NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas
Only 32 prospects will hear NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announce their name in Round 1 of April’s draft. Some will even be on hand at Radio City Music Hall to hoist their team’s jersey and smile for the cameras. That’s not the case for the 48 prospects that will be picked in Round 7.
Instead, the ESPN draft ticker does all the heavy lifting as NFL hopefuls sit on their couch just hoping to get a call. There’s no elaborate podium announcement to be made, and no team hats to be handed out, either.
Seventh-round picks don’t get the glory, but they can still make an impact.
The New England Patriots are well aware of this. Just last year, head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio saw touted Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard fall into their lap, ultimately becoming the team’s starting right corner. In 2010, the team nabbed Alabama defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick, who ended up filling a starting role next to Vince Wilfork. And in 2009, the team found a do-it-all weapon in Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman.
This history of late-round success bodes well for the Patriots, especially considering the team has two seventh-round picks in 2013. Now that the compensatory choices have been established, New England will draft at Nos. 226 and 235.
While the Pats do not currently own any selections in Round 4 through Round 6, there will be some high-value guys left on the board come the final frame.
Here are six prospects worth taking a flier on.
Josh Johnson, CB, Purdue
If you had the chance to watch the Boilermakers play in 2012, you may have wondered who that scrappy No. 28 cornerback was playing across from touted junior Ricardo Allen. His name is Josh Johnson. He’s only 5’9″ and he did run just a 4.65 second 40-time at the NFL combine, but Johnson gave some of nation’s biggest targets—Marshall’s Aaron Dobson and Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert—a run for their money last year. Johnson’s sturdy 199-pound frame helps him out in man, where he excelled in Purdue’s secondary playing a lot of bump-and-run. During his senior season, Johnson posted 65 tackles, one sack, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and the fourth most passes defended in the FBS with 19. Johnson has been a starter since his sophomore year in 2010. The team captain brings experience and confidence to the cornerback position.
Kayvon Webster, CB, South Florida
Kayvon Webster started 32 games over the course of his four seasons with the South Florida Bulls. He brings leadership to the table in the seventh round, along with speed. Webster —a high school track athlete —ran well in Indianapolis. Webster’s 4.41 40-time ranked him eighth among participating cornerbacks. During his senior campaign, the 5’10”, 195-pound defensive back racked up a team-leading 82 total tackles, two sacks, six pass breakups and three forced fumbles. He did not, however, get his hands on an interception, managing to pick off only three passes during his collegiate career. Nonetheless, Webster is a tough corner who can get into a receiver’s face during press coverage, or into the backfield versus the run. Webster had a private workout with the Patriots, so he’s certainly someone on the team’s radar.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
A violation of team rules led to Marquess Wilson quitting the Washington State football team in November. Whatever happened in Pullman, however, is in the past. The NFL is in his future. The 6’3”, 194-pound strider had two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons as a sophomore and junior. Although his Cougars career was cut short, Wilson still caught a total 189 passes for 23 touchdowns during his college days. Wilson ran a 4.51 second 40-time at the combine—faster than the likes of Quinton Patton, Terrance Williams and Da’Rick Rogers. By also completing the 3-cone drill in 6.65 seconds, Wilson notched the No. 2 time among receivers. A very agile route-runner who can work the sideline, Wilson may not be as strong as he needs to be when pushing off press. He also has to secure more of the passes thrown his way. That being said, Wilson had a private workout with the Patriots and could end up a Day 3 steal.
Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers
Belichick’s son Steven was a long snapper for the Rutgers football team. But with Greg Schiano taking his coaching talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will the Scarlet Knight connection remain? For a wide receiver like Mark Harrison, the answer could very well be “yes.” Harrison is a 6’3”, 230-pound target who’s tough to bring down. In Indianapolis, Harrison ran the 40 in 4.46 seconds, also impressing with a vertical leap of 38.5 inches and a broad jump of 129. Harrison has a good pair of feet, knows how to block, and runs sound routes. He will drop the occasional pass, but he managed to record 44 passes for 829 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, then 44 passes for 583 yards and six touchdowns two years later as a senior.
Jeff Baca, OG, UCLA
You’re probably not going to find a better pulling guard in Round 7 than UCLA’s Jeff Baca. The 6’3”, 302-pound interior lineman is quick off the snap and doesn’t waste any time getting his arms extended to block. At the combine, Baca ran the 3-cone drill in 7.26 seconds—the fastest time of any offensive linemen in attendance. He also ran the 40-yard dash in a respectable 5.03 seconds. Baca has been at UCLA since 2008, when he started eight games at left tackle as a true freshman. He was ruled ineligible due to academic issues in 2010, but still managed earn over 45 starts during his time with the Bruins. Baca isn’t the biggest guard, so he will face some challenges against stronger defensive linemen in the NFL. Still, UCLA tailback Jonathan Franklin is a likely Day 2 selection, and he at least owes some thanks to the right guard in front of him.
Jake Knott, OLB, Iowa State
Jake Knott is no pass-rushing outside linebacker, but he is definitely a hard-working football player. The 6’1”, 241-pound Cyclone has been Iowa State’s starting weak-side backer since his sophomore season. Over that span, Knott has proven he can make the right decisions away from the line of scrimmage. Although has brought down ball-carriers for a resounding 324 tackles, he won’t get to the QB often. In 46 career games, Knott has only recorded 1.5 sacks. While that number may indicate that Knott can’t break the offensive line, he’s not stranger to swiftly dropping back or running up to make stops. Totaling 22 pass deflections, eight interceptions and 10 forced fumbles over the last three seasons, Knott simply has a nose for the ball. If it weren’t for a shoulder tear—which Knott played through before finally having season-ending shoulder surgery—he would be far higher on draft boards.