop during the NFL draft. He could still prove to be a useful player in the NFL, but his pre-draft process hasn’t done him any favors.
WR Riley Ridley, Georgia
Heading into the new year, Georgia's Riley Ridley was considered one of the top receivers in the 2019 NFL draft. However, his pre-draft performance has been forgettable.
Ridley entered the NFL draft despite not producing at an elite level in college. In 28 career games at Georgia, he caught just 69 career passes for 1,015 yards and 13 touchdowns. Instead of production, he is known for his route-running ability and toughness.
While it's true that he played in a run-heavy offense, Ridley never truly stood out. He failed to reach 90 receiving yards or six-plus catches in any contest. For most of his time at Georgia, he was just a complementary piece, rather than the focal point of the offense. For the analytical crowd, Riley doesn't compare with many of the other top receivers in the class.
If the college production wasn't worrisome enough, Ridley tested as a below-average athlete (15th percentile) at the combine, according to 3 Sigma. Ridley ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine while struggling mightily in the three-cone (7.22) and vertical jump (30.5"). For a player that had a lot of hype entering the combine, Ridley has fallen out of the discussion as a potential pick in the first two days.
It's hard to imagine anyone spending a top-75 pick on a receiver with below-average production and athleticism, especially with analytics playing a bigger role in draft rooms. It wouldn't be a surprise if Ridley were available during the third day of the NFL draft.
EDGE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
If Jachai Polite has had the worst pre-draft process, Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson isn't far behind. Ferguson is the most productive defensive end in the 2019 draft, leaving school as the NCAA's all-time sack leader (45).
However, there are suddenly significant concerns about Ferguson's game and whether or not it will translate to the NFL level. Ferguson's less-than-stellar offseason started when he was uninvited to the NFL combine after it was found out that he was convicted of simple battery as a freshman following a fight at McDonald's.
That put pressure on Ferguson to perform well at his Pro Day, which he did not. According to The Athletic's Dane Brugler, Ferguson ran an 8.08 three-cone and a 5.12 20-yard shuttle. Both of those numbers are historically low for an edge-rusher since 1999, according to Mockdraftable.
With concerns about his athleticism, level of competition and off-field issues, it’s no wonder Ferguson's stock is plummeting ahead of the draft. Don’t be surprised if he isn’t selected until well after the top-50 picks.
S Deionte Thompson, Alabama
Injured players tend to fall during the NFL Draft. That is not a surprise. But players who underperform or choose not to run at all tend to fall further. Unfortunately for Alabama safety Deionte Thompson, he falls under both of those categories.
Thompson had an outstanding career at Alabama as he was named a consensus All-American in 2018 after starting all 15 games for the Crimson Tide. In his first full year of starting, he recorded 78 tackles, six pass deflections, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. He projects as a single-high safety in the NFL with the ball skills to become an elite playmaker.
However, there are some significant concerns surrounding him, starting with his health. Thompson missed the NFL combine while recovering from a torn wrist ligament that required surgery on his right hand. Then, he opted not to run a 40-yard dash at the NFL combine despite being healthy enough to participate in positional drills. That raises an eyebrows and questions about his athleticism.
Once viewed as a potential top-15 pick in this draft and the unanimous top safety in the class, now Thompson's position within the first two rounds of the draft is uncertain.
DT Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio State
One player that has received little buzz during the draft process is Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones. Jones was a productive defensive lineman for the Buckeyes last season, recording 13 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in 14 games as he was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2018.
While he is undersized, at 6'3", 281 pounds, his body type is exactly what the NFL is searching for in a three-technique. His ability to quickly get up the field makes him a coveted player.
However, Jones' tape did not match his combine testing at all. He weighed in lighter than expected and ran a below-average 5.12 40-yard dash. His 7.71 three-cone was also below average for a defensive tackle—likely concerning teams about his ability to change directions. According to 3 Sigma, Jones tested in just the 20th percentile for defensive linemen.
Figuring out where to slot Jones in the draft is incredibly tricky. However, don't be surprised to see him fall multiple rounds after his sub-par Pro Day. It wouldn't be a total shock to see him fall to the third day of the NFL Draft.