One Draft Prospect at Each Position Whose Stock Is On The Rise
QB – Baker Mayfield, Senior, Oklahoma
I had Mayfield ranked as my Number 5 QB entering the season. Since opening the season against UTEP, Mayfield has looked phenomenal and as a result, has seen his draft stock rise. He powered OU to a historic win against Ohio State and has been very efficient throwing the ball. He has looked patient in the pocket, scanning the whole field routinely to find the open target. His quick recognition of defenses, pre and post snap, has been excellent and is another reason he has been such an efficient passer. For the most part, his footwork looks improved. Last year, he would throw off his back foot a lot and not transfer his weight through the throw. Whilst this area of his game looks largely improved, he will still throw off his back foot when throwing touch passes. Many knock Mayfield for a lack of arm strength. I do not share this concern. Whilst he doesn’t have a Pat Mahomes type of arm, he throws with plenty of velocity and the ball arrives with good energy on it.
He doesn’t have the ideal size, but his play this season has been hard to ignore and subsequently, he is moving up my draft board.
RB – Rashaad Penny, Senior, San Diego St.
Behind record setting RB Donnel Pumphrey, Penny ran for over 1,000 yards and 11 TDs last season. An impressive haul for an understudy. Since taking over as the starter this season, Penny has looked unstoppable. He’s rushed for 716 yards (7 TDs), caught 12 passes for 87 yards and has returned a kick for a TD. His ability to contribute as a runner, receiver and return man will make him incredibly valuable to an NFL team. A patient runner, Penny maximizes every rushing opportunity with great vision and feel for holes opening up. At 5’11”, 220lbs Penny has a well-built frame with some real strength in his lower body. This allows him to run through contact and break tackles.
Despite not having the desired lateral quickness, Penny is an effective runner who can contribute in the passing game and as a returner. His stock is on the rise and he could wind up as Top 5 RB in the 2018 draft class.
WR – Darren Carrington, Senior, Utah
Carrington’s stock hit rock bottom after being dismissed from Oregon. He found a home in Utah and was able to play immediately as a graduate transfer. Prior to him being dismissed form Oregon, I had a 3rd round grade on the speedy receiver. Since arriving at Utah, Carrington has been torching defenses. Listed at 6’3″, 205lbs, Carrington possesses the size necessary to be an impact receiver in the NFL. This year, he has shown he is a true deep threat who can also produce over the middle. He does a good job bringing the ball in with defenders around and doesn’t break focus. Elusive after the catch, Carrington does a good job slipping tackles, however I have some concerns about the way he carries the ball outside of his frame. He’s a solid blocker and is quick out of his breaks.
Carrington has really salvaged his draft stock with a dominant start to the season.
TE – Adam Breneman, Senior, UMASS
Breneman has gotten off to an incredible start to the season. Going into the season, I had a 3rd round grade on the UMASS pass catcher. Breneman may have the surest hands in the entire draft class. He is a natural hands catcher, can adjust to poorly thrown balls and shows the body control to make contested catches. Has some decent change of direction ability and runs precise routes, allowing him to separate at all levels. This season, UMASS has looked to get him the ball as often as possible and he has proven what a reliable target over the middle he can be.
His stock is on the rise and I expect him to be in Top 5 TE conversation come draft day.
OL – Chukwuma Okorafor, Senior, Western Michigan
During the off season, I was intrigued by the raw tools Okorafor possessed. I wanted to see how he put all of those tools to work this season. The early returns are encouraging and he currently ranks as my No. 4 OT. In his biggest test of the season, USC, he dominated against highly touted EDGE defenders Porter Gustin and Uchenna Nwosu. He mirrored both well in pass pro and showed the ability to deal with speed, despite being a bigger OT (6’6″, 330lbs). The leg drive and hip snap he showed in the run game was also impressive against USC and he drove NFL calibre defenders back all day. Since that game, he has continued to open huge lanes for his running backs and has looked much improved in pass protection, timing up his punch better and maintaining a more balanced base.
I love the upside of Okorafor and think he has an incredibly high ceiling. As he continues to convert raw tools to dominant on field performances, his draft stock will continue to rise.
Kim Klement/USA TODAY
DL – Andrew Brown, Senior, Virginia
Brown has been a disruptive force for Virginia to start the season. He’s been strong at the point of attack against the run and sheds well to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. What I like most about Brown, is his versatility as a pass rusher. Whether he is lined up inside or outside, he wins with quick hands, flexibility in his hips and solid upfield burst.
I gave Brown a 2nd/3rd round grade heading into the season, but through the first 4 games, he has shown he is a complete defensive lineman with the versatility to line up on the edge or inside. His stock should continue to rise throughout the season.
EDGE – Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Senior, Oklahoma
I highlighted Okoronkwo as a draft sleeper going into the season. Safe to say, he is no longer flying under the radar. He put on a show against Ohio State and the Buckeyes could not find an answer for him the entire game. One of the weaknesses I highlighted in Okoronkwo’s game going into the season, was his inconsistency against the run. However, so far this season he has looked much improved against the run. He is setting the edge well and has shown improved hand usage to shed blocks in the run game. I still don’t really trust him in coverage, but as a pure pass rusher there are few better in the 2018 class. His upfield burst and ability to change direction and hit blockers with an inside move is incredible.
Much improved against the run, Okoronkwo is showing he can be more than simply a pass rush specialist.
LB – Josey Jewell. Senior, Iowa
Jewell has been a consistent presence for Iowa this season, both against the run and pass. He is a high effort player who will always end up around the ball due to his non stop motor and relentless pursuit. He diagnoses plays well and does a great job attacking downfield. Always comes to balance before firing into a tackle. In coverage, he looks improved from last season. He is recognising routes early and closing on the receiver well. He had an INT against Penn State and should have had one against Wyoming.
I have loved watching Jewell play this season, he is an ultra competitive dude and always gets to the ball. He has moved into my top 50 prospects and NFL teams are going to love this guy when they turn on the tape.
CB – Duke Dawson, Senior, Florida
Graded as a 1st/2nd rounder going into the season there wasn’t much room for Dawson’s stock to grow. Yet, he has had a fantastic start to the season and as a result has seen his stock rise. He has firmly established himself as one of the top 3 CBs in this class and could easily emerge as the number 1 CB with more great performances. Dawson shows the ability to play in both off man and press coverage. He is very physical and has good play strength. Will get physical with receivers without getting overly handsy and called for penalties. I love how he keeps his feet moving at the line to mirror receivers on the release and then flips his hips to run with the receiver. A defender who is very hard to shake in man coverage, this comes from rarely being beat off the line of scrimmage and not allowing early separation. So far this season, he has shown he can be a playmaker in the defensive backfield with 2 INTs, one returned for a TD and has shown he can play on the outside or inside.
He played a lot of Nickel over the slot last season, so seeing him step in and dominate as an outside CB has resulted in a rise up my draft board.
S – Marcus Allen, Senior, Penn State
Allen didn’t have an interception going into his senior season at Penn State. Against Georgia State, he anticipated a throwing lane nicely and got his hands on the first INT of his college career. Allen is a true in the box safety, he hits with authority and takes good angles to the ball carrier. He accelerates into contact, but always comes to balance and strikes through the thighs. I think he has looked a little better in coverage this year and he has shown the ability to capably run with TEs in man.
Allen has been a tackling machine this season and his improvement in coverage has led to his draft stock rising.
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