Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
The Gators stand-out defensive tackle has been getting a lot of acclaim around the league. Teams love his versatility to play multiple techniques in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Floyd showed his disruptive ability at Florida as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 and as an end in a 3-4. The 6-foot-3, 301-pounder is very quick and causes a lot of havoc off the snap. Floyd also has surprising strength to shed blocks. It wouldn't be surprising if he excels at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
The junior finished his collegiate career in dominant fashion against Florida State and Louisville. He had 46 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and three sacks in 2012. Floyd made a real impact against Texas A&M and Tennessee when Florida's defense played great in the second half to lead to comeback road wins. He also played well against LSU. Currently, Floyd's rise could lead him to break into the top half of the first round.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The rise of Lacy's draft stock hasn't slowed since he ran all over Notre Dame in the National Championship last month. Lacy has continued to get a lot of acclaim. Some feel that he is the top running back in the 2013 NFL Draft and are projecting him to be a first-round pick. Lacy totaled 1,322 yards (6.4 average) and 17 touchdowns this year on only 204 carries. He was a power runner for Alabama and came up with some clutch performances late in the season.
The big questions regarding Lacy could be answered at the combine. Some wonder about his speed, so his 40 time will be worth watching. The other question mark is his ability to contribute in the passing game. Lacy caught only 22 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns in 2012.
The passing driven NFL wants an early-round pick at running back to be skilled at catching passes and blocking in blitz protection. If Lacy looks smooth and fluid as a receiver at the NFL Scouting Combine, he will help his chances of going in the first round.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Many observers believe that Patterson has the best physical skill set of any receiver in the 2013 draft class. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder showed during this year that he is a dynamic play-maker.
Patterson produced big plays through the air, on the ground and on special teams in 2012. He totaled 46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns, plus ran the ball for 308 yards and three scores. Patterson averaged 28 yards per kickoff return with a touchdown on 24 attempts and four punts returned for 101 yards and a touchdown as well.
There is no doubt that Patterson is big, fast and explosive. However, he needs to interview well at the combine and his wonderlic test could be relevant as a junior college product.
Patterson is also very raw and only played one season at Tennessee before going pro. He needed more development at the college level, but Patterson will have to be coached up at the pro level. The 2012 NFL Draft featured a similar prospect in Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, and he went in the second round. Patterson is in a weaker draft class and there is less talent at wide receiver, so has a real shot at the first round.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Baylor wide receiver Terrance Williams underwhelmed at the Senior Bowl and may no longer grade out as a first-round pick. Other prospects stand to benefit and Hopkins is chief among them. The junior was tremendous this year with his route-running, hands, quickness, toughness and big-play ability. Hopkins was Tajh Boyd's No. 1 receiver in 2012 and totaled 1,405 yards on 82 catches and 18 touchdowns. While Sammy Watkins got all the acclaim entering the season, Hopkins was the far more effective receiver.
There are some projections that have Hopkins as a late first-round pick. If the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder blazes a fast time at the combine, that will really help his draft stock. He also needs to weigh in at his listed height. Williams was one receiver who was billed to be significantly bigger than he measured out. A productive combine will be huge for Hopkins.
Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
The Manchester, England product is a freak athlete. The former basketball player is very fast and agile at 6-foot-6, 320-pounds. Watson played right tackle for Florida State and will probably start out there in the NFL. However given his quick feet and athleticism, there is the potential for him to move to left tackle in the future.
Watson was a key cog in the Seminoles featuring a quality rushing offense in 2012. He already looks ready to compete in the NFL as a run-blocker. Watson's pass protection though will need some work as he is very inexperienced. Watson may require more development than most early-round picks, but he is an interesting prospect who has a good shot of going on the second day.
Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford
Ertz played well consistently throughout 2012 and is now the top tight end for the 2013 NFL Draft. Some prefer Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert, but the emerging consensus opinion holds Ertz in higher regard. Part of the reason is that he is a better blocker than Eifert. The Stanford coaching staff did a good job coaching up Ertz, and he was a real contributor to the Cardinal's tough ground offense. Ertz also led Stanford in receiving.
Eifert (6-6, 249) was held back by weaker quarterback play, but Ertz had the same handicap in 2012. Ertz totaled 69 receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns. Eifert (6-6, 251) hauled in 50 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns. Ertz looks like a more complete player as a receiver and a blocker who is ready to start in the NFL. There is a good chance that Ertz will go in the first round next April.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The NFL's sheer desperation for quarterbacks is helping Barkley, which is almost laughable. He had a rough senior season, but there are some around the league who are trumpeting him as still worthy of going in the first round after being seen as a top-10 pick a year ago.
Barkley did have a weak offensive line this year, but he still didn't play as well and his decision-making went into regression. Barkley completed 64 percent of his passes this year for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He completed 69 percent of his passes in 2011 for 3,528 yards with 39 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
Barkley has done nothing to improve his draft stock since he was knocked out for the season in the Trojans' loss against UCLA, but that hasn't stopped people in the NFL from giving Barkley the benefit of the doubt. Quarterback needy teams have him in the race to be the second quarterback selected, and his draft stock has surged of late.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
It is nice to see Lattimore included in the Stock Up section. The Gamecocks star running back is far ahead of schedule in his comeback attempt from a gruesome knee injury. Lattimore suffered torn knee ligaments during the 2011 season and was just getting back into the groove before he sustained a dislocated knee with ligament damage midway through this year.
Lattimore was having a good season prior to the injury. The junior averaged 4.6 yards per carry with 662 yards and 11 touchdowns. He had 26 receptions for 173 yards, too.
The highly regarded Dr. James Andrews has stated that Lattimore is far ahead of schedule, and his knee is enjoying a recovery far better than the expectations. Lattimore is well-liked throughout the NFL and his character helps him. With other players like Willis McGahee enjoying a good career despite suffering similar injuries, many believe Lattimore could follow suit.
While Lattimore isn't rising into the first round like McGahee, there are teams coming around to potentially using a third-day pick on Lattimore. It was only a few months ago where he was the top back in the 2013 NFL Draft, so Lattimore could be a steal if he can stay healthy and return to his old form.
2013 NFL Draft Stock Down
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Scouts at the East-West Shrine told WalterFootball.com that Jones would slide on draft day because they believe he will test poorly before the 2013 NFL Draft and isn't a hard worker in the weight room. The scouts said that watching the game tape, Jones is worthy of being a top draft pick, but they don't believe he will go that high.
The NFL draft has been known to unnecessarily knock down good players over questionable concerns. That could be the case with Jones as he was one of the best players in college football the past two seasons. Jones amassed 85 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for a loss, seven forced fumbles, three passes broken up and one interception in 2012. He had 13.5 sacks, 70 tackles with 19.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in 2011.
There are other issues with Jones (6-3, 241) as some believe he will check in at the combine much smaller than his listed measurements. Some teams may make a big deal out of the neck injury that caused him to transfer from USC to Georgia. While Jones' college tape indicates he's a top-five pick, it sounds like he could fall into the middle of the first round.
Khaled Holmes, C, USC
The senior center Holmes struggled in 2012 and didn't help his cause by playing in the Senior Bowl. He reportedly pulled out due to an injury, and it is unknown if he will be able to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine. The 6-foot-4, 305-pounder had issues in pass protection and run blocking this year. Since Holmes didn't take advantage of the Senior Bowl to help his stock, other centers have passed him in the rankings.
San Jose State's David Quessenberry and California's Brian Schwenke both performed well in Mobile. Both of them now should go ahead of Holmes since each looks to be a better center prospect compared to what Holmes showed as a senior. Holmes looks like a third-day pick at the moment. That is a decent slide since he entered the season as a second-day selection.