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De Jesus: Draft stocks: buy or sell?

| Sunday, February 22, 2015

This weekend, about 300 prospects participated in the annual NFL Scouting Combine, which showcases the physical and mental abilities of each prospect in front of scouting services, head coaches and general managers.

Predicting how well players will make the jump to the NFL isn’t as easy as it sounds. As we all know, success in college doesn’t guarantee success in the pros. Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell, Jason Smith, Charles Rogers, Tim Couch and Aaron Curry. Those are just a few of many names that are now considered draft busts. They were highly coveted prospects coming out of college because of how successful they were, but once they entered the NFL, they became nothing more than forgotten names and failed careers.

The goal of the NFL combine is to make sure teams pick the right guys that fit its schemes and team philosophy. That requires hours of studying film, interviewing the prospects and confirming that each players’ fundamentals and techniques are on par with what each organization wants out of its players. If a player doesn’t run as fast as a team needs him to run, it doesn’t matter how successful he was in college. He no longer fits the team’s scheme. It sounds ridiculously meticulous, but it’s necessary if you want to build a championship roster.

Here are a couple of players who improved their draft stock heading toward their pro days and a couple of players who have dropped in many teams’ draft boards.

Kevin White: receiver, West Virginia

White caught 109 passes for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. He was seen as a definite top-three receiver in this draft class, but after his combine performance, he might have passed up Alabama’s Amari Cooper as the top receiver available. He ran a 4.35, which tied for third-best among all players. That reassures teams that White’s quickness is elite to go along with a 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame. Along with his speed, White displayed his strength on the bench press, lifting 225 pounds 23 times, one of the best performances out of all receivers participating. His on-the-field performance was just as impressive, as scouts raved about his ability to run crisp, smooth routes and catch the ball with ease down the field and on intermediate routes. Although Cooper looks like the better overall wideout to some teams, White seems to have the higher ceiling.

Vic Beasley: outside linebacker, Clemson

The fact that this guy is already being compared to Von Miller by NFL scouts says he has a lot of room to be even better than Miller some day. Beasley finished his career at Clemson as the all-time leader in sacks with 29 and is known for being a lethal pass rusher. Beasley played running back in high school, so his lateral and closing speed rank with the best in the draft class. He ran a 4.53 40-yard dash, benched 225 pounds 35 times, jumped 41 inches on the vertical jump and jumped 130 inches on the broad jump. All of his results were among the best in the linebacking group that showed up Sunday. He displayed elite speed and flexibility in his hips, which is key for an outside linebacker in the pros. He started out as a top-10 linebacker in most experts’ rankings, but he could easily be the first linebacker taken off the board.

Todd Gurley: running back, Georgia

Gurley started his 2014 campaign as the sure-fire contender for the Heisman, but after tearing his ACL, his draft stock has been dropping with every week another back impresses NFL teams. I remember watching the Georgia back’s highlights running over defenders and out-running some of the fastest defensive backs for 40-yard plus runs. Some compared his sensational play to that of Herschel Walker, who had an incredible amount of hype coming out of college.

However, the fact he tore his ACL concerns teams because they don’t know if he’ll ever have the same explosiveness he had before. A couple of years ago, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore was ranked as one of the top backs in his class, and after he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, there was hope for a comeback, but it never happened. What makes things worse is that Gurley refused to let NFL teams and doctors take a look at his knee over the weekend, which further raises red flags. In addition, running backs are becoming less and less valuable to teams. You can find a legitimate running back in the later rounds of the draft, and with more teams using multiple backs to run their backfields, there isn’t a huge market for featured backs that cost a ton of money. Gurley’s stock has definitely dropped the most out of any prospect in the draft.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Manuel De Jesus

Manuel De Jesus is a junior from Chicago, Illinois. He is an American Studies major with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He is currently covering ND Volleyball, Men's Soccer and Men's Basketball.

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