NFL draft prep: Risers and fallers

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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

Risers

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

Fallers

*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.

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, stats for Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett

Eagles Mailbag: Linebackers, stats for Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett

I answered half of your questions yesterday, but we got a lot, so here are the rest: 

Well, the Eagles' linebackers were pretty good last year. At least they certainly weren't the problem. 

Jordan Hicks is returning for his third season and has Pro Bowl potential. The last thing he needs to improve is his run-stuffing ability. If he does that, he'll be very good. Nigel Bradham had an under-the-radar season in 2016. He worked very well with Hicks and is entering the last year of his deal. Now, he has a trial coming up in July for a felony assault charge, but as long as that doesn't keep him off the field, he should have another good year. Then, Mychal Kendricks, for as much as he gets criticized, isn't a bad third option for a third of plays. 

I'd agree that after those three, there's a clear lack of depth. Najee Goode, Joe Walker, Steven Daniels, Nate Gerry. Not super deep. But Goode is a decent backup, they liked Walker from last year before the ACL tear, Daniels is a wild card and Gerry is switching positions from safety to linebacker. 

Running back. No question. Carson Wentz would be decapitated in a quarter if I was at right guard. 

At least at running back under Doug Pederson, I wouldn't get the ball very often. And when I'd get the ball, I'm so small and so slow, maybe I'd be like a changeup in baseball and linebackers would miss me altogether. Until they hit me and I leave the field crying. 

Ertz: 80 catches, 900 yards, seven touchdowns. Those would be very slightly above the numbers he's put up in recent years, but in his second year with Wentz, that's reasonable. And seven touchdowns is a lot, but I don't think it's crazy. 

Barnett: Six sacks. This would be a pretty good rookie season. I'd set the over/under number at 6½, so I have Barnett slightly under just because he'll have to fight for time with a few players. 

Blount: This one is tougher — 700 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns. No, I don't expect Blount to have another 1,000-yard season. That's a lot of touchdowns, but Ryan Mathews was able to pick up eight last year and Blount should be better in short-yardage situations. 

1. I don't even know what a breakout season is anymore. Ertz is a good tight end. He's not Rob Gronkowski. He's never going to be Rob Gronkowski. So break out? Maybe not. But he's a solid piece of the offense, who needs to score more touchdowns. 

2. No. 

3. Yeah. At this point, I expect Dorial Green-Beckham to be the odd man out. Vinny Curry will be on the team and will have a cap hit of $9 million this year. 

Hi, Corey. Big fan. If Donnie Jones isn't a household name, I'd start to question your household. 

Eagles Mailbag: Fletcher Cox, OTA evaluations, Nelson Agholor

Eagles Mailbag: Fletcher Cox, OTA evaluations, Nelson Agholor

The Eagles have completed one round of OTAs and will kick off another next week, starting Tuesday. 

OTAs are basically light practices in shorts and there's not a ton to gain from watching them, but they're not completely worthless. We already learned who some starters are for now and got a chance to see some new players on the field. 

Training camp will be here before you know it. 

To your questions: 

This is an interesting question because I think if I'm his teammate, I'd be a little annoyed. Especially if I'm some backup player making league minimum and the $100 million man doesn't show. 

But it really isn't like that. Even talking to players off the record, they don't seem to be bothered that Fletcher Cox wasn't with the team during a week of OTAs. Basically, players assume if a guy isn't there, they have a reason and are working out on their own. 

Guys especially understand if a player misses because of contract reasons — get paid, fellas. Obviously, that's not the reason Cox is missing. He signed a $100 million deal last offseason. And Cox's absence allows some other guys to get more reps, which is good for younger guys. 

It definitely doesn't look good from the outside that Cox isn't there. And it's pretty obvious Doug Pederson wants him at the facility. But the players inside the locker room? They're more understanding. 

Let's pump the breaks on the Nelson Agholor OTAs praise. Sure, he looked pretty good in the one day we got to watch of practice this week, but Agholor has looked good in shorts before. 

Does he have a shot at being a starter? Maybe a very slim shot. But the chances he actually beats out Torrey Smith for a starting gig seem minuscule. Perhaps you're thinking Smith is completely shot after looking that way in San Francisco, but it's hard to imagine he can't beat out Agholor for the job. 

That said, Agholor will be on the team this year. His contract makes cutting him nonsensical. And it'll be interesting to see how he performs without the pressure of being a starter. To me, it would make sense to occasionally work him into the slot, something the coaching staff hasn't done much of in the last couple years. 

https://twitter.com/EPiechotaNBA/status/868151169490624513

I put these together because I want to make this point first: We have been allowed to watch only one of their three practices, so we don't have a lot to work from. But I'll give you what I can. 

Barnett: He looks impressive in shorts, at times beating Lane Johnson, who is a very good tackle. That bend we've heard so much about was evident really early. Remember Joe Douglas' talking about ankle flexion? Well, it's absolutely there. It's clear Barnett is a technician, but I'll reserve my judgment until training camp when the pads go on. 

Wentz: Thought he looked fine. I saw some folks saying they saw differences in his mechanics ... Eh. Hard to say in one practice. What I did see were a few beautifully tossed balls and some chemistry forming with Alshon Jeffery, who ought to be the team's No. 1 target this year.