The day before the draft, and the morning of the draft, I haved talked to as many coaches and personnel people as possible who are willing to discuss the prospects.
There's no reason to ask coaches and personnel people what their respective teams are doing, but rather to get a sense of players making a late move up draft boards. Momentum this late in the process, as you may imagine, is a beautiful thing.
Here are six players who were mentioned more than once in my conversations this week.
Menelik Watson, OT Florida State: The former Marist College basketball player from England has clearly impressed offensive line coaches and is under serious consideration as a first-round selection after just 11 college starts. As one coach said "he is as good a right tackle candidate as I have evaluated in 10 years." Another quote was "he does things in 11 starts that some players haven't done in 11 years of playing football."
D.J. Hayden, CB Houston: Here's a young man who had a near fatal situation with a torn blood vessel in November and is now flying up draft boards. I had a well-respected secondary coach say "DJ is the second-best corner in the draft. I like him more than Rhodes or Trufant." He went on to say, "this guy can mirror receivers, flip his hips with ease and has great NFL skills."
Robert Woods, WR USC: Woods has been lurking behind Cordarrelle Paterson, Tavon Austin, Keenan Allen and Justin Hunter for most of the spring, but his name keeps popping up when I'm discussing the wide receivers in the draft. One coach said, "I was impressed with Woods' route running, knowledge of the game, work ethic and toughness; he's a safe pick even in the first round." Will he beat some of the aforementioned wideouts to the podium Thursday night? Possibly.
Kyle Long, OG/OT Oregon: Many have claimed his best position in pro football is guard and it may very well be true. But I had an offensive line coach tell me he really likes Long as a right tackle and was impressed with how much the former Ducks player understood about the position after just five major college starts. If that o-line coach has any say in the draft he wants Long in the second round.
Tank Carradine, DE Florida State: From Butler Community College to a backup at Florida State to off the bench for an injured starter to a torn ACL, Carradine ran well recently and in the eyes of a few NFL people might have passed his teammate Bjoern Werner. I'm not sure that he has really passed Werner, but he's in the conversation and could finish up this incredible journey as a first-round selection.
Darius Slay, CB Mississippi State: Slay started out as the "other" corner opposite Johnthan Banks, but after running in the 4.3 range while Banks ran in the 4.6 range the tables have turned. A secondary coach told me, "I like both guys but there's more upside to Slay and in time has a chance to be a better pro." Slay was a late invite to New York for the draft and that means a late first/early second round spot for him.