2014 NFL Draft Stock – Pre-New Year’s Bowls

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

Marqise Lee, WR, USC
In what was likely to be Lee’s final game for USC, he made the argument via Fresno State that he belongs in the top 25 next May. On the opening drive, Lee got open in the end zone to convert a third down for six points. He started out wide and ran past the goal line before exploding across the end zone to get open for Cody Kessler and a 10-yard score. Lee got six more late in the first half. On a third-and-13, he ran a deep in route and bolted down the field after the catch for another 20 yards and a 40-yard touchdown. It looked like the 2012 version of Lee, perhaps more than any other play this season.

Lee had another gain of 23 yards on a broken off route after a scramble play. In the fourth quarter, he caught in out route and spun away from a defender to race down the sideline for a gain of almost 40 yards. Lee finished with 118 yards on seven receptions with two scores.

The 6-foot, 195-pounder was injured all season, but looked his healthiest against Fresno State. Late in the year, Lee flashed the form that made him a Heisman finalist in 2012. He caught 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns in 2013. A year ago, Lee had 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has the speed to stretch a defense vertically and is sure-handed. Lee could be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

Dion Bailey, S, USC
The box score against Fresno State says that Bailey had three tackles with two tackles for a loss, but he was all over the field for the Trojans’ defense. Early in the game, Bailey destroyed a receiver on a bubble screen for a loss of three yards. He read the play well and exploded into the backfield. Throughout the first half, Bailey was making plays as he got some pressure on blitzes and covered receivers out of the backfield well. Bailey also caused some incompletions via good coverage. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, he stayed home to snuff out a fly sweep for a loss of three.

Bailey finished 2013 with 61 tackles, one forced fumble, six passes broken up, five interceptions and one sack. He definitely helped his draft stock with a strong tape against Fresno State. Bailey was all over the field for the Trojans. The junior has decided to enter the 2014 NFL Draft; he could be a second-day pick.

Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State
It isn’t easy for small school players to get invites to the Senior Bowl, especially at the skill positions. Offensive and defensive linemen have more luck getting invited to Mobile, Alabama, but the skill-position players are less likely to get invites. Janis was able to buck the trend and will be participating in the most high-profile All-Star game.

Janis has been one of the top receivers in the nation in Division II over the past few seasons. In 2013, he totaled 83 receptions for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder has good size for the NFL. At the Senior Bowl, it will be interesting to see if Janis has the speed, quickness and route-running to get separation from All-Star defensive backs. That will go a long way to indicate where he gets selected on draft day.

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska
With the success of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner for the Seattle Seahawks, a lot of teams in the NFL are looking to get big cornerbacks who have the size and length to match up on receivers. That trend will definitely help Jean-Baptiste. The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder could get consideration to move to safety if he doesn’t have the quickness and agility to match up against receivers. Jean-Baptiste has 35 tackles, four interceptions and 11 passes broken up in 2013. He was one of the top cornerbacks in the Big Ten and was a Second-Team All-Big Ten selection.

This year was Jean-Baptiste’s only season as a full-time starter. In 2012, he started five games and was a backup in the others. The junior had 24 tackles with two interceptions. If Jean-Baptiste plays well at the Senior Bowl, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his stock rise.

Marcus Smith, OLB/DE, Louisville
The Cardinals have a tough defense this year, and Smith is the leader of their unit. He was the American Conference Defensive Player of the Year as he racked up 12.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss in the regular season. He also has 40 tackles, three forced fumbles and two passes broken up. The senior’s sack total puts him second in the nation.

Smith’s season was highlighted by a three-sack game against Rutgers. He had four performances with multiple sacks. Louisville will need Smith to produce a big game against Miami as the Cardinals take on Hurricanes quarterback Stephen Morris.

Smith had four sacks and 5.5 sacks as a junior and sophomore, respectively. He plays defensive end for Louisville, but in the NFL he will have to move to outside linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 252-pound Smith would fit well as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He will get the chance to show he can beat All-Star offensive tackles at the Senior Bowl.

Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State
North Dakota State got its season off to an impressive start by beating Kansas State. Turner was one of those players who had no problem winning his matchup against a team from a higher level of competition. He broke into the starting lineup as a true freshman and has racked up a lot of awards during his collegiate career. The 6-foot-6, 314-pounder has just about ideal size for an NFL offensive lineman. At the Senior Bowl, Turner will be on display for scouts. If he holds up well on the edge in pass-rushing one-on-ones, he could stay at tackle for the next level. If not, Turner could potentially be moved inside to guard.

Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
If Ogbuehi enters the 2014 NFL Draft, he has a shot at being a late first-round pick. Ogbuehi had a strong junior season at right tackle for the Aggies. He showed excellent pass-blocking ability with agility and athleticism on the edge. Quarterback Johnny Manziel makes offensive tackles’ job harder with the way he scrambles around and holds onto the ball for a long amount of time.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Ogbuehi should be able to add some weight for the NFL. He also could fit at guard. With Jake Matthews moving on to the pros, Ogbuehi could take over at left tackle next season for Texas A&M. A strong senior year on the blind side could elevate Ogbuehi’s stock higher for the 2015 NFL Draft.

2014 NFL Draft Stock Down

Tre Boston, CB, North Carolina
At one time, Boston was viewed as a potential second-day pick, but sources have told WalterFootball.com that teams are projecting him to Day 3. Boston (6-1, 205) has been a tweener cornerback/safety. He is undersized for safety and may not have the coverage ability to play corner in the NFL.

Boston recorded 85 tackles, four interceptions and eight passes broken up during the 2013 regular season. He had some mixed outings with a solid performance against South Carolina and a down game versus Miami. Boston needs to excel in the postseason and NFL Scouting Combine to boost his stock back into second-day consideration.

Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
Martin is an interesting prospect, and there is a big disparity in opinions on him. WalterFootball.com has spoken with some sources who say that Martin is grading out as a third-day pick. Other sources feel Martin could be a second-round pick. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder flashed a good skill set with size and speed during his sophomore and junior seasons, but he had only four sacks in each year despite being a starter with plenty of opportunities. Martin has 78 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes broken up entering his bowl game against Cincinnati.

The Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine will be important for Martin to show that his increase in production is legitimate. He also needs to interview well leading up the draft. Martin’s stock seems to be very fluid, but it only takes one team to fall in love with him and use a second-day pick on him.

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Carr’s final collegiate game against USC was a dud. It may not mean anything next May and he could have a pre-draft rise, but for the moment Carr hurt himself with a disappointing performance against the Trojans. He beat up on a lesser level of competition throughout his college career. USC has a tough defense with NFL talent and as able to rattle Carr into missing a lot of completions that he would normally make.

Carr was off the mark throughout the bowl game versus the Trojans. He overthrew open receivers and struggled with his footwork. Carr looked flustered by the speed and play-making ability of USC’s defense. He also didn’t look good throwing on the run as Fresno State called a lot of rollouts.

However, Carr did show a nice arm and good anticipation on a few throws. He completed 29-of-54 passes for 218 yards with two scores and an interception. The senior didn’t show great poise and seemed to be rattled by the Trojans’ defense. That impacted his footwork and threw off his accuracy.

Carr had a great 2013 as he completed 69 percent of his passes for 5,083 yards with 50 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Carr can undo any damage to his draft stock by performing better at the Senior Bowl. He also can impress NFL evaluators at the NFL Scouting Combine and in the lead up to the 2014 NFL Draft. For now, this performance didn’t give evidence that Carr belongs as a top-10 pick.

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