2014 NFL Draft: 20 Best Under the Radar Prospects
20 Best Under the Radar Prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft
We all know the exciting names at the top of the class like Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel, but I think the 2014 NFL Draft class is very deep and there are some extremely interesting prospects who are slipping through the cracks.
Every year there are tons of players who, for one reason or another, get overlooked in the draft and become great NFL players. The best examples from 2012 are Russell Wilson and Alfred Morris. Wilson was taken in the 3rd round (75th overall) by the Seattle Seahawks. He was passed up by the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos in favor of quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler. Wilson is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, and he is a leader for one of the best teams in football. I think it is safe to say that Wilson's future is much brighter than both Weeden and Osweiler, and the Seahawks got an absolute steal in the 3rd round.
Morris was drafted in the 6th round (173rd overall) by the Washington Redskins, and there were a total of 13 running backs taken before him. Morris used a tough and physical running style to pile up 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2012. His rushing yardage was second in all of football, trailing only Adrian Peterson.
Kiko Alonso (2nd round) and Tyrann Mathieu (3rd round) seem to be the best values from the 2013 draft early in the season, but there will certainly be more by the end of the year.
Obviously, we are still a long ways before draft season, but I decided to take a look at the best sleeper prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft. These guys will probably not be 1st round picks, but they will end up being solid contributors for whichever team selects them. Here are the 20 best under the radar prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State
Because of his lack of size (5-foot-8, 178 pounds), Dri Archer will surely be overlooked by many NFL teams. With what he lacks in size, Archer definitely makes up for in speed. He has been clocked as low as 4.26 in the 40-yard dash and his speed is obvious when he is on the field, as is his incredible lateral quickness. Archer also has good hands and runs very good routes, especially for a player that lines up at running back a lot of the time. The easy comparison is Darren Sproles, and I think it is a strong comparison. Archer can line up all over the field on offense and is also a good returner. Speed kills and Archer certainly has plenty of it.
Tra'Mayne Bondurant, S, Arizona
Tra'Mayne Bondurant plays a safety-outside linebacker hybrid position for Arizona, and he does so very well. He has incredible ball skills and has the ability to run after the catch after he makes a pick. Bondurant is also a very tough player that can help in run support. This guy is simply a playmaker, and any team could use another one of those.
Blake Bortles, QB, UCF
In a class that is expected to be deep at the quarterback position, Blake Bortles could very well end up returning for his senior season. If he does not, I think he will become a very interesting prospect for teams in the middle rounds. Bortles is a very polished passer that does not get rattled under pressure. He does a great job of staying poised in the pocket, has good size (6-foot-3, 227 pounds) and shows a strong arm. I think Bortles has a chance to be a hidden gem in this draft class.
Tre Boston, S, UNC
Simply put, Tre Boston is a playmaker. He is certainly rough around the edges, as his poor tackling technique could use a lot of work, but the guy is a ball-hawking safety that makes play after play. He has incredible athleticism that allows him to cover a ton of field in the secondary. He is not afraid to come up and defend the run, but because of his lack of size (6-foot, 190 pounds) and his poor tackling skills, he is not always very effective. I think Boston's tackling will improve with proper coaching at the next level, but his coverage skills are what will make him impressive. Because he is a raw prospect, Boston will surely drop until the middle to late rounds, but I think whoever takes him will get a solid player with the ability to play free-safety in the NFL.
Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas
Quandre Diggs is probably one of the most well-known players on this list. He is only a junior so it is certainly possible that he returns to school for his senior season in 2014. That being said, Diggs definitely has the talent to take his game to the next level. He does not have ideal size standing 5-foot-10 and weighing 200 pounds, but he shows great toughness. Diggs has great athleticism and shows legitimate play making ability. I think he has the talent to play either corner or safety in the NFL at a high level.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
C.J. Fiedorowicz is definitely a guy that I have on my radar. He has great size (6-foot-6, 265 pounds), has shown the ability to make plays and is a solid blocker. I believe that Fiedorowicz has been held back in the "vanilla" Iowa offense. The Hawkeyes rarely open up the passing game, limiting Fiedorowicz's opportunities to showcase his talent. He has had plenty of chances to prove himself as a blocker and he has definitely passed that test. In limited opportunities, he has shown the ability to be a legitimate red zone threat. He may not be a huge name, but I think that has more to do with his lack of targets in the passing game than anything else. NFL teams love the tight end position, and I think they will see the potential in Fiedorowicz.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller has proven to be a play maker in his time at Virginia Tech. He is a great cover corner that is not afraid to come up in run support. He has good athleticism and decent size (6-foot, 194 pounds). Fuller does a nice job of using his length as an advantage in coverage. I think Fuller could be a solid corner in the NFL, but his ball skills and run support ability may translate better to safety. Regardless, whoever drafts Fuller will get a good football player.
Seantrel Henderson, OL, Miami
Seantrel Henderson is one of the most interesting prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft class. At 6-foot-8, 345 pounds, Henderson has the ideal size that everybody is looking for in a left tackle. On top of that, he has very good athleticism and shows elite level pass protection at times. Unfortunately, Henderson's time at Miami has been a struggle. On the field, he is an inconsistent player that really struggles with run blocking. His physical size, speed and strength is obvious, but it makes you wonder why the guy simply gets dominated at times. There are some concerns with his work ethic and he has been suspended from games for violating team rules multiple times. You are playing with fire in drafting Henderson, but the potential is obvious. If he can put it all together, the sky is the limit for the former No. 1 ranked high school football recruit.
Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing 205 pounds, the size of Josh Huff will surely make him slide in the draft. But do not be fooled; the wide receiver out of Oregon plays much bigger than his size indicates. He is a tough player that is not afraid to fight for the ball in the air. Huff is a speedy receiver that will probably be a slot guy at the next level. He shows solid route running, strong hands and good athleticism that should lead to success on Sundays.
Andrew Jackson, LB, Western Kentucky
Andrew Jackson plays mostly middle linebacker for Western Kentucky, and I think has the ability to play the middle at the next level. Jackson is big for a linebacker at 6-foot-1, 265 pounds, and he does a great job stuffing the run. He fills the hole quickly and rarely misses a tackle. As far as being a run stuffing linebacker, Jackson is the best in the class. That being said, he is a liability in coverage. Jackson does not have great speed and struggles with quick change of direction. In zone coverage, Jackson is solid and I think he will improve his coverage skills with better coaching. Jackson is risky because of his lack of coverage skills, but he is a great run stuffer that I believe would fit well as one of the MLB in a 3-4 defense.
Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State
Playing for Division II Saginaw Valley State, wide receiver Jeff Janis is not exactly a household name. The 6-foot-3, 205 pound receiver has been a monster at the Division II level for the past couple of seasons. Janis has impressed with his great route running ability, fantastic hands and blazing speed. This guy really seems to be the complete package and would be a nice addition to any NFL team.
DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
At 6-foot-3, 333 pounds, DaQuan Jones is a monster in the middle of the Penn State defense. He joined the Nittany Lions as an offensive line prospect before quickly establishing himself on the defensive side of the ball. Jones is simply one of the strongest players in college football, but do not sleep on his quickness. He is not a burner by any means, but he moves very well for a guy his size. Of all the guys on this list, Jones probably has the best chance of being a 1st rounder in 2014.
Christian Kirksey, LB, Iowa
Christian Kirksey has some nice upside as a linebacker prospect. He does not have great size (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) but he is stronger than his size indicates and is not afraid to mix it up in the run game. Kirksey really excels in pass coverage where he shows the ability to cover guys both bigger and faster than him. Iowa actually uses Kirksey to defend slot receivers regularly and he does a nice job there. Also, Kirksey is effective when rushing the passer. He may be under the radar, but do not sleep on Kirksey; he could be a legitimate NFL starting linebacker.
Demarcus Lawrence, DL, Boise State
Demarcus Lawrence is a very physical defensive end prospect. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, it would help his case to add some weight for the next level. That being said, Lawrence does a nice job using the size he does have and his good length to evade would-be blockers. Lawrence is also a very athletic guy. Honestly, I would expect him to be a better pass rusher than he is, so I could see that coming eventually. Lawrence is certainly a guy to keep an eye on as he is great against the run and flashes good potential as an edge rusher.
Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell
In a very good quarterback class, it is surprising that a guy from Cornell is all over NFL scouts' radars. Obviously, as an Ivy Leaguer, Jeff Mathews is a very smart guy. He has an extremely high football IQ, that is apparent every time you see him play. Mathews rarely makes a bad read and is not afraid to throw the ball away if necessary. Mathews has a quick release, big time arm and outstanding accuracy. His lack of competition is definitely concerning, but I think he has the raw tools to make it at the next level.
Alex Neutz, WR, Buffalo
Alex Neutz is a big (6-foot-3, 205 pounds), physical receiver that has proved himself against top of the line competition this season, performing well against both Ohio State and Baylor. Neutz lacks big-time speed, but he is a great route runner and has very reliable hands. He is not flashy, but I think Neutz will be a solid receiver at the next level.
Keith Price, QB, Washington
Everybody loves a quarterback that can run, and Keith Price certainly fits that bill. Price has electric speed and athleticism to go along with a very strong throwing arm. He has all the physical tools to become the next great dual-threat QB, but he must learn to throw the ball more accurately. Price definitely struggles with his accuracy, but the talent is obviously there.
Caraun Reid, DL, Princeton
I believe that Caraun Reid will be a late round gem of the 2014 NFL Draft. At 6-foot-2, 305 pounds, Reid has the size to play defensive tackle at the next level. He has an incredible strength and speed combination for a man of his size. Reid is good in pursuit and effective against the run game, but his biggest asset is his ability to rush the passer from the inside. As with any smaller school prospect, his lack of competition is concerning, but I think the talent is real.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Allen Robinson has the size that NFL scouts are looking for. On top of that, he has good speed, runs good routes, consistently catches the ball and does a fantastic job of going up and fighting for the ball. He may not be a super athletic player, but he does everything well. I think Robinson has a nice future in the NFL.
George Uko, DL, USC
At 6-foot-3, 275 pounds George Uko out of USC is a bit of a tweener defensive lineman. He is not quite big enough to play inside, but he may not have the speed to play the outside. I think Uko's future in the NFL is as a pass rushing interior lineman. He probably needs to add some bulk before reaching the next level, but Uko has the raw talent to dominate on the defensive line. He has shown a great ability to shed blockers, is stout against the run and does a nice job rushing the passer.