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2020 NFL Draft Risers & Fallers: Late February

Feb 20, 2020

Cam Akers is one of the biggest risers heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

At the beginning of February, I wrote this same article where I highlighted who was rising and falling on draft boards as we finished up the college all-star games and began diving into the film. Fast forward three weeks and hours upon hours of film watching and we have a whole new list of risers and fallers. Here we will take a look at five players who have climbed up the rankings at this point in the draft process and who have fallen in the rankings. All these “movers” will be players who I have seen move on my rankings, as well as on many other draft analysts’ rankings. Following each player, I will provide a breakdown of what has led to the movement of them in the rankings. So to start it off, let’s take a look at five risers at this point in the draft season!

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Risers

Cameron Dantzler (CB – Mississippi State)
Dantzler has become a hot name at the cornerback position over the last couple of weeks and I like what I see from him on film. He has really good size and length. He is also so smooth that it doesn’t seem like he is that athletic, but then he is always there to make a play on the ball. I am a big fan of his ability to play both man and zone with similarly effective results. Dantzler does a really good job of trusting his eyes in zone and has the reactive athleticism to stay with receivers in man. When it is all said and done I predict that Cam Dantzler will be fighting for a top-five cornerback ranking.                   

Mekhi Becton (OT – Louisville)
Mekhi Becton has experienced an astronomical rise over the last couple of weeks. He went from a mid-round guy who may be “too big to have success” to a player in the argument for best at his position. Honestly, the rise is from people finally watching his film. On tape Becton looks like an amazing athlete as he is roughly 6’6″ 350 pounds, yet he never seems to get caught overextending. His body control is off the charts for his size, and really any size. He partners those movement skills with great power and you are left with one of the best offensive tackles in the draft. I just recently finished my film study of Becton and he secured my third offensive tackle spot behind only Wills and Wirfs. I am a huge fan of him along with the majority of NFL draft analysts.

Jeff Gladney (CB – TCU)
A player that Cam Dantzler is in battle with for one of the top five spots also makes the list. Jeff Gladney is a bit undersized, but he makes up for it with high levels of aggressiveness. He is always right in the receiver’s hip pocket and is always willing to take a chance to make a play on the ball. I think he was built to be a shutdown slot corner, but I wouldn’t be afraid to have him on the outside because of how aggressive he plays. He reminds me a lot of Jaire Alexander when he came out of Louisville. The already deep cornerback class has gotten even deeper after the last couple of weeks of February film review. 

Lloyd Cushenberry III (IOL – LSU)
It is hard to not start out high on a player who was the center of the best offensive line in college football, but that is what seems to have happened. So far in the draft cycle, there hasn’t been an interior offensive lineman who has pulled away from the bunch as the best player of the group. Cushenberry has become one of the players who has entered the conversation since his 2020 Senior Bowl performance. Cushenberry has shown good vision in pass protection as well as a strong anchor to shut down most bullrushes. He also has good film of him getting to the second level and making impactful blocks consistently. To me, Cushenberry has climbed into early second-round consideration with a lot of draft process left to go.

Cam Akers (RB – Florida State)
Akers’ film has been a surprise to me. He was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, but he never quite reached his full potential. After scouting his film it has become apparent that that has less to do with Akers and more to do with one of the worst offensive lines in college football. Akers actually showed really good and consistent vision, contact balance, power for his size, and play-making ability. His traits look so good that some analysts on Draft Twitter believe he is the best running back in the draft. I am not that high on him personally, but Akers is firmly in my top five with no foreseeable risk to his position in the top five. I am excited about his combine workout at the end of the month.

Fallers

Now onto the fallers. To be clear, these players still have time to stop their slide if not become risers themselves. The Scouting Combine begins next week with workouts beginning Thursday, February 27 followed by the Pro Day circuit. However, most game film has been made available so a large portion of grades are being set, making the Combine and Pro Days very important to bumping grades any little bit that a player can. With that being said, the five players currently falling in the rankings, as well as a breakdown of why, are as follows…

Austin Jackson (OT – USC)
Austin Jackson is my guess to which of these five players could help themselves the most in Indianapolis. I really like Jackson’s athleticism and that should be on full display when he is on the field for workouts. However, on film that athleticism doesn’t lead to a bunch of successful reps. Jackson has a lot of trouble with power players. His ability to anchor and drive edge defenders in the run game are major issues for Jackson. He struggled against his strongest opponents, like Bradlee Anae of Utah and A.J. Epenesa of Iowa.  His best chance is to test really well and hope that a team that relies on a lot of zone blocking falls in love with him and takes him in the second round.

Jordyn Brooks (LB – Texas Tech)
Brooks entered the draft season in the conversation for the best LB. However, after in-depth film study, a lot has been uncovered about his game that pushes him down the list and behind players like Kenneth Murray, Patrick Queen, and Malik Harrison. One of those areas of weakness is his range and athletic ability to cover large areas while in zone coverage or to play man to man with tight ends and running backs. Brooks is adequate in short-area quickness and I believe he could be good against the run, but in today’s NFL being just a run defender is going to kill your draft stock. I believe Brooks has now fallen to a day three target when the draft comes around. Even if he blows up the combine because that would just raise more red flags and questions as to why that range didn’t show up on film.

Trey Adams (OT – Washington)
Trey Adams’ biggest issue is his health. Lucky for him that is one of the main reasons that the Combine was created; to give a centralized place to get as much medical information on each player as possible. The issue is that even if he looks healthy he has had so many major injuries that teams can’t take the risk on him. At least not with high draft capital. He is almost locked into a late day three value unless he can get one team to fall in love with him and invest higher draft capital because Adams does offer some nice traits. He has elite size and has good strength, but with depth at tackle starting to build it looks like he will continue to fall down draft boards.

A.J. Terrell (CB – Clemson)
A.J. Terrell has a couple of reasons as to why he has slipped. The first is that his most recent game was one-quarter of him shutting down some of the best receivers in the nation, then getting destroyed for the next three quarters. Along with that, the emergence of other corners like Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney has pushed him down many boards. Besides the short term memories of Terrell, I would like to see him put on a decent amount of weight, and become a more reliable tackler. The cornerback rankings are going to be one to keep an eye on as everything settles out because I can see Terrell ending up as one of the most polarizing prospects based off the range of his final rankings

Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR – Liberty)
Gandy-Golden has steadily slid down my receiver rankings and those of many other draft analysts. He has great jump ball skills, but when I watch the film he struggles to create consistent separation because he lacks superior athleticism. At best he looks like a red-zone specialist. Between the 20s I don’t foresee Gandy-Golden as being a big impact. He fits into one specific role and that is it. Unfortunately for him, this is the deepest receiver class I have ever witnessed and it is filled with players that are able to do a lot more than he can. Gandy-Golden has slipped down to a day three target at best for me.

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Mark Johnson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mark, check out his archive and follow him @MJ_NFLDraft.

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