It’s the first round that gets all of the attention, even a red carpet treatment this year, yet it’s what NFL teams do in the second round through fifth round that yields true success.
It happens every year, a player overlooked by 31 other teams and underrated by so-called draft experts is plucked from the weeds only to become an impact player. If the 2009 draft was done over again with what we know now, Shonn Greene would certainly be a top 10 pick. Yet, this rising Jet was the 65th player and 5th running back selected.
It will happen again this year, I promise, and that’s one draft projection we can write down in permanent marker. With that mind, these are a few players I’m making sure not to ignore.
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan (6-3, 229) can be described as Tim Tebow with throwing skills. Like many of the top QBs in the draft, LeFevour’s development will hinge on him being able to effectively read defenses from taking a snap under center having played in a shotgun offense.
I’m buying, because LeFevour started for four years and produced in every one of them. He has decent arm strength (though inaccurate) to make the NFL throws and the legs to avoid trouble. Think of him as a more elusive Ben Rothlisberger, even despite Big Ben’s propensity to avoid the justice system.
Scary if … Buffalo snags him
Jevon Snead, Mississippi (6-3, 215) began his college career as a Florida Gator recruit and eventually the No. 1 QB recruit of Texas, ahead of Colt McCoy, who won the starting job in spring practice. Snead transferred and had a stellar sophomore campaign that thrust him into the spotlight for 2009. He shuttered, ended up being erratic and prone to interceptions.
I’m buying, because Snead simply reminds me of Brett Favre, not just because he wears the same jersey number. He has all of the qualities of an NFL starting QB. If he links up with the right coach, I’m confident all of his regression last season can be corrected. The foundation is there to be great.
Scary if … Cleveland snags him
LeGarrette Blount, Oregon (6-1, 245) made a name for himself for the wrong reason, getting suspended for punching a Boise State defender after the Ducks upset loss to the Broncos in the first game of the season. Blount, noted as a tweener, is a big back who tends to run like a small back. Not a good combination for the NFL. Plus, he couldn’t catch a pass if he had three hands.
However I’m buying, because Blount has a motor like a defensive lineman. He runs hard on every carry and was rarely, if ever, brought down on first contact. If Blount goes to the right team, he can become a very valuable red zone option. And we’ve seen this situation play out many times before, hard runners who are physical tend to break more long runs in the NFL than speedy zig-zag runners. Blount has a lot to prove, was humbled by his suspension and has plenty of mileage on his tires.
Scary if … Pittsburgh snags him
Dexter McCluster, Mississippi (5-8, 165) grabbed my attention as player who carried the Rebs this season in several heated SEC battles. Although small, his speed enables him to escape a lot of trouble. McCluster was very versatile for Ole Miss, playing wide receiver, running back and wildcat QB.
I’m buying, because McCluster is a true athlete. He reminds me a lot of Percy Harvin, someone who simply makes plays. His ability to catch all kinds of throws, having learned the hard way from the erractic Jevon Snead, immediately finds him a place on the field for any NFL team.
Scary if … Miami snags him
Brandon LaFell, LSU (6-2, 208) has been a steady player for three years for a quality team playing against quality competition, something I hold at high value. The problem; LaFell tended to disappear in games, particularly at key moments in big games.
I’m buying, because LaFell does two things very well that be of great value to NFL offenses. He is a very physical receiver with strong hands, meaning he’ll snag those high throws in traffic. Also, he is a tremendous blocker. LSU often ran running plays to his side, which will make many OCs brim with excitement.
Scary if … Cincinnati snags him
Jacboy Ford, Clemson (5-8, 181) terrified me as a Miami Hurricane fan. He is blazing fast, but more importantly moved exceptionally well in traffic. Something Ted Ginn Jr. never learned to do. Of course his size limits his physicality and ability to break tackles.
But I’m buying, because Ford seemingly made every acrobatic catch he was presented with. That’s something which will prove beneficial to teams who like to throw deep. In addition, Ford was an aggressive and willing blocker, having played on the edge with C.J. Spiller and James Davis.
Scary if … Green Bay snags him
Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (6-3, 200) would be a first round pick if he could only keep his head straight. Academic and character issues (theft) disrupted what he had going at Kansas. Remember when Kansas was ranked No. 2 in 2008, making a November run to the BCS Championship Game? Briscoe was an unstoppable force in that streak.
What am I thinking? Well I’m buying, because Briscoe has the physical skills to be a No. 1 receiver and probably won’t be drafted until the fifth round. He’ll have something to prove. He runs great deep routes, possessing a smooth glide to the path of the ball, which enables him to be in great position to make the catch in stride, not just facing up to the ball. That scores touchdowns, not just 40-yard first down grabs.
Scary if … New England snags him.
Be sure to check out the mock drafts, NFL Scouting Combine snapshots and discussions on our 2010 NFL Draft page.