Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
Almost every year, there is a cornerback who rises up draft boards in the final weeks before the 2012 NFL Draft. The player who is making that move this year is Gilmore. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he had a superb performance and displayed a special skill set. The 6-foot, 190-pound Gilmore has size, speed and a quality career for the Gamecocks. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds with a fabulous 10-yard split of 1.50. Gilmore looked good in the field drills and duplicated that performance at his pro day.
There is a big market for cornerbacks in the passing-driven NFL, and that helps Gilmore to move up into the first round. He was a feast-or-famine player for South Carolina. Gilmore gave up some plays in 2011, but he also produced some big plays. Gilmore had 46 tackles with four interceptions, seven passes broken up and one forced fumble this season. Arguably, he played better as a sophomore with 79 tackles, three interceptions, three sacks, and six tackles for a loss. Gilmore has a first-round skill set that is pushing him into the top-32 picks despite some shaky performances.
Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
There has been a buzz building around McClellin. He had a strong senior season and followed that up with an impressive Combine. McClellin (6-3) ran a fast 40 of 4.62 seconds and was tremendous in the field drills. That was even more impressive considering he added 12 pounds in a month to reach 260 pounds at Indianapolis. McClellin projects as an ideal 3-4 outside linebacker who can rush the passer and drop into coverage.
McClellin recorded 50 tackles, seven sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a blocked kick this year. Aside from playing as a traditional defensive end, he has lined up as both a stand-up rush linebacker and an inside linebacker. In 2010, McClellin had 9.5 sacks. To start his senior season, he had an impressive game and got the better of Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn, a likely first-round pick. There are some saying that McClellin could break into the first round, and, at worst, he should go early on the second day.
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
We were among the very first to project Floyd as a potential top-10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but now that projection has caught fire. He helped himself with a good pro day, and analysts are stating that there isn't much that separates him from the consensus top-ranked receiver, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. Floyd caught 100 receptions for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. He has excellent hands and concentration. It wasn't until late in the season that he had his first dropped pass of the year.
Floyd was consistently productive throughout his time at Notre Dame. His biggest negatives were off-the-field issues with a DUI arrest and some other behavior problems at Notre Dame. Floyd has made the case that he's cleaned up his act, but how heavily teams hold those issues against him is unknown. There are a number of teams picking at the back of the top 10 and early in the teens that could use a receiver like him. Floyd's hot draft status has seen him move into contention as a top-10 pick, and he shouldn't get out of the top half of the first round.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
At his pro day, Jeffery addressed some concerns with a strong 40-yard dash time around 4.5. There were a lot of additional questions regarding his speed after he ducked the 40 at the Combine. The 6-foot-3, 216-pounder has dropped a lot of weight from the season when he played in the 230s. Jeffery had 49 receptions for 762 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. He looked slow and had only one 100-yard game in his final college season. Even though Jeffery had a subpar signal-caller, he struggled to get separation from defensive backs all year.
As a sophomore, Jeffery had better production despite bad quarterback play. He caught 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. Many question if Jeffery can get separation from NFL defensive backs, while those questions are still present, he did enough at his pro day to stop the descent of his draft stock. His solid 40 time and weight loss should help Jeffery convince teams that they will be getting the 2010 version. He has to keep his weight down in the NFL, but he used his pro day to confirm a second-round grade.
Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford
A great pro-day performance has solidified Fleener as the top-rated tight end in the draft. The 6-foot-6, 247-pounder was said to show off freakish athleticism as a receiver. At Stanford, Fleener was the most reliable and the top receiving target for Andrew Luck. Fleener made 32 receptions for 667 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011. He caught 28 receptions for 434 yards and seven touchdowns the year before. Fleener runs good routes and is adept at exploiting the deep middle of the field on seam routes. He should be a good fit in many pro offenses.
Receiving tight ends are en vogue in the NFL, and Fleener benefits from a weak class of tight ends. It wouldn't be surprising for him to crack the first round in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Tyrone Crawford, OLB, Boise State
Crawford has gone under the radar behind more high-profile prospects from Boise State like McClellin or running back Doug Martin. Even quarterback Kellen Moore and defensive tackle Billy Winn have received more attention. While Crawford hasn't been discussed much, he has enjoyed a nice boost for his draft stock.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder is a heavy defensive end who is a solid presence at the point of attack. He had a quality week at the East-West Shrine and fared well in the one-on-ones. Crawford totaled 44 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this year. In his junior season, he totaled seven sacks, 32 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and one forced fumble.
Crawford projects to being a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. He is not a great athlete, but he has good length and strength to lock down the edge. Crawford has moved himself into consideration for the second day of the draft.
Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia
One player who looked like a Combine snub was Tandy. At his pro day, he reportedly timed around 4.43 in the 40-yard dash with a good showing in the positional drills. The West Virginia product had a quality collegiate career while performing well at the East-West Shrine.
The 5-foot-10, 202-pound Tandy is a gritty defender who fights and scraps. He had 64 tackles (50 solo) with two tackles for a loss, four interceptions and nine passes broken up this season. In 2010, Tandy was a first-team All Big East selection with six interceptions, 11 passes defended and 57 tackles.
Tandy looks like he would be best as a slot cornerback who comes into the game in nickel situations. Sources have indicated that he has pre-draft visits set up with Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. Tandy is pushing his stock towards the mid-rounds.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
Many pundits have claimed that Martin, as a player, is only worthy of a pick later on in round one, but he may go sooner because of the demand for offensive tackles. At one time, Martin was viewed as a top-16 pick. There are also projections that have him falling well into the 20s of the 2012 NFL Draft with teams that need a left tackle passing placing other needs first. The demand at the position definitely helps Martin, but there does not seem to be much momentum for him in the market.
Hurting Martin's draft stock is that he gets constantly compared to teammate David DeCastro. The standout player is the best guard to enter the NFL since Steve Hutchinson. Martin is not as unique or special a prospect, so he pales in comparison. At Stanford, Martin was a reliable pass protector for Andrew Luck and a good run blocker. Martin could be undervalued and reward the team that selects him.
Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Coples is another prospect who does not have much buzz about him. Coples' tremendous physical skill set is undeniable, but damaging the excitement about him is his modest production as a senior. He himself acknowledged that he could have done more in his final season at North Carolina. In 2011, Coples totaled 55 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a plethora of quarterback hurries. He had 10 sacks as a junior and caused more disruption.
At the Senior Bowl, Coples demonstrated the potential to have done a lot more in 2011. In the one-on-one reps, he won the vast majority of his battles in dominant fashion. Coples (6-5, 281) possesses ideal size and speed, along with being a developed pass rusher who uses speed and power to execute a dynamic set of moves. He can speed rush to either direction, has a good rip move, a spin move and a bull rush. Coples just needs to become more consistent. With the uncertainty around his draft stock, hr could slide into the No. 10-20 range when he was once thought to be a sure-fire top-10 pick.
Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe was considered to briefly be the top defensive tackle in the 2012 draft class, but lately his stock has been sliding. The lack of production at Memphis and underwhelming game tape are sending him down. He was being projected as a top-10 pick, but now many are placing him in the teens.
Critics say that with his special skill set, Poe should have produced more and put together a bigger stat line, especially at his lower level of competition. He totaled 33 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, one sack and one forced fumble this season. As a sophomore, Poe had 41 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. He played as a freshman in 2009 and recorded 27 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, two sacks and three forced fumbles.
One reason why Poe may have fallen short of his capacity to produce could be tied in with the fact that he earned a reputation for taking plays off. Poe is sure to get grilled about that in team interviews and he will need to have some good answers. Right now, Poe projects to the middle of the first round, but it isn't out of the question for his slide to continue and send him back into the 20s, exactly where he was before his massive Combine performance.