2013 NFL Draft: Top 10 Under the Radar Prospects

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2013 NFL Draft: Top 10 Under the Radar Prospects

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The 2013 NFL Draft is now a little under two weeks away from starting, and the speculation over where the biggest name prospects will land will be over at that point. There will surely be surprises in the first round, but right now there are very few players that analysts and followers are not aware of to some degree.

But impact players can be found in every round, and sometimes looking past an uninspiring physical surface is required. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady surely did not look like a budding star during the time leading up to the 2000 NFL Draft, leading to him being selected in the sixth round (199th overall). Now, as we all know, he is one of the most decorated signal callers of his or any era and a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer.

As recently as last year, we saw a quarterback that fell to the third round due to a lack of height despite having few obvious weaknesses otherwise. The Seattle Seahawks took the opportunity to select Russell Wilson at No. 75 overall, and head coach Pete Carroll followed up by saying he would get a chance to compete for the starting job. Of course Wilson did win the job, beating out a high-priced free agent in Matt Flynn along the way, and led the team to a playoff berth.

There will surely be players that no one is talking about right now that turn into key contributors, or perhaps even stars, in the NFL. With that, here are my top 10 under the radar prospects heading into this year’s draft.

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10. Travis Johnson, LB, San Jose State

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Johnson’s production was off the charts over his final two collegiate seasons, with 22.5 sacks and 37 tackles for loss. He finished his career as WAC’s all-time leader in sacks with 32, though a lack of high-level competition should be noted. Johnson may be able to transition to playing on the strong side in a 4-3 scheme, but he fits best as a 3-4 outside linebacker where his pass rushing skills can be put on display.

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9. Brian Winters, OG/OT, Kent State

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Winters was a four-year starter at the tackle spots in college, but his overall limitations athletically may dictate a move to guard at the next level. Regardless of what position he winds up at, Winters is the type of low-risk, high-reward player that NFL teams would love to have along their offensive line.

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8. Will Davis, CB, Utah State

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Davis was a productive pass defender in 2012, with 1.3 pass breakups per game (17 total) and five interceptions. He was also a productive tackler in his only full season as a starter, with 64 tackles (4.5 tackles for loss). With more experience to go along with his skills, Davis could become a top-tier NFL starter at a discount price on draft day.

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7. Marquess Wilson, WR, ex-Washington State

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Wilson’s left Mike Leach’s program in the middle of last season after being suspended for a violation of team rules, then was openly critical of Leach and his treatment of players on the way out. Leaving that aside, Wilson had over 1,000 yards in each of his two full collegiate seasons and his size (6’3”) and overall skill set should appeal to NFL teams. The track record of the team that drafts him may tell everyone a lot about Wilson, as it can be assumed that team got sufficient answers about what happened in 2012. There is real star potential here if Wilson lands in the right situation.

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6. Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

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Ryan had four interceptions and 17 pass breakups in 2012, and he also finished second on the Scarlet Knights in tackles with 94. His 4.56-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine was not ideal, but his playing speed is considered good enough and that’s what really matters. His scheme diversity may allow Ryan to earn a lot of playing time right out of the gate, and with his propensity for being around the ball nice production should follow.

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5. Sean Porter, LB, Texas A&M

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Porter led the Big 12 in sacks with 9.5 as a junior in 2011, helping draw comparisons to former teammate Von Miller. A new coaching staff in 2012 brought a new scheme and a new role for him, but he made the transition to playing both outside linebacker spots in a 4-3 fairly well. Skeptics will view Porter as a jack-of-all trades but a master of none, but that versatility should serve to widen the number of NFL teams that have interest in spending a mid-round pick on him.

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4. Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State

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Sims did not produce at a high level during his college career, with 59 receptions over three seasons, but he has the size (6’5”, 262 lbs.) and athleticism to blossom into a good pro. He probably should have stayed in school for his senior season, but if an NFL team drafts him without expecting him to start immediately Sims has lots of upside.

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3. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

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With Greg Childs, Jarius Wright and Joe Adams gone to the NFL, Hamilton had an opportunity to emerge last season and did so despite a disappointing season for the Razorbacks. He set school single-season records for receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,335) along with five touchdowns. Among a deep group of wide receivers this year Hamilton is not a household name, but he looks like an excellent value pick in the middle rounds.

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2. Sean Renfree, QB, Duke

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Duke coach David Cutcliffe knows good quarterbacks, having spent time around Peyton Manning and Eli Manning during his career. Despite suffering a torn right pectoral on his final college play Renfree has drawn a lot of praise during the pre-draft process, including Cutcliffe comparing his work ethic to the older Manning’s. As long as his injury is not a lingering issue, and he is expected to make a full recovery, Renfree could be a late-round pick that is able to forge a long NFL career for himself.

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1. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

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Taylor has an excellent season in 2012, with 1,530 rushing yards (10th in the country) on 322 carries (fourth in the country) along with 13 touchdowns. He also had 41 catches for 287 yards and two more scores as his role as a pass catcher expanded some during his senior season. Taylor's speed and athleticism are not off the charts, but he made 39 starts from 2010-2012 and had at least 1,100 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns each season. It's hard to argue with that durability and production, even in an era where the role of the running back is being minimized in the NFL.