Draft evaluation is not just about analyzing a player's strengths, but seeing how he responds to adversity and or failure -- whether it's after getting beaten on a play or having a lousy day overall.
And now as we hit October, some prospects who dazzled at times in the first month-plus are hitting some speed bumps, including …
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olumu, Oregon: The one concern with Expre-Olumu was how he handled bigger receivers, and at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, the going has been difficult in recent weeks against bigger receivers -- and in trying to contain running backs and opposing offensive linemen on screen passes, including Washington State's Cole Madison, whose block sprung a 14-yard gain. Ekpre-Olumu has speed and athleticism, and notched another interception last week against UCLA. Now he just needs to be stouter against bigger players, or quicker to elude them.
WR Christion Jones, Alabama: Perhaps the best return specialist in this year's draft class, Jones has come down with a raging case of fumblitis in the last two weeks, coughing up the football twice -- once on a kickoff against Mississippi and again on a punt against Arkansas. The fumbles spurred Nick Saban to replace Jones last week.
If Jones can't solve this problem, there is little he can do to overcome it, even if he has the best Combine workout of any player invited. He will have to shake this in a hurry -- both to help his team now and rebuild his draft prospects for the future, because no NFL team will entrust its returns to someone with a fumbling problem unless they score at a ridiculous rate -- as Trindon Holliday did in his first 16 games as a Bronco before he tailed off last year.
RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: After posting three games of at least 200 rushing yards in the season's first five weeks, Michigan State neutralized him on Oct. 4, limiting him to 45 yards -- his lowest tally in nearly two years -- on 24 carries. He mustered two short touchdown runs in the fourth quarter to help the Cornhuskers rally.
Much of his struggles weren't his fault, as Nebraska's offensive line was overrun by Michigan State's front seven. He won't face a defense that rigorous unless his team wins the Big Ten's West Division -- which might earn it a rematch with Michigan State.
Abdullah did well to minimize the damage against the Spartans, and he did not lose any fumbles.
QB Brett Hundley, UCLA:The shot at a national championship was a reason why Hundley returned to the Bruins this year, and after consecutive defeats to Utah and Oregon, that possibility appears out the window. Hundley did not rebound well from interceptions the last two games; both of the subsequent post-pick drives ended in punts. He needs to improve at shaking off his mistakes, in the way he's improved his overall production this year.
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