2018 NFL Draft Stock - Pre-Combine III

This section highlights which players have improved or worsened their 2018 NFL Draft stock as the draft approaches.

By Charlie Campbell.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: draftcampbell@gmail.com
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

2018 NFL Draft Stock Up

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
In speaking to team sources last week, there were some teams that were very high on Ward and felt that he is a special player. Evaluators love Ward's ability to run the route and prevent separation. If Ward were a few inches taller, he would be a candidate to go as a top-five pick, but the lack of height is one thing that is holding him back. That issue was illustrated in the 2017 season opener when Indiana's big wide receiver Simmie Cobbs made some catches over Ward. Still, Ward has a lot of teams fawning over his tape, and that has helped his draft stock during teams' February pre-combine scouting meetings.

Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
This cornerback class is very much a beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Hughes has some teams that absolutely love him. In speaking to sources from a team picking in the top-20 selections, they feel that Hughes is the best cornerback in the draft class and like him better than Denzel Ward or Joshua Jackson. Hughes is expected to be a star of the combine due to his excellent speed and athleticism. Easing off-the-field concerns will be critical for Hughes to rise, but some teams are very high on Hughes and think he is going to become a hot prospect if his interviews go well in Indianapolis.

Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
While working on my updated 2018 NFL Mock Draft, some team sources were reading last week's version and told me that I had Guice just a tad too low. I had Guice going in the top half of the second round, but they told me that Guice wouldn't get out of the top 40. In a strong running back class, Guice seems to have locked on to the third slot across the league. It is still possible, however, for Guice to leapfrog Georgia's Sony Michel with some teams if Guice works out well and Michel disappoints. Entering the combine, both players sound highly likely to be top-40 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
Team sources from franchises picking high in the first round told me that Jackson could work himself into the discussion for their pick if he runs fast times at the combine and in pre-draft workouts. To go along with excellent size, Jackson has good tape from last year, during which he was one of the nation's most dangerous ballhawks. A lot is riding on Jackson's 40-time at the combine, and if he runs well, his stock should continue to rise.

Duke Dawson, CB, Florida
The Gators' former nickel corner has a lot of teams that like his ability to quickly contribute as a slot corner. While they feel that Dawson is limited to that role, they think he executes in it extremely well. Some team sources think that Dawson may not get to the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft because his ability to play quickly could lead to him getting drafted in Round 2. Dawson's stock could really rise if he runs fast in Indianapolis.

M.J. Stewart, CB, North Carolina
Similar to Dawson, some team sources think that Stewart has a shot at going in the second round. They are similar players in that Stewart is also limited to being a slot cornerback, but thrives in that role and those corners are playing the majority of defensive snaps. Stewart looks safe as a third-rounder with second-round potential in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Braden Smith, G, Auburn
Last week in speaking with some team sources, they thought that Smith stood a real shot of being a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. While they felt that Smith needs to add strength, they noted that he has good height and athleticism to function on the inside of an offensive line. Smith had a solid career for Auburn and was an effective run blocker for the Tigers. Teams think that he could be a safe second-rounder to develop into a solid starter with a long NFL career.

Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
Rotoworld's Thor Nystrom had an excellent breakdown of Settle in his defensive prospects rankings and why Settle could be an excellent value in the 2018 NFL Draft. Settle could be one of the prospects who really helps himself at the combine, because he has surprising speed, athleticism and explosiveness in a thick body. Settle could lock himself into the second round and might even get late first-round consideration as his tape is very impressive.

2018 NFL Draft Stock Down

Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
The 2018 NFL Draft features a weak class of edge rushers, so one would think that Ejiofor would be a sought-after player considering he possess two productive seasons to go with a skill set of size, athleticism and speed. NFL teams, however, don't like how Ejiofor would run hot/cold and believe that his motor was lacking. Ejiofor will miss the combine workout due to his recovery from labrum surgery. That is a blow to Ejiofor as he won't be able to put his big skill set on display to help overcome the doubts about him as a player. In speaking to some sources from pass-rush-needy teams picking high in the second round, they lean toward some other prospects rather than Ejiofor. Ejiofor could be in store for a slide in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Alexander is a mixed prospect. Sources across the league love his cover skills and what he put on tape during his collegiate career. On the other hand, they have a lot of concerns about the variety of injuries that Alexander suffered as a junior. Not only is that going to hurt him in the short term with a medical red flag on his grade, but teams also have durability concerns with worries that Alexander will struggle to stay healthy in the NFL. If he hadn't been injured, Alexander would likely be in the first-round mix, but due to getting hurt a lot in 2017, the highest that Alexander can hope to go is on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, according to some sources.


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