Author: Collyn Foster 4/10/2018
The pre-draft period is a time for teams to evaluate potential prospects and make a determination on whether or not they will be someone that can help their team. Players’ stocks rise and fall for a number of reasons, whether it be an unexpected Combine performance or failure to impress at a Pro Day. A player’s stock can be affected at any moment and could be the difference between being taken first overall or in the back half of the draft. One of the most recent cases of this was in the 2016 Draft, when Laremy Tunsil was slated to be the best player in the class and in contention for the first overall pick. Just before the clock started, a video was posted of Tunsil smoking from a gas mask bong. This made for chaos with no team knowing what to do, and they began passing on Tunsil. The Dolphins ended his fall with the 13th pick, but he was the third tackle taken. The difference in being taken 1st overall and 13th may not seem like much but in the end, it makes a huge difference in money and future contracts. The difference between the contract of the first pick Jared Goff, and Tunsil’s was almost $16 million. This just goes to show that a players stock is something extremely important and life changing.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
Prior to this college football season, James was in the discussion for being selected in the top 3 picks of this draft. But after struggling early this past season at Florida State his stock was on the decline, to the point that he wasn’t even in consideration for the top half of the draft. However, after picking it up at the end of the season and putting on a great Combine performance, he’s raised it back up. James is a top tier athlete who plays everywhere on the field, and he cemented his status as an athletic freak at the Combine with a a 4.47 sec forty, 40” vertical, and 132” broad jumps.
There’s no doubt that James is a fantastic athlete, but teams do have concerns about his position. We have seen in the past that players who play a “positionless” role in college have a tough time translating that success to the NFL, most recently with 2017 first round pick Jabrill Peppers who struggled in his first season with the Browns. But the thing that makes James so special is that he can play both safety positions, and can thrive at both with his athleticism and natural instincts. Come draft day, it will be hard for teams to pass up on this truly special talent.
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
When Vander Esch declared for the draft no one really knew what kind of player he was, as he was seemingly just another underclassman who was making the leap, hoping to be drafted. But after his declaration, and after everyone got a chance to watch some of his tape, he is now widely considered a first round lock. He is a big, physical, rangy playmaker that has the natural instinct to be a force in the run game and the athleticism to cover the pass.
Vander Esch has the frame and athleticism to be an every down linebacker at the next level. He can fit into almost any defensive system, and he flies all over the field like a predator missile hunting it’s target. With his size (6’4” and 250lbs) he can make an impact on any team that decides to take a stab at him. The learning curve in the NFL is generally steep, so I feel he could benefit from playing a reduced role in his first year and expanding it as the season goes on. I expect Vander Esch to make noise as a playmaker on whatever team he goes too.
Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
For almost the entire pre-draft process Chubb has been widely considered the best all around edge defender in the draft. At his size (6’4” and 270lbs) he moves extremely well. He put that athleticism on display at the Combine, posting a 4.65 sec forty yard dash, 36” vertical, and 121” broad jump. Chubb has been slotted as a top pick for some time now, but his big rise came after the Giants traded Pro Bowl DE Jason Pierre-Paul. After trading JPP the rumors began swirling that Chubb may be their target with the #2 pick. To me, taking Chubb #2 would be a little bit too rich for my blood, but in today’s NFL it’s hard to deny the value of a top flight edge defender. Chubb may be taken earlier rather than later when it comes time for the draft.
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Gesicki stood out as one of the most athletic prospects after his performance in Indianapolis. He recorded a 4.54 sec forty yard dash, a 129” broad jump, and tied for the best vertical jump with 41.5”. These numbers are eye-opening as they are, but the fact that he’s 6’5” and 250 lbs makes his performance all that more impressive. There is no doubt about Gesicki’s athletic ability, and that could be a main reason a team takes a chance on his crazy talent. Although his numbers were not the best during his time in college it was not entirely his fault. He fell victim to poor QB play, but still was extremely productive.
While Gesicki’s physical abilities are likely the biggest factor in why his stock has risen so much, he also has soft hands and large catch radius. He has the potential to be one of the top pass catchers on a team. Any team that decides to take Gesicki will get someone who won’t help out very much in the run game, but will excel and take a passing attack to the next level.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk was one of the biggest winners coming out of the NFL Combine in February. He showed his natural pass catching ability and very soft hands while going through the drills in Indy. His stock took a significant stock after the Combine, as he posted a 4.47 sec forty yard dash, 35.5” vertical jump, and a 115” broad jump. After watching him run routes and catch balls from the top QB’s in the draft, he proved to me that he can be an effective route runner with his quick feet and deep threat speed. At 5’10” and 200 lbs, Kirk is the ideal size for a slot receiver in today’s NFL. At Texas A&M, Kirk thrived as a playmaker all over the field, in the slot, on the outside, and on punt returns. The production level that Kirk had in college was extremely impressive, recording almost 1,000 yards of all purpose yards in each of his three seasons.
Kirk showed he is capable of being an effective route runner and playmaker, and it’s clear that he’ll fit in any system and will be an electric playmaker on any offense. After the 2017 season, Kirk’s projected draft position was mid to late second round. Now Kirk is projected to be a late first round pick and is in the conversation as the top receiver in the draft.