This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2014 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.
By Charlie Campbell.
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2014 NFL Draft Stock Up
Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
The Seminoles had a hole at defensive end after losing Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins to the NFL. Florida State moved inside linebacker Christian Jones to take a lot of snaps on the edge in 2013, and he stepped up to be a presence in the middle of the Florida State defense. Smith was a backup as a junior and sophomore, but took advantage of the opportunity to start in 2013.
The senior had 75 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, four passes broken up and three interceptions this year. His pass-coverage ability will appeal to teams as a three-down linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder is a little light, but he has enough height that he should be able to get over 230 after spending some time in an NFL strength and conditioning program. Smith could get Day 2 consideration next May.
Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah
In 2012 and 2011, Reilly made his presence felt playing off of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Reilly had 69 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four passes batted and three forced fumbles in 2011 , and five sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012. Reilly stepped up to lead the Utes' defense this season with Lotulelei in the NFL. The senior recorded 100 tackles with 8.5 sacks, 16 tackles for a loss, two passes broken up, one interception and one forced fumble in 2013.
The 6-foot-5, 255-pounder is an interesting athlete who could function as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. If Reilly is drafted to play end, he is going to need to add some weight to his frame. Reilly is fluid for his size with the ability drop into pass coverage. He is a sleeper prospect who could be a nice value pick on the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Joe Bitonio, OT, Nevada
Nevada had a bad year, but Bitonio played well in his final collegiate season. He did a great job of run blocking in 2012 for the nation's second-leading rusher in Stefphon Jefferson. Bitonio continued to play at a high level as a senior while Nevanda finished 4-8. He showed the ability to be a balanced blocker and helped himself by building on his junior year.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Bitonio might be a better fit as a guard in the NFL. He will have the opportunity to prove to scouts that he can stay at tackle at the Senior Bowl. His strong play landed him a highly coveted spot in the All-Star game. If Bitonio performs well in Mobile, he could break into the second day of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Brandon Linder, OG, Miami
Linder turned in an impressive senior season to be named a Second-Team All-ACC selection. He did a good job of opening up holes for Duke Johnson in the ground game and was a reliable pass-protector for Stephen Morris. Linder broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2011. In his debut season, he allowed only 1.5 sacks. Linder had 12 games at right guard as a junior. Hee had nine starts at right guard and three starts at right tackle this year.
The 6-foot-6, 319-pound Linder has excellent size for the NFL. He can move bodies at the line of scrimmage and could fit well in a power man-blocking scheme. Linder will be playing at the Senior Bowl, so he will get the opportunity to show NFL scouts that he is worthy of being one of the early guards selected in the 2014 draft class.
Joe Don Duncan, TE, Dixie State
The Division II product Duncan is going to get the opportunity to impress NFL evaluators at the Senior Bowl. It is rare for D-II players to get Senior Bowl invites, but Duncan managed to impress Phil Savage and the Senior Bowl selection staff. The senior caught 71 passes for 1,045 yards and 13 touchdowns this year - Dixie State is in Utah by the way. His career totals rewrote record books with 135 receptions for 1,994 yards and 22 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-3, 267-pounder is said to have the athletic ability to also execute some fullback and H-back duties. Duncan had a knee injury in 2012 that required surgery, so he will have a significant medical check at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine.
Of all the positions to be an obscure prospect, tight end may be the best thanks to unknowns who have become good players in the NFL. Antonio Gates being the most well-known example. If Duncan can play well against better competition at the Senior Bowl, it could really propel his stock to the mid-rounds.
Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
Any casual observer would know that Erving must have had a good season considering his quarterback won the Heisman Trophy. Erving had a phenomenal 2013 protecting the blind side of Jameis Winston. Erving also thrived against the top speed-rusher he played this year. Against Clemson's Vic Beasley, Erving and the Seminoles made Beasley a non-factor. Erving also played well against Miami and defensive end Anthony Chickillo.
Erving has the skill set to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder is very quick for his size and moves well on the edge. He also has the strength to be a downhill run-blocker. Florida State did a nice job of developing Erving as he missed the 2010 season with a back injury. He played defensive tackle in 2011 before moving to left tackle in 2012. Erving was such an instant fit on the blind side that Menelik Watson played right tackle. If Erving enters the 2014 NFL Draft, he could easily go in the top 20.
Brent Urban, DT, Virginia
While Urban didn't have a huge stat line as a senior, when you watched Virginia, he was impossible to ignore. The 6-foot-7, 295-pounder routinely tossed offensive linemen to the side to fire into the backfield to cause disruption. Urban stood out with a strong performance against Miami late in the season. He had 40 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and nine passes batted this year. As a junior in 2012, Urban had 20 tackles with two sacks and a forced fumble.
Urban hails from Canada, so he could require a little more developmental time in the NFL. His style of play is similar to Denver Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe. A strong Senior Bowl performance for Urban could vault him up draft boards.
Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
Reid was impressive enough in his time at Princeton to land a spot in the Senior Bowl. He had 3.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss this year. Reid broke out in 2011 with a eight sack season and also had 68 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, three blocked kicks and three passes broken up. He had 40 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a pass broken up as a redshirt junior in 2012.
NFL scouts entered the 2013 season with some familiarity toward Reid after evaluating defensive end Mike Catapano for last April's draft. Catapano went in the seventh round to the Chiefs, so Caraun Reid has a head start on going higher after landing an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He will make the case in Mobile to be a third-day selection.
2014 NFL Draft Stock Down
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
In speaking with sources around the league, they like Verrett as a player, but feel he could be too undersized to avoid being targeted in the NFL. The 5-foot-10, 176-pounder could check in smaller than his listed measurements. As those numbers stand, Verrett looks like at most a nickel corner in the NFL. Nickel corners are virtual starters, so his role would still be significant, but his size could knock him down on draft day.
Verrett assembled 38 tackles with 14 passes defended and two interceptions in 2013. He had an even better season in 2012 with six interceptions, 16 passes broken up, 63 tackles and a blocked kick. Verrett is an instinctive player that always is a around the ball.
Sources said they couldn't take Verrett in the first two rounds because they feel he's going to get pushed around by NFL receivers and will be a mismatch. It sounds very possible that Verrett falls lower than expected on draft day.
A.J. Johnson, LB, Tennessee
Johnson didn't have a great 2013 season. The junior needs to get better at reading his keys for the NFL. Johnson had 106 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss and three passes broken up. He looked better as a sophomore when he had 138 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, one sack and one pass broken up. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder has the speed to function as a three-down linebacker in the NFL, but needs to get better at putting himself in the right position.
Johnson is considering skipping his senior season and entering the 2014 NFL Draft. In speaking with sources, they think Johnson would be better off returning for his senior season and improving before going pro. They feel that if Johnson enters this draft, he shouldn't go higher than the third round.
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