Author: Collyn Foster
With the draft a mere 14 DAYS AWAY, teams are finalizing their player evaluations and creating a big board in anticipation of draft night. Prospects have been working their hardest to impress teams and raise their stock. While highly touted players often leave college early to pursue a professional career, as soon as they get to the NFL they flop like a manatee on dry land. One of the most notable examples of this was in 2012, when 3rd overall pick Trent Richardson failed to meet his draft expectations. He was supposed be the greatest running back the league had seen since Adrian Peterson due to his size, speed, and strength that allowed him to dominate during his time at Alabama. But just one year into his career the Browns traded him to the Colts for a first-round pick. Richardson totaled just 2,000 career yards in his 4 statistical seasons in the league, 950 of which came from his rookie season with the Browns. As Richardson’s story is just one of many, a prospect’s stock is one of the most critical elements of his draft evaluation.
Here are 5 players whose stocks have taken a hit recently.
1. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Coming into the pre-draft process, Ridley was looked at as the consensus top wide receiver in the class. His mix of size and speed were on display at the Combine, as he ran a 4.43-sec forty-yard dash and bench pressed a decent 15 reps. He looked like a natural pass catcher with sharp routes and soft hands, and I personally was impressed with what I saw from him on the field and on tape.
Ridley may very well still be the top WR in this class, but after putting up the numbers he did at the Combine some teams don’t feel as strongly about Ridley as before. He recorded a 31” vertical jump and 110” on the broad jump, and a 4.41 20-yard shuttle time. Although the Combine is not the end all be all for a prospect, it gives an accurate look at what kind of athleticism a prospect has. Ridley’s underwhelming performance has dropped his stock from a top-10 pick to a mid to late 1st rounder. Ridley is not a player who is going to come in and be a team’s number one receiver. While he is going to make a good complement to someone at the next level, teams drafting in the first round are not looking for number two receivers.
2. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
The only thing no one can take away from Brown is his sheer size. The man stands at 6’8” and weighs in at 360lbs. He was a dominant force at Oklahoma protecting the blind side of Baker Mayfield, was very productive, and did a very good job at holding his ground, moving his feet, and using his hands. His stock going into the pre-draft process was fairly high, as he was slated to be an early to mid-round pick.
Like Ridley, his numbers at the Combine were less than impressive. Simply put, Brown was awful. He finished with a 5.85-sec forty-yard dash, 14 reps on the bench press, 19.5” on the vertical jump and 82” on the broad jump. All of those numbers were good for LAST among all offensive linemen at the Combine. Brown looked even more unathletic on the field than he did on tape. His lack of athleticism was one of the main concerns for scouts, and he all but solidified those fears with his performance at the Combine. Brown is now slated to be a late second round pick, if not if not later.
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is one of the most dynamic overall football players in this draft. The way he plays is fast, instinctive and aggressive. He is the #3 player on my big board and has proven on tape that he can play both safety positions, as well as cornerback in a pinch. He played mostly corner and slot corner during his early days and then transitioned to safety. Fitzpatrick’s Combine was respectable, as he ran a 4.46 sec forty yard dash and had a 121” broad jump. He showed smooth hip movement and good quickness in the on-field drills.
The reason Fitzpatrick is experiencing a hit in his stock is because of the need for other positions at the top of the draft. The beginning of the draft is slated to be quarterback heavy, with teams trading up early to take the QB of their choice. Fitzpatrick’s play on the field has been everything it’s needed to be and his fall is not because of his play whatsoever. His slide shows the importance of quarterbacks and how valuable they are in a draft. Fitzpatrick is a top 3 player in this draft, and someone is going to steal him after the early run on QBs.
4. Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
Key may be one of the biggest high risk, high reward players in the draft. His play on the field was phenomenal during his first two seasons, while he had a slight decline during his junior and final season. Key was responsible for an LSU record 12 sacks during his sophomore season, and was primed to be a top 5 pick who change a franchise’s future.
There are many factors that contributed to Key’s downfall. He took a hiatus from the team, had a number of injuries that forced him out of multiple contests during his final season, and is considered undersized for his position, weighing in at 230 at the Combine. He is a premier pass rusher, and those come at a minimum. Every team in the league would be tickled to have a pass rusher of Key’s physical and natural abilities, but they will have to decide whether his baggage is worth his talent on the field. I expect him to be a mid-to-late 2nd round prospect instead of the top 5 pick he was slated to be early in his college career.
5. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Hurst is one of the more interesting stories coming out of the Combine in Indianapolis. He was red-flagged after it was discovered that he had a heart condition, which held him out of all of the on-field drills. This hurt his chances of proving to scouts his athleticism and ability to move.
Hurst played extremely well for the Wolverines during his four seasons at Michigan. He was an extremely versatile player along the defensive line, playing both the 3 and 5 techniques and occasionally defensive end. Hurst was a dominant force, nearly unblockable at points. He was consistently wreaking havoc in the backfield of Big Ten offenses. Like Minkah Fitzpatrick, his fall in draft stock was not due to his play on the field. I don’t expect his fall to be dramatic, but prior to his condition he was believed to be a mid-to-late first round pick. Now he is projected to be taken in the early/mid second range.