Your resident draft junkie is back again with another look at the class of ‘05. Every year there are a couple of players who just shoot up the draft board over the course of the season, guys whose play helps their draft stock rise by leaps and bounds. Some players are helped by their performances at the combine, but I have always been more impressed with those who improve their value on the field. On the flip side, for every player that rises up the rankings at a torrid pace, another hurts his prospects in his final season. These players come into the season rated as high draft picks, but their play fails to confirm that standing, sometimes to the point that they will choose to return to school for another year (see: Orien Harris). In this article, I’m going to outline my top five risers and my bottom five fallers for you.
1. Erasmus James – DE, Wisconsin
No player has helped his draft stock as much as James has over the past year. Prior to this season, Erasmus was not even considered to be a lock for a first-day draft pick, but over the course of the year he has essentially become a guarantee to be among the top 10 to 20 picks. Coming off a 2003 season where he did not play due to injury, James has emerged as possibly the top DE on the board and has overshadowed fellow top DL prospect Anttaj Hawthorne.
2. Travis Johnson – DT, Florida State
This man’s stock has risen so much that while he did not even make my early list a month ago, I now have him as a solid late first-round pick. He has really put it all together as a senior. Big things were expected of him when he got to FSU but he did not live up to expectations until this year, when he emerged as a dominant force along the defensive line.
3. Carlos Rogers – CB, Auburn
I have always liked Rogers as a college player, but I never really thought he would be solid NFL pro. Consider my mind changed. Rogers really answered the bell this year and was undefeated Auburn’s best defensive player. He also won the Thorpe Award which designated him as the best defensive back in the country this year. He went from a third- or fourth-round pick to a fringe first-rounder in my eyes.
4. Ronnie Brown – RB, Auburn
Always overshadowed by fellow star RB and teammate Cadillac Williams, Brown stepped out of his shadow in a big way this year. I have always been a Brown fan, but this season he showed the rest of the country what kind of player he is, and was one of the driving forces in Auburn’s undefeated college season. He was a solid second-round pick in my books before the season, but if I was a GM in need of a RB, and Cedric Benson was off the board, Brown and Williams would make for a tough decision for me, no matter where I was picking. Brown could go top 10 this year, but will likely fall into the 15-20 range.
5. Ciatrick Fason – RB, Florida
Prior to the season I figured that Fason would split carries at Florida with Deshawn Wynn. Once I watched my first Florida game of 2004, it was obvious that Fason should have the job all to himself. He is only a junior, but as of late I have been expecting him to enter the draft. He has all the tools it takes to succeed in the NFL, and I’d probably have him rated as my fourth RB if he decided to come out, making him a fringe first-rounder.
1. David Baas – OG, Michigan
Baas was my top OG prospect before the season, and while he has not fallen much in my eyes, he may have hurt his stock with NFL scouts a bit over the course of the year. Baas was forced to play center this season for the Wolverines, and while he did an admirable job (nominated for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman) his draft stock doesn’t seem to be what it once was. A man I considered to be a lock for the top 20 is now a probable second-rounder, but some team is going to get a steal in him.
2. Anttaj Hawthorne – DT, Wisconsin
Hawthorne went from being the second-best DL prospect in the draft to being the second-best DL prospect on his team this year. Hawthorne has had a good season, but some feel that the emergence of Travis Johnson and Sean Cody has hurt his draft value. Also, Erasmus James and his magnificent season have taken away some of the attention from Hawthorne as it is obvious that James is the better DL prospect out of Wisconsin. Hawthorne was a top-10 prospect prior to the season, and now is a fringe first-rounder in the eyes of most.
3. Corey Webster – CB, LSU
How far the mighty have fallen. Webster once rivaled Antrel Rolle as the top DB prospect in this draft. He has since been passed by Marlin Jackson, Justin Miller and Pac-Man Jones (if he enters) on my draft board. Playing the season with an injury was what hurt his stock, as he was not his dominant self. He should be a solid late first- or early second-round pick, but is no longer the top-10 lock some thought he was before the season.
4. Andrew Walter – QB, Arizona St.
Had he been able to enter after his sophmore year, Walter would have been a possible top-five pick, but after back-to-back disappointing seasons, the Arizona State passer has hurt his draft outlook immensely. Even at the beginning of the season Walter was considered a solid mid-to-late first-round pick after Rodgers and Leinart. Now he is not even a lock for the top two rounds. I am not sure he will ever be a viable starter in the NFL. He has the skills to be great, but I wonder if he will ever put it all together.
5. Michael Munoz – OT, Tennessee
Expected to turn into a dominating force in the mold of his Hall-of-Fame father, Anthony Munoz, Michael has failed to live up to the high expectations. He is by no means a scrub, however. He is a good tackle who will be a nice pick for someone in the late second round, but he is not the high first-round prospect some had him pegged as two years ago, or the late first-rounder some saw him as at the beginning of this year.
Ben Kearon feels that Adrian Peterson should have won the Heisman. He can always be found talking football in the Cafe’s forums where he posts as Canadian_Cheesehead.
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