2017 NFL Draft Week 8 Risers and Fallers


Week 8 produced a new crop of relatively unknown players who had helmet sticker weekends and may now be on the radar of NFL scouts.



1.  BEN BRADEN - LT -  6-5 322 - SRr - MICHIGAN - has spent his career at LG until LT Grant Newsome went down with a knee injury earlier this season, which was followed by his backup going down. Thus, Braden slid over to LT, which can be a difficult move for some players. Braden was lined up across from the Illini's Carroll Phillips, a pass rushing DE who is one of the nation's leaders in tackles for loss. And while Braden did give up a sack and a hurry, he was usually very strong in pass protection and according to Pro Football Focus graded out the highest in run blocking for this game.  As a guard I thought that his pass protection was adequate to good, but I had a concern as to his lateral foot quickness, but he showed a very good kick slide as a LT and also has very long arms, which is desirable in a tackle and he used his hand punch and arm extension well while he was able to stay balanced on his kick-slide. In addition to his play, his now known versatility will improve his draft stock immeasurably and, based upon this game, it would not be out of the question to consider him as a LT.  And if he can maintain his good play at LT, there is no reason why he shouldn't. He could shake up the landscape on draft boards as LT, a very weak position this year. Former teammate and current Tennessee Titan LT had this to say about Braden, "Genetically he's a freak.  He's unbelievable.  He's the most physically gifted individual I've ever seen in my life." 

2.  GARRETT BOLLES - LT - 6-5 300 - JR. - UTAH - with the LT position being considered very weak in this year's crop, Ryan Ramczyk of Wisconsin has received much attention as being a newcomer who has significantly upgraded the position but Garrett Bolles deserves the same amount of attention as he too was an unknown on the FBS level prior to this season.  He was a 4* recruit from the junior college ranks where he was an All-American and quickly assumed the LT spot at Utah where the Utes took Sam Levi, last year’s 13 game starter at LT and moved him to RT.  Bolles is adept at run blocking and pass blocking and is a very good athlete for the position.  He is very quick off the snap on run blocking and in setting up in pass protection and in addition was a major factor along with LG Isaac Asiata as they both pulled and made blocks which enabled Joe Williams to take off on at least two of his long TD runs in his record breaking performance in the win against UCLA.  Bolles performed very well in this game and gets another test this Saturday against the top four ranked Washington Huskies.

3.  JASON CABINDA - MLB - 6-1 232 - JR. - PENN STATE - not well known nationally or to folks who aren't close followers of the Big Ten, Cabinda returned from missing five games with a hand injury and his No. 40 jersey seemed to be everywhere in the 24-21 upset win over No. 2 ranked Ohio State, which was a signature win for the Nittany Lions program.  Cabinda showed an ability to read, react, avoid blocks and close on the ball carrier and he had a crucial sack on Buckeye QB J. T. Barrett, which helped in foreclosing any chance of the Buckeyes marching down to kick for a tie and overtime. 

4.  BRANDON BELL - OLB - 6-1 232 - SR. - PENN STATE - not well known nationally or to folks who aren't close followers of the Big Ten, Bell also returned from an injury which kept him out for 4 weeks and also had himself a great individual performance against the Buckeyes where he had 8 solo tackles, 11 assists, 1 sack and 1 pass broken up. 

5.  GARRETT SICKLES - DE - 6-4 251 - JRr - PENN STATE - if only one-half of the game were taken into consideration, then Sickels would be the MVP in the upset win over Ohio State. Known as a high character individual he was suspended for some unknown reason for the first half.  In the second half he was like a man possessed as he had 3 solo tackles, 6 assists, 2.5 Sacks and many pressures on the QB.  He came hard off the snap and was relentless in his pursuit of the QB or RB.  His production for one half surpassed any of his previous six outings for the year.  He showed a good get off on his pass rush with a good bend around the edge and then closing speed to the QB. 

6.  TAKKARIST McKINLEY - DE - 6-2 265 - SR. - UCLA - in the wild 52-45 loss to Utah it is hard to imagine a defensive standout, but McKinley was one from his defensive end position.  He had 6 solo tackles, 0 assists, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 passes defended and many pressures with his great first step quickness and bend around the edge.  McKinley has really come into his own as a senior and has had a sharp rise up draft boards as sack artists are at a very high premium in the NFL.  McKinley stands out in that he doesn't just have good closing speed to the QB, he explodes to the QB.



1.  EDDIE VANDERDOES - DT - 6-2 315 - JRr - UCLA - highly rated DT known mostly as a run stuffer with some ability to get a push on the pass rush, Vanderdoes had a quiet game in the 52 - 45 loss to Utah.  Even though he is not known as a stat guy, he was not even doing much in the occupying blockers department as Joe Williams had a record shattering performance running the ball and with much of it being between the tackles. Then when Utah had to run in an attempt to run out the clock at the end of the game, he wasn't a major factor in stopping them.  And even though not a stat guy, his stats so far this year do not approximate his stats from 2014 and 2013.  Vanderdoes was out with a knee injury for all of 2015 and either he is not fully recovered from that or he is not performing to what the expectations were for him.

2.  JORDAN THOMAS - CB - 6-0 187 - JR. - OKLAHOMAS - written up as a Riser a few weeks ago in a game where he played very well despite being toasted, the toasting has continued in the shootout against Texas Tech.  Tech's receivers were able to out run him to get deep in man coverage so it appears that Thomas would be limited to a zone coverage defense or else a move to free safety.



1.  LEONARD FOURNETTE - RB - 6-1 230 - JR. - LSU - fugedaboudit - to all of those who were placing other RBs ahead of Fournette on their draft rankings while he was grounded with an ankle injury, you can fugedaboudit as Fournette ran wild against Mississippi.  It appeared as though he was shot out of a canon with his acceleration through the hole and then with his long speed to race for TD runs of 59, 76 and 78 yards while breaking the LSU single game rushing record with 284 yards.  His tackle breaking ability and receiving ability were also on display in what was described as a "show" that he put on in this game.  And it must be remembered that he was still not 100% with a bone spur, together with a high ankle sprain and a low ankle sprain and his conditioning, as he couldn't run while sitting out with the injuries.  While this may be the best crop of RBs in many years, if not ever, Fournette is just a superior athlete to all of the others and will be as good as or better than Todd Gurley (2015) when he reaches the NFL.  And while he played in all 12 games for LSU last year, the injuries that he has incurred this year will be a concern.

2.  And while Leonard Fournette was great in this game he did have some help, especially from LG WILLIAM CLAPP - 6-4 309 SOr and RG JOSH BOUTTE - 6-4 342 - SR. - both of who have really improved from the beginning of the year; and from fullbacks, JOHN DAVID MOORE, JRr, who went down with an injury about half way through the first quarter but was replaced by Sophomore BRY'KIETHON MOUTON, who did a real good job.  Fournette refers to Moore as his "flashlight."

3.  GUNNER KIEL - QB - 6-2 215 - SRr - CINCINNATI - this former starter and 5* recruit has been in Coach Tuberville's doghouse and relegated to 3rd string status and had thrown only 3 passes through the first 6 games, but got the starting nod against AAC East opponent East Carolina in a must win game for the Bearcats who were 0 - 3 in conference play leading up to this game.  Kiel's stats were good at 23-40-57.5%-348yds.-15.1 per completion and 4TDs with 0 Interceptions, even though one ball should have been intercepted.  And while the 57.5% isn't great, some throws could have been caught; his ball placement was generally good and he was good with his deep ball accuracy and also ran for some key yardage.  And he got the win.  Many NFL executives and scouts will be anxious to see how he performs from here on out as he was a big time prospect at one time.

4.  MIKE FAFAUL - QB - 6-2 205 - SRr - UCLA - in what might be his last game action in filling in for the injured Josh Rosen, Fafaul put on quite a show in the 52- 45 loss to Utah by completing 40 of 70 passes for a 57.1% with 5TDs and 4 Interceptions, but he was forced to throw and Utah knew it as UCLA couldn't get its run game going.  And while he has had such limited playing time at UCLA so as to not generate much interest from NFL teams, he displayed enough to give the Canadian Football League a try.

5.  CONOR McDERMOTT - LT - 6-8 310 - SRr - UCLA - in the continued monitoring of LTs as they are in such short supply this year for such an important NFL position, McDermott who was downgraded earlier this year looked very good for the most part in pass pro against Utah.  At times, he is vulnerable to a quick inside move or spin move, but there is still much potential there and I can envision NFL coaches wanting to work with him.

6.  Does Josh Rosen resemble Eli Manning in throwing and playing style?