Finding mid- to late-round gems can bolster a roster
The long list of successful NFL players who were late-round or undrafted prospects is staggering. Players like Antonio Brown (fifth round), Tom Brady (sixth round), Richard Sherman (fifth round) are just a few of the elite NFL players who saw the draft rounds come and go before they were finally selected. The majority of players selected in these rounds will amount to very little, but the NFL is always about finding diamonds in the rough. Who might some of those players be in this year’s draft? Of course we’ll have to wait to find out, but these are some guys I just like more then others. All of these players won’t be undrafted/late round guys but they are guys I think will outplay their draft slot.
Kemoko Turay, EDGE, Rutgers
Turay is raw and inexperienced. He only started football in his senior year in high school and since the NFL Combine he has been on the way up draft boards, but to where he always should have been. Turay’s production was limited at Rutgers and he is undersized, but he has flashed terrific potential. In the NFL on defense athleticism matters and Turay’s combination of flexibility, speed and length is hard to find. He is 6-foot-4 5/8, 253 pounds and ran a 4.65 40-yard dash at the combine, among the best times for EDGE rushers. Raw pass rushers who have the requisite athleticism seem to transition in the NFL as they learn to refine their techniques.
Nathan Shepherd, DL, Fort Hays
Shepherd is an Internet draftnik fan favorite. He’ll appear on a lot of underrated lists, and for good reason. I don’t think he’s underrated in NFL circles, but more to casual draft fans. Shepherd’s ascension reminds me a bit of Linval Joseph a few years ago, in his initial draft profile Lance Zierlein projects Shepherd as a fourth- or fifth round guy, but with his size and Ability and the fact that he’s had a good pre-draft process I think he’s much more likely to go in that second round range.
Shepherd is 6-5,315 pounds with terrific Movement Ability. He has the size and movement ability to be considered among a variety of different schemes, and the potential NFL coaches and general managers crave when evaluating prospects. I think he has a good chance to pan out, though the film I’ve seen him of is limited.
Charvarius Ward, CB, Middle Tennessee State
Ward, a cornerback who should be available on Day 3, has the traits you’re looking for in a NFL prospect. Ward is 6-foot, 199 pounds runs a 4.4 40 and has experience. Big hands, tantalizing athleticism. The definition of a mid-round sleeper.
Fred Warner, LB, BYU
Warner looks to me like a potential starting linebacker. He is 6-3, but only 227 pounds and ran a 4.64 40-yard dash at the Combine. Warner has a slight frame so he’s pegged typically as an outside linebacker. He is not best at shedding and engaging, but he does have fluid movement ability to excel in coverage as a linebacker or perhaps a hybrid over-sized safety in a Deone Bucannon type role (though Bucannon is a superior athlete). Warner has versatility and ability and should find somewhere on the field to contribute and excel.
D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
I don’t typically fall in love with height/weight/speed guys, but I’m a fan of Chark. He is blazing fast, running a 4.34 40 at the Combine at 6-3 and 199 pounds. I think Chark was held back by the lack of talent at the quarterback position for the Tigers. Chark should be able to contribute immediately as a deep threat and should be able to develop into a weapon who makes plays all over the field. He doesn’t have the same rhythmic feel elite route runners like Beckham Jr. and Brown do, but should be at the least a Martavis Bryant or better type wide receiver in the NFL.
Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
I’m not even sure Penny is underrated anymore. Penny is big, strong, and fast. He has a terrific speed score number and has been as productive as any running back in college. He can make guys miss from time to time and sets up his runs. I think he’s a Jordan Howard type back in the NFL
Braden Smith, OL, Auburn
The OL class is underwhelming but I think Smith is a future starter you could potentially get early on Day 3.
There are always a ton of guys who are “your guys” in the NFL draft, these are just a few of mine I think will out perform their draft stock. Who are your guys that you think will out perform their projected draft stock?