NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers


NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

We’re just a few weeks away from the NFL draft, and with prospects currently visiting and working out for teams, there have been some risers and fallers on my board.

Here’s a look at my current stock report:

*Denotes juniors


Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Carr is one of my favorite prospects and is the most NFL-ready signal-caller in this year’s draft. He’s been extremely impressive during the draft process and has aced all of his tests.

One obstacle, however, stands in his way -- and it’s out of his control -- the perception others have about his brother David and how their careers will be intertwined. That kind of thinking is the harsh reality of this evaluation period. NFL decision makers have to do their due diligence and investigate every possible flaw that will affect their ROI (return on investment), and while the Carr brothers are similar in style (but different in makeup), the situation will determine the success of Derek -- not his bloodline.

With that said, teams will realize that, and don’t be surprised if Derek is the first quarterback selected in the draft.

*Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Robinson has tremendous athleticism and play-making ability, but the 4.60-second 40 that he generated at the scouting combine didn’t sit well with scouts. Luckily, the combine is just one part of the draft process, and prospects have a few opportunities to showcase their skills.

Robinson redeemed himself at Penn State’s pro day, reportedly did very well during positional drills and was timed at a 4.48 and 4.50, which will dismiss any of the concerns teams had about his straight-line speed.

As we approach May 8, the talk won’t be about how far Robinson will be pushed back by the talented crop of wide receivers in this year’s class, but instead how many receivers did he surpass with his strong pro day display. Expect Robinson to be a top-40 lock.

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Blessed with great size, arm strength and accuracy, the 6-foot-5, 224-pound Mettenberger has future star written all over him. And just five months removed from ACL surgery, Mettenberger threw the ball for the first time since he tore the ACL in his left knee on Nov. 29 at LSU’s pro day last week.

The fact that Mettenberger was on the field and participating so soon after surgery will work in his favor on draft day. Teams in attendance were pleased with his performance, and the impression he made could ultimately propel Mettenberger to being an early Day 2 selection.

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
In a similar position as Mettenberger health-wise, the 6-foot, 207-pound Murray, who also tore his ACL in late November, had an impressive performance at Georgia’s pro day this past Wednesday. Murray, who, like Mettenberger, is five months removed from major knee surgery, completed 48 of the 54 passes he threw in front of the assembled NFL evaluators and showed no ill effects with his knee.

Before he tore his ACL, there were mixed reviews on Murray mainly because of his size and arm strength. But as far as intelligence, competitiveness and leadership skills, he ranks off the charts. Once he returns to full health, Murray will prove to be one of the biggest steals from this class.

*Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
He’s not one of the highly touted receivers in this year’s class, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Latimer is quickly becoming one of the most intriguing receivers after his pro day workout.

Only able to participate in the bench press at the combine -- where he led all wide receivers with 23 reps -- due to a broken bone in his foot, Latimer had a sensational day at Indiana’s pro day and posted a 4.44 and 4.45 in the 40 and a 39-inch vertical.

Prior to his pro day performance, I had Latimer as a fifth-round prospect, but with the interest he’s currently receiving, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were a Day 2 pick. Many teams want to take a closer look at him before the draft, and as we all know, it only takes one team to fall for a player and select him higher than expected. Latimer is one to watch.

5 previous risers still rising:
Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame
*Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
*Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois


*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 quarterback.

It’s unclear when Bridgewater will come off the board, and it’s possible that he could experience a Geno Smith-like fall in the draft, but for this once well-thought-of prospect, nothing has seemed to go his way this offseason.

*Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
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.

Since his lackluster performance in Indianapolis, Kouandjio has steadily fallen on my board. However, he recently had a solid workout in front of a number of scouts at Alabama’s second pro day and showed improved athleticism.

If healthy, Kouandjio has a chance to be a very good tackle at the next level, but if there’s concern over the condition of his knee or uncertainty about longevity, selecting him in the early rounds is a major risk.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami
Certain players look like they were born to play football, and the 6-foot-7, 339-pound Henderson definitely has the size and skillset to be a dominant player.

But off the field, he’s a wild card. During his career at Miami, Henderson was an underachiever marred by disciplinary action and injuries, and while his workouts this offseason have been encouraging (5.04 in the 40, 28-inch vertical and 23 reps on the bench), the distractions he causes can’t be overlooked.

In terms of ability, Henderson could be a Day 2 selection, but for a team to invest that high of a selection in a player who lacks passion for the game is a no-win situation.

Chris Steuber has covered the NFL and NFL draft for multiple media outlets since 1999. He also served as director of player personnel for the Georgia Force of the Arena Football League from 2010-12.

Report: Eagles make inquiry about Bears WR Alshon Jeffery

Report: Eagles make inquiry about Bears WR Alshon Jeffery

The Eagles could be looking for a bigger name outside.

In need of a deep threat — and reportedly in talks about a trade for 49ers wideout Torrey Smith — the Eagles are interested in Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and attempting to make a move for the 2013 Pro Bowler, according to a report Tuesday night by Benjamin Allbright of Mile High Sports Radio.

We followed up with Allbright, who clarified the Eagles simply made an inquiry.

Jeffery, much more of a do-it-all, dynamic wide receiver than the one-dimensional Smith, is 26 years old and can become a free agent at season's end. He'll warrant good money, but would make the Eagles better in more ways than one compared to Smith.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder put up 89 catches for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, followed by 85 catches, 1,133 yards receiving and 10 scores in 2014.

This season, he has 520 yards receiving and has yet to find the end zone playing for the quarterback-challenged Bears, who are 1-6 and more than likely thinking about next season.

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get aggressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk-taker as a play-caller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40-yard line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth-down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, [it’s about] the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time [by being too aggressive]. Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yarder to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”