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
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Bryan was incredible against Texas A&M. He looked phenomenal, using speed to fire by offensive lineman and his power to shed blocks. In the third quarter, Bryan killed a series for the Aggies. Texas A&M tackled him around the neck to prevent a sack, and that drew a holding penalty that wiped out a 40-yard gain. Bryan blew up the next rushing play. Then, he beat a double team from the guard and tackle, firing between them and using strength to achieve the third-down sack. Shortly later, Bryan added another sack on a third-and-goal to force a field goal. Against Texas A&M, he had seven tackles with 1.5 sacks. Bryan has 20 tackles with four tackles for a loss and three sacks this season.
The announcers were comparing 6-foot-4, 295-pounder Bryan to J.J. Watt, and in terms of style of play, Bryan is reminiscent of Watt. In speaking with a director of college scouting, we agreed that Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe was a good comparison to Bryan. Bryan has a tremendous get-off, with serious explosion off the snap. He has developed strength with active hands to shed blocks. With his length, Bryan can play end or tackle, and would a perfect fit as a five-technique. This tape was the performance of an early-round talent for the 2018 or 2019 NFL Draft.
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Sources who have been through Oklahoma believe that Brown will end up being a starting right tackle in the NFL. They like his size, length, and ability to put defensive linemen to the ground. They think that he can be overwhelming and talked about how against Ohio State, he was very impressive with how ferocious he played. Scouts have compared Brown to D.J. Fluker coming out of Alabama in 2013. They believe that Brown could improve with playing up or down to competition and could be more consistent in the ground game. Hence, these sources are projecting Brown to second round, although as a future starter in the NFL.
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Clemson has a defensive line that is comprised of future first-round picks, and some sources think that Ferrell creates some of the big plays for the other Tigers defensive linemen. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder has superb speed with athleticism and the ability bend around the corner. On the season, Ferrell has 30 tackles with 7.5 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, one pass batted and one forced fumble. Fellow defensive end Austin Bryant is playing himself into being an early-rounder this year, but Ferrell has done well cleaning up a lot of scrambling quarterbacks running away from Bryant. Ferrell looks like a future first-round pick in the 2018 or 2019 NFL Draft.
D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
LSU pulled off a huge comeback against Auburn, during which Chark was the star producer. It didn't start well for Chark as he had a painful mistake. In the first quarter, Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis released Chark running deep down the field, which let Chark get open for a long reception. Davis got lucky that his safety forced a fumble that Davis recovered. After that play, Chark overwhelmed Auburn, starting with Chark spinning after the catch to get down the sideline for 39 yards. Late in the third quarter, Chark made a nice catch downfield for about 20 yards, working back to the ball and securing a leaping grab. In the fourth quarter, Chark came up with a huge play as he took a punt return 75 yards for a touchdown to cut Auburn's lead to 23-21. Shortly later, Chark came up with a huge reception, getting late separation and having the ball fall into him, for a gain of about 40 yards.
Chark totaled five receptions for 150 yards versus Auburn. Overall, this tape will help Chark as he showed the speed to separate and make big plays. He also ran some nice routes with impressive ability to get late separation to make receptions. This tape is going to help Chark to be a potential seconds-day pick, even with his fumble.
Nik Needham, CB, UTEP
Needham has 30 tackles with seven passes broken up in 2017 . He had 54 tackles with 11 breakups as a junior after 38 tackles and five breakups as a sophomore. Sources tell me that Needham (6-0, 190) has impressed them with his cover skills for UTEP. They say that while he is not a burner, he is an outstanding technician who beats up receivers at the line of scrimmage. Needham doesn't have a lot of interceptions because teams throw away from him, but from watching him in practice, they say that he has good hands and ball skills. While his team has struggled, Needham has locked down some good receivers the past few years while being a three-year starter. They feel Needham would be a good zone corner in the NFL.
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
I had a shakeup in my mock 2018 NFL Draft last week, based off speaking with some national scouts. They felt that Ward stood a good chance of going in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Sources from multiple teams have said they've been impressed with Ward's speed, athleticism, and ball skills. Ward has shown that he is adept at running the route to prevent separation. The 5-foot-10, 191-pounder could be a nickelback, but also competes well to get consideration as an outside corner. This season, Ward has 20 tackles with nine passes broken up and an interception. He's on his way to being a potential first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Nyheim Hines, RB, N.C. State
A player who is really helping himself this season is N.C. State junior running back Nyheim Hines. All year, he has used his impressive speed to produce big plays for the Wolfpack. Hines had an 83-yard touchdown run through the middle of Pittsburgh's defense early on Sunday. Later in the first quarter, he fielded a punt and exploded down the field for a 92-yard touchdown. Hines made another impressive play on special teams early in the second quarter, this time in punt coverage. As a gunner, he used his great speed to fly down the field and catch the ball near the end zone to save it from becoming a touchback. Hines totaled 135 yards on 16 carries with a touchdown and his punt return score.
This season, Hines has averaged 5.6 yards per carry for 648 yards with six touchdowns. He has 16 receptions for 89 yards as well. The 5-foot-9, 197-pounder isn't the biggest of backs, but he has NFL speed. He could be a rotational back, a receiving back, or a returner in the NFL. If Hines enters the 2018 NFL Draft, he could have mid-round potential.
2017 NFL Draft Stock Down
Kevin Toliver, CB, LSU
Sources are down on Toliver as they say he has first-round talent, but doesn't play up it or work to maximize his ability. They are critical over his lack of instincts, and he has not been producing big plays despite opportunities. Halfway through the season, Toliver has 15 tackles with two passes broken up and zero interceptions. He also missed the season opener with a suspension. With how Toliver is playing, he is likely to be a second-day pick or mid-round choice rather than a first-rounder in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Mitch Hyatt, LT, Clemson
As I reported in the Hot Press last week
, scouts from NFL teams have been disappointed in Hyatt's play this season, and some sources say they have been grading Hyatt on the third day of the 2018 NFL Draft. The biggest issue for Hyatt for the NFL is a lack of strength. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 305 pounds, but he has been pushed around this season.
A scout summarized his thoughts on Hyatt well, "I graded him in the fourth [round] right now, but if he keeps getting his butt whipped, I'll drop him to the fifth. That being said, offensive tackles rise in the leadup to the draft and they are getting harder to find. So it wouldn't surprise me if a team reached on him late in the third [round]. But I can't see him going higher than that right now."
Iman Marshall, CB, USC
Sources have been disappointed in Marshall this season. They say he is a big corner and looks the part, but he's been beaten far too much this year. Earlier this season, Marshall was abused by Texas and its wideout Collin Johnson. Last week against Utah, he had coverage issues and was flagged multiple times for pass interference penalties. While Marshall hasn't been that bad in other games, he is still struggling this season. If the junior doesn't turn things around in the second half of the season, he should return for his senior year to improve before going pro.
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