Seven NFL draft class rises, including Jelani Woods: Whose stock rose the most in the past year?

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A true, honest-to-football draft “riser” doesn’t start itself up on NFL draftboards with some “remember when” pro-day training. He does not suddenly reject four months of play because his vertical jump made it good TV by the scouting combine (Jordan Davis’ 40-yard line does not resist).

Instead, the real draft ladders are the players who move up the draft boards during the more than 12 months leading up to the draft – little by little, game by game, visit by visit – with a double-take workout thrown on the pile for good measure. So with just a few days left before the election begins to get into the 2022 NFL draft, let’s look at some of those who have won the most terrain in the class since last summer and why they climbed the board. Last year’s list included people like Zach Wilson (No. 2 overall), Malcolm Koonce (No. 79), Quinn Meinerz (No. 98) and Demetric Felton (No. 211).

Which potential stars have made the biggest moves? Here are some of the best for this year, starting with a few linebackers who have made the most of the pre-draft settlement.

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How far have I climbed the boards: Many in the league believe that the real strength and depth of this draft is on Day 2, when teams may be able to take on a player late in the third round who has roughly the same character as players selected early in the second round. Chenal was probably a mid-to-late Day 3 pick when his 2021 season began, but he has potentially worked his way into the Day 2 selection area, depending on who you ask.

Turning point: His first year as a starter – a COVID-19 shortened affair with seven games in 2020 – provided a quality insight into his improvement. His 13-tackle effort against Minnesota in December 2020, with five tackles for losses and two kicks, provided a momentum that he held all the way through the 2021 season.

Why he got up: There’s still room in the happy NFL for a tough, physical point-of-attack linebacker, and Chenal might win the pound-for-pound play strength award for this draft class. He had 115 tackles last season with 18.5 tackles for losses, eight sacks and two forced fumbles. He also played with task discipline in coordinator Jim Leonhard’s form-shifting defense, consistently demonstrating his abilities for the game.

What they say: “I mean, we like to change that a lot. A lot of the bags I had [last] years was actually not intended flash. They were a bit reactionary things that our position coach taught us – like if we get a certain look, then let’s go, as if it was not just automatic. ” Chenal on his 11 sacks over the last two seasons


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How far have I climbed the boards: Andersen’s production in the field stands out, but decision makers have grown to like him even a little more after spending time with him. And his profile is one of the most unique in this draft, considering he has been used by his team like no other player. He went from an offensive prospect who probably would have been a flyer in the seventh round or a priority free agent to a solid day 2 linebacker offering an exciting ability to do other things.

Turning point: There were many turning points thanks to his versatility. He hurried after all 102 yards and had a sack in same college games. In 2019, he rushed over 1,400 yards and threw in 1,195 yards as the conference’s first-team pick at quarterback. Two years later, he was Big Sky’s Defender of the Year with 150 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions.

Why he got up: Versatility, willingness to play where he was needed, excellent physical qualities, great production and a wealth of toughness are all factors. Oh, and he lost a 4.42-second 40-yard line at the 243-pound combine.

What they say: “Sometimes I wish we could all have seen him play full time in defense for four years; the numbers would have been huge. But special teams, defense, some things in attack … there is room for him on a team . ” –AFC Human Resources Director

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See the best highlights from Troy Andersen’s collegiate career in Montana State.


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How far have I climbed the boards: Woods was recruited as a quarterback by Oklahoma State and switched to tight end during the Cowboys’ preparation for their bowl game to end the 2017 season. So he has only spent four seasons (three in Oklahoma State and the 2021 season in Virginia) in the tight end. With that in mind, his 44 catches and eight touchdowns in the past season attracted a lot of attention. Many evaluators saw Woods as an exhausted free agent before the 2021 season, but he is now a solid choice on day 2 (or early day 3).

Turning point: Scouts who saw him in Oklahoma State knew he was a big-hit player (6-foot-7 and 253 pounds) who flashed some speed. But Woods only reached 28 receptions in his 34 games there. When he had a 122-yard reception game in Week 2 last season – just his second game in Virginia – and followed up with a 73-yard outing two weeks later, they had to take notice.

Why he got up: Woods demonstrated the ability to wall defenders to the ball and routed tackles in the open. He also had a touchdown catch in six of the Cavaliers’ first seven games last season. He also showed a little more nuance in his route at the Senior Bowl, confirming that he is still a rising player with plenty of potential.

What they say: “I would say it came pretty naturally. When you’re a quarterback, you have the ball in your hands all the time and catch snaps without even looking at the ball most of the time – I feel it helped a lot. For me, that is no difference in catching the ball from [the] center and catching from the quarterback. ” – Wood in changing positions


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How far have I climbed the boards: Over the past few months, Strong has gone from a running back who would primarily be used as an early-down runner to someone who can also contribute as a receiver and in passport protection. His production, his combine training and a quality week at the East-West Shrine Bowl have pushed him from a late pick on Day 3 to a potential pick in the fourth or fifth round.

Turning point: After a 707-yard rushing season in 2020, Strong topped 100 yards in the first three games of 2021, with runs of at least 48 yards in three of his first five games. At the end of the season, he had nine 100-yard rushing games, 18 rushing touchdowns and an average of 7.0 yards per game. carry.

Why he got up: NFL playcallers crave the explosiveness Strong brings; he is a runner on the second level who can find gaps in nickel defense and turn quick decisions into big games. He consistently makes those kinds of good decisions in traffic, and he has the speed (4.37 seconds in his only 40-yard line at the combine) to close the deal in the open field.

What they say: “I like his ability to make the right cut. He gets the first defense on his own, and if you block it right, he can turn it into something.” –NFC general manager

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See the best highlights that contributed to an excellent college career for South Dakota State’s Pierre Strong Jr.


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How far have I climbed the boards: Perry was one of the quarterbacks invited to the combine to throw himself over the training for other position groups. He gained some traction with that work, along with a strong showing at Holy Cross ‘pro day (he attended Holy Cross’ event). It would not be surprising to see Perry – who was likely on his way to a priority free agent status – be elected in the middle of Day 3.

Turning point: In 2021, Perry threw 3,033 yards and 48 touchdowns in 10 games, adding 402 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

Why he got up: At 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, he has the resilience and abilities that run to come into consideration for a multifaceted role in the NFL. But his work as fit at both the East-West Shrine Bowl – he was the offensive MVP – and the combine have shown that he is still improving his throwing movement, footwork and precision.

What they say: “I feel that one of the things I look back on this year that will be able to carry over and will serve me well is the stress of completed passes. It’s something that is of the highest priority in the NFL.And final drive.The last year we had a ridiculous number of 10-plus-play drives.It’s something when you see NFL quarterbacks succeed, they operate all the way down the field.I think it being challenged to do so in the last year will help me. ” – Perry on how he improved last season


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How far have I climbed the boards: Williams was not only the only Division II player invited to the Senior Bowl, he was also the first Fayetteville State player ever invited to the all-star game. And he followed that up with a combine invitation. He is still on the learning curve as he was a wide receiver until his final year of high school, but he could have moved himself to late day 3 considerations.

Turning point: His work last season, after his school did not play any matches in 2020 due to the pandemic, showed some continued improvement in his technique. But given his level of competition and the fact that he was not often challenged in men’s coverage, Williams’ big leap came during Senior Bowl week. In Mobile, Alabama, Williams released one of the top five speed measurements in the field this week at 21.8 mph. By comparison, North Dakota state wide receiver Christian Watson – a potential Day 2 pick in this draft known for his vertical ability – clocked 20.7 mph.

Why he got up: Few scouting profiles rise faster on the draft around the league than cornerbacks with length and speed. And Williams was 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds at the combine with a 78-inch arm span.

What they say: “Everyone needs corners, and everyone wants corners with a certain length and range. He runs 4.5 [and] plays 4.4, and if he gets cleaned up in some technical stuff, he can play. ” –NFC wide receiver coach


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How far have I climbed the boards: Well under the radar, as the 2021 season began, James could be a choice late on Day 3 if people believe his elite pro-day numbers are in line with his development as a receiver. James is a former pre-season quarterback who switched to receiver when he arrived in Central Connecticut State and he only had one reception in his first season, so he’s obviously still evolving.

Turning point: He had the kind of pro-day (at UConn) that forces a kind of recount. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound James was clocked by some in 4.45 seconds in his best 40-yard dash, had a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-11 standing wide jump – all of which would have been among the best in the position at the combine. It got more people in the league to go back and do a little more research on him.

Why he got up: James has a rare size / speed combination with a large catch radius. His arm span was measured at 77¾ inches on his pro-day, which is in line with what some linemen on this draft have measured. He had 61 career attempts (4.8 yards per carry) in his career with his 114 career catches and there is plenty of potential among the hard edges.

What they say: “I would give him a look, train him up. If he wants to do the job, he has a chance.” – AFC Director of Scouting



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