NFL Draft: Eight Players on the Rise
by Trevor Whenham - 03/31/2009
We're kind in that transitional period in the NFL Draft process. The Combine is over and Pro Days are mostly done, so all that separates us from the Draft is weeks of rampant speculation and gossip. Even though players haven't played for months, certain guys are rocketing up and down the draft board based on all sorts of factors - most of them beyond their control. Here's a look at eight players that have definitely seen their stock rise in the past weeks. Some are elite, first-round types, and others most certainly aren't.
Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn State - He led the Big Ten in sacks last year, and is likely to be the second DE off the board - likely in the first 12 picks. Though he has always been well-regarded, his popularity has soared the more he has been seen and heard. There was some initial hesitation because of his lack of experience - he's only a redshirt junior, so he has only played two seasons, and just one as a starter. Through the process, though, he's proven himself to be very mature and intelligent, and he's tested very well physically. He's definitely made himself a pile of money since the season ended.
Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian - Knox, and guys like him, can thank Marques Colston for the attention they are getting. Colston flew way under the radar after coming out of Hofstra, but he has been a major star as a pro. Teams are looking for the next Colston, and Knox may fit the bill. His performance at the Combine, capped by a scorching 4.34 in the 40, got people to look deeper. When they did, they saw that the guy averaged more than 20 yards a catch and was a good kick returner as well.
Shonn Greene, RB, Iowa - Greene had an atypical career at Iowa (two years as an irrelevant player, a year at community college because of grades, and then one year as a superstar), but he certainly made the most of his time. He was well regarded in a reasonably weak running back class coming out, but he wasn't clearly ahead of the middle pack. Thanks to a good Combine and an outstanding pro day, Greene is probably going to be the fourth running back chosen. That could see him sneak into the first round, but most likely he'll be early in the second.
Hunter Cantwell, QB, Louisville - This quarterback class is so weak and uninspiring that there is all sorts of room for guys to move up now and get some attention. One guy that has really taken advantage of that opportunity is Cantwell. He had an unimpressive year last year when he took over full time for Brian Brohm. He more than made up for that at his pro day, though. He through extremely well for scouts - the buzz has been that his performance was among the very best of the year. Cantwell seemed destined for free agency, but his spring should see him make it into the second day of the draft.
Josh Mauga, LB, Nevada - Though Mauga got a lot of attention during the season, a torn pectoral muscle had limited his off-season and raised questions for some teams. He put those questions to rest with a brilliant performance at his pro day. Reports from the day say that scouts kept pushing him harder and harder to try to get him to break, but he was up for the challenge. Teams can never have enough good linebackers, so Mauga will find a home early on.
Jamarca Sanford, S, Mississippi - At the Combine he was the strongest DB there, managing 29 reps on the bench press. At his pro day he was even fitter than he was in Indianapolis, and he ran faster than people were expecting him to. This is not a particularly strong safety class. Sanford was not among the elite players at the position coming into the draft process, but he's certainly moved up in consideration with his showing.
Clay Matthews, LB, USC - Matthews has the advantage of having a name that gets him noticed by NFL personnel guys, and as a senior he has more than lived up to the name. He had a very strong senior year, and cemented his status as likely the second best linebacker in the draft with a huge performance at the Combine. He's also helped himself by giving very strong interviews with teams, and by coming across as very focused and determined. He's chosen to take a risk, but it should pay off for him - he's doing all his drills again at his pro day. Most guys who do well at the Combine leave it at that, but this is another way to show team how determined and competitive he is.
Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan - A guy from a mid-major conference has to work even harder than other guys to prove that they are worth a risk. Delmas started doing that by making a very good showing at the Senior Bowl, and he has kept the momentum going since then. He's now widely seen as the top safety in the draft, and has the potential to move all the way into the first round depending upon team need.