It's never too early to start talking about players' NFL draft stock. Despite free agency not even starting yet, here are a few draft prospects whose stock seems to be rising or falling.
Teams are finalizing their draft boards in anticipation of their week-long stay in Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine Feb. 18-23.
Players on the rise or fall during the first scouting meetings are typically juniors who teams are just getting to know, and seniors who have regional scouts battling for "their guy" or telling his superiors that he's not worth contacting until after the draft.
Note the importance of more teams switching from a four down linemen base scheme to the 3-4 on the stock of this year's draft prospects.
James Casey, TE, Rice: When Casey showed up at one of the East-West Shrine Game practices in Houston (just down the street from Rice University), teams took a double take. His athletic build is intriguing, but their interest really piqued when they watched him on film. His stock should continue to rise during the Combine, probably into an early-to-mid second-round grade.
Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas State: Wildcat fans can tell you that Freeman's inconsistency sometimes trumps his potential. But with a huge gap between top quarterback prospects Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford and all others, Freeman is likely to fill in that late first/early second-round slot reserved for quarterbacks with more tools and potential than production.
Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU: The Tigers' troubles kept Jackson on the down-low in 2008 — he didn't even make the coaches' first or second All-SEC teams. But 3-4 teams seeking a nice combination of strength and speed are looking at him as a mid first-round pick. A nice Combine could push him into the top 12.
Nate Davis, QB, Ball State: In the middle of the 2008 season, teams were very interested in Davis. However, they are now reviewing tapes of his poor play in the team's two-game skid to close the year. Davis certainly has potential, and is likely to be selected late in the third round. But considering he was viewed to be in the same class as Freeman early in the year, that's a significant step backward.
Brooks Foster, WR, North Carolina: His 6-3, 205-pound frame and sub 4.5 speed got him an invite to the Senior Bowl. But his up-and-down play and inability to stay healthy during the week at the Senior Bowl, along with less-than-impressive production after Brandon Tate went down early last season, are devaluing his stock.
Matthew Shaughnessy, DE, Wisconsin: Although he's a technically solid player who uses his hands well, Shaughnessy's inability to beat any tackle with a speed rush off the edge in 2008 really turned off scouts. He came into the season expected to fight for a second-round grade, but now will likely end up a late third- or fourth-round pick.