Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
Every fortnight, I'll be taking a look at seven NFL draft prospects that are flying under the radar. With the advent of the scouting combine, lets take a look at those unheralded, but talented players.
Every year there are guys who get drafted in the mid-late rounds that make an impact at the NFL level. Some do it straight away, while others become quality starters or important rotational players down the road. In order to be successful, Ireland not only needs to nail our early round draft picks and free agents, but also needs to find those diamonds in the rough. With that in mind, lets take a look at seven prospects that nobody are talking about.
Ace Sanders, WR/KR, South Carolina, 5-8, 175 Ibs
Projected grade: 4-5th round
Like T.Y. Hilton, Sanders won't make his living on those deep balls at the NFL level, due to his height and small frame. But what you get with this guy is a home-run hitter in the slot. His shifty quickness and excellent acceleration gives him the ability to turn those short passes into long gains. Sure, his route running isn't crisp and he may be susceptible to injuries at the next level, but he can be dangerous with the right offensive coordinator to create plays specifically for him. He has great vision and good hands, displaying the ability to track the ball over his shoulder and pluck the ball away from his frame. Some will label him as a one-trick pony, but I believe he's very good at that trick and provides excellent value in the 4-5th round. Bearing in mind Ireland's pursuit of T.Y. Hilton in the Vontae Davis trade, don't discount Miami making a play for Sanders.
Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State, 6-1, 228 lbs
Projected grade: 4th round
Miami are in dire need of receivers, and so it shouldn't be a surprise that I've chosen back-to-back receivers. Chris Harper isn't a guy that will start from day one, but he reminds me so much of James Jones from Green Bay. He isn't explosive and is more of a one-speed player, but he is an excellent route runner and serviceable as a blocker for a wide receiver. Harper also has excellent hands, tracking the ball well to come down with the catch. This guy knows how to play football and is one guy who I think is one of the more underrated receivers in this draft. His best football is certainly ahead of him.
Bennie Logan, DT, LSU, 6-3, 295 lbs
Projected grade: 4th round
With Randy Starks out of contract this year, and Paul Soliai a free agent in 2014, Ireland may want to draft a guy who can be effective as a rotational defensive tackle this year, and potential starter down the road. In any normal draft, Logan would go much higher. But due to the incredible depth at the position, Logan could be a steal. First of all, his work ethic is undeniable due to the fact that he wore the no.18 jersey at LSU. For those that don't know, the no.18 jersey is a tradition at LSU reserved for those players who best represent LSU both on and off the field. Physically, Logan has the body and talent to be a starter in the NFL. He has a strong upper body to bull- rush the guard and centre in order to get to the quarterback. He also sheds blocks very well to stop the running back. On the downside, we haven't seen the progress from him that was expected in 2013. He relies on his bull-rush too much and needs to use his swim move more. This can lead him to become ineffective, as he quickly tires. He's also a high motor player that relies on effort rather than technique. Moreover he's frequently subbed, raising questions that his low snap count may not make him a three-down player. But if Logan can find himself a good defensive coordinator, he could become a standout player after his rookie season.
Gerald Hodges, OLB, Penn State, 6-1, 239 lbs
Projected grade: 4th round
Playing safety at high school, Hodges has the speed that enabled him to translate very well into a college football linebacker. I tend to have the mindset that we need to get more athletic at the position in order to cover those tight ends and slot receivers. For Hodges, his experience at safety enables him to excel in pass coverage and become an instant rotational player. In addition, he led the team in tackles in each of the past two years (with over one hundred stop in both years I may add), despite the presence of Michael Mauti. Since high school, he has added thirty pounds to his frame, but there isn't much more scope to continue to add bulk. In other words, he won't be a great block shedder like Karlos Dansby at the next level. But with the NFL moving towards those shifty slot receivers and athletic tight ends, Gerald Hodges has the athleticism to excel in the passing game and cover ground quickly in the open-field in order make the tackle.
George Winn, RB, Cincinnati, 5-11, 218 lbs
Projected Grade: 7th round-FA
While not a burner, this running back's compact body, strong downhill running and quick feet could make him an ideal compliment to Lamar Miller, should Reggie Bush leave town. He hasn't been receiving the attention in the media that he should be getting due to only one year's experience as the team's starting running back. But I don't think that's anything to worry about considering he played behind Isaiah Pead. This year he amassed 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns, and had six games with over one hundred yards. His thick build also enables him to excel in pass protection. Winn reminds me of Alfred Morris, and could make an instant impact as a complimentary running back in his rookie season.
Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 302 lbs
Projected Grade: 6th round
I don't think it's a secret that Joe Philbin wants his guards to get more athletic. Over time, I believe Uzzi could be one of those guys. In the run game he comes off the ball fast, enabling him to get to the second level very quickly for a guard. He can also anchor against the bull-rush and is very effective as a cut-blocker; something he did extensively in the run-heavy system Georgia Tech employs. In pass protection Uzzi needs a little work. This is one of the reasons I'm giving him a sixth round grade. But with coaching he certainly has the athleticism and quickness to slide in the zone-blocking system and has the quick, punchy hands to keep rushers at bay. Due to the nature of Georgia Tech's offense, I believe Uzzi will continue to fly under the radar and be a steal on draft day.
A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State, 6-1, 246 lbs
Projected grade: 5th round
Every year we see draft prospects that are deemed not athletic enough to make an impact in the NFL. On the flipside, every year there are prospects who prove the doubters wrong to become quality NFL starters or rotational players. Klein may not be the most athletic guy on the field, but he makes up for it with his superior instincts and effort. In fact, the guy plays very fast on film. He's a reliable open-field tackler who consistently wraps his arms around the running back to bring him down. On passing downs he's alert in zone coverage, showing the ability to read the quarterbacks eyes and being able to diagnose the route the receiver is likely to run. Overall, Klein is a passionate team player and leader. Iowa State needed him on the field to win, and he could be one of those guys you wouldn't want to bet against at the next level.
So what do you think? Do you think these guys could make an impact at the next level? Which players would you most like to see in a Dolphins uniform next year?