NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

March 31, 2014, 9:00 am
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Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did not participate in the Scouting Combine. (USA Today Images)

With the pro day schedule winding down and the NFL draft just six weeks away, there are a number of prospects rising up and falling down draft boards across the NFL landscape after performances during the draft process.

Here’s a look at my current stock report and the players making moves on my board.

*Denotes juniors

Five on the rise

Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
The versatility that the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Martin brings to the field has caught the attention of NFL decision makers across the league, and has propelled his stock to new heights that could ultimately land him in the top 15 of this year’s draft. It’s hard to find linemen that can realistically play all five positions on the offensive line, and the athleticism, intelligence and character Martin offers to a team makes him one of the most attractive and safest prospects to pursue.

*Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Ebron has solidified himself as the top tight end in the draft after showcasing his incredible athleticism at the Scouting Combine and having an impressive workout at North Carolina’s pro day. At the combine, Ebron was in his element and generated a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, put up 24 reps on the bench and registered a 32-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump. And, while Ebron has emerged as a top 10 -15 talent in the draft, unless the draft unfolds in a particular fashion, he could slip a bit and be a tremendous prize for the team that selects him.

*Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Nicknamed “Sonic Boom” for his explosive speed and game-breaking ability, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Cooks, who hauled in an amazing 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season, showcased his dynamic skill set at the Combine in February, and made quite the impression. He was timed at a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash, put up 16 reps on the bench and generated a 36-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump. Cooks lacks desirable size, but the Biletnikoff Award winner is as talented as any receiver in what is the strongest class of wide receiver prospects in draft history. He should hear his name called in the top 25.

Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
The athleticism and length that the 6-foot, 190-pound Fuller features is what NFL personnel want in cornerbacks. And, after an eye-opening display at the combine where he wowed those assembled in Indianapolis with a 4.49 in the 40, a 38.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-8-inch broad jump, Fuller, who was ranked 75th overall in my top-100 rankings prior to the combine, has performed his way into first-round consideration and should be viewed as a top-40 lock.

*Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
A versatile, undersized defender, the 6-foot-1, 250-pound Bradford plays the game with tremendous intensity. He’s a bit of an under-the-radar prospect, but as a two-year starter at Arizona State, he amassed 21½ sacks and 40½ tackles for a loss. It’s easy to see the passion that he plays with on film and at times it can get the best of him, but there’s no denying the ability that he has, and at the combine he displayed tremendous lower-half explosion and posted a 37.5-inch vertical and 10-foot-2-inch broad jump. Bradford is a perfect fit for a team looking for a 3-4 rush linebacker in the second round.

Five more will soar

Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
*Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
*Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois

Five on the decline

*Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
Has the draft process brought out the real Bridgewater, and was his play at Louisville an illusion helped by the cupcake schedule he competed against? That’s a question NFL executives are pondering. There were many who were put off by Bridgewater’s decision not to perform at the combine, and after his disappointing showing at Louisville’s pro day, teams selecting in the top 10 and in need of a quarterback will have pause when considering the 6-foot-2, 214-pound signal caller. It’s unclear when Bridgewater will come off the board, but I wouldn’t rule out a Geno Smith-like fall in the draft.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
As a player, Mosley is one of my favorites in this draft and is a top 12-15 talent. He’s one of the most instinctive defenders available, tremendously athletic and has the opportunity to be one of the best linebackers in the NFL. However, his medical history (dislocated elbow in 2010, dislocated hip in 2011 and shoulder surgery in 2013) is concerning, and being an undersized defender at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, Mosley’s long-term durability could scare teams from selecting him in the top 25.

*De’Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
Another one of my favorites in this year’s draft is the 5-foot-9, 174-pound Thomas; he was ranked 11th overall on my board entering the combine. He’s a unique game-changer and extremely difficult to defend, and if you evaluate him solely on film, it’s easy to see first-round potential. But, the combine revealed some concerns, especially since it was a venue where he should’ve stood out. He performed well during the drills and showed better-than-advertised hands, but his 40-time (4.52) was puzzling and his lack of strength will be an issue. He’s a wild card in the draft and could come off the board late in the first round, or as low as the fifth round. It’s a critical process, but in the right system, he will be a dynamic player.

*Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
In a similar situation health-wise as his Alabama teammate Mosley, it’s been reported that the 6-foot-7, 322-pound Kouandjio has been downgraded by a handful of teams over concerns of an arthritic condition in his left knee; he had ACL surgery on the knee when he was a freshman. Rated 14th overall on my top-100 board prior to the combine, Kouandjio has steadily fallen on my board since his lackluster performance in Indianapolis. Kouandjio decided not to participate in Alabama’s pro day earlier this month but will hold his own pro day on April 8 and try to reclaim his standing as one of the top offensive tackles in the draft.

*Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
Coming off of a stellar junior campaign in which he caught 77 passes for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Landry struggled at the combine. He recorded a disappointing 4.77 in the 40, registered a 28-inch vertical and managed just 12 reps on the bench. Known as a reliable pass catcher and a hard worker, Landry has another opportunity at LSU’s pro day on April 9 to show scouts that he can be a playmaker at the next level. If he has another poor performance, Landry, who was rated 65th overall on my board prior to the combine, could fall to Day 3 of the draft.