This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2012 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.
By Charlie Campbell.
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2012 NFL Draft Stock Up
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Tannehill must have done something right in a past life because he has had a lot of good fortune. Despite only starting 20 games at quarterback in college, he is moving up boards to be a high first-round pick. During a solid senior season, there was talk that he could turn into a first-round pick. That picked up steam to the point of him definitely being viewed as a potential late first-rounder.
After the 2011 season ended, Tannehill's stock has continued to surge despite a foot injury that knocked him out of the Combine and Senior Bowl. Now, many pundits believe he will go in the top half of the first round and could go in the top 10. Tannehill's climb in draft stock has happened even though he has not been able to work out for NFL evaluators.
With a few signal callers deciding to stay in school, it turned out to be a great year for Tannehill to be in the draft. In 2011, he completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,744 yards with 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The former wide receiver is an excellent athlete and is very dangerous running with the football. Aside from his passing, he ran for 355 yards with four touchdowns.
Tannehill played in a pro-style West Coast offense, and has a strong arm. All of that is why he has seen his stock steadily rising. Tannehill's draft climb is a clear indicator for the demand at the quarterback position across the NFL.
Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
The big linebacker had an impressive pro day, and staff from around the league believe that Hightower is moving up higher in the first round. Weeks ago, he was viewed as a very late first-round pick and a player who may have fallen of the first round.
However after the Combine and his pro day, Hightower looks to be a pick in the 20s. Many believe that he won't get past the Steelers at the 24th overall pick.
The 6-foot-2, 265-pound Hightower is very athletic for such a heavy linebacker. Teams have gotten more comfortable with him as an every-down player who can also contribute as a pass rusher on third down. At his pro day, Hightower had a strong workout to help his stock. He is an option for many 4-3 defenses, and a very good fit in a 3-4 defense. Hightower is the second-rated middle linebacker in the draft, so don't be surprised if his rise continues.
Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill continued to improve his stock with a good pro day. Scouts indicated that he looked better than expected in running routes, and his hands were very strong. In 2011, Hill averaged 29.3 yards per catch with a total of 28 receptions that he turned into 820 yards and five touchdowns. Most of the time, Hill was running go routes down the field and did not run the entire route tree. The inexperience and rawness have been his biggest detriment, but with him performing better than expected at his pro day, he is confirming his ability to be an impact receiver.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder blew people away when he ran a 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds. It was a staggering time for a receiver of his size. That was the catalyst for Hill's stock to skyrocket from a mid second-day pick into the first round.
Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
One of the players who quietly had an excellent Combine was McClellin. He showed up 12 pounds heavier than the Senior Bowl, yet he showed excellent speed at the heavier weight with a 40-yard dash time at 4.62. That was one of the faster times for front seven defenders. McClellin is a conversion player who has to fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. At Boise State, the Broncos used him all over the front seven, so his versatility in handling a variety of assignments is already well developed.
After a quiet performance at the Senior Bowl, McClellin looked like he could fall into the mid-rounds. His strong Combine performance, with the added size to play a natural position, has restored his stock, rebounding him into the second round.
Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
Smith is benefiting from a weak safety class. The lack of safeties in this draft class not only provides less competition in players to go ahead of Smith, but it creates a bigger demand for his services. He had an impressive performance at the Combine and the Senior Bowl. Smith showed off the athletic skill to be a coverage safety with the build to play near the line of scrimmage.
The NFL is a passing league and there are many teams that need safety help. That alone pushes Smith's stock higher, and there are those that believe that he could get consideration late in the first round.
Another potential benefit for Smith is the consensus top safety in the draft, Alabama's Mark Barron, has been sidelined since the end of the season. Barron had double hernia surgery and missed his pro day after being held out of the Combine. If his health doesn't show signs of progress, Smith could have some teams looking at him as the top safety in the 2012 NFL Draft
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Courtney Upshaw, OLB/DE, Alabama
The word around the league is that teams are getting frustrated with Upshaw's inability to work out. He didn't run the 40 at the combine and didn't impress in the field drills. Upshaw then skipped Alabama's pro day because of knee tendonitis. He has firmly fallen behind other first-round pass rushers like South Carolina's Melvin Ingram and North Carolina's Quinton Coples. If Upshaw doesn't impress when he finally does work out, he could fall below other prospects like Illinois' Whitney Mercilus or USC's Nick Perry.
Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
While other defensive tackles like Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox had superb Combine performances, Brockers disappointed after the weigh-in. His 40 time was slower than expected (5.33) and his bench press total was alarmingly low (19). When you combine that with the fact that Brockers is a one-year wonder at the college level, there are some that feel he is a late first-rounder rather than being a top-10 pick like he was a few weeks ago.
Many had Brockers going to Carolina with the ninth pick, but now he is being seen more as a mid-to-late first-round pick. If Brockers has a good pro day, he could bounce back into the top 16, but the pressure is on. Players who are one-year wonders can have a big discrepancy in their grade from team to team. Brockers' stock is fluid right now.
Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
Before the Combine, Sanu was a candidate for the first round after a huge junior season. However, he did not run well at the Combine with a disappointing 40 time at 4.67. With Stephen Hill breaking out at the Combine and his pro day, he has passed Sanu in the wide receiver rankings with Hill being the late first-round receiver and Sanu going to the second day of the draft.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pounder has very good hands and looks like a possession receiver in the NFL. He caught 115 passes for 1,206 yards with seven touchdowns in 2011. Even though Sanu has all that production, his lack of foot speed causes concerns about his ability to get separation in the NFL. He needs a big pro day performance, but right now Sanu looks like a definite second-day pick.
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