This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2015 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.
By Charlie Campbell.
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2015 NFL Draft Stock Up
Tyrus Thompson, OT, Oklahoma
Going against one of the better edge defenders in the Big XII in Baylor’s Shawn Oakman, Thompson had an excellent game for the Sooners despite the losing effort. Thompson kept Oakman from hitting his quarterback and did well in the ground game. Thompson pushed Oakman out of his gap to let Oklahoma run for a first down and set up a first-and-goal. On third-and-goal, Thompson pushed Oakman into the turf while the Sooners threw a touchdown pass. Aside from one good rush by Oakman, Thompson had his way with the Bears end.
The 6-foot-5, 336-pound Thompson is a heavy tackle who moves pretty well for such a thick edge blocker. He could compete at tackle, but might be an excellent guard in the NFL. Thompson’s a little slow and lumbering to linebackers at the second level. He could also be a candidate to move to right tackle. Thompson may not get first-round consideration, but he could be a quality value on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas
Diggs had the challenge of going against West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White and put together an impressive performance. Late in the second quarter, Diggs read Clint Trickett’s eyes and jumped a slant pass intended for White. Diggs picked the ball off and returned it about 20 yards to set up his offense just outside the West Virginia 20-yard line. It was a smart play by Diggs. He another impressive play as he dropped into coverage after not buying a fake screen and dished out a hard hit on a receiver to break up a completion inside the 10-yard line. It was an excellent play by Diggs as he showed the instincts and recognition skills to get into position to make a play for his defense.
This season, Diggs has 46 tackles with five tackles for a loss, four passes broken up and three interceptions. The undersized senior (5-10, 195) is a tough defender who is strong for his size and he battles receivers. Diggs could warrant second-day consideration, and this performance will help him.
Cedric Reed, DE, Texas
Reed had been in the midst of a disappointing season, but he came alive against West Virginia with an utterly dominant performance. To get it started, Reed had an excellent rush to bull his way into the pocket, toss the tackle away and rip quarterback Clint Trickett to the ground with force. In the fourth quarter, Reed had a tackle for a loss in run support. He followed that up with a safety on a speed rush where he came unblocked. The right tackle picked up a blitzer, while the right guard let Reed go free. A few plays later, Reed fought through the left tackle to get a stack fumble on Trickett that Texas recovered. Reed used some power to push the tackle back and then shed the blocker to get to the quarterback. Against West Virginia, he totaled 12 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and another tackle for a loss.
In 2014, Reed has 51 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, two passes broken up and forced fumble. This was a great game from Reed and by far his best of the season. Reed showed the speed and strength to beat tackles in the pass rush. He also was a tough run defender. If Reed can stay close to this performance to close out 2014, it will go a long way to making up for his quiet start to the season.
Honorable Mentions: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, LSU left tackle La’el Collins and UCLA defensive end Owa Odighizuwa.
2015 NFL Draft Stock Down
Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
After a strong start to the season, Oakman’s play has tailed off after getting into the eat of the Big XII schedule. That continued against Oklahoma as Oakman didn’t have a big impact despite not seeing double-teams and having plenty of single-block opportunities. Sooners tackles Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams generally had their way with Oakman. Oakman’s lack of instincts could be seen on one play in particular as he was late to realize he was unblocked on a third-and-goal, and that allowed Trevor Knight to get the pass off before Oakman could get to him. The 6-foot-9 junior had the ball fire by his head, so if he had gotten his hands up, he could have easily batted the pass. Oakman totaled four tackles against Oklahoma.
In 2014, Oakman has 35 tackles with 12.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one pass batted and two forced fumbles. The 6-foot-9, 280-pounder has a good skill set, but he doesn’t play up to his size and speed. Oakman is very raw and needs to improve his technique. He looks more like a second-day pick than a first-rounder.
Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
It has been a rough month or so for Floyd. Last week, he was run over by Florida as the Gators racked up over 400 yards rushing on the Bulldogs’ defense. The coaching staff ended up benching him for poor play against Kentucky. He was replaced by freshman standout Lorenzo Carter, and he turned in a multi-sack game for Georgia. It wouldn’t be surprising if Floyd sees his playing time continue to decline.
The game also Florida further exposed Floyd as a weak run-defender. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is a good pass-rusher, but he looks like a limited player. That will hurt Floyd’s chances of being a first-round pick as he isn’t even an every-down player in college. How can he be expected to be one for the NFL? The redshirt sophomore has time on his side, so it makes sense for him to return to Georgia to add weight and improve his run defense before going pro.
Bud Dupree, DE, Kentucky
While Georgia rolled up the Kentucky defense, Dupree had little impact. He had one-on-one pass-rushing opportunities and saw some extra attention, but he had no pass pressure against the Bulldogs. Dupree didn’t make any big plays in run defense either as he totaled three tackles against Georgia.
Dupree has a good skill set, but he could stand to get better at his ability to get off blocks. In 2014, Dupree has 53 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, one pass broken up and one interception. The Wildcats have played him as a standup linebacker as well, and he has flexibility for the next level. Performances like Dupree’s game against Georgia could end up resulting in Dupree grading out as a second-day pick rather than a first-rounder.
Za’Darius Smith, DE, Kentucky
Like Dupree, Smith had very little impact against Georgia. He didn’t hold up in run defense or get pressure on the quarterback. Smith recorded three tackles in the game and was very quiet. He does have an ankle injury, so that could be hurting his effectiveness on the field. The 6-foot-6, 263-pounder has flashed some nice athletic skills with speed and strength over the past two seasons, but he has never developed into a player who has consistently produced. With his game against Georgia, Smith looks more like a third-day pick rather than a top-100 prospect.
Eric Striker, OLB, Oklahoma
With the Baylor Bears’ spread-offense point machine coming to Norman, Striker was a defender who Oklahoma needed to step up. The opposite happened as he was hard to notice as Baylor rolled the Sooners at home. Striker didn’t get any pass pressures on quarterback Bryce Petty and just chipped in a few run tackles downfield. Striker has had a solid junior season, but hasn’t been overly impressive. It would probably be in his best interest to return for his senior year. He needs to get stronger while improving his ability to defend downhill runs and get off blockers.
Leon Orr, DT, Florida
Orr made a big move to send himself to the undrafted ranks when he quit the Florida football team. After being told he wouldn’t be starting for the fifth-straight game, Orr decided to leave the team and take a bus from Nashville to Gainesville. The coaches explained to Orr that him leaving would be the end of his playing at Florida, but he still left.
In 2014, Orr recorded 16 tackles and two tackles for a loss with a forced fumble. The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder has some physical talent, but he never became a consistently productive player after being a star recruit. Orr looks likely to go undrafted.
Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Peters dealt a serious blow to his draft stock by getting kicked off the team for repeated run-ins and arguments with the new Huskies coaching staff. As a result, sources said that it looks unlikely that Peters could still go in first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Other cornerbacks with major off-the-field issues like Janoris Jenkins and Tyrann Mathieu were kicked off their teams before entering the draft and ended up going in the second and third round respectively.
In 2014, Peters totaled 23 tackles, five passes broken up and three interceptions. He had an excellent game against Stanford with an interception and good coverage on Cardinal receiver Ty Montgomery. Versus Jaelen Strong and Arizona State, Peters had a solid game.
Sources said that a lot can change in the months to come, and if Peters cleans up his act while interviewing well with teams, perhaps a team picking late in the first round could roll the dice on him. However, it is more likely that Day 2 is the highest he should hope to go. In speaking with NFL evaluators, Peters will have to be accountable and show a change in attitude. Falling to the third day or going undrafted is possible for Peters.
Dishonorable Mention: Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon.
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