As the NFL Draft approaches, most fans and media focus all of their attention on 1st round commodities like: Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, and Sammy Watkins. The real intrigue of any draft class isn’t found in the first round, but rather the draft day steals and diamonds in the rough that are found in the later rounds. All Pro players such as: Tom Brady, Terrell Davis, Zach Thomas, Arian Foster, Cameron Wake, Tony Romo, Wes Welker, and Steve Largent were either taken near the end of the draft; or went undrafted. The 2014 NFL Draft is one of the most talent laden drafts in the past decade and promises to have plenty of talented players still on the board during day 3 of the draft (rounds 4-7). I want to shine a light on a few of the players, that if your team drafts may wind up being the steal of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Billy Turner OT North Dakota State University
Turner was a 4 year starter and 6’5 315 pounds of blunt force trauma for the 3 time NCAA FCS (formerly 1AA) Champions NDSU Bison. He possesses nimble feet and a nasty streak. Turner participated in the Senior Bowl and showed glimpses that he belongs among the elite lineman in this years draft. Turner had 46 consecutive starts at NDSU at left tackle but projects as a right tackle or guard in the NFL. He needs work on his technique; mainly low pad level and pass protection set. Considering most offensive linemen not drafted in the first round need a “redshirt” year in the NFL; I expect Turner to be a starter by 2015 and beyond.
Draft projection: late 3rd-5th
Drafted: 3rd round (67th pick) Miami Dolphins
Dakota Dozier OG Furman
Dakota Dozier stock has been steadily rising since the end of the Paladins 2013 campaign. Dozier 6’4 313 turned heads with his play during the week of the East West Shrine Bowl in January. Dozier, like most players on my list suffers from the dreaded “level of competition” label for playing in a non BCS league; but his demeanor, technique, and work ethic have him on all 32 NFL team’s radar now. He doesn’t have much position versatility; he’s a guard only, but one I think will start for years in the NFL and will probably be available on day 3 of this years draft.
Draft projection: 4th-5th round
Drafted: 4th round (137th pick) New York Jets
Brandon Dixon CB Northwest Missouri State
Dixon has had a meteoric rise on the pre-draft NFL workout circuit. Brandon Dixon was the standout defensive player at the NFLPA game, in January. He followed that up with an impressive NFL Combine in February. Measuring in at 6’0 203 pounds while running a 4.41 further buttressed Dixon’s ascension as a prospect that looks like a future starter in the NFL. Dixon has both the size and speed that NFL teams now covet at the cornerback position; to counter the taller receivers that are now prominent. Dixon starred, in the secondary for the NCAA Division II power Bearcats alongside his twin brother Brian (also a late round or UFA NFL prospect) for the past two seasons.
Draft projection: 3rd-5th rounds
Drafted: 6th round (195th pick) New York Jets
Phillip Gaines CB Rice
Every year the draft has one prospect that I’m amazed isn’t getting a consensus first round grade. Meet the enigma that is Phillip Gaines. If you’ve watched Rice play in the past few years, then you’d immediately be drawn to Gaines. Phillip Gaines is a ball hawking playmaker that I think if we were to redraft this years draft in 2019, Gaines would be a top ten pick. With 35 passes defended in 2012-2013, Gaines shows an incredible acumen for playmaking. Gaines had a stellar week at the East West Shrine Bowl and followed that up with a blazing 4.38 40 yard dash at the combine. Gaines measured in at 6’0 193 and posted the second fastest 3 cone drill time among cornerbacks at the NFL Combine, with a time of 6.62. His anticipation, agility, and break on the ball, are among the top defensive backs in the 2014 class. Despite his bonafides, I fully expect Gaines to available after round 3.
Draft projection: 4th-5th rounds
Drafted: 3rd round (87th pick) Kansas City Chiefs
Jimmy Garoppolo QB Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo looks like he came from Central Casting to play the part of NFL Quarterback. Garoppolo was the stand out offensive star of the East West Bowl and he parlayed that into an invite to the Senior Bowl; after Alabama’s AJ McCarron turned down his invitation. Jimmy Garoppolo has a quick release, above average arm strength, a keen mind, and is a precise passer; that has led a record setting offense for the Eastern Illinois Panthers during his tenure, at the school. Garoppolo isn’t a sleeper anymore after winning the Walter Payton Award as a senior as the best player in the FCS. I hesitated putting him on my list, because he will probably be taken within the first 100 picks. Don’t be surprised if Jimmy Garoppolo is a house hold name by the end of the decade.
Draft projection: 2nd-3rd rounds
Drafted: 2nd round (67th pick) New England Patriots
Jeff Janis WR Saginaw Valley State
Janis has all the metrics that coaches covet in a wide receiver: 6’3 219 with a 4.42 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine. Janis also has the strength to defeat press coverage, which he displayed in Indianapolis by bench pressing 20 reps of 225 pounds. Janis has the size, speed, and athleticism (37.5 inch vertical jump) to be an immediate red zone threat in the NFL. The knock on Janis other than “level of competition” is he’s a body catcher. That may dissuade some teams but with sound coaching, I’d run a 4.4 to the podium to take him on day 3 of the draft.
Draft projection: 6th-7th rounds
Drafted: 7th round (236th pick) Green Bay Packers
These are a few of the many players that will be vying for an NFL roster spot in August, but may very well end up establishing themselves as elite professional football players, in the years to come. When you watch the draft, keep in mind that the teams that find the best players in rounds 3-7, or that sign and develop undrafted talent, will probably be the teams playing for the Lombardi Trophy, in the future. I hope to be the CFBROUNTABLE’s resident Draftnik this Fall, as well as provide a weekly picks vs the spread column. Follow me on Twitter @purebredwarrior and have a great summer!