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
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
After a rough start with a couple of drops, Benjamin took over to dominate Florida; he owned cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. Jameis Winston hit Benjamin on a short slant, and the big wide out broke a couple of tackles to run down the field and into the end zone for a 45-yard score. Benjamin later burned Purifoy on an out and up route to get wide open for a 29-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Winston laid out a bomb for Benjamin as he beat Purifoy on a deep post for a 56-yard completion. Benjamin then made an impressive adjustment to make a four-yard touchdown catch. Against Florida, he totaled nine receptions for 212 yards with three touchdowns.
In 2013, Benjamin has 45 receptions for 838 yards with 12 touchdowns. Many believe the redshirt sophomore will enter the 2014 NFL Draft. Benjamin dropped three passes – one a definite touchdown – against the Gators, but he made some phenomenal catches that illustrate a great skill set. Benjamin (6-5, 234) has a rare combination of size and speed. This performance will definitely help him to be an early-round pick.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Going against Oregon State speedster Brandin Cooks, Ekpre-Olomu put on a show. Ekpre-Olomu had perfect coverage on a slant into the end zone and snatched the pass away for an interception. He slapped away three other plays, too. One was critical in the third quarter as Ekpre-Olomu had good coverage on Cooks in the end zone. Sean Mannion put the ball up for grabs and Ekpre-Olomu came down with the ball, but he couldn’t hold on as he hit the ground.
Ekpre-Olomu made a touchdown-saving tackle inside the 10 that helped set up a turnover on downs, and he had a clutch pass breakup on a two-point conversion in Oregon’s one-point victory. Against Oregon State, Ekpre-Olomu had 12 tackles, four passes broken up and an interception. He came close to a few other interceptions.
This was a superb performance from Ekpre-Olomu. He showed the movement skills, speed and agility to prevent a small, speedy receiver like Cooks from gaining separation. Not only did Ekpre-Olomu demonstrate man-coverage ability, but he put on display of ball skills and physical run defense. In 2013, Ekpre-Olomu has 78 tackles, six passes broken up, three interceptions and one forced fumble. This tape could help him to be a first-round pick.
Josh Huff, CB, Oregon
Huff came up with a clutch game to lead Oregon to a win in the Civil War. He opened his evening with a 44-yard reception running down the middle of the field. Huff then got himself open for a 28-yard touchdown. Marcus Mariota soon connected with him on a deep cross for a 37-yard completion. The duo then grabbed the Ducks the lead when they hooked up on fourth-and-11 for a score. It was a out route in the front of the end zone. With 30 seconds remaining, Mariota hit Huff for a 12-yard touchdown. Huff made a great adjustment to leap and reach back for the reception. He finished with nine receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2013, Huff has 57 receptions for 1,036 yards and 11 touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 202-pounder has the speed to get separation and runs good routes. Huff could be weapon as a slot receiver in the NFL. He could be a valuable second-day pick.
Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Martin had the task of going against Stanford’s Trent Murphy, the nation’s leader in sacks, and Martin had a superlative game blocking Murphy. Martin did a tremendous job of blocking Murphy and keeping him from making a big impact. Murphy dropped into coverage and rushed from different spots, but Martin had a number of pass-rushing one-on-ones against Murphy and won them all. Martin showed nice quickness and footwork to get depth in his drop to negate Murphy’s speed rush. Martin also withstood bull rushes. It was a very impressive performance from him that should definitely help his draft grade.
The 6-foot-4, 308-pounder has had a strong senior season. His performance against Murphy will strengthen the argument to teams that Martin can stay at left tackle in the NFL. He has been reliable in pass protection and in run blocking. There are a lot of similarities between Martin and Justin Pugh, the Syracuse left tackle who went in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft to the Giants. If Martin has a strong week at the Senior Bowl, his stock could really rise.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/OLB, Texas
In his final home game, Jeffcoat showed some great versatility for the NFL. Texas used him in a different manner against the Red Raiders. Typically, he has played defensive end or a stand-up rush linebacker. In this game, Jeffcoat lined up as a middle linebacker often in running downs. In passing situations, he would go back to the edge.
Jeffcoat recorded his first sack of the evening while lining up over the right guard. Jeffcoat came on a stunt up the middle to get to quarterback Baker Mayfield. A couple minutes later, Jeffcoat started as a middle linebacker and used his speed to run around the left tackle to chase down Mayfield from behind for a sack. Jeffcoat had seven tackles with three sacks.
In 2013, Jeffcoat has 10 sacks, 62 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, three passes batted and an interception. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder is undersized to play defensive end in the NFL, so playing linebacker in a 3-4 would be his best fit. He showed the ability to move inside while also being able to rush off the edge.
Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Sankey did the heavy lifting to lead the Huskies to a 10-point win in the Apple Cup. He got going in the third quarter with a 40-yard gain on a screen. Sankey ran over the Washington State defense on the next drive with a number of runs for good yardage, including a seven-yard touchdown. He showed some great moves to spin away from defenders and zig-zag his way through the defense. Sankey finished with 200 yards on 34 carries with the 40-yards receiving. It was another excellent performance from the junior as he showed quickness, vision, balance and cutting ability. If Sankey enters the 2014 NFL Draft, he could be a nice value pick on the second day.
Sankey has averaged 5.8 yards per carry this season for 1,775 yards with 18 touchdowns. He has 25 receptions for 298 yards and another score. It was the third time this year that Sankey has reached 200 yards in a game. The 5-foot-10, 203-pounder has shown the strength to pick up yards after contact while running with excellent pad level. He is a quick, elusive runner with good vision. Sankey’s three-down ability makes him look like a starter in the NFL, and a good value pick in the second round – if he enters the draft.
Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/OLB, Georgia Tech
After a slow start to the season, Attaochu closed out the regular season with a fury. After recording multi-sack games against Clemson, Virginia and Pitt, he dominated Georgia with four sacks, eight tackles and a pass broken up. For his first sack, Attaochu burned the right tackle to the inside, fought off the running back and got to the quarterback. Attaochu had another sack when he beat a block from Todd Gurley to get to Hutson Mason.
Attaochu has 12 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss, 40 tackles, one forced fumble and two passes broken up in 2013. The 6-foot-3, 242-pounder looks like a perfect fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He doesn’t have the size to play defensive end in the NFL, but he could fit in a 4-3 defense in a manner similar to Von Miller in Denver. Attaochu has blazing speed off the edge and is elusive for tackles to get a hold. Right now, he looks like a second-day pick, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he rises.
Honorable Mentions: Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton, Oregon defensive end Taylor Hart, Stanford cornerback Wayne Lyons and Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis.
2014 NFL Draft Stock Down
Corey Robinson, OT, South Carolina
South Carolina left tackle Corey Robinson has had a strong 2013 season but had the tough task of going against Clemson speed rusher Vic Beasley. After being held in check in the early going, Beasley beat Robinson for a strip-sack of quarterback Connor Shaw. In the third quarter, Beasley had leverage on Robinson. As Beasley was going by him, Robinson pushed Beasley to the ground, but the defender still tackled Shaw for his second sack. Beasley darted to the inside on the next play, and Robinson had to hold him to keep Beasley from getting his third sack.
The 6-foot-8, 341-pound Robinson is a converted defensive lineman who has a lot of athletic ability. This performance could hurt him and illustrate that he is a better fit on the right side. If the redshirt junior enters the 2014 NFL Draft, he could be a second-day selection.
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Boyd really elevated his game to lead Clemson over LSU and Georgia, but rival South Carolina’s defense was able to put a stop to that trend. Boyd had a rushing touchdown and made some nice throws to move the ball, but in the fourth quarter, he turned the ball over three times. The senior was stripped by Chaz Sutton on the first one. Boyd’s first interception was a terrible read as he aimed for Sammy Watkins in a crowd of four defenders. A Gamecock easily undercut the receiver to make the pick. The second was an overthrow in the middle of the field that fell to a defender.
Boyd finished completing 19-of-27 for 225 yards with two picks, a lost fumble and a rushing touchdown. His struggles against the good defenses he has played this year – Florida State and South Carolina – could contribute to him sliding in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
It is unfortunate to have Murray on the stock-down list, but a late-season ACL tear always is harmful to a player’s draft stock. Murray’s injury will knock him out of the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, as well as likely cause him to be limited at a pro day before the draft. It helps the senior that the 2014 NFL Draft was moved to May, but in a crowded quarterback class, it will be difficult for Murray to stand out while rehabbing his injury. Depending on how his rehab goes, teams could be projecting him to start training camp on the PUP list.
Murray completed 65 percent of his passes in 2013 for 3,075 yards with 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He didn’t impress against Clemson or Missouri, but played well against South Carolina, LSU and Auburn.
Murray had a good college career with a strong arm and some accuracy. However, sources say the 6-foot-1, 208-pounder could be shorter than his listed height. With the injury added in, Murray is most likely a mid-rounder.
Dishonorable Mentions: Mississippi wide receiver Donte Moncrief.
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