From NFL Draft Scout:
03/27/06 - Rising & Falling Prospects heading into April
March 27, 2006 â€“ Perhaps the strangest aspect of the NFL Draft is the annual rise and fall of prospects during the months of February, March, and April. Teams tend to focus on the interviews and workouts being forged during these months, often losing sight of the actual football being played in the fall and winter. While the NFL likes to make light of the idea that players do rise and fall dramatically during this time, the simple truth is that fluctuation does occur. And with the draft less than a month away, we give you the latest risers and fallers.
Jason Allen, FS, Tennessee: After blistering the Combine track with a 4.32 40, Allen has re-assured scouts that his hip dislocation is a thing of the past. The injury, characterized by some early on as potentially career-threatening has apparently healed and now the former Vol is beginning to receive similar grades as he did previous to the injury. Assuming he doesnâ€™t have some flair-up with the hip between now and the draft, expect to hear Allenâ€™s name called in the middle portion of the first round.
Winston Justice, OT, USC: Justice answered all questions about his off-field behavior at the Combine and has been impressive in workouts. The former Trojan has emerged as the second best offensive line prospect of this draft and could crack the top ten due to his rare athleticism and size.
Vince Young, QB, Texas: Forget what you heard about the mediocrity of Youngâ€™s pro day workout. Youngâ€™s size and athleticism were expected, but he also showed a stronger, more accurate arm than scouts anticipated and could have leapt Jay Cutler as the second quarterback drafted in 2006.
Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State: Cromartieâ€™s decision to leave school early despite missing the season with a torn ACL still bothers teams a bit, but there is no denying the former Seminoleâ€™s upside. At 6-2, 208 pounds Cromartie has the size every team is looking for and he showed off his rare athleticism at his March 16th Pro Day, posting a 4.38 40 and a 42â€ vertical jump.
John McCargo, DT, NC State: With Mario Williams and Manny Lawson operating on the outside, it is easy to see why McCargo could be overshadowed at NC State. Add to this the junior defensive tackle only played seven games this season due to a broken foot and scouts are just now catching up to McCargoâ€™s game. In a draft where most of the top defensive tackles are run stuffers, McCargoâ€™s upfield burst is certain to attract teams looking for a single gap penetrator.
Leonard Pope, TE, Georgia: Pope is precisely the type of prospect whose stock rises as the draft approaches. Blessed with an unbelievable combination of height (6-8), speed (4.62), and leaping ability (37.5â€ vertical), the former Georgia tight could be a virtually un-coverable force in the middle of the field.
Jon Alston, OLB/S, Stanford: A former strong-side linebacker for the Cardinal, teams are moving Alston up the board due to his spectacular Combine performance that have many clubs considering him as a safety. Teams recognized his playing speed and instincts for the position while he earned conference honors the past two seasons at Stanford, but it wasnâ€™t until Alstonâ€™s performance in Indianapolis (4.40, 40â€ vertical, and 30 repetitions of 225) that scouts really began to appreciate Alstonâ€™s upside. Teams are split as to Alstonâ€™s better pro position, but all indications are that he wonâ€™t make it out of the first day.
Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State: There might not be a player in the draft who has dropped more significantly over the past two weeks than Hali. The Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year failed to distinguish himself at the Senior Bowl and after passing on an opportunity to work out at the Combine, Hali struggled terribly at his pro day, running in the 4.9s on a track despite weighing in 12 pounds less than at the Combine (263 down from 275). Pass rushers with his track record and character donâ€™t fall too far, but the mid second round is now a likelier landing spot for Hali than the mid first, as was once felt.
Michael Huff, S, Texas: Most prospects whose stock is falling this close to the draft suffered a poor workout, but in the case of Michael Huff, the realities of his pro position are simply catching up to his big name. Huff is one of the top defensive backs in the 2006 draft, but despite possessing 4.37 speed, most scouts feel he is better served remaining at safety rather than switching to cornerback at the next level. Had Huff been able to prove beyond doubt that he could cornerback, he likely would have emerged as a top seven pick. As it stands now, Huff is more likely to be selected in the mid teens.
Jason Avant, WR, Michigan: Avant is considered by many to be one of the draftâ€™s top possession receivers and his senior season totals at Ann Arbor (82 receptions for 1,007 yards, 8 TDs) bear witness that he is plenty capable of performing in this role. That said, Avant didnâ€™t stand out at the Senior Bowl and recently ran two 4.8 40s at his Pro Day.
Chad Greenway, OLB, Iowa: Despite a spectacular career at Iowa and a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, Greenwayâ€™s performance in workouts have been so average, teams are a little apprehensive. Greenway, who is recognized as one of the draftâ€™s better coverage linebackers, only ran the 40 in 4.76 seconds and didnâ€™t alleviate concerns about his playing strength with only 16 reps of 225 at the Combine. Most scouts feel that Greenway has been too good for too long to drop out of the first round, but it would no longer be a shocker to see this occur.
Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State: Holmes is universally regarded as one of the draftâ€™s most explosive receivers, but his stock could take a tumble due to the unfortunate combination of Chad Jacksonâ€™s emergence and Holmesâ€™ inconsistencies on film. Once considered the top receiver of the draft, Holmesâ€™ star has faded ever since electing not to work out and allowing Chad Jackson and his 4.32 forty to steal the show. While the former Buckeye virtually matched Jacksonâ€™s time at a subsequent workout (4.34), Holmesâ€™ lack of prototype size (5-11, 179 pounds) and a surprising number of drops on film have scouts moving Holmes down the board. The speedster is too dangerous to drop too low, but he has certainly given up his post as the top wideout of the draft. In fact, some teams have graded him as a second round prospect.
Alan Zemaitis, CB, Penn State: Like his former teammate, Tamba Hali, Penn Stateâ€™s March 16th Pro Day was not a kind one for Zemaitis. Though Zemaitis, at 6-1, 194 pounds, wasnâ€™t expected to be a speed demon, estimates on his 40 hovered in the mid 4.4s. Unfortunately, however, Zemaitis ran in the high 4.5s and didnâ€™t look as explosive as expected in other drills, either. Some of his biggest supporters among scouts know believe heâ€™ll be limited in the types of defensive schemes through which he can be successful at the NFL level.
Ko Simpson, FS, South Carolina: Ko Simpson did everything right at the Combine â€“ except, apparently, treat his conversations with teams as the job interviews they are. Teams were already concerned about the maturity of the sophomore safety, and Simpsonâ€™s lackadaisical approach to the interviews simply heightened apprehension further. A first round caliber prospect, there are some teams who simply now wonâ€™t consider Simpson until at least a round later.
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.