We all hear that RGIII, Andrew Luck and the rest of the highly touted picks are destined for greatness, but what about the less advertised players? Or the guys who have been doubted for certain traits or physical abilities? Tom Brady was questioned for his size, strength and ability to hurl a tight spiral. Eagles great Harold Carmichael was too slow despite his incredible size (6’8″). Terrell Davis was injury prone (yes his career ended short because of his knees, but he still won two Superbowls and gave the Broncos the running game they needed). Anyway, the list goes on and on. My goal is to find those guys now and then look like a genius down the line. Here are my 5 players in this draft that will prove the haters wrong:
1. Alshon Jeffrey, WR University of South Carolina
Taking my South Carolina ties and bias out of the equation, I still believe that Jeffrey is a classic example of a drastic fall for no great reason. Yes, he had speed and weight concerns from the season but if his pro day showed us anything it is that he worked his a** off to get in shape. He played last season at around 6’3″ 233lbs. (his height always seems to vary, I’ve seen it at 6’5″ down to 6’2″). He came in at Carolina’s pro day at 216 lbs. and ran between a 4.45-4.52 40 yard dash. Even the high end of those figures is nothing to scoff at, especially considering his great size. Jeffrey’s production dipped during his junior year, but I buy into the QB controversy and then amazing effectiveness of the running game as the main factors in that downturn. When you take a guy with his ability to go up and grab any ball, and coach the Hell out of him like they’ll do in the NFL you will have a finely polished gem. Maybe even a diamond. Go Cocks.
2. Alfonzo Dennard, DB Nebraska
Dennard finished the season with a three things. An ejection from the Capital One Bowl, a loss and a 1st round draft grade. So why the slide down to the 3rd round according to ESPN? Short arms and below average ball skills. The report says that he does not attack the ball with two hands as often as he should and leaves too many interceptions on the field. He only had 4 career ints during his career as a Cornhusker, but I don’t think interceptions are the only barometer of a college DBs potential. He can learn to attack the ball better, but what a coach can’t teach a corner is to go after bigger receivers like Dennard. His size is more like a safety and he is not afraid of anyone. Alshon Jeffrey did burn him in the Capital One Bowl, but he had little help over the top. He won’t finish his NFL career with Ed Reed type of ball-hawk numbers, but he will be a solid surprise for a team looking at DBs in the middle rounds.
3. Brandon Boykin, DB University of Georgia
The biggest knock on Boykin is his size and that leads to concerns of durability. Measuring in at a little over 5’9″/182 lbs. he will be an undersized corner in the NFL. What I’ve seen from Boykin in his time at UGA was an absolute stud playmaker on defense. I am a card-holding member of the church of “Numbers Don’t Lie,” and his tell a whole lot. He finished his career at UGA with 8 Total TDs (1 PR, 3 on offense, SEC Record 4 KR), 9 Interceptions and 27 Pass-def. To put that in perspective, Patrick Peterson’s college career totals (3 years starting like Boykin) were 4 Total TDs (2 PR, 1 INT, 1 FR) and 7 ints. Looks like Boykin’s production is closer to a 1st round pick than a 3rd rounder. Don’t let his size fool you, he will produce at the next level in whatever capacity the team needs him.
4. Darron Thomas, QB Oregon
I’m going to start by saying I think Thomas should have done another year at Oregon, but without that option I have to pick him now. Like all super-mobile QBs, that aren’t named RGIII, accuracy and mechanics are the question marks here. He is nowhere near a finished NFL player, but he has more than just flashes of excellence. In the passed two seasons, he has thrown for 5,642 yards, 63 TDs and 16 Ints. Wow. The spread offense and speed of Oregon’s offensive game plan has definitely augmented his stats there, but there is still a living, breathing defense against him. He didn’t play in the MAC or C-USA (no offense) he played in a major conference and led the ducks to the BCS title game. He knows how to win and when to run. Considering how fantastic of an athlete he is, he did not take-off and run often when it was not the designed play. Think fellow Duck Dennis Dixon with more upside and less injury concerns. He will start out as a package type player and in a few years I think he’ll be a real weapon for somebody.
5. Bernard Pierce, RB Temple
If Pierce played in a big conference (as Temple will be playing in next year in the Big East), he would be a 1st or 2nd round pick. He has great size at 6′ 218 lbs. and some impressive speed for hauling that weight at a 4.5 40 yard dash. He is a bruiser and picks up a ton of yardage after 1st contact. The biggest knock in his actual game is his pass game contributions which he did not showcase anything close to extraordinary there (19 Rec, 178 yards, 1 TD in 3 seasons). I’m not sure if Pierce is a feature back who can play 3 downs considering his flaws in pass catching, but he will be a great compliment in the current NFL style of two RB systems. His career totals for rushing are: 663 Att, 3570 yards and 53 TDs. The guy was a machine this past season and he is getting out of dodge just in time. Another 270+ carry season would be detrimental to his career prospects. He will explode if he is put into the right situation, believe me.
Do you think I’m dead wrong? Who are your sleepers in the draft? Let us know: Admin@AirItOutSport.com or the comments below