PFW NFL Draft newsletter sample: Adam Hoge’s pre-draft fallers
This story from PFW contributor Adam Hoge first appeared in our daily draft newsletter last Thursday. To get more exclusive draft content delivered straight to your inbox for free first thing every weekday morning, sign up now.
Last week we took a look at one prospect at each position that has performed well during the pre-draft process. This week, we’ll take a look at the prospects who haven’t helped themselves.
Same disclaimer as last week: In most of these cases, the movement is minimal. The idea of “risers” and “fallers” is often overblown, because the tape is what matters most. But the pre-draft process matters, otherwise 32 NFL teams wouldn’t invest so much time and money into vetting so many players.
With that in mind, here is one prospect at each position that has failed to help themselves over the past few months during the pre-draft process:
QB: Josh Rosen, UCLA
This isn’t as much a case of poor performance or poor interviews over the past couple of months as it is a prospect who is struggling to escape his own reputation. And, by all accounts, that reputation is deserved. I’ve asked numerous sources the same question since December: Is the Rosen criticism overblown? Not one has answered, “yes.”
And, as was the case last year with DeShone Kizer, Rosen became victim of the ultimate red flag: His college coach fanning the flames. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly made headlines last April when he said Kizer should have stayed in school for one more season. This time, former UCLA head coach Jim Mora Jr. said he thinks the Browns should draft Sam Darnold No. 1 overall instead of Rosen, his former quarterback.
Of course, context matters here. Mora still said he thinks Rosen will be a good NFL quarterback and encouraged either the Giants or Jets to draft him, but it’s still telling that he believes the Browns should go with Darnold first. These coaches usually go out of their way (at least publicly) to boost up their own players, so it’s alarming when they don’t.
Last year, I identified Kizer as the one top-tier quarterback prospect who could fall to the second round. Rosen is much more polished as a passer, so I doubt he’ll fall that far, but if there is one QB who surprisingly waits longer than most think, it could be Rosen.
RB: Royce Freeman, Oregon
Freeman ended an incredible career at Oregon by sitting out the team’s bowl game, which is perfectly OK, except it opens you up to questioning from 32 NFL teams. Freeman’s tape clearly shows he can play, but there are some injury concerns, especially considering the mileage he’s put on his body over the last four years at Oregon. Freeman hasn’t done much to help himself over the past few months, running an acceptable 4.54 40-time at the combine before declining to participate in any measurables at his pro day.
WR: James Washington, Oklahoma State
Washington was highly productive in Stillwater, but he’s undersized, which means he needed to run fast at the NFL combine and his pro day. Unfortunately, he didn’t deliver, posting a 4.54 in Indianapolis and reportedly failing to get under 4.5 at his pro day. He may have been able to sneak into the first round with strong performances over the past few months, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fall to the third round now. Personally, I prefer his teammate, Marcell Ateman, who is a much bigger target.
TE: Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
This one is injury related. After a good week of practices in Mobile, Fumagalli was held out of the Senior Bowl, didn’t run at the combine and then was held out of his pro day. A Wisconsin official said it’s due to “a core injury.” Unfortunately, the only number attached to Fumagalli in the past few months is a 14 on the bench press, which doesn’t do much to alleviate concerns about his strength. He’ll have to lean on his outstanding tape at Wisconsin, which shows he can be a solid tight end in the NFL.
OL: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Brown delivered an all-time clunker at the combine, especially when it came to just 14 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. 40-times hardly matter for offensive linemen, but his 5.85 was still notably bad. Brown’s pro day was better, but it still was not great. He benched 18 reps, which is still pretty unimpressive for a massive left tackle. He dropped five pounds since the combine, but there will still be concerns going forward about Brown staying in shape. With so much on the line, it’s mind-boggling that a player could show up at the combine in such bad shape. I’m not going to sugarcoat this: Brown cost himself a lot of money. Once considered an easy first-round pick, where he ends up getting drafted will be fascinating to see.
DL: Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Every year there are one or two high-profile prospects who get flagged for medical issues, and unfortunately Hurst was diagnosed with a heart condition at the NFL combine and was sent home. Former 14th-overall pick Star Lotulelei went through a similar situation in 2013 and has had a nice career, and Hurst received medical clearance to participate in his pro day. He should still find a home relatively early, but it’s doubtful Hurst will be the first defensive lineman drafted.
EDGE: Arden Key, LSU
Key has been a tough prospect to figure out. Dripping with talent entering the 2017 season, his play dropped off unexpectedly while his weight went up. Key could have silenced some of those concerns by posting big numbers at the combine, but he failed to do so, refusing to do the bench press or run the 40-yard-dash. Once thought of as a possible No. 1 overall pick, Key may fall out of the first round. His pro day on April 4 will be important.
LB: Josey Jewell, Iowa
Those of us who have seen Jewell play in person over the years know that he is an old-school, highly instinctive linebacker who simply makes plays. That will translate to the NFL and is a reason why I think he has mid-to-late round value. But the athleticism just isn’t there. Jewell could have helped himself with a better combine showing but struggled, especially when it came to his 4.82 40-time. Typically, 4.70 is considered the cut-off point. He reportedly ran a 4.68 at his pro day, which is better, but Jewell is going to have to get by on his tape and outworking everyone else.
CB: Josh Jackson, Iowa
I’ve made it clear that Jackson is one of my favorite prospects in this draft and I still believe he’s going to be a top-tier NFL cornerback, but he didn’t help himself by running a slow 4.56 at the combine. The reported numbers at Iowa’s pro day Monday varied, but none of them seemed to prove that his combine performance was a fluke. Jackson will still get drafted in the first round, but he could go in the back-half of the first round instead of in the top 10.
S: DeShon Elliott, Texas
Many thought Elliott should have stayed at Texas for one more year, and he hasn’t done much to change that opinion over the past few months. The 4.58 he posted at the combine wasn’t mind-blowing, and he chose not to run at Texas’ Pro Day Wednesday. For a guy who refused to play in Texas’ bowl game, I expected to see better from him during the pre-draft process, especially considering he already has a reputation for not bringing it on every play.
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