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
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
While Texas A&M was upset by Auburn, Evans put on a show for NFL scouts. He continued his stellar season with a dominating performance. Evans was unstoppable. To get his big day started, Johnny Manziel hooked up with him for a 26-yard touchdown on a wide receiver screen. Shortly later, Manziel dodged a sack and threw a ball up for grabs that Evans came down with for a completion of about 30 yards. He continued to dominate later in the first quarter with a bubble screen that he took the distance for a 64-yard touchdown.
Just before halftime, Manziel scrambled and threw a dart to Evans on the run in the intermediate part of the field. Evans bounced to the outside and exploded down the sideline for a 42-yard touchdown with a dive into the end zone over a defender.
Evans has insane body control that makes him a significant weapon deep along the sideline. Manziel and Evans hooked up again for six in the third quarter. Evans ran a deep route along the sideline before turning to run across the front of end zone. He shielded and outfought the corner for the ball.
Evans finished with 11 receptions for 287 yards and four touchdowns against Auburn. He has 43 receptions for 1,024 yards with nine touchdowns so far this year. Evans has averaged 23.8 yards per reception this season. This tape shows why the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder is the top-rated draft eligible receiver given his ability to make big plays. He can beat defenses downfield with his mismatch size, the speed to get vertical and the ability to rip off yards after the catch. Evans is giving NFL teams evidence of why he belongs as a top-10 pick.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron would be in the running to be the first tight end selected next May if he decides to declare for the 2014 NFL Draft. The junior’s performance against Miami will help him to get consideration as a Thursday night pick. Ebron showed his speed against the Hurricanes on a shallow cross he took down the field for a gain of close to 20 yards. Shortly later, Ebron got the Tar Heels on the board with a 71-yard touchdown. He ran a cross in the intermediate part of the field, broke a tackle from a linebacker and cornerback to explode down the sideline for the score. His breakaway speed was very impressive.
On the next drive, Renner lofted in a nice throw to Ebron running down the seam for a gain of 31 yards. He made a miraculous 23-yard reception in the third quarter. The pass was thrown behind him, but he reached back to make a juggling one-handed catch. If Renner had thrown an accurate pass to hit Ebron in stride, it could easily have been another touchdown of about 70 yards. He had another reception of about 25 yards late in the fourth quarter.
Ebron finished the game against Miami with nine receptions for 205 yards with a touchdown. He also showed some nice blocking ability on a number of runs. Ebron was utterly dominant illustrating his speed, route-running, generally solid hands and mismatch potential. He looks like a three-down starter for the NFL and is ready to make the jump to the next level.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
One of the fastest rising prospects this season has been Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman. Last Saturday against Northwestern, he showed rare athletic ability for a player of his size. Hageman had an impressive pass rush early in the game when he tossed a guard flat on his butt. A double-team from the center kept Hageman from getting to the quarterback, but the guard almost flew into his signal-caller. The Wildcats sent plays away from Hageman all day while also pinning double-teams his direction. Northwestern also got away with some holds on him.
In the second quarter, Hageman showed his athletic ability when he dropped into pass coverage. Hageman reached up with his left arm and tipped the pass lower to control it with both hands. The big lineman rumbled down the field before being tackled. Hageman had a nice pass rush and batted a pass on a third down in the third quarter. That happened again early in the fourth quarter.
Hageman was a load at the line of scrimmage throughout this contest. Northwestern had to run away from him and had to send a lot of double-teams to keep him from wrecking plays. The Wildcats couldn’t move Hageman in the ground game as he did a great job of filling his gap. The redshirt senior has 24 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, six passes broken up and the interception in 2013. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder has a special combination of power and quickness.
Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan
The diminutive receiver has been very productive for Michigan this season, but he had a record-breaking day against Indiana with 14 receptions for 369 yards and two touchdowns. That set a Big Ten record as Gallon consistently ripped of big gains for the Wolverines. The speedster took a short catch and broke down the field for a 70-yard gain. He also caught a 21-yard touchdown. The Hoosiers were incapable of containing Gallon and preventing him from getting separation.
The 5-foot-8, 187-pound Gallon has been a receiving threat all season, including a huge game against Notre Dame. He has 45 receptions in 2013 for 831 yards with seven touchdowns. The redshirt senior is averaging 18.5 yards per catch. In the passing-driven NFL, there is a need for smaller slot receivers. Gallon’s big production, combined with teams looking for those play-makers, could help him to receive second-day consideration in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
In the marquee matchup between Florida State and Clemson, the night belonged to Joyner. He made his presence felt immediately by forcing a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. The receiver had a nice gain going when Joyner slapped the ball out of his hands. That set up a quick Seminoles touchdown. Later in the first quarter, Boyd was cleaned out on a corner blitz from Joyner. He slapped the ball out of Boyd’s hands and Florida State’s Mario Edwards scooped up the ball and returned it for a 37-yard touchdown.
The drive after his strip-sack, Joyner was mugging a receiver downfield and was called for a pass interference. Late in the second quarter with Clemson driving, Joyner picked off an errant throw by Boyd. The receiver cut to the corner while Boyd threw the pass to the inside; it flew right to Joyner. He made his presence felt all evening with good pass coverage and staying around the ball. His splash plays had a huge impact on the scoreboard to get the Seminoles started on their blowout.
In 2013, Joyner has 33 tackles with three tackles for a loss, one interception, two passes broken up, three forced fumbles and three sacks. The 5-foot-8, 190-pounder has some Tyrann Mathieu to him. Joyner is small, but is a pure football player with excellent instincts. He could get second-day consideration in the 2014 NFL Draft as a nickel corner and safety hybrid.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
The Gators’ offensive line was dominated by Sam and Missouri. He had three sacks with four tackles. On two sacks, Sam used a blazing speed rush to get by right tackle Tyler Moore and chase down Tyler Murphy. His third sack was more great speed to close on the signal-caller, but he also was unblocked on the play. This was third game this year in which Sam recorded three sacks. Arkansas State and Vanderbilt were his other victims.
Sam has 27 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss and nine sacks this season. The senior is showing massive improvements over earlier in his career. He had only seven tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks in 2012 despite having the luxury of playing near Sheldon Richardson. The speedy Sam looks like a good fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker for the NFL. The 6-foot-2, 255-pounder doesn’t have the size to play defensive end in an NFL 4-3 defense. Halfway through a great senior year, Sam is showing NFL teams that he is worthy of a draft pick and maybe even second-day consideration.
Honorable Mentions: North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin, Stanford defensive end Trent Murphy, Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief.
2014 NFL Draft Stock Down
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
There are some who believe that UCLA’s Brett Hundley or Oregon’s Marcus Mariota could challenge Teddy Bridgewater as the top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. Against Stanford’s defense with a lot of NFL prospects, Hundley struggled and had his worst game of the season. The Cardinal defense was dominant in the first half and shut out the Bruins. Hundley had some inaccurate throws and never got into a rhythm.
In the second half, Hundley had a bad mistake with an interception on a deep pass. He stared down his receiver and a safety undercut the throw for the pick. The defender took off down the sideline for a touchdown, but the score was called back due to a Stanford penalty. Hundley had plenty of time on the next drive, and should have thrown the ball away, but eventually was tracked down by Trent Murphy for a sack. Late in the fourth quarter, Hundley had one more shot to tie the game at 17. He threw a dig route and his receiver fell down. That let the ball fly to a defender for an interception that wasn’t Hundley’s fault. The Cardinal scored a game-clinching touchdown a few plays later.
Hundley completed 24-of-39 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. While the redshirt sophomore has had an excellent season, the Stanford game illustrates that he still needs more growth in his eye control as a tool to help open up his receivers. Hundley could improve his field vision and working through his progressions. He is a young player with a lot of potential, but the Cardinal illustrated that he is still a work in progress as a prospect.
Stephen Morris, QB, Miami
Some feel that Morris is one of the top-five quarterback prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft, but he definitely hurt that perception with a terrible performance against North Carolina. Morris started the game poorly with an interception on his first drive. He was under pressure and threw a ball up for grabs. The pass was trailing away from his receiver and a freshman defensive back made an impressive leaping reception. A few plays later, Morris had an inaccurate overthrow that was caught for a leaping interception by Tre Boston.
With the Hurricanes trying to make a fourth-quarter comeback, Morris had a terrible play. He had a clean pocket, but scrambled to his left. Morris then threw a pass up for grabs to a well-covered receiver with multiple defenders there, and his pass was intercepted. He finished 17-of-33 for 322 yards and four interceptions against the Tar Heels. It was an ugly game as Morris showed bad accuracy and some poor decision-making.
Morris needs to improve his footwork dramatically. He is not consistent and gets sloppy with his follow through. That hurts his accuracy and causes a lot of his throws to sail high. Overthrows, especially in the middle of field, lead to a lot of interceptions at the next level. Morris provided NFL evaluators with a tape that hurts his draft grade and makes him look like a second-day pick rather than a candidate for a first-round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
The senior Boyd probably had his worst game since his first-year as a starter in 2011. He had a number of inaccurate misfires against Florida State, plus skipped some balls short and committed a number of overthrows. Boyd also threw an interception to Lamarcus Joyner on a miscommunication with his wide receiver and allowed Joyner to strip-sack him. Boyd made a mental mistake when he didn’t see or feel the rush from Joyner. On a fourth-and-5, Boyd rolled to his right and threw to a well-covered receiver. Florida State’s Ronald Darby cut in front to pick off the pass. Boyd was in a tough spot because the Seminoles defended the play perfectly. He didn’t have running room and his receivers weren’t open.
Boyd completed 17-of-37 passes for 156 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions versus Florida State. This tape definitely won’t help his draft stock. Some teams have concerns about Boyd’s height (around 6-foot) and accuracy, so this performance will speak to that. He didn’t look like a candidate for a top-10 pick against the Seminoles.
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
One of the breakout players of the 2013 season has been Clemson junior defensive end Vic Beasley. He has been one of the best edge-rushers in the nation this year. The undersized Beasley (6-2, 235) was going to take on his best offensive line yet with Florida State. The Seminoles had success running at Beasley, and aside from two plays, he was a ghost in the pass rush. The junior finished the contest with only two tackles.
In order for Clemson to have a shot at containing the Florida State offense, the Tigers needed a big night from Beasely. Instead, he was a non-factor. Florida State junior tackle Cameron Erving outplayed Beasley. This tape will definitely hurt Beasley’s draft standing.
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