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
Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
This is the second straight week that a defensive end who went against Florida State has a stock up. Similar to N.C. State's Bradley Chubb, Ejiofor helped himself with an impressive performance against a weak Florida State offensive line. On his first play from scrimmage, Ejiofor worked down the line to help stuff a run for no gain. Later in the first quarter, he used a swim move to the inside of Brock Ruble to get a tackle for a loss on a third down and force a field goal. That repeated itself on the next possession as Ejiofor fired to the inside of Ruble to get another tackle for a loss.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ejiofor used speed to get upfield, but lost his footing with the right tackle pushing him into the turf. Ejiofor didn't quit on the play though, as he got up and chased down quarterback James Blackmon for a sack that turned into a fumble. Ejiofor was a critical contributor as Wake Forest notched 18 tackles for a loss against the Seminoles. Overall, this tape is going to help Ejiofor as he showed good speed at the point of attack with strength to fight off blocks. If he finishes this season as well as he has played thus far, he could be safe as a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Blace Brown, CB, Troy
Brown showed good hands against LSU, snatching an interception at the end of the fourth quarter to clinch Troy's shocking road upset. Prior to the game, team sources told me that Brown was a player who was really impressing them this season. The senior has 14 tackles with two passes broken up, two interceptions and a forced fumble on the year. As a junior, he totaled six interceptions with 34 tackles and four passes batted. The 6-foot, 186-pounder needs to gain some weight for the NFL, but could end up being a second-day pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Jarrod Franklin, S, Tulane
Another player who has created a buzz in scouting circles is Franklin. The senior has 25 tackles with three passes broken up on the season. In 2016, he totaled 78 tackles with a pass broken up, an interception and a sack. The 6-foot, 205-pounder will need to impress at the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine, but scouts see him as draftable and think he is a player on the rise.
Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State
Sources told me last week that Wilson was impressing them and was helping his draft stock this season. Through four games, Boise State has gotten a lot of use out of Wilson with 29 receptions for 485 yards and three touchdowns. He had huge games against Virginia with 209 yards and Washington State with 147 yards. Wilson is well on his way to surpass his junior production of 56 receptions for 1,129 yards with 11 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 188-pounder has height and length to him. Wilson will probably continue to impress and could end up helping himself at an all-star game.
Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
Nnadi had a huge game with some clutch plays to help his team avoid an embarrassing road upset to Wake Forest. Early in the first quarter, Nnadi jumped offsides, but on the next two plays, he fired into the backfield to get in on tackles for a loss. Throughout the first half, Nnadi was having his way with the Wake Forest offensive line, causing a lot of disruption at the point of attack.
In the fourth quarter, Nnadi burst through the line on a stretch run to smother a back in the backfield while also jarring a fumble loose. The ball was free inside the Wake Forest 10-yard line, but Florida State was unable to fall on the ball. Nnadi made another run stuff on the next play. That series was huge as it put Seminoles in excellent field position on their next possession, which was turned into the game-winning touchdown. This was an impressive tape from Nnadi that will help his draft grade as he was critical to Florida State notching its first win of the season.
Martez Carter, RB, Grambling
Late last week, team sources told me that Carter was a player who has really impressed scouts this fall. One area scout said that Carter (5-9, 205) is a bigger Tarik Cohen and is arguably as good as Cohen was last year in college. They also say that Carter impressed them in 2016, when he averaged 7.7 yards per carry for 906 yards with 11 touchdowns. He added 28 receptions for 351 yards and three scores as well. As a senior, Carter is averaging 6.1 yards per carry for 313 yards and four touchdowns with 12 receptions for 137 yards. If Carter impresses at an all-star game, he could really help rise up draft boards as Cohen's success will also help the senior.
Ken Webster, CB, Ole Miss
Webster played well even though his team was blown out by Alabama. Webster was sound in coverage, preventing separation. Howeve,r he wasn't really tested as the Crimson Tide kept the ball on the ground predominantly. In the third quarter, Webster caught Alabama running back Damien Harris from behind to make a touchdown-saving tackle on a 46-yard run. Sources have told me they think Webster (5-11, 194) has early-round potential and is a prospect on the rise.
DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia
Georgia has been one of the most impressive teams in college football this season, led be a nasty defense. While the front seven has gotten a lot of attention, the Bulldogs' coverage has been very sound. Baker has been their leading corner in 2017, showing some impressive ball skills with four breakups and an interception to go with 16 tackles. Baker (5-11, 180) could use more weight for the NFL, but is off to an excellent start for his junior year.
Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, Stanford running back Bryce Love, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and Washington wide receiver Dante Pettis
2017 NFL Draft Stock Down
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Earlier in the day on Friday, a scout who was doing tape study of USC quarterback Sam Darnold texted me that he thought Darnold was a good prospect and should end up being a quality starter in the NFL; however, they thought Darnold was being overhyped as a can't-miss elite-quarterback prospect. They felt that Darnold was not better on tape this season than Mitch Trubisky or Deshan Watson were last year. That view of Darnold was only reinforced with an underwhelming game in an upset loss to Washington State. Darnold was 15-of-29 for 164 yards with no touchdowns and an interception with two rushing scores, but Darnold had other would-be interceptions dropped.
Interceptions and decision-making have been a problem for Darnold this season, and that was again apparent against the Cougars. Overall, the Washington State game illustrates the point of some scouts that Darnold isn't "instant grits" for the NFL. He is going to need some development. Yes, Darnold is a good athlete, with accuracy as a passer, an ability to see the field, and functional mobility. However, he needs to improve his decision-making, eye movement, and confidence. Darnold has admitted that confidence has been an issue for him this season. He looks like a future first-round pick, but he may not be a genuine high first-round quarterback prospect like Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston.
Brock Ruble, OT, Florida State
The junior Ruble was unimpressive against N.C. State a week earlier, and he really struggled against Wake Forest. An injury forced him to move from right to left tackle, and he was abused there by Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor. Ejiofor repeatedly beat him for tackles for a loss, using speed to blow by him. Ruble was a primary culprit in the Seminoles allowing a staggering 18 tackles for a loss to Wake Forest. Ruble has received some media buzz, but his play hasn't validated it. He looks like a right tackle only and definitely should improve as a senior in 2018 before attempting to go to the NFL.
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