2016 NFL Draft Stock – Week 3

This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2016 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.

By Charlie Campbell.
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2016 NFL Draft Stock Up

Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss
Since being the No. 1 recruit in the nation, there has been a lot of hype around Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. He had two sacks as a freshman and the same total as a sophomore. NFL sources said they wanted to see more production out of the junior in 2015 in order to give him a high grade. The signs of improved production came against Alabama as he had a huge presence in the Crimson Tide’s backfield. Nkemdiche notched six tackles, one sack and another 1.5 of his tackles were for a loss. He was a huge presence in the first half, got winded in the second half, and dug deep to make some clutch plays late in the game.

This season, Nkemdiche has 11 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and one sack. He has a tremendous skill set with the speed and agility of a linebacker, but in a defensive lineman’s body. For the NFL, there is no doubt that Nkemdiche has the ability to be a disruptive presence at the point of attack. He is a tremendous run defender, but sources say that don’t see a natural pass-rusher. If Nkemdiche can improve his pass-rush production over the course of this season, that will help his hopes of being a high first-rounder.

Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford
Whenever you’re ready to write off Kevin Hogan, he has a game that makes you second guess yourself. Hogan was dreadful against Northwestern in Week 1, but then turned in a good game against UCF. Week 3 saw him ace the test going against a talented USC team. Hogan was 18-of-23 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and 28 yards rushing on seven carries.

The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Hogan has the size, arm and mobility to be a starter in the NFL. His inconsistent play while being prone to some dreadful performances keep him from being a highly rated prospect. This game helps Hogan to tease enough talent to get consideration as a mid-rounder.

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Fuller has been clutch for Notre Dame in the early going of the season and turned in a superb performance against Georgia Tech. To get the Irish on the scoreboard, Fuller jetted down the field and had to hold up to make a leaping grab around the 8-yard line before darting into the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown. Late before the half, he was covered well yet made a great leaping catch along the sideline for a gain of 36. Fuller finished with 131 yards on six receptions.

After three games, Fuller has 18 receptions for 397 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot, 184-pound receiver has quickness to rip off yards after the catch and is able to outfight defenders for contested catches. Fuller has really helped himself through the first three weeks of the season.

Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Smith made a quick impact in the first half against Georgia tech. He ran into the backfield off the line, and while he overpursued on the tackle, he reached out and slapped the ball out of the hands of Yellow Jackets fullback Patrick Skov for a forced fumble. In the third quarter, Smith got off a block and slammed into the back to force another fumble. Smith wisely scooped up the ball and ran it back for about 20 yards before getting tackled. Later in the fourth quarter, Smith made a play to excite NFL evaluators when he ran stride-for-stride with a tailback on a go route down the field to knock a pass away. Smith had another breakup shortly later.

So far this year, Smith has totaled 23 tackles, one sack, two passes broken up, and one forced fumble (he was robbed of one by the official scorer). The way that Notre Dame has been lining up Smith shows that he could play as an inside or outside linebacker in the NFL. He is giving evidence that he merits being a first-rounder.

Jared Goff, QB, California
Goff has been a consistent point-producer in California’s Bear Raid offense to open the 2015 season, and that was the case on Saturday as Texas had no answer for him. He completed 27-of-37 passes for 269 yards with three touchdowns. He had a fumble, but did well at avoiding interceptions.

In 2015 Goff’s completed 73 percent of his passes for 898 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. There is no doubt that Goff has an arm to make NFL throws and some accurate passes downfield. He also generally has good ball placement to give his receiver a chance to make a play and avoid interceptions. Goff plays in a college offense, and thus, has a number of things to work on for the NFL. He has a lot of quick throws that inflate his numbers, never goes under center, and doesn’t drop back to make multiple reads very often. Hence his field vision and footwork need improvement. That being said, Goff (6-4, 215) looks like he has the physical skill set to be an NFL starter.

Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Week 1’s game made it look like Cook hadn’t improved his streaky accuracy in the offseason, but his performances in the last two weeks against Oregon and Air Force are proving otherwise. On Saturday, Cook was very efficient, completing 15-of-23 passes for 247 yards for four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Cook completed just 48 percent of his passes in the 2015 season opener, but for the past two weeks, his numbers have gone up to 62 and 65 percent, respectively. Overall, he’s completed 58 percent of his passes this season for 695 yards for eight touchdowns and one interception. Stringing together back-to-back games of improved accuracy is very important for Cook’s draft stock.

Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska
Gerry might be short on the physical skill set to be an early-rounder, but he’s showing the instincts and play-making skills to be a mid-rounder that might overcome lesser physical talent. Gerry notched nine tackles and two passes broken up against Miami, and this season, he is up to 18 tackles and two interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder is showing that he has the instincts to get consideration for the next level.

Honorable Mentions: Michigan State wide receiver Aaron Burbridge, Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson, Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, Pittsburgh wide receiver Tyler Boyd, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and Utah running back Devontae Booker.

2016 NFL Draft Stock Down

Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
Ifedi is projected by some in the media to be a first-round pick. NFL sources have said they like Ifedi more as a guard for the pros, and that was given further justification with his performance against Nevada. Early on, he was almost beaten for a sack on a speed rush, but quarterback Kyle Allen stepped up to avoid the defender. Shortly later, Ifedi was bulled rushed into his signal-caller, but once again, the ball got out just in time. In the second quarter, Ifedi’s pressure finally caught up with him. The defensive end used speed to get upfield, shoved Ifedi aside, and took down the quarterback for a sack. On other obvious pass plays, Nevada’s speed rushers were turning the corner on Ifedi and he was trying to ride them around the pocket.

Overall, Ifedi has some strength and can move defenders at the point of attack. However, he looks too slow-footed for NFL speed rushers and could really struggle as an edge blocker. Ifedi looks more like a second-day guard prospect, and this performance will hurt his tackle considerations, first-round hopes and draft grade.

Devonte Fields, OLB, Louisville
Entering this season, there was a lot of anticipation to see Louisville outside linebacker Devonte Fields. Fields was the Big XII Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman, but injuries and off-the-field issues led to him leaving TCU. Fields landed in Louisville, and thus far, he doesn’t look like the same player who dominated the Big XII.

After not impressing against Auburn, Fields was a non-factor versus Clemson. He didn’t get pressure on the quarterback and wasn’t tough in the ground game. Clemson was starting a true freshman at left tackle, yet Fields was getting blocked one-on-one by the new starter. After three games at Louisville, Fields has yet to register a sack. He clearly lacks strength for the NFL and needs to add bulk. With the way that Fields has started this season, returning for his senior year with the Cardinals looks like the best decision for his draft hopes.

Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State
Jones was very impressive in Week 1 before a disappointing game against Hawaii. It got worse for him against Northern Illinois. He made two bad overthrows for interceptions and struggled to complete passes. Urban Meyer responded by benching him and went with J.T. Barrett. Jones finished completing only 4-of-9 for 36 yards. Jones is going to need to perform much better when he gets another opportunity, but who knows when that will be.

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