By Joe Sageman
1. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama – Fluker is rising up draft boards mostly due to a case of supply and demand. With Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, and Lane Johnson expected to go in the top 10, teams like Miami and San Diego may have to reach to fill their biggest needs. According to Ross Tucker, a team in the top 10 loves Fluker, and given the number of teams who need a tackle early, Fluker is looking more and more like a top 12 player.
2. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia – Austin has truly rare speed and quickness, and teams in need of an explosive x-factor on offense will be jockeying for him. As the premier speed weapon in this draft, a team like Minnesota or San Francisco could try to leapfrog St. Louis at 16 to draft him. A top 10 pick isn’t out of the question.
3. David Quessenberry, OT/G, San Jose State – A college left tackle, Quessenberry played all five spots on the line at the Senior Bowl and has continued to impress. All teams value intelligence, athleticism, and versatility in offensive linemen, and those traits have catapulted Quessenberry from a day 3 prospect to a potential second or third round pick.
4. D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston – Teams are beginning to feel more comfortable with Hayden’s freak heart accident and like what they see on tape. Hayden has length, thickness, loose hips, and great ball skills. The corner board is very fluid, and Hayden could easily jump into the tail end of the first round before all is said and done.
5. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M – Michael torpedoed his draft stock by behaving very unprofessionally at the Combine, but it appears his draft stock is rebounding. In a weak running back class, Michael has the build and athleticism teams covet in workhorse backs and is working himself back into the second or third round.
1. Cordarelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee – Not long ago, Patterson was the consensus top receiver in the draft due to an enticing height-weight-speed combination. However, concerns about his rawness, route running, and bad body-catching habit are now growing. Reports are also surfacing that his Combine interviews turned teams off and that he may not be able to pick the NFL game up mentally. He’ll be drafted after Tavon Austin, and perhaps fall behind DeAndre Hopkins as well.
2. Keenan Allen, WR, California – After failing to crack 4.7 in the 40-yard-dash at his Pro Day, scouts are beginning to question Allen’s athleticism. He’s big, physical, and savvy, but most project him as a west coast receiver who cannot challenge the defense vertically. Don’t be surprised if these concerns push him out of the first round or possibly out of the top 50.
3. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama – Lacy isn’t facing a lot of competition to be the first running back drafted, but a lingering hamstring injury is becoming a source of major frustration for scouts who want to test his straight line speed. Some scouts have even questioned if Lacy is really hurt or “just too slow.” If he can’t give teams a 40-yard-dash time before the draft, he will probably slide well into the second round.
4. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue – Analysts have raved about the deep defensive tackle class, but all the buzz about Kawann Short has been centered on his hot-and-cold motor. He appears to have been passed by the likes of Sylvester Williams and Johnathan Hankins on most boards, and is beginning to look like a second round pick.
5. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State – Banks’ tumble down draft boards started at the Combine, when he couldn’t break 4.6 in the 40-yard-dash. Since then, corner after corner has generated talk in the draft community. Desmond Trufant, Jamar Taylor, D.J. Hayden, and maybe even Darius Slay are now regarded as superior prospects, which will almost certainly keep Banks out of the first round.