This new section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2018 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.
By Charlie Campbell.
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2017 NFL Draft Stock Up
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen’s 2017 season opener against Texas A&M could do a lot for Rosen’s draft stock as he executed one of the most epic comebacks in college football history. He never quit and continued to battle hard, showing toughness and resiliency to lead his team back from being blown out down 44-10 in the third quarter. By the end of the fourth quarter, Rosen completed 35-of-58 passes for 491 yards with four touchdowns to lead UCLA to a 45-44 victory. He did get very lucky some throws weren’t intercepted, but he still played his tail off and showed a great arm. There is no doubt that Rosen can really spin it and has rare arm talent.
There are top-four draft-eligible quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft with USC’s Sam Darnold, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Rosen. Rosen illustrated that while he has some faults and isn’t a dual-threat running quarterback, he could be the most natural pocket passer. Rosen has a strong arm and the best mechanics of any of the top-four signal-callers. He throws a tremendous ball that explodes out of his hand. Rosen’s tight spiral consistently helps him to get his passes through tight windows and beat good coverage. He has serious arm talent with field vision and pocket presence. This comeback win to open his junior year is a statement game for NFL evaluators.
Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA
Wilson was Rosen’s most dangerous weapon in Week 1, torching the Aggies’ secondary. Texas A&M had no answer for Wilson, who showed tremendous route-running to separate from safeties. Wilson racked up a lot of yards after the catch, showing speed to get through the defense and nice moves in the open field. Wilson totaled 208 yards on 15 receptions against the Aggies. That almost surpassed all of his production from 2016, when the then-redshirt freshman caught 16 passes for 220 yards.
Wilson is a redshirt sophomore and the son of current Philadelphia Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Caleb Wilson had a coming-out party against Texas A&M, illustrating that he is a real receiving-threat tight end prospect for the next level.
Simmie Cobbs Jr., WR, Indiana
Ohio State is loaded with future NFL players, including many early-round picks, but the most impressive draft-eligible prospect on the field last Thursday night was Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. Cobbs missed the 2016 season with an ankle injury, but he was one of the top wide outs in the Big Ten two years ago, when he averaged 17.3 yards per catch (60-1,035-4). In a thoroughly impressive performance, Cobbs had his way with the highly acclaimed Ohio State defense.
Cobbs got the better of every corner the Buckeyes sent up against Cobbs, who totaled 149 yards and a touchdown on 11 receptions for the night. He showed size, hands, quickness, route-running, body control, and the ability to win 50-50 passes. Week 1 was a phenomenal start to the season for Cobbs.
Troy Fumagalli, TE, Wisconsin
One of the top tight end prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft is Fumagalli, and he proved why against Utah State. Early in the third quarter, Fumagalli ran a crossing route on a bootleg and got wide open. Fumagalli picked up around another 10 yards to run into the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown catch. On the next possession, he threw a nice block on the perimeter to spring his back for about a 20-yard run. Early in the fourth quarter on a play similar to his touchdown, Fumagalli got wide open off a boot action. He raced down the field after catching the ball, tacking on another 20-30 yards to the play for a gain of 44 yards. Fumagalli totaled 105 yards on five receptions with a touchdown on the evening. He illustrated that he is a good route-runner with hands, athleticism, and quickness to hurt defenses as a receiver.
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Samuel got his season started in great fashion against N.C. State. It started right away, when he took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown. Samuel used his great speed to run through the Wolfpack’s coverage unit and run away from any would-be tacklers. In the second quarter, Samuel ran a nice route with a slant from the outside to catch a six-yard touchdown pass. Samuel continued to kill N.C. State later, too, as in the third quarter, he made a 39-yard touchdown reception. Samuel streaked across the field on a deep post route, and in the end zone, he stretched out with a beautiful leaping one-handed catch to secure the ball for the score.
Samuel totaled 83 yards on five catches with two touchdowns against N.C. State. That tape will definitely help his draft grade. He showed play-making speed as a returner and receiver, plus ran some great routes with good hands. This was a great start to the season for Samuel and will help improve his draft stock.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Last Thursday, Washington lit it up with touchdown receptions of 77 and 40 yards. He caught six passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns. The Tulsa defensive backs weren’t NFL caliber, so they weren’t a serious test for Washington, but this was a good start to the year as he showed his ability to stretch defenses, adjust to the ball, and was sure-handed.
Honorable Mentions: Ohio State wide receiver Parris Campbell, Indiana tight end Ian Thomas, Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow, Washington running back Myles Gaskin, N.C. State tight end/fullback Jaylen Samuels and Florida State wide receiver Auden Tate.
2017 NFL Draft Stock Down
Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Texas was upset at home by Maryland, and Williams got his season off to a disappointing start. There were a few plays on which he allowed pressure, including getting bull rushed into his quarterback during the third quarter. With just under five minutes remaining, Williams got out of position to give up outside leverage. He had to drag the defender down to avoid giving up a sack and was called for a holding penalty. A few plays later, Texas converted a fourth-and-14, but once again a hold by Williams hurt his team by negating that conversion.
Overall, it was a disappointing start to the season for Williams. He looks like the weight he gained this offseason has helped improve the strength in his base. He still could use improvement on packing more punch at the point of attack and also should eliminate some mistakes in technique that allow him to give up ground when getting bull rushed. Williams also needs to clean up his hand usage, as he was holding too much. He gave up some leverage, too, and that left him out of position, forcing him to hold. If this one tape is an anomaly, it shouldn’t have a big impact on his draft stock, but he will need to play better in the weeks to come.
Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
Sweat has a stock down based off information from sources and not so much having to do with his performance against Alabama. Sweat was quiet in the season opener, but did have a nice play where he recorded a sack of Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts. Sources from multiple teams have told me that a serious knee injury is being highlighted around the league in Sweat’s draft report. Over the past few seasons, Sweat was showing limitations from a knee injury that he sustained early in his senior year of high school. Team sources say that Florida State has tried a variety of rehab techniques, but Sweat’s knee instability has persisted. Sources have said it was evident on tape and watching practice that Sweat still favors the knee. Some team sources believe that the knee has multiple problems and will never heal completely. Thus, many are viewing Sweat as a one-contract player in the NFL. The chronic knee injury is expected hurt Sweat’s final draft grade even though he has a first-round skill set.
Deondre Francois, QB, Florida State
Francois earns a stock down because of injury and not because of performance in the season opener. He battled hard against Alabama, completing 19-of-33 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Unfortunately, Francois suffered a season-ending injury, a torn patellar tendon, that requires surgery. Patellar tendon tears are worse and harder to overcome than an ACL tear. This injury will probably ensure that Francois will return to Florida State in 2018 and be a prospect for the 2019 NFL Draft. Francois has an early-round skill set, but if he entered the 2018 NFL Draft, he would be a third-day pick coming off this serious of an injury.
Martez Ivey, OT, Florida
After playing guard for two seasons, Week 1 saw Ivey make his first start at left tackle as the replacment for David Sharpe. Ivey struggled with a number of lowlights against the Wolverines. There were a number of plays where Michigan defensive ends got upfield against Ivey to put pressure on the Florida quarterbacks. Late in the fourth quarter, Ivey was beat to the inside to give up a strip-sack in the end zone that Michigan recovered for a touchdown. This was an ugly debut at left tackle, and Ivey looked a lot better at guard last year. Some scouting sources think guard might be a better fit for Ivey in the NFL.
Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
As I reported last week, NFL teams have major off-the-field concerns about Callaway. While he loves football, he has a lot of issues in terms of hanging out with bad influences, and teams are concerned about him consistently failing drug tests in the NFL. Callaway has had repeated suspensions while at Florida, and he hurt his team by earning another suspension to start the 2017 season. Scouts across the league say that Callaway has first-round talent. They’ve even compared him to Antonio Brown in terms of his skill set and what he can do as a receiver, but teams think that Callaway will fall into the mid-rounds because his off-the-field issues are too serious to draft any earlier. They don’t have any confidence that he will change and avoid suspensions in the NFL.
Adonis Alexander, CB, Virginia Tech
Alexander made some positive plays for Virginia Tech in the season opener against West Virginia, but he also got exposed as the Mountaineers killed him on slant passes. After getting a slant for about 10 yards, they beat Alexander on a slant to convert a third down. That happened again in the third quarter. West Virginia then went back to the well with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. Virginia Tech was playing Alexander, who is 6-foot-3, in off-man coverage, and he isn’t fast enough or fluid enough athletically to defend slants in off-man coverage. He needs to be playing more press-man and zone techniques. Alexander might also be a good fit as a free safety in the NFL as he is a tough tackler and physical player.
Dishonorable Mentions: Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson, Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett.
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