2012 NFL Mock Draft: Identifying the Draft's 5 Most Unappreciated Players
The commissioner had the card in his hand. He was walking to the podium. This was the one. Was it going to be Cam Jordan, Mark Ingram, or maybe Adrian Clayborn? Patriots fans around the world could just feel that a big-name player was coming to New England with the 17th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Patriots fans thought they were getting a big name. What they ended up with was a big human being, all 80 inches of former Colorado left tackle Nate Solder...and a large glass of disappointment.
What started out as shock soon turned to awe as Solder turned into a key part of New England's offense in the 2011 season.
From our 2012 NFL Mock Draft, we've highlighted five players like Solder who may be under-appreciated on draft day but could make huge impacts come game time.
3. Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
Blockers don't do touchdown dances very often. However, your favorite running back won't be doing any either if his linemen don't get the job done up front.
As we stated in our mock draft, Reiff is an impeccably coached prospect. He rarely has mental lapses, and Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle has done an impressive job adding weight and muscle to the former 245-pound defensive end.
Reiff bends well and has the athleticism to keep up with top pass-rushers in the league. If he can improve his punch in the run game, I see him being a perennial Pro Bowl selection.
The last Iowa offensive lineman to go be picked in the top five—Robert Gallery was picked second overall in 2004— didn't exactly have a great start to his career, although he has certainly been an above-average player for the last five years.
The Iowa lineman brand has been on the upswing again lately. Bryan Bulaga was picked by the Green Bay Packers in the 2010 NFL Draft and contributed greatly to their Super Bowl championship season.
17. Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)
We just stated that fans shouldn't take offensive linemen for granted. The running backs they are blocking for aren't all created equally as well.
Fans see Reggie Bush catching the ball out of the backfield, Chris Johnson breaking off big runs and Frank Gore moving the chains. What they don't often see is a guy who can do all three of those things.
With Doug Martin you are getting a complete running back. In addition to running and catching, Martin can also do the one thing you have to do to stay on the field as a rookie running back: block.
In our film study, Martin picked up blitzers with ease. He made the correct shift time and time again, while delivering the blow to the rushers rather than taking them himself.
While Martin's name doesn't have the "pop" of Lamar Miller or Chris Polk, fans will soon fall in love with the style of his play.
23. Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Not a single snap on offense happens without a center, and they just don't get the love that they should. They are hard to spot on TV and rarely get mentioned unless they made a big mistake. It is time for fans to take notice of the quarterback of their offensive line.
Konz made all the line calls for one of the most prolific offensive lines in college football last year. He is a smart run blocker and rarely makes mistakes in pass protection.
He has the quickness and change-of-direction skills to open up holes against linebackers on the second level, while possessing the necessary strength to anchor at the point of attack.
If Konz passes his physicals at the combine—he has had some ankle and blood clot issues—he will have a big impact for one lucky NFL team in 2012.
27. Fletcher Cox (DL, Mississippi State)
Boston media members grew fat on crow after panning the selection of former Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour. Hopefully they have learned their lesson.
Cox is another 3-4 defensive end prospect who, while only having five sacks in 2011, can have an immediate impact on the New England defense. He has the size, length and first step to demand double teams playing outside or inside.
30. Alfonzo Dennard (CB/S, Nebraska)
After Senior Bowl practices concluded, Dennard was widely mentioned as someone who "lost money" in Mobile.
That will happen when a press corner is forced to play out of his comfort zone in "off" coverage. Dennard has a nastiness to his game that manifests in jamming the receiver, something that is simultaneously his biggest asset and weakness.
If Dennard can learn to play under control, he has the skills necessary to play corner or safety at the next level.
Our one-round 2012 NFL Mock Draft:
|1.||Indianapolis Colts||Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)||17.||Cincinnati Bengals||Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)|
|2.||St. Louis Rams||Matt Kalil (OT, USC)||18.||San Diego Chargers||Nick Perry (DE, USC)|
|3.||Minnesota Vikings||Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)||19.||Chicago Bears||Michael Brockers (DL, LSU)|
|4.||Cleveland Browns||Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor||20.||Tennessee Titans||Devon Still (DL, Penn State)|
|5.||Tampa Bay Bucs||Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)||21.||Cincinnati Bengals||Janoris Jenkins (CB, N. Alabama)|
|6.||Washington Redskins||Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)||22.||Cleveland Browns||Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)|
|7.||Jacksonville Jaguars||Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)||23.||Detroit Lions||Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)|
|8.||Carolina Panthers||Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)||24.||Pittsburgh Steelers||Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)|
|9.||Miami Dolphins||Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)||25.||Denver Broncos||Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)|
|10.||Buffalo Bills||Dont'a Hightower (LB, Alabama)||26.||Houston Texans||Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina)|
|11.||KC Chiefs||Courtney Upshaw (LB, Alabama)||27.||New England Patriots||Fletcher Cox (DL, MSU)|
|12.||Seattle Seahawks||Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)||28.||Green Bay Packers||Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)|
|13.||Arizona Cardinals||Mike Adams (OT, Ohio State)||29.||Baltimore Ravens||Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)|
|14.||Dallas Cowboys||David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)||30.||San Francisco 49ers||Alfonzo Dennard (DB, Nebraska)|
|15.||Philadelphia Eagles||Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College||31.||New England Patriots||Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)|
|16.||New York Jets||Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)||32.||New York Giants||Chase Minnifield (CB, Virginia)|