NFL Draft Up and Comers

With the onset of the NFL, it is never too early to start thinking about the April draft.  Twelve college games throughout the country, endless hours of tape, all to project players toward the NFL.  There is the hyped, non-pro-style college player that doesn’t translate to the NFL (Tebow, Barkley, Clausen), the sure fired prospect (Luck, Adrian Peterson, A.J. Green), and the absolute combine freaks (Poe, Dewayne Robertson, Vernon Gholston).  This early in the college football season I want to take a look at five players who aren’t household names yet, but will see their names drafted higher than the preseason draft projections.

Kyle Fuller

Projected: 4-5th round pick

My projection: 2nd round

Kyle Fuller is a big, physical corner at 6”0 194 pounds (bench press 330, front squat 370, power clean 305) was a Second-Team All-ACC as a sophomore.  He played extremely well in the season opener vs. Alabama shutting down their wide receivers along with an interception and two pass breakups.  The three-year-starter is a downright playmaker with NFL bloodlines (two brothers in NFL) and shows smooth feet in his transitions.  Fuller doesn’t have outstanding top end speed, but that can be overrated in scouting corners.  Joe Haden ran a 4.57 40 yard dash, but is now a top line starter for the Cleveland Browns.

Career stats: 97 Tackles, 5 INTs, 20.5 TFL, and 20 pass breakups

Derek Carr

Projected: 3-4th round

My Projection 1-2nd round

The Fresno State quarterback and two-year starter comes into his Redshirt senior year with great potential from his size (6”3 200) and his bloodlines (Brother David was first overall pick in 2002 by Texans).  In his career Carr has tossed 68 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions through Week 1.  He has an NFL arm, but tends to trust his arm a little too often.  He will throw off his backfoot along with throwing after reading one receiver.  Carr’s slow recognition of blitzes is an area for improvement.  He has a quick release paired with great touch on balls down the field (shown 1:40 into this highlight)

Carr is mature beyond his years with the recent birth of his son on August 6th.  Carr’s son has spent 23 days in the hospital for intestinal issues.  Carr has had to balance his son, football, and school in preparing for the 2013 College Football season.

Career Stats: 686-1045 passing attempts for 8,230 yards, 65.6% completion percentage and a 68:17 TD:INT ratio

De’Anthony Thomas

Projected: 2nd round

My Projection: top-20

The Black Mamba, De’Anthony Thomas, may be undersized at 5”9 170, but makes up for this with electric speed, acceleration (He is a member of Oregon track and field sprint team), and his ability to run in between the tackles.  The obvious pro comparison for Thomas is last year’s top-10 draft pick Tavon Austin, but I see otherwise.  Thomas’ athleticism and vision is more conducive to being a running back at the next level.  I see him as a mix of both Austin and the Detroit Lions Reggie Bush in his ability to stop on a dime then accelerate to full speed instantaneously.  Along with lining up at running back, Oregon will line Thomas up in the slot and as a kick/punt returner.  Once again translating extremely quickly to the next level.  His potential alone should put him in the first round of the 2014 draft even with his upright high running pad level.  He can improve, most notably showing that he can man a full time load at running back, but he is a dynamite player for the Ducks (averaging a touchdown every 8.03 touches in his career on offense).  The success of players Tavon Austin, Percy Harvin, Denard Robinson, and Ace Sanders this year will go a far way in the evaluation of Thomas.

Career stats: 165 rushing attempts 1,424 yards, 8.6 average with 18 TDs

92 receptions 1,052 yards 14 TDs

52 Kick Ret 1372 yards 3 TDs

16 Punt Ret 274 yards, 17.1 avg, 1 TD

Donte Moncrief

Projected: 2nd round

My projection: first round

The relatively unknown wide receiver has been a mainstay in the Ole Miss offense for three years.  At 6”3 225 pounds he possesses NFL size.  Moncrief exploded onto the scene as a sophomore last year with a 66-catch, 979-yard, 10-touchdown campaign.  He has to be more consistent week-to-week (Georgia held him to 0 catches last year) to cement a first round grade.  Moncrief adjusts to the ball in the air well  displaying his athleticism and aggression.  At his size, he ends up beating corners with deceptive speed.  While he is behind Sammy Watkins and Marquise Lee as a wide receiver, his combination of size and route running ability bode well in the NFL.  He showed his abilities in the LSU game last year, beating the corner on the first offensive play of the game with a double move as seen…

Career Stats: 101 receptions 1,494 yards, 14 TDs

Dri Archer

Projected: 3rd round

My Projection: 2-3rd round

Listed at 5”8 178 Kent State offensive weapon Dri Archer may be perceived small.  Like Thomas what he lacks in size he makes up with his versatility as a running back, receiver, and kick returner along with his powerful running style in between the tackles, breaking arm tackles regularly.  Archer was named to the Associated Press, Walter Camp, ESPN.com, Sporting News & Phil Steele All-America Teams in 2012, something unheralded for a Kent State player.  To go along with his 23 touchdowns he ran for the third most rushing yards in school history with 1,429.  In addition he led the Golden Flashes in catches.  He also has plus speed (9 rushes over 40 yards in 2012) to go with good vision and plus elusiveness.  The downsides for Archer are his size and his level of play being in the MAC conference.

Career Stats: 260 rushing attempts, 1825 yards, 18 TDs

74 receptions, 867 yards, 8 TDs

49 Kick Ret 1308 yards, 3 TDs

260 rushing attempts, 1825 yards, 18 TDs

74 receptions, 867 yards, 8 TDs

49 Kick Ret 1308 yards, 3 TDs

Other notables: Tommy Rees (Notre Dame, QB), Michael Schofield (Michigan, OT), Bryn Renner (North Carolina, QB), Stephen Morris (Miami, QB), Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas, DE), Tre Maddon (USC, RB)

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