We’ve made it to the final stretch, which is great for most prospects. In just a few days, they’ll find out what their future holds – where they’ll be playing football next season, and for many years to come.
For some prospects, though, they could see their stock plummet, possibly causing them to fall out of the first round altogether. These seven players have seen their names slide down draft boards in recent weeks, partly due to medical red flags, off-field concerns, and the realization that they might not be as good as many once believed they’d be.
Here are seven prospects who could be forced to endure a draft-day tumble on Thursday night.
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Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Foster entered the draft process as the top linebacker available, but a disastrous few months have caused his stock to plummet. It began with him being dismissed from the Combine after a heated altercation with a hospital worker while waiting to be checked out medically. Then, just last week, he admitted to testing positive for a diluted substance at the Combine – in other words, a failed drug test.
Not to mention, he’s dealing with a shoulder injury that could scare off some teams, too. In all, we could see him drop from potential top-five pick to second-rounder. There are just too many red flags for him to be taken as high as he was once projected to go.
Ross is the fastest player in the draft, and possibly the fastest prospect ever. At least, that’s what his 4.22 40-yard dash at the Combine suggests. However, there are significant concerns about his longevity in the NFL. Not only is he small (5-11, 188 pounds), but he has a history of injuries.
Most recently, Ross underwent surgery on his shoulder, though it didn’t prevent him from running blazingly fast at the Combine. He’s also had surgery on both of his knees, one of which was of the microfracture variety. For a player as small as Ross, that’s concerning, and it could drop him from mid-first-rounder to potentially being available in Round 2.
Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Davis is arguably the best wide receiver in the draft, boasting good size and speed to be a true No. 1 threat. However, he’s done close to nothing in the pre-draft process due to ankle surgery, which prevented him from working out at the Combine and at his pro day. On tape, he has good enough speed to separate, but not having a number to put to his name brings up shades of Laquon Treadwell.
That’s not to say Davis is slow or will be as unproductive as Treadwell was as a rookie, but speed is such a big part of the wide receiver position, and it’s unclear how much this ankle surgery will impact Davis.
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Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Based on pure talent and sheer potential, McDowell is a top-10 player in this class. He can play defensive end or 3-technique, generating pressure from either spot. Unfortunately, there are serious concerns about his work ethic and desire to actually play football at the highest level. The film shows him not playing as hard as he should be, and having minimal impact on occasion.
On the other hand, he also dominates opposing tackles with bull rushes and overpowers them with his combination of strength and quickness. He could fall out of the first round altogether.
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Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook was once the No. 1 running back on some draftniks’ boards, but that has changed a bit since the end of the 2016 season. Cook hasn’t tested nearly as well as some expected him to, running a 4.49 40-yard dash with a 30.5-inch vertical and 7.27 three-cone drill. For a player with home run-hitting ability and elite elusiveness, those numbers weren’t necessarily great.
The former Florida State running back also has off-field concerns thanks to multiple run-ins with the law, though charges were dropped for each one. His repeated shoulder surgeries are also a cause for concern – especially in a running back – so that’s another issue that could hurt his stock.
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DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Kizer has outstanding potential and could be a perennial Pro Bowler. He could also be Blake Bortles: A guy with a big arm and good athleticism but the overall makeup of a backup. Concerns about his readiness to be an NFL quarterback have caused him to slide a bit with regards to the rest of the signal callers in this class. With Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson rising, Watson could slide out of the first round.
Whichever team selects him this week will need to realize he’s not a Day 1 starter in the NFL. His coach Brian Kelly admitted as much, and even Kizer himself said he isn’t a finished product. He has many areas in which he needs to improve.
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Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan
Peppers is a great athlete who could probably line up at five different positions on a football field. That type of versatility is both a blessing and a burden for his draft stock. Some teams will love that he can play safety, linebacker or maybe even running back, while others will have no idea how to use him on defense. As a result, he probably won’t be the top-15 pick many expected him to be when the draft process began.
Peppers might not be a first-round pick when it’s all said and done, likely remaining on the board into Day 2. A team like the Packers or Saints could take a chance on him toward the end of Round 1, but Peppers could be taken much later than he thinks -- especially after news broke Monday that he failed a drug test at the NFL Combine.