The idea of “risers” and “fallers” leading up to the NFL draft is always a polarizing topic. Many will claim that there really isn’t that much movement because “the tape is what really matters” and most of the work is done in the fall. There’s a lot of truth to that, but the draft work doesn’t stop in December. It only gets more intense, especially as coaching staffs and medical teams get involved.
The reality is that many prospects still have questions attached to them after they finish their collegiate careers. Some are character questions. Some are medical questions. Some are speed and athleticism questions.
That’s why the Senior Bowl exists. That’s why the NFL combine exists. And that’s why pro days exist.
With that in mind, here is one prospect at each position that has helped themselves over the past few months during the pre-draft process (and be sure to check back here next week for my "fallers, the prospects whose stock is headed the opposite way):
QB: Josh Allen, Wyoming
Personally, I’m still struggling to get over Allen’s career 56.2 completion percentage, because that rarely translates well to the NFL. That said, there’s no question Allen has helped himself since December. He finished strong at the Senior Bowl and followed that up with a strong combine. He has a valid excuse for why his play dropped off in 2017 (wide receivers were non-existent) and his physical traits are off the charts. I’m not saying I would personally draft him early in the first round, but he’s done enough in the past few months that some general manager will risk his career and pull the trigger.
RB: Nick Chubb, Georgia
Everyone keeps hoping the pre-knee injury Nick Chubb reemerges, but that seems unlikely at this point. That said, Chubb performed well at the combine and even ran faster than teammate Sony Michel, who could go in the first round. That will force teams to take a closer look at Chubb, and when they go back to the tape, they’ll still see a highly productive running back who got stronger in his senior year. The medical opinions will likely vary here, but Chubb’s ceiling could be Jordan Howard, who doesn’t have outstanding speed and won’t catch many passes but simply piles up yards because he’s a good, crafty running back.
WR: Justin Watson, Penn
A few weeks ago I quoted a source in this draft notebook that said, “If (Watson) runs fast, mid rounds. If he runs slower, later rounds.” Well, Watson ran fast at his Pro Day. Very fast.
These are outstanding numbers for a guy who caught everything at Penn (and that pass from Allen in the video above). Some teams will still be hesitant about the level of competition, but Watson will undoubtedly be a target for teams that aren’t afraid to draft from smaller schools. I already had Watson in the fourth round range before his pro day, but he could go earlier after such a strong performance.
TE: Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Gesicki has been a favorite of mine for two years now and his NFL combine performance did nothing but validate everything you see on tape. He ran fast (4.54) and posted a ridiculous 41.5-inch vertical. Look, you’re not getting a good blocker here, but you’re getting an incredibly athletic tight end who catches everything. If Ashland’s Adam Shaheen went in the second round last year, I don’t see anyway Gesicki goes later.
OL: Kolton Miller, UCLA
Miller has been a polarizing prospect because he’s 6-foot-9 and doesn’t always appear to move well on tape, especially when asked to get wide against pass rushers. But the left tackle really helped himself at the combine, running very well and posting the best broad jump among offensive linemen, showing that he has good athleticism. Teams are now more likely to blame his periodic struggles on inexperience (he only played one season at left tackle) and believe they can coach Miller up. He could go in the first round.
DL: Taven Bryan, Florida
Bryan was good enough at the Combine, but he didn’t wow me like I expected. That said, I keep hearing really good things about the defensive lineman — many evaluators believe he can become an All-Pro-caliber player with the right coaching and better technique. I think Bryan will go earlier than many think.
EDGE: Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
Built a lot like the Bears’ Leonard Floyd, Carter took over the Floyd role at Georgia, and the scouting report is very similar. He’s long, he’s athletic, he puts pressure on the quarterback, but the production isn’t all that impressive (4.5 sacks last year). That said, talent evaluators fell in love with Floyd two years ago and Carter has performed well leading up to the draft. He’s also a former five-star recruit who many think has untapped potential.
LB: Jack Cichy, Wisconsin
Coming off a torn ACL in August, Cichy wasn’t able to do anything but the bench press at the combine. But he showed up at Wisconsin’s pro day last week and posted a shuttle time that would have been fourth-best in Indianapolis (4.19) and a 3-cone time that would have ranked fifth (6.88). Those numbers certainly turned some heads just eight months after a severe knee injury.
CB: Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Injuries in 2017 led to a disappointing junior season, but Alexander took a chance and left Louisville a year early anyway. It appears to have been a good decision. Alexander had a great combine and appears to be healthy again, which has him back in the conversation among the top corners in the draft.
S: Justin Reid, Stanford
The younger brother of Eric Reid, Justin is a complete safety with a very high ceiling. I was surprised he wasn’t getting more attention as a potential first-round prospect, but his strong showing in Indy could put him in that conversation.