NFL Late Round Gems and Priority Free Agents

Scott SerlesCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2008

I was simply going to title this article "Marcus Vick," but I am having a hard enough time getting anybody to read what I wrote as it is. 

Then I thought about calling it "The Oakland Raiders Suck!" so I will be guaranteed at least 3,500 views on Bleacher Report, which is funny because the bulk of my articles involve the St. Louis Rams, a team that has won a championship in the last 10 years.  Call me bitter...

So this article is simply called "NFL Late Round Gems and Priority Free Agents"—another list by yours truly of 10 players who will either be late round draft picks or undrafted priority free agents who I believe could one day end up in Honolulu.

A little background about myself first. I have sat glued to the TV since I was seven years old watching the NFL Draft. Every year it seems I wait and wait for that one college player who I think could make a difference in the NFL. I wait and I wait and I wait...You get the picture.

The first time I remember this happening was in the mid-80's, waiting for Oklahoma Sooner option quarterback and all around  bad-ass Jamelle Holieway to be drafted. It never happened. I was young and naive at the time, but I really believed there was a place in the NFL for an option QB. I still think he would have been a great punt returner.

A bit more recently, I waited for former Ohio State wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo to be selected. I honestly didn't think I was going to wait all that long. Heck, The Sporting News even had him going in the first round in their annual draft guide's mock draft. He went in the seventh.

In 2006, it was Marcus Vick. I thought Vick was a good college quarterback and I still believe he could make it as a returner or a receiver in the NFL, but the guy simply can't stay out of trouble.

Last year Notre Dame running back Darius Walker declared early for the draft and wound up undrafted. He did end up signing with Houston and he actually played pretty well down the stretch for the Texans.

So here is my list. I believe all 10 of these players to be decent pro prospects, but for one reason or another they will go undrafted or picked right before Mr. Irrelevant himself.

A quick reminder: Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, Willie Parker and Green Bay Packers surprise Ryan Grant all went undrafted.


1. Tony Temple, RB, Missouri

Temple will get overlooked because of his measurables and his lack of breakaway speed, although he was a very productive college back.

In this year's Cotton Bowl against Arkansas, Temple saved his best performance for last, breaking the Cotton Bowl record for yards gained in a single game. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were the marquee names, but Temple ran away with the show.

Temple's hard-nosed running style might get him a look on draft day, but his lack of elite speed tells me that I shouldn't hold my breath. I will probably end up scouring that section in the newspaper that lists NFL transactions and free agent signing a few days after the draft has concluded.


2. Darnell Jenkins, WR, Miami

In the tradition of Rambo, Vick, and Darius Walker, this guy is the reason I will be watching the entire draft. Jenkins is a personal favorite whose toughness and game speed should warrant a late round pick.

However, a 2006 knee injury, a pedestrian 40 time, and a few dropped passes may cause a few teams to take him off their draft boards.

Big mistake.

Critics argue that he wasn't a very productive college receiver, but did anyone notice who was throwing him the ball during his tenure at "The U?" Kyle Wright, Kirby Freeman, and Brock Berlin. Those three would make Wes Welker look unproductive.

I pray that Jenkins is a Ram by the end of April 27, 2008.


3. Zackary Bowman, CB, Nebraska

This guy was a first round lock before tearing his ACL in 2006 and his patellar tendon last season. Now, it looks as if he could go undrafted altogether.

If Bowman is fully recovered, he has the size, instincts, and quickness to be a shut down NFL corner...but that is a big if.

There will be a team out there who takes a flyer on him on potential alone, and if (there is that word if again) he is at 100 percent, I could see him playing in Hawaii at the Pro-Bowl one day.


4. Shannon Boatman, OT, Florida State

The guy is massive, 6-foot-6, 320 lbs. and is very strong at the point of attack. With all of the terrible offensive lineman who suited up for NFL teams last season, the Rams alone started such notables the likes of Brandon Gorin, Claude Terrell, Milford Brown, and Nick Leckey. All of them at the same time during a few games last season, hence the 3-13 record.

If those four clowns can earn an NFL check, somebody is going to have to give this monster of man a roster spot. Now it is a question of just how badly he wants it, which is the reason why he may be selected so late in the first place.


5. Louis Rankin, RB, Washington

I have always been impressed with Rankin's speed and his hands out of the backfield. When he ran it often times looked like the opposing defenders were running in slow motion. He glides.

The one concern I have is that he played in the Pac-10, a notoriously week conference in terms of defense. So is he really that good or were the other teams' defenses just that bad?

Regardless, he will probably go undrafted. He is not very strong and kind of reminds me of the football version of JD Drew in terms of playing hurt.  

With that said, I think he could end up being an excellent kick returner for some team down the road. Preferably a Midwestern team who wears blue and gold with horns on their helmets. Anyway I digress.


6. Brandon Coutu, PK, Georgia

Kickers rarely get much love on draft day, but a good kicker can sometimes be the difference between your team being 10-6 in the playoffs or 8-8 playing golf. 

Ask the 2006 Rams, who went 8-8 and were beat twice by last second field goals from Seahawk kicker Josh Brown.

Coutu was clutch for the Bulldogs, every year it seemed like he made the long field goal to ice the game for Georgia. 

Rarely do I pay attention to kickers—most of us don't. Coutu really stood out in my mind when I think of great college kickers. Come to think of it, besides Mike Nugent of Ohio State fame who now kicks for the Jets and Steve Christie (William & Mary), Coutu is the only collegiate place kicker I can remember.

(As a side note, Josh Brown was recently signed by the Rams to be their kicker.)


7. Glen Sharpe, CB, Miami

It seems to me that Sharpe had been at Miami for a decade. He has had a ton of injuries (knee, hamstring), but when he was on the field, it looked like he had NFL potential.

Sharpe has good size to match up against the bigger NFL receivers and the closing speed to gamble and cover the Steve Smith's of the world. To me, he is the prototypical NFL corner.

On draft day, the injury concerns will raise a red flag and Sharpe may go undrafted. If he can catch on with a team where he can eventually end up on the practice squad and be taught the nuances of the position, Sharpe could end up a solid pro.


8. Jack Ikegwuonu, CB, Wisconsin

"Ike" as he is known as to Badger fans and local police alike, had the misfortune of tearing his ACL after declaring for the draft. That incident, coupled with an arrest and a criminal case pending for a burglary charge, has sent this one-time first round pick spiraling down draft boards.

When healthy and not behind bars, Ike was one of the premier corners in the country. Because of that talent I could see a team on draft day rolling the dice on Ike. 

Heck, even Jimmy Johnson once gambled on Cecil "The Diesel" Collins on draft day. I imagine someone will give Ike a look and, if they are patient,(hopefully they don't have to be too patient, like a three to five year bid patient), he could one day end up with Bowman in the Pro-Bowl.


9. Kirk Barton, OT, Thee Ohio State University

Did you honestly think you were going to make it through one of my lists without me mentioning a Buckeye? (By the way they signed Terrelle Pryor, so sorry Michigan.) Anyway, Barton was a four-year starter at an elite college program; he will get some looks.

Barton's weakness is his footwork, which is slow and was exposed in the National Championship game against Florida. He will need time to develop and may be a practice squad player his rookie year. A move to guard may also be beneficial.

With the lack of offensive line depth league-wide, Barton should carve out a nice niche for himself somewhere in the NFL. He is just going to have to wait a while to hear his name on draft day, if he hears it at all.


10. Brent Schaeffer, QB, Ole Miss

I don't know if this guy is on any NFL team's radar, but he should be. For those of you who don't remember Schaeffer, a.k.a. "Little Vick", he was once the starting quarterback at the University of Tennessee, where he started as a freshman and was considered one of the most exciting players in the county. During his brief stint at Tennessee, he was actually ahead of the Vols Erik Ainge on the depth chart when they were both true freshman.

An on-campus fracas got him booted from the Volunteers and he ended up playing at a JUCO, eventually becoming the prize recruit for newly crowned Rebels head coach Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss.

For two seasons at Ole Miss, Schaeffer played behind an awful O-line and was never able to show the promise he displayed at Tennessee. He was even briefly benched last season in favor of Seth Adams. Seth Adams?!

With quarterback play in the NFL at an all-time low, teams are falling over themselves to sign Gus Frerotte. Schaeffer's mobility and laser arm could surprise more than a few NFL teams in desperate need of a QB. 

If Kordell Stewart could start in the NFL, and with some team likely to draft Erik Ainge, someone should take a serious look at #7. He is better than both of them ever were or are ever going to be.

He most likely will end up in the AFL or Canada, but I will be watching every pick glued to the TV, just like I have for every draft since I was seven, hoping someone will call out his name.


Scott Serles


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