The 2014 NFL Draft is as deep a draft as I can remember and the deepest that I’ve covered. With that in mind, teams are likely to get starting caliber prospects well into the third round and we could have more late round standouts than ever before.
For some perspective on just how this draft class stacks up to last years – one of my top 3 players last year would have cracked the top eight in this class. Only six of the players would have been in this class’s top 25. For the later portions, our 150th player last year carried a late 6th round grade. This year our 150th ranked player carried a high 5th round grade. While I didn’t rate players beyond 150 this year, I believe I very well could have had over 300 draftable grades on players – which would far surpass my previous record.
Needless to say teams are going to be doing some serious evaluation of late round prospects and could unearth some gems well into the latter stages of this draft. We’ll take a look at one player from each position that offers great value late in the draft.
Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
When the Combine invitee list hit the media, I was a bit surprised that Garrett Gilbert wasn’t on the list. Gilbert has prototypical size at nearly 6-foot-4, 221 pounds and runs well clocking in the low 4.8’s at his pro day. The former Texas signal caller was a bit of a late bloomer as he played his best football under QB guru June Jones at SMU.
Gilbert’s combination of size, accuracy, and arm strength will have teams lining up for his services if he falls beyond the fifth frame next weekend. He will need some time to develop but I would be surprised if Gilbert wasn’t a more than adequate backup within two seasons and could develop into a starter down the road.
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
It pains me to think that Storm Johnson will be a third day pick in this draft. The many times I watched and re-watched Blake Bortles, I couldn’t help but take long looks at Storm. He’s not the biggest or fastest back in this draft but I’m not so sure he won’t be one of the most productive in due time.
I’ve consistently ranked Johnson as either 1A or 1B in this draft with Carlos Hyde and I’ll continue believing I’m right on that one until proven wrong. If Johnson can protect the ball in the NFL, I think he’s one of the real steals of the draft on the third day.
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Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan
Evaluations change when you get to see these guys practice. I regularly attend Michigan’s spring practices and for two years I’ve said to watch out for Jeremy Gallon. Gallon doesn’t have ideal size and he’s probably not going to be a difference maker at the WR position early on but he’s a guy I’d bet my house on making an impact somewhere in the near future.
At 5-foot-8, 185 Gallon plays bigger than his size. He’s a fearless receiver that isn’t afraid to expose the middle of the field, taking big shots with his efforts. Most impressive is his willingness as a blocker for a guy that goes 185 pounds. Watching his practice habits I have little doubt that he’ll endear himself to his teammates and coaches in short order and will catch on with a team this fall.
Crockett Gillmore, TE, Colorado State
What intrigues most about Gillmore is that he hasn’t really ever devoted himself full-time to one position, yet looked pretty polished as a pass catcher. Gillmore split time at CSU between tight end and defensive end duties. Your assumption would be that he would be fairly raw and need a ton of time investment before making an impact in the league. I think that assumption would be wrong.
In a tight end class that isn’t the deepest (one of the few position groups in this draft that doesn’t have depth), Gillmore should come off the board fairly early on day three. At 6-foot-6, 260 pounds with solid hands and leaping ability, I expect him to crack a two-deep very early on in his career.
Charles Leno, OG, Boise State
I’m not sure I can call Leno a late round gem because I think he’ll shock us all and come off the board on day two of the draft. I could be wrong, so I want to make sure I profess my draft crush on this kid. He doesn’t possess ideal size or strength to be considered a top 100 player. That said, in the right scheme (ZBS) he could excel and wind up being a steal wherever he’s drafted.
Bryce Quigley, OT, San Diego State
I may have a thing for move blockers. Quigley tore a foot tendon in the final regular season contest for the Aztecs. Instead of having surgery he opted to play in the team’s bowl game, a decision that may have cost him valuable recovery time. In the end, I expect teams to view this as a positive as it wasn’t likely that Quigley was going to make an impact next season in the league.
The former tight end, caught on fairly quickly to his new left tackle position at SDSU and has really emerged as a solid late round prospect. He may be headed for a move inside to guard but zone blocking teams would be wise to stash him on the practice squad for a little while and reap the rewards later down the road.
Ryan Carrethers, DT, Arkansas State
Like the move blockers, I have a thing for short, squatty built former wrestlers that can plug holes on the DL. That pretty much describes Carrethers. At just under 6-foot-2, 337 pounds Carrethers is an ideal 0, 1, or 2-technique capable of walking blockers back into the backfield, disrupting the offensive flow.
Carrethers can probably be had in the backend of the draft and I think he’s a rotational run stuffer that could make an impact early on in his career. He could wind up being a great value pick for 3-4 teams looking for a nose late in the draft and would be one of my votes for potential steals of the draft.
Lawrence Virgil, DT/DE, Valdosta State
Virgil’s value will be in his versatility. At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds Virgil has the skills to be an effective 3 or 5-technique in the league. Many teams may be scared away by his lack of production at a lower level of competition. He clearly isn’t ready to impact at the next level but if a team can afford to stash him on the practice squad for a couple of seasons, he may pay dividends down the road.
Xavius Boyd, LB, Western Kentucky
The former safety has been overshadowed by more highly touted teammate Andrew Jackson throughout his career. That probably changes in the NFL. What Boyd lacks in terms of natural instincts he more than makes up for with his overall athletic ability. In today’s NFL there is some serious value in stashing guys like Boyd for a year or two of development.
Boyd is probably a late 5th to 6th round prospect that could evolve over time into a solid WLB in the right system. If he can sit back and learn the nuances of the position at the next level from a group of veterans and solid coaches, I think this kid is an eventual producer in the league.
Travis Carrie, CB, Ohio
How much will lingering injury concerns weigh on NFL decision makers minds when looking at Carrie? That’s the question. He has an NFL build with the athletic ability to match. He’s going to excel in off man or press man (once he learns to marry his punch with his feet) coverage at the next level. When I watched him against Louisville DeVante Parker, he consistently got the best of that matchup. In addition, the OU coaching staff raves about this kids work ethic on and off the field.
Carrie’s sheer size and athletic ability will have team’s considering calling his name early on day three. He comes with some medical concerns and will need some technique refinement but he could be a starter down the not-so distant road.
Dezmen Southward, S, Wisconsin
I would have put Brock Vereen down on this list but I think he’s a second day pick when it’s all said and done. That said, Southward is a worthy candidate as a late round gem. Like Travis Carrie, teams will have to be comfortable with his medical red-flags before they invest but he will be an impact player early on in his career.
Southward has ideal size and straight-line speed. My only questions on him are his instincts when the ball is in the air, poor angles, and a little stiff-hipped. Outside of those I think this kid impacts on day one on special teams and could be a rotational DB early on in his career.