NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Every single year prospects get overlooked and undervalued resulting in a slide down draft boards. Despite that each and every year many of them go on to have very successful NFL careers.
Just last year players such as RB Alfred Morris, CB Alfonzo Dennard and RB Bryce Brown feel to the 6th or 7th round, but played major roles in their teams success. Hitting on late round selections can alter a teams outlook and shape the depth of the roster.
Here are ten players that will be selected in the late rounds of the draft, but will go on to have successful NFL careers.
Kayvon Webster, CB, South Florida – In a draft that goes 35-40 deep with draftable corners it’s easy to get overlooked and that’s what’s happened to Kayvon Webster. Possessing an NFL ready frame at 5’10.5″ 195 lbs and speed to burn (4.35), Webster has very quick feet and is a smooth, fluid mover in coverage. He plays with confidence and it shows in his aggressive coverage style. Webster has all the tools I want in an NFL corner; balance, change of direction, a smooth peddle, easy transition skills and speed to cover downfield. On top of that he’s a force in run support, playing fast and aggressive. There will be a lot of corners selected before Webster, but don’t be surprised if Webster plays longer than most of them.
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU - Boyce chose to enter the NFL a year early, mainly because he already graduated and the QB situation at TCU figures to be fluid in 2013. While the decision on the surface may be a questionable one, Josh Boyce is ready for the NFL and can make an impact early on. Boyce has a bulked up frame and big play ability. He’s a savvy route runner, understanding how to stem his routes and set up the defender with subtle body lean. Boyce changes up his speed and can lull the DB to sleep only to turn on the jets to separate. Boyce can play in the slot or outside and has quick enough feet to play either position. His hands, strength and route running ability will make him very successful in the NFL. Boyce checks many of the boxes the New England Patriots look for at the Wide Receiver position.
Earl Wolff, S, North Carolina State - Wolff is a balanced all-around safety prospect. He can add physicality to the run game or he can drop into coverage to pull down a crucial interception. Wolff has a solidly built frame that could allow him to play either safety position. He can play in cover-2 or as the single high safety. He’s a disciplined run defender, taking his last line of defense responsibilities seriously. Wolff posted a 4.44 forty at the combine showing plenty of speed to run vertically with receivers or angle into the flats to take on RB from his deep safety position. Wolff played in a very good secondary with David Amerson and Brandan Bishop. While Amerson is higher rated on most draft boards, Wolff could have the better pro career.
Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland - If I have learned anything from scouting and analyzing the draft over the last ten years it’s that you don’t bet against players like Joe Vellano. What Vellano lacks in size, he makes up for with exceptional hustle and short area quickness. Vellano possesses a motor that just will not stop. He provides constant activity on the interior and makes the OL work on every play. Vellano will fight through blocks, chase sideline to sideline, take on double teams and will play to the whistle. What Vellano does best is make plays. In 2011 he managed to record 94 total tackles and impact the game in all facets. He’s got a very strong upper-body and the quickness to win off the snap. His lack of size will cause him to drop in the draft, but he will make an NFL roster this September.
Vince Williams, ILB, Florida State - Williams played on a star studded defense at Florida State and it was easy for him to go unnoticed. However, Williams is an impressive player in his own right. A strong and stout downhill thumper that can play in the middle at the next level. He reacts quickly and takes great angles on off-tackle runs. He finds a way to accelerate to top speed quickly, while navigating through traffic on his way to the ball. With Williams ability to diagnose directional runs quickly and his athleticism to get there he will rack up tackle numbers. He will likely be limited to 1st and 2nd down only duties because he’s not great in coverage, but that shouldn’t stop him from having a solid NFL career.
Mychal Rivera, TE, Tennessee - Mychal Rivera will have a long NFL career. He played with 3-4 Wide Receivers who will be drafted quite high in the NFL Draft, so Rivera was never the primary option in the Tennessee passing offense. Despite that Rivera will get a chance to play in the NFL with a skill set that projects him to be a “joker” or movable Tight End. He possesses solid hands and can extend outside his frame to come away with off-target throws. Has enough athleticism to beat linebackers or separate over the middle and does well to catch and run. With the Tight End becoming more and more important in NFL offenses, Rivera will get a legit shot to thrive.
Nickell Robey, CB, USC - If Robey was 6’0″ 195 pounds he would be considered the best cornerback in this class, that is how talented he is. Perhaps the most sudden and explosive CB in short spurts. His hips are electric and his quick feet let him jump routes with ease. Pound for pound he is one of the hardest hitters in the draft. Not afraid to put his body on the line and strike receivers coming into his zone. Robey projects to the slot in the NFL and could be a very good one. He is also a very good return man, adding more value to his NFL resume. Since Robey is just 5’7″ 169 lbs. he will drop in the draft, but he has all the skills necessary to play in the NFL.
Joe Kruger, DE, Utah - Kruger like his older brother Paul, will be a later round draft pick in the NFL Draft. Like Paul he has the ability to develop into a successful NFL talent. Kruger has a tall, long and athletic frame. He can rush the passer from a stand-up position or with his hand in the dirt and uses his long arms to press the OT into the pocket. While he is still raw and lacks the flexibility to bend the corner, he has enough potential to warrant a late round selection. With the development of some pass rush moves, added bulk to his frame and work to improve his pad level, Kruger can offer similar skills that the top tier of rushers will offer.
Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame - While Wood didn’t have the college career many expected after he burst onto the scene, his best football might be ahead of him. He has a frame and running style that is ideal for the NFL game. At 5’11″ 213 pounds he has enough size to be a lead back. Wood shows great burst when hitting holes and can accelerate through the line without losing speed to make cuts. Displays good lower body explosion and enough elusiveness to make second level defenders whiff. Wood has been hot and cold at Notre Dame. For whatever reasons he has been unable to breakout and take his game to the next level. In the right system, with proper coaching he could have a nice career as a back-up RB with potential to develop into a starter.
Josh Johnson, CB, Purdue – Purdue hasn’t been a consistent producer of Cornerbacks to the NFL game, but in 2012 they fielded two corners that will play in the NFL. Ricardo Allen is the higher profile corner, but Josh Johnson has been the more productive. Game in and game out Johnson has found a way to make an impact play. He can play a variety of coverages and hold up well in each one. A confident and aggressive corner that trusts his ability to make plays. Besides his ability to cover, Johnson can transition from pass defense fluidly to set the edge and bring physicality to the edge. Johnson doesn’t run real well and is limited by his lack of size. For those reasons he will drop to late day three of the draft, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more well rounded cornerback that late in the draft.