With the 2011 NFL draft just a week away I thought I would put pen to paper and mention a few players I feel owners, General managers, scouts and coaches should be careful of letting pass bye during the draft. To make it a little more interesting all the players I will mention are ranked lower than fifth at their position by most top football analysts and their web sites. We all know about the Patrick Peterson’s, Von Miller’s and Marcell Dareus’s of this draft but unless you follow the college game like many of us do you will not be aware of some of the players I’m about to mention.
I’m going to start by looking back over a few of the drafts from the last fifteen years and look at how some of the highest ranked prospects drafted have faired compared to some drafted in rounds six and seven. Every year we see a player drafted in the later rounds fair better than a top prospect.
Here are some of the notable players.
Had to start with this one.
QB. Ryan Leaf. – 2nd pick. San Diego.
OL. Matt Birk. – 173rd pick. Minnesota.
QB. Tim Couch. – 1st pick. Cleveland.
QB. Akili Smith. – 3rd pick. Cincinnati.
WR. Donald Driver. – 213th pick. Green Bay.
DE. Courtney Brown. 1st pick. Cleveland.
QB. Tom Brady. 199th pick. New England.
QB. David Carr. 1st pick. Houston.
QB. Joey Harrington. 3rd Pick. Detroit.
DT. Ryan Sims. 6th pick. Kansas City.
DE. Brett Keisel. 242nd pick. Pittsburgh.
WR. Troy Williamson. 7th. Minnesota.
DL Jay Ratliff. 224th. Dallas.
QB. Matt Leinart. 10th. Arizona.
S. Antoine Bethea. 207th Indianapolis.
C. Scott Wells. 251st. Green Bay.
CB. Courtland Finnegan. 215th Tennessee.
WR. Marques Colston. 252nd. New Orleans.
QB. Jamarcus Russell. 1st overall. Oakland.
FB. Madison Hedgecock. 251st. St Louis.
RB. Ahmad Bradshaw. 250th. NY Giants.
There are many more worthy of a mention but I think you get the point i’m making. I have not gone past 2007 as many still have a chance to be successful in the NFL but as you can see many great players get passed on. Also, when you consider the undrafted free agents that slip through it’s incredible how many players scouts fail to get a good read on.
All of the prospects I am about to mention may not go in the first three rounds but I would not be surprised if their names are down on the final roster by the end of August before some of the players taken ahead of them.
I have based the players ranking on average from four top NFL sites.
Mark Herzlich, Linebacker, Boston College. Ranked 16th olb. 212 overall.
With Boston College searching for a star athlete to build around after quarterback Matt Ryan left for the Atlanta Falcons a year earlier, Herzlich responded, earning the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year award with an all-around season few linebackers could beat — 110 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two touchdowns off of his six interceptions, more than any linebacker in the country.
Herzlich considered leaving Boston College early for the NFL. He returned because he was enjoying the collegiate experience. Had he left, he would have been a first-round pick. After all, Herzlich was given the top grade among all senior prospects by National Football Scouting entering the 2009 draft.
Herzlich in May 2009 decided to investigate the pain he’d been experiencing in his left leg and was given shocking news by doctors. The pain was caused by a rare form of bone cancer, Ewing’s Sarcoma. Though the cancer has approximately a 70 percent recovery rate, the infection was in his left leg. Doctors cautioned that even if Herzlich survived, his football career was almost surely over. Instead, after seven months of chemotherapy and an additional five weeks of radiation, Herzlich was cancer-free.
Despite battling through various injuries that limited him from the time fall camp began, Herzlich played in all 12 regular-season games for the Eagles in 2010. He finished third on the team with 67 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Herzlich’s play improved as the season progressed, demonstrating he still has the knack for making big plays with four interceptions.
He might have proven he has ample fortitude and could be considered a second-round pick. But before any NFL team is willing to invest a draft selection in Herzlich, he will undergo a battery of tests performed by NFL team doctors. They’ll test for cancer and gauge the strength in his left leg, in which Herzlich had a titanium rod inserted to expedite his recovery.
John Moffitt. Offensive line, Wisconsin, Ranked 7th Guard. 137th overall.
Maybe you can find a well-spoken offensive lineman or two in every NFL locker room, but a loquacious one is as rare as a balmy January in Madison. Moffitt might be a walking sound bite, but the 42-game starter can play a little bit, too. He was a first-team All-American and consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection as a senior who has started more than 30 games at left guard and a handful at center. The 314-pounder won’t outrun many of his teammates at the next level, but his phone-booth quickness, mobility and footwork paint the picture of a longtime NFL starter. He’s better than expected on the move and against behemoth nose tackles and if he can quicken his step against three-technique pass rushers, Moffitt could be a Pro Bowl steal in the middle rounds.
Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio state. Ranked 22nd at WR, 185th overall.
Sanzenbacher is the type of player coaches want on a roster. A well-spoken and intelligent leader, he was a team captain in 2010. He was named team MVP and was the recipient of the Bo Rein Award as the Buckeye’s most inspirational player. Jim Tressel said the double-hardware was a first in his 25 years of coaching. Will catch anything that’s thrown his way.
Jon Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh, Ranked 7th at WR, 57th overall.
Baldwin is giant wide receiver that has the potential to develop into a starter at the next level. He is a speed builder that can get behind defensive backs and he quickly finds the ball in the air. He is a weapon over the middle, as he has strong reliable hands and the body control to make acrobatic catches in traffic. He is dangerous after the catch as he can run away from linebackers and over defensive backs. Baldwin has to refine his route running skills, but he could sneak into the first round due to his freakish measurables.
Tyler Sash, Safety, Iowa. Ranked 5th at safety, 94th overall.
One of the premiere underclassmen at the safety position is the University of Iowa’s Tyler Sash. In his first two seasons, he had 11 interceptions combined.
Sash has good speed and adequate size for the position, although he will need to add some weight when making the transition to the NFL.
His biggest asset as a safety is simply having great instincts and awareness for being in the right position at the right time. Sash is terrific in zone coverage and a more than capable tackler. Like most college safeties, he struggles in man to man coverage and lacks proper technique, but these are things that can be coached up in the NFL. He has a tendency to play downhill and tackles with a reckless abandon at times. Sash must continue to develop some of the finer tackling techniques rather than rely on collision tackling.
Greg Jones, Linebacker, Michigan State. Ranked 6th at LB, 86th overall.
Jones has been one of the most productive linebackers in college football over the last few seasons. He fits as a starting middle linebacker in a Tampa-2 or great backup with special teams upside. Displays outstanding effort and is fearless on the field. Flies around the field, whether pursuing the ball-carrier, rushing the passer, or dropping into coverage. A lot of coaching staffs would love to bring Jones’ work ethic and intangibles into their locker room.
Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, Nevada. Ranked 7th at QB. 63rd overall.
The morning after Colin Kaepernick finished one of the most productive careers for any college quarterback by winning a bowl game, he boarded a plane to Atlanta. This was no vacation. The Nevada quarterback spent seven weeks rigorously training, and we’re not talking sit-ups and biceps curls, He was training for the NFL combine, with a side trip to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl worked in. In that time, an interesting thing has happened to Kaepernick. He’s gone from an intriguing prospect and a spread-option quarterback from an off-the-radar school, 6-foot-6 with a strong arm and good wheels who might be selected in the mid-to-late rounds to a player who seems to have a legitimate shot to be picked in Round 1. It’s quite a rise for someone who passed up a chance to give pro baseball a shot out of high school so he could take the one and only football scholarship he was offered.