Devon Still hasn’t played in a game of football since early January. He hasn’t taken a single snap, made a single tackle or sacked a single quarterback. And yet his stock, which had been sky high, has fallen dramatically in the last three months.
Still, a defensive tackle from Howard High and Penn State University, will be drafted by an NFL team this week. That is certain. What isn’t nearly as certain as it once was is when he’ll be drafted. After he made just about everybody’s first-team All-American team, so-called experts had Still going high in the draft and the king of the genre, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., even had him going in the Top 10.
Now it’s questionable whether Still will even go in the first round. Which brings up the obvious question: Why the drop? Well, apparently, Still didn’t impress teams during the NFL combine, even though those same teams were very impressed with his on-field production. But Still didn’t dazzle at the combine and now he might not even go in the first round.
A quick look at the mock drafts that pop up around this time of year like weeds shows how fast and how far Still has fallen. And we’re talking about the more legitimate mock drafts – Sports Illustrated, ESPN, USA Today, the NFL Network and CBS Sports.
The best prognosis, from USA Today, has Still going to the Denver Broncos with the 25th overall selection. Another mock draft has him going to Green Bay at No. 28, another has him going to San Francisco at No. 30 and another has him going to the New York Giants at No. 32. But most of them don’t even have going in the first round any more.
Still knows his stock has fallen, even if he’s not exactly sure why. Responding to the lack of love he’s received from the so-called experts, Still tweeted this recently: “Every time I watch Path to the Draft [on ESPN] I feel disrespected. But it’s cool. They’re gonna learn next year.”
This phenomenon happens every year. For various reasons – some legitimate and some not – players find their stock rising or dropping dramatically. A perfect example happened years ago, when a highly-regarded quarterback from the University of Pittsburgh named Dan Marino didn’t do well on some of the mental tests NFL teams give prospects during the NFL combine in February, and there were whispers that he had tested positive for marijuna. So, on draft day, almost every team in the league passed on him, even teams that needed a quarterback. The Miami Dolphins finally selected him with the 27th overall selection and after breaking just about passing record in existence and going to nine Pro Bowls, Marino is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
By the way, in a completely unrelated side note, that 1983 draft might have been the best in NFL history. A total of six players drafted in the first round that year are now in the Hall of Fame – quarterback John Elway (drafted No. 1 overall by the Baltimore Colts), running back Eric Dickerson (No. 2 by the Los Angeles Rams), guard Bruce Matthews (No. 9 by the Houston Oilers), quarterback Jim Kelly (No. 14 by Buffalo), Marino and cornerback Darrell Green (No. 28 by Washington).
And in case you were wondering, the Eagles’ selection that year, No. 8 overall, was running back Michael Haddix. ‘Nuff said.
There’s a flip side to that drop-in-stock scenario, of course, as Eagles fans also know all too well. In 1995, a pretty good defensive end from Boston College dazzled NFL general managers, coaches and scouts with his combine workouts and suddenly Mike Mamula went from being a second- or third-round pick to being selected by the Eagles with the seventh overall selection. Coach Ray Rhodes even made a deal to move up in the draft to grab Mamula.
Mamula wasn’t nearly as bad as Eagles fans seem to remember him being, but he certainly wasn’t worth the seventh overall selection, especially since the Eagles passed on another defensive lineman whose stock had fallen, reportedly because he tested positive for marijuana. But that didn’t stop Warren Sapp from being drafted 12th by the Tampa Bay Bucs, for whom he played in seven Pro Bowls and was voted the NFL defensive player of the year in 1999.
So, it’s obvious that the NFL draft is not an exact science, despite the countless hours and millions of dollars that NFL teams spend on evaluating college players. And on Thursday night, Devon Still will find out exactly how inexact it is.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.