Those who have been around the NFL draft the longest -- those with the deepest creases around their eyes, the most gray in their hair -- will say the draft risers aren't what they used to be. The extensive time put into finding the best players these days, along with the presence of social media and advanced statistics, has made it more difficult to stay hidden for long.
But a handful of prospects in this year's draft class have come a long way from where they were a year ago, when scouts first hit the road to see spring practices and start the 2020 draft process in earnest.
So with just days to go before players are selected, here are some of the biggest risers for this year -- starting with one who is now headed toward the first overall pick.
Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Current Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 2
How far he climbed boards: After he threw 29 passes in three seasons at Ohio State, Burrow's 2018 season at LSU earned him late-round status heading into draft-board-building season. But in 2019, he was the best player in the nation and authored one of the greatest seasons in college football history. The 6-foot-4 QB cemented his place as one of the top three prospects in the class and positioned himself to be the first player drafted.
Turning point: Nearly every throw he made this past season was suitable for framing, but many in the league say they really took notice after Burrow threw a pick-six in the Fiesta Bowl against UCF in the last game of the 2018 season. The interception was returned 97 yards for a touchdown by Brandon Moore, and Burrow was steamrolled by defensive lineman Joey Connors during the return.
A wobbled Burrow quickly regained his composure and finished the game with 394 yards passing, four touchdowns and a 40-32 victory. He showed toughness, leadership and the ability to bounce back from a mistake, and he has been every bit of a QB1 since that moment.
Why he rose: Burrow had nine games with at least four touchdowns passes in 2019, against the most difficult schedule any of the quarterback prospects in this year's draft. In LSU's final three games -- the SEC championship and the Tigers' two College Football Playoff games -- Burrow completed 70% of his passes for an average of 435 yards, and he threw 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
In all, it may be the greatest season of any college football player after factoring in LSU's schedule. Let this soak in: 60 touchdowns, 5,671 yards passing, 76.3% completion percentage and just 6 interceptions.
What they're saying: "Usually you're looking at a guy's tough games, but this guy barely made a bad throw for a whole season." -- AFC scout
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
Current Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 16
How far he climbed boards: Becton had 23 starts before the 2019 season opened, including 10 at left tackle and two at right tackle in 2018. So folks certainly knew he had rare size with plenty of agility. Some believed he fell somewhere among the top 65 on the board before the season, but he is now considered one of the top two or three tackles, with top-10 status for many personnel evaluators.
Turning point: Take a look at Louisville's 45-10 loss to Clemson last October. Scoreboard aside, Becton displayed everything scouts want to see. Becton had shown well in the Cardinals' season-opening loss to Notre Dame and a defensive front that included Julian Okwara seven weeks earlier, but his work against Clemson showed movement skills, recognition of the Tigers' blitz packages and the ability to finish in the run game.
Why he rose: C'mon, the guy measured at 6-foot-7 3/8-inches tall and 364 pounds at the combine and then ran a 5.10 40-yard dash. That combination of size and agility is so rare. Folks already had their eyes on him, he just did the rest.
What they're saying: "His weight will always make people worry about him a little if he doesn't manage it, but he just blasts people, he moves ... plays with awareness." -- AFC personnel executive
Mekhi Becton's 2020 NFL draft profile
Check out highlights of former Louisville offensive lineman Mekhi Becton, who'll be someone to look out for in the upcoming draft.
Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn
Current Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 47
How far he climbed boards: Davidson is a different kind of draft riser. He is a well-known, talented prospect who opened his college career with plenty of recruiting platitudes. He isn't a surprise, per se, for anyone, but he worked alongside one of the best players on the board, Derrick Brown, and that can camouflage what a player can do at times. Davidson has still been able to carve out his own path to late first-round, early second-round status.
Turning point: As a four-year starter at Auburn, Davidson's rise is a testament to his body of work: 51 career starts rank among the most of any player on the board. But more than one scout has pointed to his showing against Arkansas this past season -- two sacks, three tackles for loss, one forced fumble -- as a glimpse of Davidson's potential.
Why he rose: Because Auburn had one of the earliest pro days after the scouting combine (March 6), scouts actually saw Davidson, Brown and other Tigers players go through position drills before travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders were put in place across the country. Yes, that's a small item on an extensive résumé, but factoring everything in, the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Davidson may have given teams the most complete picture across a four-year career and in the pre-draft process of any player on the board.
What they're saying: "Production over the long haul. No mystery here, and he should rush the passer. I like his athleticism." -- AFC defensive coordinator
Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
Current Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 64
How far he climbed boards: Chinn made 36 starts in his college career, so his athleticism and production were known commodities. But he has likely moved from Day 3 to Day 2 as scouts have unpacked his senior season, Senior Bowl and combine performances.
Turning point: Chinn took his late-season momentum -- a 15-tackle game against Western Illinois and a 12-tackle outing against North Dakota State in back-to-back weeks in November -- into Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl, where he looked great at both safety and cornerback in drills. Then at the combine, Chinn ran a 4.45 in the 40 and posted 41 inches in the vertical jump and 11-foot-6 in the broad jump. All three were in the top three among safeties.
Why he rose: The hybrid, do-it-all safety is something every team wants in today's NFL to combat explosive passing games. That means players who have enough speed to cover the deep middle and are physical enough to either play near the line of scrimmage or rush the passer. At 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, Chinn has that kind of profile with four 50-tackle seasons, six career forced fumbles and 13 interceptions.
What they're saying: "He needs to just see things a little better, but there's a lot to work with there. [He can] be that big nickel guy, cover, work against tight ends -- those type of things." -- AFC defensive backs coach
Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Current Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 68
How far he climbed boards: It depends on who you ask, but Trautman opened the season as an FCS player scouts believed had the chance to produce in the NFL. He earned some additional attention with seven touchdown catches over two games in October, and many teams now have him coming off the board on Day 2.
Turning point: Score one for Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy, a longtime scout in the league, who declared Trautman as one of the draft's best tight ends in November. Trautman (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) then used his week at the Senior Bowl in January to reaffirm that optimism.
Why he rose: In the league's current state of offense affairs, Trautman's potential in the passing game is a fit for most everybody. But his work in Mobile showed some tenacity as a blocker and the ability to win the ball in contested-catch situations against better competition -- things he may not have always gotten the opportunity to show during the season.
What they're saying: "You knew him before the season, but you're always going to look at who he played and how much of the success was just a physical mismatch. That's why the Senior Bowl was a big deal for him." -- NFC scout
Adam Trautman's NFL draft profile
Check out highlights from former Dayton tight end Adam Trautman.
Antonio Gibson, WR/RB, Memphis
Current Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 173
How far he climbed boards: Gibson is an eye-of-the-beholder prospect, as personnel executives have a variety of opinions about his pro potential. But while he's likely still a Day 3 pick for most, he has earned additional confidence as people have done more work on him. He scored a touchdown every 5.5 touches on offense in his two seasons at Memphis.
Turning point: He had just 71 touches on offense this past season (33 carries and 38 receptions), but his 386 all-purpose yards against SMU (97 yards rushing, 130 yards receiving and 159 kickoff return yards) included a touchdown rushing, receiving and on a return.
Why he rose: Gibson (6-foot, 228 pounds) is a multifaceted player who can provide some pop as a spot runner, a receiver and a kick returner. He had seven touchdown plays of at least 40 yards in 28 games at Memphis. Toss in the 4.39 40-yard dash he ran at the scouting combine as a 228-pounder, and you have the makings of a riser.
What they're saying: "A lot of room to grow and can do a lot of things with speed -- that's what we want." -- NFC scout
Davion Taylor, OLB, Colorado
Current Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 185
How far he climbed boards: It's unclear how far Taylor has moved up leaguewide. It's almost like people don't really want to say because they'd like to snag him. But he raised plenty of eyebrows at the combine and again at an early-March pro day, just before Colorado's stay-at-home order went into effect. He has forced teams to take a long second or third look at him.
Turning point: Taylor had a productive 2019 season with 61 tackles (51 solo) in 11 games. But when he uncorked a 4.49 40-yard dash at the combine at 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds, it only enhanced the view that he has perhaps the most growth potential of anyone on the draft board.
Why he rose: He played just a game and a half of high school football. After two years at a junior college and two years at Colorado, he still offers vast room to grow, which is always something that appeals to talent evaluators.
What they're saying: "He's a good, good player now. But he has the chance to be so much better. He works, and he's got ability. I'll pound the table for that any day." -- NFC defensive coordinator