Four prospects on rise in 2017 NFL Draft class
It’s hard to believe the 2016 college football season is winding down and that draft season is right around the corner. A number of players have caught the eye this year, including the following four who have the potential to rise on draft boards based on their 2016 performances:
1. Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
The buzz is mounting for Douglas, who ranks 17th in the nation with an 86.1 overall grade. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Douglas has intriguing size and the production to back it up, as he’s only allowed 31 catches on 68 targets while intercepting six passes and breaking up five more. Opponents have a passer rating of 33.3 when throwing into his coverage, best in the nation among corners who have seen at least 50 targets.
Perhaps most impressive is how well Douglas has played despite of the amount of pressure the West Virginia secondary is put under, as its 3-3-5 scheme calls for three or fewer rushers on 50 percent of dropbacks — by far the highest percentage in the nation. They put little pressure on the quarterback, so Douglas and the rest of the West Virginia defense has to cover much longer than usual. Keep an eye on him this weekend against Oklahoma’s passing attack, which is led by Heisman candidates QB Baker Mayfield and WR Dede Westbrook.
2. Trey Hendrickson, Edge, Florida Atlantic
I’ve been meaning to highlight Hendrickson for weeks, as his 91.2 overall grade ranks second in the nation. While he may not have the same pure athleticism of some of the nation’s top pass-rushers, Hendrickson uses good pad level to overpower offensive tackles while using his hands well to make plays both in the passing game and against the run.
While he’s taken his game to a new level this year, Hendrickson is no one-year wonder, as he had 15 sacks, 13 QB hits, and 24 hurries last season. This year, he’s registered nine sacks, nine QB hits, and 47 hurries on his 269 rushes — that’s pressure being created on 24 percent of his rushes, well above the NCAA average of 10 percent for an edge defender.
3. Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
PFF offensive line analyst and former college offensive line coach, Taylor Wright, has been raving about Hernandez for weeks now, and his grades back up the glowing scouting report. He has the top grade among the nation’s guards at 93.7, including a 90.8 pass-blocking grade and a 91.1 mark in the run game. He’s yet to allow an official pressure on the year and he’s only lost one quick block in the passing game all season.
Hernandez brings power to the run game that has overpowered his non-Power-5 opponents and he has NFL size at a listed 6-foot-3 320-pounds. Even against lesser competition, Hernandez has a legitimate claim for All-American status as perhaps the nation’s top guard. (He’s the left guard in the play below.)
4. Gerald Everett, WR/TE, South Alabama
While Everett’s official position is tight end, at a listed 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he may be more of a big slot receiver at the next level. Regardless of position, he’s a big-time receiving threat, as his 85.6 receiving grade ranks third among tight ends. He has forced 19 missed tackles with the ball in his hand, 10 more than anyone else at the position. Last year he led tight ends with 22 forced missed tackles, a number that would have ranked ninth among wide receivers.
Everett is an adequate blocker, but given his small frame, it may not be something he’s asked to do much of at the next level. But his after-the-catch ability and the opportunity to create mismatches in the passing game will be coveted come draft time.