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
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Elliott decided to end his collegiate career Al Bundy style with four touchdowns in the Fiesta Bowl. In his final collegiate performance, Elliott dominated Notre Dame to the tune of 149 yards on 27 carries with the four scores. He also had one reception for 30 yards and flashed some blocking. Elliott ran through Jaylon Smith for one power touchdown run along the goal line and showed his deep speed on a 47-yard scoring run. This tape will serve to confirm Elliott’s first-round grade and could help him to go in the top 20 of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Jared Goff, QB, California
Goff had the luxury of playing his bowl game against the Air Force Academy, a team that doesn’t field any future NFL players, but he still was impressive as he completed 25-of-37 for 467 yards with six touchdown passes. With Paxton Lynch laying an egg against Auburn, Goff has illustrated that he is the more pro-ready of the two quarterback prospects. While Lynch has a better physical skill set, Goff is a more accurate passer with better field vision. Thus, there is renewed debate about which quarterback should come off the board first in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Devonte Fields, DE, Louisville
Fields was an animal as a freshman for TCU before missing last season and transferring to Louisville. To start out 2015, Fields looked terrible and was a ghost for the Cardinals. However, he was on fire in the second half of the year and to close out the season in Louisville’s bowl victory. Fields notched three sacks against Texas A&M and got the better of Aggies tackle Germain Ifedi on multiple plays. Fields showed raw speed off the edge with some variety in his pass-rushing moves. He totaled 10 sacks over the final seven games after recording .5 sacks in the first six games. Fields racked up 64 tackles with 22.5 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles and three passes batted beyond his 10.5 sacks. While the junior still has a lot of off-the-field concerns with teams, he put his draft stock back on the map this year. If Fields enters the 2016 NFL Draft, he could go on the second day.
Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
If Lawson hadn’t missed half of the 2015 regular season with an injury, he could have had a huge year, and that was evident against Memphis. Lawson had an impressive tape as he constantly pressured Lynch off the edge to the tune of a couple of sacks and a lot of commotion in the backfield.
There is no doubt that Lawson is a fast, tough edge rusher who can get after the quarterback. After missing most of this 2015 season with an injury, he would be better off returning to Auburn and putting together an entire season before entering the draft. A big 2016 season could make him a first-rounder in 2017’s NFL Draft. If Lawson enters the 2016 NFL Draft, the second day is probably his ceiling.
Honorable Mentions: Stanford linebacker Blake Martinez, Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram and Ohio State tight end Nick Vannett.
2016 NFL Draft Stock Down
Germain Ifedi, DE, Texas A&M
Ifedi didn’t impress against Louisville, though he looked better in the ground game compared to his pass protection. In pass protection, he got away with a hold and was reaching after blockers. That came back to bite him when Devonte Fields burned him on a spin move for a sack. Ifedi was close to giving up some other sacks as well.
If Ifedi enters the 2016 NFL Draft, he would be best as a second-day guard or right tackle. If Ifedi remains at tackle, he will need some development and potential double-team help to block speed rushers.
Le’Raven Clark, OL, Texas Tech
Clark really struggled with the LSU speed rushers from start to finish in his bowl game. The senior has nice size, length, and quickness for a big blocker. However, he is slow out of his stance and too often has to reach after rushers. Clark would be a project for left tackle and should, at the very least, start his career at right tackle or guard. Bowl season made Clark look more like a third-rounder rather than a top-60 selection.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
Against Auburn, Lynch completed 17-of-38 attempts for 104 yards with an interception. All of his completions were short, quick passes and bubble screens that were no challenge for the Auburn defense. After his bowl performance, there is new debate about Lynch being the top-rated quarterback for the 2016 NFL Draft.
This game gave further evidence that Lynch has a nice physical skill set, but he needs development for the NFL. Lynch was rattled by the Auburn pass rush, and that negatively impacted his field vision and accuracy. This tape won’t keep him from being a high first-rounder, but illustrates that he isn’t a legitimate “top of the draft” quarterback prospect like Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. That being said, Lynch could go in the top five during the 2016 NFL Draft out of need and demand.
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Against Alabama, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook had an underwhelming performance for his final collegiate outing. Things just never got in sync for Cook. He had some of his typical inaccuracy and a few drops on well-thrown passes, plus the pressure was getting to him and receivers struggled to get open.
Cook completed 19-of-39 for 210 yards with no touchdowns and those two picks. NFL teams want quarterbacks to rise to the occasion in a big game and push their teammates to play above their talent levels. This performance didn’t illustrate that Cook is that kind of quarterback prospect, and if anything, it will hurt his draft stock. It appears that Cook turned down the Senior Bowl, and that decision is even more questionable with how Cook performed against Alabama.
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Against Michigan, Hargreaves continued his late-season slump. He gave up a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter after he went to jump a route, but instead allowed the receiver to break wide open for a 31-yard touchdown. In the third quarter, Hargreaves gave up a long completion on a deep post. He was close to the receiver, but a perfectly placed pass by Jake Rudock got the better of him. That set up a short touchdown run that basically put Florida away.
This was a bad tape of coverage lapses for Hargreaves. The way his junior year has concluded against Alabama and Michigan, Hargreaves looks more like a mid- to late first-rounder rather than a top-16 pick.
Kevin Peterson, CB, Oklahoma State
Peterson (5-11, 190) is going to the Senior Bowl after having been a steady cover corner for the Cowboys, but he really struggled with a big wideout, Laquon Treadwell, in the Sugar Bowl. In the second quarter, Treadwell went over Peterson for a 34-yard touchdown pass. Treadwell also shielded Peterson from the ball on a 10-yard touchdown. Peterson also was flagged for multiple pass interference penalties.
This was an ugly performance for Peterson. He was beaten by Treadwell deep, and that is concerning because Treadwell is not a speed receiver who achieves separation from defensive backs with raw agility. Peterson also was holding and interfering with receivers regularly. This tape made Peterson look like a third-day pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Dishonorable Mentions: Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, N. C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett and Texas A&M center Mike Matthews.
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