Heartbreak: Moving On From 5 NFL Draft Prospects

If you’ve ever loved with such a fierceness you couldn’t sleep at night, a ball of spiders in your gut at the mere thought of the apple of your eye, this article is for you.

If you were ever ready to risk it all for a love that was dangerous and risky and outside of your normal comfort zone, the article is for you.

If you’ve ever had your heart broken, this article is for you.

If you’ve ever felt betrayed, hurt, abandoned, rejected or disappointed by the one you love, this article is for you.

At some point, the hurt replaces the feelings of excitement you first felt when being around that person. Trepidation replaces the feeling of adventure, logic the feeling of extreme emotion and questions arise where doubt was once impermissible.

This is life, this is love, this is scouting football players for the NFL Draft. Welcome to the five loves (players) I’m saying good-bye to (relative to where I had them on the board) this draft season.

Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia

I can work with this: 69 catches, 1,015 yards, 14.7 yards per catch, 13 touchdowns in 28 career games.

I can’t work with that and this: 4.58 40-yard dash (22nd percentile for WRs per MockDraftable), 30.5-inch vertical jump (5th percentile), 7.22 3-cone (8th), 4.28 20-yard shuttle (35th) at 6-foot-1, 199 pounds. 

If Ridley were a truly big receiver, I could maybe explain away some of his results, living with the 40-yard dash. The problem is that he was targeted so little at Georgia, and so heavily on curls, that he was never able to establish dominance in a specific area of receiving, like Kelvin Harmon on contested catches or Emanuel Hall with speed.

So no trump card in his skill set, poor athletic testing, poor production and less than desirable size given the fact he isn’t a physically dominant receiver on tape, although he does have those moments. Ruling Ridley out as a prospect because of his statistical profile is foolish and ridiculous, but when you take all of the information into account, it paints a picture that suggests it will be very unlikely for Ridley to be worth a top-64 pick this spring. 

Just too many red flags to consider, although I still would like to have him later in the draft due to his route-running and ball skills.

Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia

There is really no precedent for a tight end who runs a 4.91 40 being successful outside of a few no. 3 blocker-types, which has put a massive damper on Nauta’s chances of being a high day two pick in two months. To top it off, Nauta also bombed every other aspect of his positional workout, including jumping just 28 inches (7th), posting a 7.45 in the 3-cone (12th) and running 4.43 in the short shuttle (34th).

All of this would have been bad for any tight end, but Nauta also checked in at just 6-foot-3, 244 pounds, with arm length in the 10th percentile and hand size in the 16th! A tiny tight end with a painfully weak athletic profile and just 68 career catches for less than 1,000 yards? I can’t do it man. 

The saving grace for Nauta is that he is a good blocker, which could help him get selected late. But his profile would suggest an undraftable player, rather than the one I had generously floating in Round 3. 

Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida

Think of a way you can bomb the Combine, and Polite probably did it. Interviews with teams? Check. Podium session with the media, expressing annoyance that teams “bashed his bad plays” during interviews? Check. Showing up heavy and out of shape at 258 pounds? Check. Bombing the workouts? Check.

Polite left no stone unturned while tanking his draft stock, but this one wasn’t as big a surprise to me. I had doubts from the beginning about this crush based on things I was hearing about his work ethic when the bright lights aren’t on and his lack of professionalism, but the way the tape made me feel? Whew. 

Despite first round tape, I have serious doubts that Polite can stay in good enough shape to be a consistent starter in the NFL, especially since he was never even a full-time player at Florida. His study habits and work ethic as a player are poor, and there were already concerns about his mental processing and run defense. Regardless of where you take Polite, the risk is massive.

DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss

I’ve watched so much of DaMarkus Lodge that I knew this day was coming, as further tape study had revealed he might not be the athlete I had originally thought he was. A 4.55 40 isn’t the end of the world by itself, but Lodge has primarily made his living as a deep-ball threat, and now it is fair to wonder if that will translate to the NFL.

A 33.5-inch vertical can’t take away Lodge’s ball skills or high-point ability on tape, but it does raise questions about his ability to elevate and pluck against bigger, stronger cornerbacks in the NFL. Lodge’s tape is clearly impressive, but will his skills make an easy transition to a different level of football?

Lodge’s inclusion on this list is a bit different from the others in that I still like him and will be a bigger fan of his game than most analysts. However I had him ranked 34th on my board and like his tape a tad more than A.J. Brown’s. The problem is that Brown is an impressive athlete for the position with good tape and the size, speed and post-catch ability to make more of an impact in the NFL with good coaching.

Lodge is still a good player that I will stand on the table for in the mid-rounds, but his athletic testing will bump him down from the early Round 2 grade I had on his tape.

Mike Bell, S, Fresno State

Bell’s redshirt junior tape at Fresno State is highly impressive, as the safety churned out 87 tackles, three interceptions and eight passes defensed en route to declare early for the draft. Sitting with an early third round grade on my board, Bell proceeded to fail the Combine like few draft crushes ever have, from the 40 to the jumps to the bench.

40: 4.83 (1st percentile)

Vertical Jump: 30 inches (2nd)

Broad Jump: 9’10 (35th)

3-Cone: 7.10 (19th)

20-yard shuttle: 4.46 (5th)

Bench: 10 reps (5th)

Now Bell is a bigger safety at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, but there is no positive precedent for a safety running in the 4.8s. His tape is good, but not dominant enough against non-Power 5 competition for me to overlook that kind of egregious athletic testing and consider Bell the outlier of the past 20 years. We’ll see what he runs at his pro day, but Bell is firmly in day three territory now.

Written By:

Jon Ledyard

Chief Operating Officer

COO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Locked on NFL Draft podcast. Passion for all things Pittsburgh.

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