Tuesday, January 29, 2008

2008 NFL Draft Stock Watch, Part 2: Low Risers

Yesterday's post listing players most often cited as risers in various articles backs up what was clear to even a casual fan stopping on the NFL Network to catch a glimpse of the Senior Bowl practices: there was a core group of players who clearly stood out above the rest.

The guys with six or more "stock up" mentions in those articles will no doubt be drafted higher than they would have before: Sedrick Ellis, Chad Henne, Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, and Lavelle Hawkins. You can say what you want about remaining true to your board as it stood in early January, but it's wrong to dismiss how a player practices, how he accepts coaching, and—this Senior Bowl's biggest cliche—how he competes. Of course, the gains are relative. Because of the higher stakes at the top of the draft, Ellis moving up five spots, from, say, the ninth overall pick to the fourth is every bit as meaningful as Flacco moving himself up a good twenty-to-thirty picks in the second round, or Forsett going from a late rounder to a probable mid rounder.

Here's my top five risers, limiting myself to the players who received two or fewer mentions in yesterday's ten sources.

1. Tracy Porter, CB, Indiana
For all the hype around Leodis McKelvin and DRC, Porter may have flashed the best man-to-man cover ability. He has better ball skills than McKelvin, but probably not the better instincts for zone coverage. The big question with Porter: Does he have the physicality to play man-to-man in the pros and be an asset in run support? I think he has shown enough to warrant a late first-/early second-round pick. The Green Bay Packers would be a perfect fit.

2. Carl Nicks, OT, Nebraska
I'm a little surprised that Nicks got not one mention as a player on the rise after Senior Bowl week. From some of the reports I've read NFL scouts might have had a higher grade on him than many of the online draftnik horde. Long arms, wide base, plays with a mean streak, seemed to handle the speed guys off the edge fairly well. What's not to like? FWIW, I moved him all the way up to the third tackle in my rankings. I don't expect he'll be that high on most boards, but a solid showing at the Senior Bowl must have helped his standing.

3. Brad Cottam, TE, Tennessee
With barely over twenty receptions in his college career, it was important for Cottam to show the scouts what he can do. At 6’7.5” he proved he can be a dangerous red zone weapon, a nice outlet in the middle of the field or in the flats, and a very good blocker. Still, the lack of college production, an inability to stretch the field, and a strong tight end draft class will likely keep Cottam on the board into the middle rounds.

4. Andre Fluellen, DT, Florida State
Fluellen flashed a good burst off the line and some nice moves, showing that he could slip into the backfield and bring pressure from the inside. Unfortunately, the South team's interior line left quite a bit to be desired, and he didn't take it to them on a consistent basis. If he can follow up his performance last week with a good showing at the combine, he should find himself selected by the late third round.

5. Jason Jones, DE, Eastern Michigan
OK, I was already bullish on Jones, having him ranked as my third defensive end prospect even before the Senior Bowl practices got underway. I still have him ranked third, so he hasn't risen in my book. In fact, for a while I had him in the first round of my mock drafts, but now I don't, so you might think I should have him as a slider. But I'm just trying to get my mock inline with what has a better shot of happening. Yes, he's raw, and yes, he didn't look quite as smooth as I thought he would when running guys down in the backfield. But shoot, he does a fine job getting into the backfield. Reminds me of a more athletic version of Dallas Cowboys 2006 third-round pick out of Grambling State, Jason Hatcher. As such, with a little more bulk, a little more strength, Jones could be a great fit playing end in a 3-4. He should be off the board by time the second round ends, probably sooner.

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