The NFL draft never ceases to surprise us. Each year, one team or another shakes up the mountains of mock drafts by taking a player earlier than most expected. Sometimes way earlier.
It's not uncommon for teams to throw an unexpected wild card down for their own pick, and other times they make a curious trade up to grab a player out of nowhere.
This year’s draft class contains a few players in particular who could be selected earlier than they should by being first-round picks.
Here are five of those players.
Because of the premium placed on quarterbacks in the NFL, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler could be one of the biggest reaches in the first round this year.
The 6’7”, 242-pound signal caller has unique size for the position. Along with his rare height, he has a coveted skill set of an NFL quarterback—a strong, accurate arm, an ability to see downfield and surprising athleticism. Being only 21 years old, Osweiler has a very high, if not unknown ceiling.
His potential "boggles the minds of some scouts,” according to CBS Sports.
Bill Parcells noted on SportsCenter that he’s been “hard-pressed” to find a player to compare with Osweiler. As a result of the mystique behind the big passer, one team will make a play for him before others can.
However, Osweiler only started 15 games in college and is clearly a developmental project at this point. He has a tremendous amount of raw talent, but currently he’s not ready to contribute at the next level.
First-round picks generally—though not always—do more than sit and learn, and that’s what Osweiler is going to do in his rookie season. Whether a team uses its original first-round pick on him or makes a trade to go up and grab him, he could end up being a huge reach in Round 1.
New England’s dynamic tight end pairing of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez has created a knee-jerk reaction by NFL draft gurus.
According to all the mock drafts and analysis saturating the web, teams are flocking to Stanford’s Coby Fleener because of his athleticism, which became evident at his pro day.
He ran an unofficial sub-4.5 forty time and put up 27 reps on the bench. Just like that, he bypassed Clemson’s Dwayne Allen as this year’s top tight end prospect.
Fleener is a great prospect and possesses all of the flashy athletic qualities that teams are now looking for in pass-catching tight ends. He’s big, strong, fast and has great hands.
But depending on where he goes, will he be utilized enough to justify the high pick?
Remember, Gronkowski was selected 42nd overall (second round) and his partner in crime, Aaron Hernandez, went 113th overall (fourth round).
Green Bay’s Jermichael Finley went 91st overall (third round) and New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham went 95th overall (third round).
Fleener, meanwhile, could go as high as the 20s in Round 1. For a tight end who still needs to hone his blocking and route-running skills, that is really high.
This all might suggest that teams have learned from letting these types of players drop in the draft. But on the other hand, it also shows that these are luxury types of players who must be properly utilized in their respective systems in order to showcase their unique skills.
It’s safe to say that Bill Belichick, Sean Payton and Mike McCarthy are all well-respected and intelligent offensive-minded coaches who use strategy just as much as player strengths when it comes to fully utilizing these players.
Based on all of this, Fleener is likely to be over-drafted, while some of the more underrated tight ends that could be just as productive in the NFL (Allen, Ladarius Green, Michael Egnew) could slip and be available in the later rounds.
The run on defensive tackles is going to start early this year, and that means one team will be desperate to grab Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy.
Worthy, who measured in at 6’2” and 308 pounds at the combine, gained a little bit of momentum after his strong pro day. With nearly every NFL club represented, the defensive tackle put up 28 reps on the bench, which is quite good considering his 33” arms.
The measurables are there, but Worthy’s production is not fully convincing.
While he is a big, strong and athletic lineman, NFL.com notes that Worthy can become neutralized by double-teams, and Sporting News points out that he shows poor balance and a lack of natural explosion. Rotoworld.com even suggests that he sometimes struggles to beat single blocks.
He has a good amount of upside, but there is bust potential with Worthy. Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes with draft prospects, but for a first-round defensive tackle expected to make a big impact on the line, it’s not an ideal situation.
Worthy’s true value is somewhere in Round 2, but because of need, he will be a Thursday night pick.
Syracuse’s defensive end Chandler Jones has risen in most mock drafts this week, as he’s now being considered as one of the top pass-rushers in the class.
Both seem a little bit high for Jones, who could have a hard time finding a permanent position at the next level.
Jones has intriguing size at 6’5” and 266 pounds with impressive length (35.5” arms). He possesses great hand work and decent speed off the edge, and it seems like his best fit will be at left defensive end in a 4-3 system, as opposed to an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
However, Jones still needs to improve as a run defender, since “he is a long strider who takes too many steps” and he “looks lost at times when diagnosing run plays,” according to NFL.com.
There’s a high ceiling for Jones, but he may be a reach if taken before players like Courtney Upshaw and other defensive line prospects. With an average college resume, he may need a year or two to really develop, which makes him a better value later in Round 1 or early in Round 2.
This isn’t a knock on Kendall Reyes as a player. He has a pretty strong overall skill set and should be a productive player in the NFL.
At the same time, there’s nothing exceptional about his game, and because of the run on defensive tackles, he may go earlier than he should.
Considering that players like Fletcher Cox, Michael Brockers, Dontari Poe, Devon Still and Jerel Worthy could all come off the board before him in Round 1, Reyes will be the next in line and may get the call sooner than later.
Like Worthy, Reyes has more second-round value as he will likely be a rotational tackle used to establish depth on his team’s defensive line. He’s a better run defender than he is a pass-rusher. And to be fair, he is a consistent player with a high motor.
But Reyes will need to bulk up to fill out his frame in the pros. He’s currently 6’4” and 299 pounds. As a result, he will often be overmatched in the interior and could struggle to overcome double-teams. His 36 reps on the bench help his stock, but more mass will be necessary for him to grow as an NFL player.
A late first-round selection will be a slight reach, but not a huge one.