NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
Just two days away from the 2013 NFL draft, it’s the time of the season where projected first-round picks start to come out of the woodworks. Suddenly, a player who no one has been projecting in Round 1 all year starts being rumored to a team late in the first round, or one reported visit or phone call from a prospect with a team picking early propels that player into the high picks of many NFL mock drafts.
Some players, however, never generate the buzz until the draft itself comes around. Each year, there are NFL prospects who are overlooked by the majority of the draft media, only to be selected considerably higher than most projected them to be picked.
That may not necessarily apply to most of these players — we will find out on Thursday, Friday and Saturday where each player’s true draft stock, at least in the mind of the teams that draft them, lies. The following players, however, are one player at each position who has not gotten as much attention as his peers leading up to the start of the draft, even though each of these players belong at the very least to be part of the discussion.
*Rankings from FRX’s Play The Draft, which are compiled based upon analysts’ mock drafts, are included to provide context to where these prospects are ranked among one consensus projection (if you haven’t already, join NEPD’s Play the Draft contest). Unranked players are players who have no projections within the first three rounds of the draft.
QB: Ryan Griffin, Tulane
There may not be any truly overlooked prospect at the quarterback position in the 2013 NFL draft class — the top 10 quarterbacks in the draft class have all received plenty of attention in recent months — but if there is one sleeper quarterback who could be viewed as a developmental prospect with starting potential, and end up sneaking his way into the top 10 quarterbacks drafted, that player would be Tulane’s Ryan Griffin.
Griffin has the physical tools to succeed as a pocket passer, with great size (6’4”, 221), a good arm and solid footwork. He was not a standout in college, but he is an experienced four-year starter who can make the challenging downfield throws the NFL requires and was the star of this year’s Texas vs. the Nation all-star game. If he can quicker with his reads and more consistently accurate, he has enough talent to at least become a solid No. 2 quarterback on an NFL depth chart.
RB: Mike Gillislee, Florida
FRX: No. 11 RB (No. 137 overall)
Running back ratings vary greatly this year, in a class that has many quality backs worth a Day 2 draft pick but no sure first-round backs, but one player who is consistently ranked too low in most running back rankings is Florida’s Mike Gillislee.
Gillislee’s power, speed and measurables do not stand out, but while not a flashy runner, he is one of the most complete running backs in the 2013 draft class. He is terrific at finding holes: he has great vision, is a decisive runner and his running style is defined by his smooth cuts in the open field. He is also a tough runner who uses his 208-pound body well to take on contact and extend runs.
Gillislee has good hands and catches the ball well out of the backfield, while he is also effective at picking up blitzes as a pass blocker. He can play on any down in the NFL, and has the potential to be a very good feature back in an offense that values him.
WR: Robert Woods, USC
FRX: No. 6 WR (No. 45 overall)
Robert Woods is the only player on this list actually receiving first-round consideration from many draft prognosticators — but he still fits the bill as an overlooked prospect among wide receivers. While some draft projections have Woods falling as far as the late second round, he should be considered a sure-fire first-round pick.
While Woods is the No. 6 receiver in FRX’s rankings, he is at the top of my personal rankings (and No. 3 among NEPD’s rankings). Woods may not stand out on his measurables, but he is the most complete wideout in the draft class. He has excellent hands, runs great routes, can go up to make the tough catch, plays with physicality and has the subtle quickness and enough speed in the open field to make big plays.
Woods can be a go-to receiver in any offense, can line up both outside and inside and is not afraid to go over the middle to make plays. He is likely to be drafted after Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson, who are more flashy playmakers and more dynamic athletes, but Woods is a deserving first-round pick who could much higher than people expect.
In my most recent mock draft, Woods is projected as the New England Patriots’ No. 29 overall selection — but even they will be likely to get him at that slot.
TE: Mychal Rivera, Tennessee
There is significant separation between the draft class’ top three tight ends (Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert, Stanford’s Zach Ertz, Cincinnati’s Travis Kelce) and the rest of the class at the position, but one tight end who has a shot to sneak into the top five tight ends drafted is Tennessee’s Mychal Rivera.
One of many talented offensive prospects coming out of Tennessee in this year’s draft class, Mychal Rivera has not gotten much pre-draft attention, but he is one of the more talented receiving tight ends in the draft class. At only 6’3” and 242, Rivera may never be an in-line blocker at the next level, but he has some Aaron Hernandez-like qualities in his game. He is a very good route-runner who moves well in space, while he has great hands and consistently makes tough catches away from his body.
He does not have great speed (4.81-second 40-yard dash) and may be limited to being a role player, but he could end up being a very valuable selection early on the draft’s third day.
OT: Chris Faulk, LSU
FRX: No. 17 LT (No. 146 overall)
After missing the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL, LSU left tackle Chris Faulk does not have much momentum coming into the draft, but health concerns aside, Faulk is one of the most complete offensive tackles in the draft class, and a player who should draw serious consideration once the top-tier left tackles are off the draft board.
Faulk is a powerful blocker with great size (6’5”, 331 pounds, 34 1/4” arms). He is a terrific power run blocker who can drive opponents back with his strength, while he has also decent feet and is an efficient pass blocker. He does not quite have the athleticism desired of an NFL left tackle, but he projects as a very good starting right tackle who could play left tackle if needed.
Even if Faulk is still recovering from his injury, he is worthy of being a Day 2 draft choice.
OG: J.C. Tretter, Cornell
The Ivy League isn’t known for being a hotbed of NFL talent, but the conference has a few players worth watching in the 2013 draft class, the best of which is Cornell guard J.C. Tretter.
Tretter is a very good athlete with great feet, and is a polished pass-protector who slides naturally along the line of scrimmage. A left tackle at Cornell, he is best suited to kick inside at the next level, but he has the versatility to play both guard and tackle, which increases his value as a potential backup and mid-round pick. But if Tretter can become a more powerful run blocker and adjust quickly to a higher level of competition, he is a starting-caliber talent.
Tretter could sneak into the latter part of Day 2, but could end up being a bargain pick early on Day 3.
C: Dalton Freeman, Clemson
The center position is one of the weakest positions in this year’s draft class, which will have NFL teams looking for potential sleepers at the position. One player who could end up being a late-round value, or rise as a result of a weak center class, is Clemson’s Dalton Freeman.
Freeman did not receive an invite to this year’s NFL Scouting Combine, but he is an athletic center with very good feet and good pass-blocking technique. He is lean for an offensive lineman (291 pounds at Clemson’s per day, per The Sports Xchange), and only has 31” arms, but he has good strength for his size.
He may have some issues with powerful NFL defensive tackles, but he is an efficient snapper and fluid mover who should be able to find a home in the NFL, at least as a backup. He is a worthy Day 3 pick who could move up into the middle rounds based upon center need.