NFL Draft: Risers And Sliders

Here are some players that are rising and falling on draft boards as the NFL draft nears.

Player rankings are always fluid. Some prospects move up. Some prospects move down.

Some players test poorly while other post superior measurables. Then you have players who have character or personal issues.

Rankings are constantly changing, as players slide up and down draft boards.

Below are some of those players in this 2015 draft class.

Risers


Stephone Anthony (ILB) Clemson


The former Tiger has worked his way up the draft charts and could be the very first inside linebacker taken, most likely on Friday. At 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, Anthony has the size and speed to excel. He has a good all-around game to play the run and drop in coverage against the pass.

David Johnson (RB) Northern Iowa


I loved Johnson at the Senior Bowl in January. He has a nice combination of size and speed and this is a potential every down back in the NFL because of his ability to run and catch the football. Scouts compare his game to Chicago running back Matt Forte. Johnson’s named should be called sometime on Friday in the second or third round.

Byron Jones (CB) UConn


Jones started climbing up the draft rankings as soon as he broad jumped 12-foot-3 in Lucas Oil Stadium at the NFL Combine in February. Then scouts realized he could play football as well. This is a versatile defensive back that played both safety and cornerback. Jones has good size and length and will get a first look at corner. There’s a very good chance he’s drafted in the first round.

Eric Rowe (CB) Utah


Rowe is another former safety that moved to the cornerback position and excelled. He has excellent size and brings physicality and aggressiveness to the position. I mocked him earlier this week to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round.

Za’Darius Smith (DE) Kentucky


This is a defensive end that had a great few weeks in the postseason all-star circuit, first at the East/West Shrine and then at the Senior Bowl. His former Kentucky teammate, Alvin Dupree, is getting first-round pub. Smith doesn’t go that high but scouts feel he can play. He’s a sure-fire player selected in the second or third round.

Sliders


T.J. Clemmings (OT) Pitt


It’s not necessarily his foot that is bothering some NFL teams, rather just two years of playing the offensive tackle position. Still, this former Panther has enormous upside but still has a long road ahead in terms of development. He was once thought of as a sure-fire lock in the first round. That's still a possibility, but it looks like Clemmings will go high in the second round. In fact, I mocked him yesterday to the Titans with the first pick in the second .

Randy Gregory (DE) Nebraska


Gregory tested positive for marijuana use at the NFL Combine and there has been a huge question as to where he would be selected within the draft. At one time he was the No. 4-ranked prospect on Scout and has since slide to No. 16. There’ still a real possibility he could go to Atlanta at No. 8 if the Falcons stay put at that spot. New Orleans is also a potential landing spot. If not, then a slide is possible. This former Cornhusker is an elite talent with a unique skill set. The question is: Do teams believe he has a drug issue?

Benardrick McKinney (LB) Mississippi State


McKinney looked like a linebacker that was going to fall somewhere in the back half of the first round. Now he may have to wait until the third. McKinney is huge and can move for a bigger ‘backer. Why the slide? One school of thought is that his physicality doesn’t match his size. I think in the right system McKinney will be a steal, especially considering he can play inside and out.

Shane Ray (DE) Missouri


There are two issues with Ray – the first being the bust of marijuana possession earlier this week, a mere 72 hours before the start of the draft. That showed incredibly poor judgement. Then you have the foot/toe injury concern that Ray sustained in his final college game. Together, it looks like Ray could get pushed out of the first round. In fact, some believe he could free fall, maybe as late as the fourth round. That’s unreal considering he was a strong candidate to land in the top 10-13 range overall.

Shaq Thompson (LB) Washington


Most teams out there wanted to see Thompson commit to playing safety in the pros. Many felt like he could be a Darren Woodson type of player. But Thompson insists that he will play linebacker. He was once projected to be a sure-fire first rounder. But did the NFL really view him that way? It was more of the media and the mocks. For me, I see Lavonte David all over again. The NFL scouts thought he was too small to play linebacker. The Bucs drafted him in the third round and he’s been an All-Pro since. Go check their measurables at the same stage – they are the same player. In fact, I believe Thompson is even more athletic than David and feel his game in today’s NFL fits well at the weak-side linebacker position.

Note: Scout draft analyst Dave-Te' Thomas contributed to this story.


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Part 2- Where do student-athletes major in the NFL?
Part 3 - Drafted vs Undrafted Players
Part 4 – Positional Breakdowns of the NFL: Where are they from?
Part 5 - NFL Veterans: Where are they from?
Part 6 – Top NFL Producing High Schools


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