ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay put together a list of their top risers and top fallers after the NFL combine wrapped up earlier this week. Three of the four players mentioned as defensive risers come from the ACC:
ACC fans understand how terrific these players were throughout their careers so it is no surprise they each did well in Indianapolis. But what sticks out the most is the way Donald continually has to prove himself. Not only was Donald a consensus All-American this past season, he won every single major defensive award in the country. And yet, Donald has to continue to fight skeptics because he is considered small to play in the interior in the NFL.
That could all change now that NFL scouts are getting a full appreciation for what Donald can do. ESPN Insider Bill Polian said Donald was one of the most impressive players at the combine. Kiper and McShay write:
Donald has hit the trifecta: great regular season, great Senior Bowl week, great NFL combine. He ran 4.68 and bench-pressed 225 pounds 35 times, and did so at 285 pounds. He could be a mid-first-round pick.
Interestingly enough, his performance may even vault him ahead of more highly-regarded Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, pegged as a first-rounder since he declared himself eligible for the draft. Jernigan has continually had to answer questions about his stamina during the draft process, and then turned in a so-so performance in Indianapolis. Kiper and McShay list him as one of three defensive fallers, writing:
Jernigan didn't have a single area in which he really distinguished himself in terms of the drills, which may lead to some questions about his upside after a fantastic season. I still think he's a first-round prospect, but a guy like Donald could jump him.
Both players have been disruptive forces during their careers, but the combine has been known to send stocks soaring or tumbling. Having said that, the draft is not until May. Both have their pro days to look forward to, and scouts will continue to break down film and ask questions. Many more mock drafts will be released in the days, weeks and months to come.
I still believe Jernigan will be a first-round pick, but it seems there are more believers in Donald today than there were a month ago. What took so long?