All fans of the NFL are perfectly aware of just how great Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Matt Kalil were during their collegiate careers. They are the darlings of this year’s NFL draft, which takes place April 26-28. There have already been countless mock drafts compiled trying to predict the first round of selections from Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
For many fans, they are also very excited over whom their team will select in the next few rounds. There are certainly a number of great players who may not get called up to the stage in the first 32 picks, but have the chance to contribute to their franchise as a second-round selection. Every team in the league could use improvement in a number of areas on both sides of the ball, so picks outside the first round may be just as important and critical.
Here are five super-sleeper NFL draft picks who will likely be chosen outside the first round; however, fans should start getting ready to remember their names now.
The electric running back from Oregon has been wowing fans at Autzen for years. As fast as he appears on television, he looks even quicker when you watch him live. He has been on the outside of a few Heisman conversations, and he will certainly get his shot in the National Football League.
Initial concerns are somewhat common for a player like LaMichael James. He is too short and too small. He was not a traditional running back in college, and it will be tough for him to find success in the NFL, which is more fast-paced with smarter and more physical defenses.
However, we have witnessed a transformation in the running back position over the past few years. "All-purpose backs," as they are now referred to, usually possess great speed and the ability to catch and turn up field with impressive vision. Players such as Darren Sproles, Matt Forte and Reggie Bush have all shown how dangerous they can be in the receiving game. They have made a living catching screen passes and creating mismatches for linebackers on underneath crossing routes.
LaMichael James will be able to utilize his speed and add another offensive weapon to the team that selects him.
Nick Foles just finished an impressive career with the Arizona Wildcats in the Pac-12. He has been touted as a bright prospect with a very strong arm. The main questions from scouts are regarding his accuracy and tendency to overthrow receivers.
Fortunately for Foles, this draft is not nearly as stacked with quarterbacks as last year, so this may improve his placement. There are many teams in the league who want to develop their next starting signal-caller, or even draft a guy with solid leadership skills who is willing to learn a new system under a proven veteran.
The NFL as a “passing league” has been repeated countless times this past season, and a prospect with Foles’ arm strength will certainly draw attention from scouts and head coaches.
Andre Branch was a standout defensive end for Clemson in the ACC this past season. His ability to get after the quarterback resulted in impressive sack numbers as well as tackles for a loss.
Branch has also shown a quality that rings well with NFL head coaches: resiliency. He has proved he is able to bounce back after a bad game and put in effort in practice the week after, only to have a solid game the following Saturday. These traits are not taught on the practice field, so whichever team drafts Branch will be getting a competitor.
His ability to close on running backs should improve his draft position, as defensive coaches love to work with young agile defensive ends. Once he becomes integrated in to an NFL system, he will surely make waves in the pros.
Another solid defensive prospect, Melvin Ingram was a fan favorite during his time with the Gamecocks. He has been touted as a strong defensive end and outside linebacker with great size and agility.
He has a knack for getting after the quarterback ,which led to impressive sack totals while at South Carolina. Once he is playing in the NFL, Ingram must perfect his tackling fundamentals, because too often going for the explosive hit might be a setback.
He is known as a player who is good to work with, so improving his technique should not be a huge issue for any defensive coordinator.
If he can adapt to the speed of offenses and learn to be effective dropping into coverage, Ingram has the potential to be a solid defensive addition in the second round.
In a draft that lacks real depth at the running back position, Lamar Miller could be poised for a second-round selection. There have been comparisons to LeSean McCoy as an outside running threat with great speed and the ability to hit the edge quickly. Unfortunately, his performance running inside tackles is not as impressive.
He does have the strength to be an effective pass-blocker, which is now a basic requirement for most running backs of Miller’s size. With the various blitzing schemes executed by defenses, his capability to pick up line backers and safeties is important. When he gets the ball, his elusiveness in the open field can also not be understated.
Ultimately, Lamar Miller has the potential to be a second-round selection. If he can continue to improve on his strengths of making defenders miss tackles in the open field, he will have a role in the NFL. Furthermore, once he learns to be a more effective inside runner, teams will view him as a more complete running back. He does not have a big history in the receiving game, but has certainly shown evidence he can catch on the run and turn up field for yards.
Many teams have assuredly placed Miller on their charts for draft day.