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Once the college football season ends, draft season officially kicks into high gear. During this time, these draft prospects have potentially up to as many as three opportunities to alter their draft stock besides what the scouts can see from the film. First is the college all-star circuit, which includes five games, but most recognizable are the East-West Shrine game and the Senior Bowl. Following those games is the NFL Combine and then a good majority of these prospects take part in some type of pro day. With the first part of the process over and the combine taking place this week, I figured now would be a good time to analyze who has improved or hurt their stock since the end of college football season.
Ameer Abdullah, RB Nebraska
5’8”, 198 pounds
Abdullah took part in the Senior Bowl and really showed explosive running and pass catching ability. He was named the MVP of the game and was one of the top running backs at the event all week. While pass protection and size are limitations, he can be a dangerous weapon and an elite change of pace running back at the next level. Even though I believe running back is the deepest position in the draft, I think he will be selected by the end of the second round or the very early part of the third.
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Blake Bell, TE Oklahoma
6’6”, 260 pounds
Bell came to the East-West Shrine game with a lot of question marks as a former quarterback still trying to learn and develop at the tight end position. Practice reports stated he left there showing that he has the athleticism and hands to become a productive tight end. With his size, untapped potential and in a very weak class of tight ends, he may now be on the radar as a mid-round prospect with room to improve his stock even further.
Nick Boyle, TE University of Delaware
6’4”, 267 pounds
Entering the Senior Bowl, very few people knew about this former Blue Hen, but that changed quickly. He was able to show off that he is a complete tight end who can both block and be a productive receiving threat in the middle of the field with excellent hands. With very few complete tight ends in the draft class, he may now have put himself in position to be one of the top five tight ends taken in the draft and be selected in round three or four.
Sammie Coates, WR Auburn
6’2”, 213 pounds
While Coates came to the Senior Bowl with both positives and negatives in his game, I believe he left showing some improvement in those negatives. While his hands are still a question mark, I think he showed that he can more than just a vertical deep threat. I think he can develop his route tree and be a dangerous weapon at all levels of the field. With his elite athleticism and speed, I think Coates has already improved his stock to an early round two selection, and after the combine he may move himself into consideration for the first round.
David Cobb, RB Minnesota
5’11”, 229 pounds
Cobb used the Senior Bowl week as a way of getting noticed in a very deep class of running backs. While many running backs have limitations in an area or two entering the NFL, such as pass protection, receiving, or the ability to run both inside and outside, Cobb showed that he does not. He is one of the most complete running backs in the class, and reminds me of LeVeon Bell, when Bell came out of Michigan State. I believe Cobb will be taken on the second day of the draft in rounds two or three and be one of the most productive backs from the class.
Phillip Dorsett, WR Miami
5’9”, 183 pounds
In addition to Cobb, no player helped himself more so far in the process than Dorsett. While it was known that he had elite speed, he was able to show during Senior Bowl practices that he can win on the outside as well as from inside in the slot. He attacks the ball when it is in the air, and can get in and out of his breaks very fast. He has potentially risen from a mid-round prospect to a second round pick, and that is before he may challenge for the fastest 40 yard dash time in NFL history, breaking the record held by Chris Johnson.
David Johnson, RB Northern Iowa
6’1”, 224 pounds
Of all the running backs at the Senior Bowl, no running back showed better skills as a pass protector and receiver than Johnson. Those traits, combined with his running ability, will move him up draft boards and will get him on the field quickly as a rookie in the NFL level. While he may have been an under the radar player from a small school college, he no longer is and will now be a target for teams in the third or fourth round range of the draft. It will be interesting to see him at the combine as there has been some talk about a position change, to either a receiver or a h-back type role.
Tyler Lockett, WR Kansas State
5’10”, 181 pounds
As one of the elite wide receivers in college football last season, Lockett showed up at the Senior Bowl looking to establish himself as more of a complete receiver and not only an option in the slot. While his size presents limitations, his ability to get in and out of breaks, his route running, and hands are all positives in his game. While he will become an immediate weapon on special teams and in the slot, he showed enough athleticism and physicality for his size that I believe he can also play some outside receiver as well. He has established himself as a solid third round choice in my opinion.
Terrance Magee, RB LSU
5’9”, 213 pounds
While he was part of a committee at LSU, practice reports stated Magee really stood out during his week at the Shrine game. After the production of Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue, two LSU rookie running backs in the NFL last year, Magee will get a lot of attention leading up to the draft. He has good size, vision and quickness when hitting hit the hole. He will have a chance to be selected in the fourth or fifth round of the draft if he continues to show well at the combine and his pro day.
Tyler Varga, RB/FB Yale
5’10”, 227 pounds
Heading into the Senior Bowl, Varga was listed as a fullback but I believe he is more of a hybrid or exclusively a running back than a fullback. While he does not have any elite traits, I think he is going to be a productive NFL player. I think he offers a similar skill set to Marcel Reese, who plays that hybrid role in the NFL. Varga is versatile in how he can be used, as he is an efficient runner, receiver and blocker. I think he improved from an undrafted free agent or seventh round pick into possibly a round five or six selection now.
Clive Walford, TE Miami
6’4″, 254 pounds
Walford was one of the top performers of the week at the Senior Bowl. Most of the linebackers and safeties could not cover him. He displayed excellent hands, route running and better than expected blocking ability. While his receiving skills will be where he wins at the next level, his ability to hold his own blocking will push him up the boards as he will be viewed as a more complete tight end. He is squarely the second ranked tight end on most draft boards behind Maxx Williams of Minnesota. I think Walford has improved his stock to the late second or early third round range.
Besides Jameis Winston of Florida State or Marcus Mariota of Oregon, this entire draft class can be characterized under “stock down.” Brett Hundley (UCLA), who I believe is the clear third quarterback of the class, had a chance to come to the Senior Bowl and really stand out but decided against it. All of the quarterbacks who did show up for the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, including Garret Grayson (Colorado State), Bryce Petty (Baylor), Shane Carden (ECU), Bryan Bennett (SE Louisiana), Sean Mannion (Oregon State), Blake Sims (Alabama), Anthony Boone (Duke), Taylor Heinicke (Old Dominion), Hunter Mason (Georgia), Cody Fajardo (Nevada), Taylor Kelly (Arizona State) and Dylan Thompson (South Carolina) struggled mightily during the practices and games. A few of them will get drafted in the middle rounds and potentially be NFL backups, but most are late round selections or undrafted free agents who will struggle to make a roster.
Devin Gardner, WR Michigan
6’4”, 216 pounds
Gardner started his college career as a receiver before becoming the quarterback during his sophomore season at Michigan. He came to the Shrine game as one of the biggest names at the event as he tried to make the conversion back to receiver. Overall, the reports were more negative than positive. While he has some elite athletic traits, his hands and route running at this time are not at the level needed to be a productive receiver in the NFL. Gardner’s value continued to decrease when he was not invited to the combine, where he would have tested well with his size and speed. While I do not believe he will be selected in the first five rounds, he does offer the measurables and the potential to improve at the position with more time. Therefore, I think he will get drafted as a late round pick and be given a chance to develop his skills further at the bottom of a depth chart or on the practice squad for a few years.
Deontay Greenberry, WR Houston
6’3”, 200 pounds
While Greenberry did not play in any of the all-star games because he was not a senior, his stock is clearly pointing down right now due to the fact he did not receive a combine invitation. The former Houston Cougar, who was a big time recruit entering college, had an up and down career in Houston. While at times, he displayed great size, athleticism and the ability to high point the ball well, he was very inconsistent. I thought he had the ability to move up draft boards if he had a strong combine, but now will have to wait for his pro day to try and improve his stock.
Ty Montgomery, WR Stanford
6’0”, 216 pounds
Montgomery came into the Senior Bowl trying to rebound after a poor season which saw him catch the same amount of passes as his junior year (61 receptions) but for almost 400 less yards and seven less touchdowns. His lackluster play continued at the all-star game as he showed poor hands and route running ability. While he can be explosive with the ball in his hands, and can be an electric returner, his ability to separate and his hands will hold him back at the next level. I think he has seen his value drop to the fourth or fifth rounds at this point.
Devin Smith, WR Ohio State
6’0”, 190 pounds
Smith came to the Senior Bowl as one of the elite vertical deep threats in college football and continued to live up to that hype during practices. He has a tremendous ability to use his speed, and ball tracking skills to make the catch down the field. The negative in his game is that right now, he lacks the ability to run many of the other routes needed to be a very good receiver in the NFL. Entering the Senior Bowl, there were some talk about him going in the first round but with another deep draft class of receivers I do not see that. Since he does offer one elite trait, which is highly valued in the NFL, and has the potential to improve the rest of his game, he still will get drafted most likely in the top 50 picks of the draft.
Kasen Williams, WR Washington
6’3 218 pounds
Over the last year two Williams has seen his value decrease more than possibly any other player in college football. Following a fantastic sophomore season, where he caught 77 passes, for 878 yards and six touchdowns, he was being mentioned as a possible future first round pick. Then during his junior year he suffered a broken leg and a foot injury that has derailed his career since. Williams struggled to regain his form following the injury this past season as he only caught 20 passes for 189 yards. The Shrine game was supposed to give him an opportunity to show NFL teams he was past his injuries and show the size, speed, and athleticism that he once displayed. Unfortunately that did not happen, as all the reports were that he struggled to create separation, and battled inconsistency all week. The news continued to get worse for Williams as he did not get invited to the combine and now only has his pro day left to try and improve his stock. I believe he still has a chance to get drafted but not until the last round or two of the draft.