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NFL Draft: Stock Watch

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Now that the NFL Combine is over, the National Football Post takes another look at prospects that are on the rise and on the decline. Here’s the third installment of our “Stock Watch” series.

Moving On Up:

Kory Sheets, RB, Purdue (5-11, 208)

Sheets was a real weapon in the Purdue spread attack last season, finishing with 1,131 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. But his most impressive statistic was his 37 catches and his ability to make plays out of the backfield. Sheets had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and was one of the few backs who displayed a second gear and the ability to separate in the open field. What enhances his value even more is his ability to handle kickoffs and punt returns on special teams. He ran extremely well at the Combine (4.45) and was listed as the third-fastest running back in the class. He doesn’t have the build to be an every down runner at the next level, but his burst, speed and hands make him a very intriguing third-down type of back. Sheets started the draft process as more of a late-round pick, but because of his strong Senior Bowl and Combine showings, expect some team to take a shot on him as early as the fourth round.

Dorell Scott, DT, Clemson (6-3, 312)

Scott’s stock seemed to take a hit this year more because of Clemson’s struggles than his own performance. He’s a big, thickly built tackle who displays a rare combination of flexibility, athleticism and technique inside. He has the frame to add even more weight and possesses the talent to become one of the draft’s top nose tackles at the next level. Scott exhibits an advanced pass-rush repertoire for the nose tackle position and showcases the ability to shed blocks and keep himself clean inside. He opened eyes at the Combine, running a sub-five-second 40, doing 29 reps on the bench and finishing with a 30.5-inch vertical. Scott possesses impressive athleticism for the DT position and has the ability to line up anywhere on the interior of a defensive line. He is now considered a solid third-round pick and could move into the latter portions of round two with a strong pro day showing.

Sherrod Martin, FS, Troy (6-1, 198)

Martin was a 2008 All-Sun Belt Conference first-team selection at free safety and finished the season with 94 tackles, four interceptions and 11 passes defended – good enough to earn him an invitation to the Senior Bowl. However, he was asked to switch to cornerback for the game and understandably looked a bit raw at times. But I thought he did well in coverage and showed the kind of click-and-close ability that made him so effective at safety. Since the end of the season, Martin has bulked up to 198 pounds and ran in the mid-4.4 range at the Combine. He’s still considered a third/fourth-round corner prospect by some, but I see him as one of the draft’s top free safety prospects. He proved that he has the foot speed and quickness to play some corner, which can only enhance his stock. He looked fluid in the hips during position drills at the Combine and was one of the most natural looking defensive backs there. So don’t be surprised if his name comes off the board in the second round.

Free Falling:

Domonique Johnson, CB, Jackson State (6-2, 198)

Hailed by some as the next Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Johnson has done little to live up to the hype. Johnson displays excellent ball skills in the center field role and is at his best closing on plays and going up to break on the ball. However, his lack of fluidity, flexibility and foot speed were consistently exposed at the Senior Bowl. He looked a bit overwhelmed by the jump in competition and was continually turned around and slow to redirect out of his breaks. Then, at the Combine, Johnson timed in the mid-4.5 range, far slower than the anticipated low 4.4 that most scouts expected. To make matters worse, he looked stiff and unpolished with his footwork during position drills and struggled to display any kind of compactness to his game. He appeared out of control at times and doesn’t have the kind of body control NFL executives want to see from a man-to-man corner. Johnson looks best suited to make the transition to free safety and ball hawk in more of a Cover-2 type role. He’s simply too raw to line up on the outside with NFL-caliber receivers and try to stick with them out of their breaks.

Maurice Evans, DE, Penn State (6-2, 274)

Evans, a one-time potential first-round pick, has seen his stock fall dramatically the past year. He was charged with possession of marijuana in September and was suspended three games by Penn State. After his return, he never established himself as the feared sack artist that made him a first team All-Big Ten selection in 2007 with 12 sacks. However, even after his poor junior year, Evans still declared early for the 2009 draft in hopes of rebounding with a strong Combine performance. But at the Combine, Evans was timed at 5.0 in the 40 and did little during position drills to prove he has returned to his 2007 form. He’s in a tough spot, and some NFL team might take a late-round chance on him to see if it can get him back to his earlier form. But right now, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Evans go the entire draft without hearing his name called.

Kevin Ellison, OLB/SS, Southern Cal (6-1, 227)

Ellison made an instant impact at the Combine, breaking the defensive back bench press record held by Adam Archuleta (31) with 32 reps. However, Ellison struggled with his workout, running a 4.8 in the 40 and looking stiff and top heavy during position drills. He was part of one of the hardest-hitting secondaries in the country last season, but now he will likely be asked to make a transition to weakside linebacker. Everyone knew from tape that Ellison wasn’t a burner, and with his massive build, a time of 4.6 was expected. However, there simply aren’t many effective safeties in the NFL who run in the 4.8 range. So a switch to outside linebacker makes a lot of sense, as Ellison looks much more comfortable playing near the line of scrimmage. Expect him to come off the board during the later rounds, as NFL teams hate to invest higher round picks on players who are viewed more as projects.

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