2013 NFL Draft: 5 Hidden Gems You Need to Know Now
It happens in every NFL draft. A team will select someone from a lesser known school who turns out to be a solid NFL player. Or even a legitimate star.
Players like these can be found at the East vs. West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.
Yes...the scouts, coaches and general managers will flock en masse to the Pro Days at Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Texas, Notre Dame and schools of that caliber.
But they will also keep their eye out for talent in lesser numbers at the Pro Days for schools in conferences like the Mountain West, Mid American, Conference USA and Western Athletic.
Speaking of those conferences, I've selected five players who will be chosen in the 2013 draft that people should get to know, just in case they haven't seen them in action.
All five players look to have a future in the NFL.
DE Margus Hunt (SMU)
Margus Hunt NFL Player Comparison
Margus Hunt had a nice senior year for SMU, as he had 28 tackles, six sacks, one interception, two pass deflections and three blocked kicks in the regular season. Hunt followed that up with a great performance in the Hawaii Bowl against Fresno State, as he had a sack for a safety, plus two forced fumbles in a 43-10 win for the Mustangs.
Hunt is still raw, but he keeps improving. He has excellent speed for his size, a massive 82-inch wing span and was named to the 2012 All-Conference USA first-team.
Hunt is sort of the modern day version of Ted Hendricks with his kick-blocking ability. He blocked 17 kicks in his career at SMU.
As of right now, Hunt looks to be either a second or third-round selection.
WR Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech)
Bob Levey/Getty Images
Quinton Patton had a monster senior year for Louisiana Tech, as he caught 104 passes for 1,392 yards and 13 touchdowns.
This was after he had 79 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns in his junior year.
Patton was named to the 2012 All-WAC first-team and the 2012 AP All-American second-team.
He looks to be drafted in the third or fourth round.
OT Brian Winters (Kent State)
Dave Reginek/Getty Images
Brian Winters was named All-MAC first-team this season for Kent State, who are currently 11-2 and will be playing in the GoDaddy.com Bowl versus Arkansas State on January 6th.
Winters has been an All-Conference selection for three straight years at Kent State. This season, he helped lead an offensive line for the Golden Flashes that allowed only three sacks in their last eight games, plus helped produce two 1,000-yard rushers for Kent State.
Winters will be playing at the Senior Bowl and will likely be selected on the third day of the draft.
S Duke Williams (Nevada)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Duke Williams had a nice senior year for Nevada as he had 100 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, eight passes broken up and three forced fumbles.
In the two previous seasons for the Wolf Pack, Williams totaled 157 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 10 passes broken up, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Williams was a a second-team All-Mountain West Conference selection in 2012.
The hard-hitting safety will be attending the NFL Combine in February; look for him to be selected between the third and fourth rounds in the draft.
S Phillip Thomas (Fresno State)
Kevin Casey/Getty Images
Phillip Thomas led the nation in interceptions this year with eight. Three of those picks were returned for touchdowns.
Thomas also had 82 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up and four forced fumbles.
He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award and was named to the AP All-American first-team.
The ball-hawking safety looks to be selected somewhere between the second and fourth rounds of the draft.