NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
As the regular season ends and bowl preparations are in full swing, it would seem to me certain player are being over looked heading into the offseason. The All-America and All-Conference title is a prestigious honor. It represents a season of hard work and capitalizing on opportunities. But every year, certain guys fall through the cracks. Let’s see who makes the 2014-15 Draft Prospect All-Underrated team.
QB: Sean Mannion, Oregon State: A pro-style passer with an easy natural throwing motion, Mannion hasn’t had the senior campaign he would have liked (15 TDs, 8 Int). However if you can look past his horrendous offensive line, one would see a NFL arm with great touch. He needs to improve his anticipation of throws as well as his overall accuracy. However given the right situation, I think Mannion could develop into a player who could potentially start down the road.
RB: Josh Robinson, Mississippi State: If you’ve been reading my articles this year, you would know I am President and CEO of the Josh Robinson fan club. Not because I think he is a top 5 running back in the class, because I don’t. But if you ask a person to talk 2015 RB prospects, rarely will you hear the Bulldogs’ bell cow. Robinson averaged 6.4 yards per carry this year for 1,128 yards and 11 touchdowns. People destroy him over the Alabama game, where he ran tentatively and wasn’t overly successful. Nonetheless I expect him to be a contributor somewhere in the NFL in the future. I do anticipate Robinson to return to Starkville next year for his senior season, however with running backs you never know.
RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan State: All Langford did this year was run for 1,360 yards and 19 touchdowns, yet he still doesn’t get talked about the way he deserves. As far as the NFL goes, Langford is a tough, physical, low to the ground running back. A workhorse in every sense of the term. Needs to add some speed and explosion to be a real threat at the next level, but I think Langford will be a nice late round find.
WR Dezmin Lewis, Central Arkansas: At 6’4 215lbs, Lewis has enjoyed much success at the D-1A level, and has earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Under the radar prospect that will start gathering some attention as the college football season wraps up.
WR Vince Mayle, Washington State: I’ll go on record right now, this guy is going to be productive at the next level. Currently a mid to late round pick, Mayle has had a monster season without many people noticing. He lost about 20 pounds this year, which has had a great impact on overall quickness and route-running. Good size at 6’3 220lbs, Mayle should be on Patriots’ fans minds heading into mock draft season.
WR Leonte Caroo, Rutgers: The junior may end up returning for his senior season, but I believe Caroo is ready to step onto a NFL field next year and contribute. Possessing average size at 6’1 205lbs, Caroo is excellent in creating separation and has been quietly carrying the Rutgers offense most of the season. He’s a productive receiver from Rutgers, so go ahead Patriots’ fans, start the speculation.
TE Clive Walford, Miami: My personal number 1 tight end in the draft, Walford has arguably been Miami’s best play maker this season. I think he’s very athletic for his size at 6’4 260lbs and has the potential to blossom into a complete and dynamic threat at TE in the NFL. Had his best game this season vs Florida State, where he showed he can compete athletically vs NFL talent. Needs to clean up his mental side of the game, as he’s been prone to dumb mistakes and dropped passes over his years at Miami.
OT Tyler Marz, Wisconsin: Often overshadowed by teammate Rob Havenstein, however Marz has been stellar this season blocking for Melvin Gordon. Underrated pass blocker, Marz will be a nice mid round find.
OT Austin Shepherd, Alabama: Has been solid all year long as Shepherd currently is a mid round projection. A beast of a run blocker for the Tide, Shepherd mainly lacks in pass protection.
OG Aundrey Walker, USC: The youngest of 14 brothers (WOAH!), Walker is a good athletic linemen with real upside. Slowed to start the year following offseason ankle surgery, Walker’s solid play helped elevate the Trojans’ running game into one of the nations’ best.
OG Jordan Rigsbee, California: A versatile guy who can play all three interior line positions. Rigsbee has been a key cog to the Golden Bear offense as he has been the most consistent offensive linemen Cal has had over the last few years.
OC B.J. Finney, Kansas State: In my eyes, the former walk-on is a top 3 center in the class. Finney is a cerebral player with good athleticism, which allows him to play guard if need be.
DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA: How can you overlook him with a name like that. “Owa” has been explosive off the edge this year showing an innate ability to get to the edge. If he can stay healthy, he’s one of my best hidden gems in a deep defensive end draft pool.
DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee: Get out your 2017 draft boards. Barnett, a true freshmen, compiled one of the greatest seasons in Tennessee football history. He is third in the country for tackles for loss (20.5) and has registered 10 sacks this season. Not impressed? Barnett has significantly outplayed Jadeveon Clowney during his Freshmen year in Columbia, where he tallied 12 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. Barnett has all the tools to be a top 5 pick someday, and his match up against the Outland Trophy winner, Iowa LT Brandon Scherff, is one I am looking forward to most during bowl season.
DT Gabe Wright, Auburn: Slightly undersized, Wright uses his quickness to split gaps and cause disruption in the backfield. He is not an every down player in the NFL, but for a guy projected to be a mid to late round pick, Wright can make an impact in a specialist role and be productive.
DT Louis Trinca-Pasat, Iowa: One of my fastest rising players this season, Trinca-Pasat has 10.5 TFL this season with 6.5 sacks for the Hawkeyes. Currently giving a 5-6 round projection, I think Trinca-Pasat will capitalize off his fine season and rise up draft boards this winter.
LB A.J. Tarpley, Stanford: Has been one of the best linebackers in the country all year long. A talent depleted Cardinal defense has remained stout in large part to the consistent play of the 5th year senior.
LB Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn: I have enjoyed watching McKinzy all year long. He won’t wow you with anything he does, quite frankly. That being said if you look through the dumpster fire that is the Auburn defense you can see McKinzy shine as a solid middle of the field defender. I think he has high upside with room to grow. I’m betting McKinzy will be a solid performer after being a late day 2 or 3 pick.
LB Eric Striker, Oklahoma: I see a late first round talent from Striker on film. He compromised his personal stats to adapt to Oklahoma’s defensive scheme, which asked him to drop in coverage an awful lot. He has shown he can do this well, however he’s getting no favors when there’s a deep pass rusher class like this season. Striker will be a day 2 pick who I think has the tools to potentially start in the right system from the get go.
CB D’Joun Smith, FAU: Smith got the Darrelle Revis treatment most of the year, as opposing quarterbacks didn’t throw his way too much. With good reason. Smith has the speed and athleticism to be a solid cover corner in the league. I believe he will put in a good effort at the senior bowl and quickly start to rise up draft boards.
CB Byron Jones, Connecticut: Jones had his season cut short with a shoulder injury, however it is tough to ignore what he accomplished in 7 games. He was a ray of light on what was a horrendous Uconn team all year long. Jones has shown the ability to play both CB and Safety, and in his toughest challenge this year stepped up and played a great game vs Shane Carden and ECU.
S Isaiah Johnson, Georgia Tech: I thought Johnson as well as the entire Georgia Tech secondary held up admirably as they were obviously out manned and out gunned by Florida State in the ACC championship game. Most believe Johnson is a special teams player in the NFL, however I see some real upside. Johnson fits the ‘new breed’ of safety, boasting a 6’2 215 lbs frame which allows him to come down and be an aggressive in the box defender.
S Doran Grant, Ohio State: Has had a nice season thus far with 5 interceptions and 51 tackles. Has the versatility to play CB in the NFL as well as safety. The Alabama game can really help Grant’s draft stock with a solid performance if he can prove reliable over the top when the inevitable Amari Cooper deep shots are thrown his way.