2013 NFL Draft: Previewing the Best Players Likely to Go Undrafted
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
A few undrafted free agents make a strong impact each season in pro football.
And the 2013 NFL draft is no exception.
Just look at Vontaze Burfict's impact for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012. That's proof anyone can succeed when given an opportunity.
As for this draft season, one guy we'll check out ahead is Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy.
Stacy is a compact ball-carrier capable of slamming inside the trenches or slicing off tackle to get outside. He's also laterally agile and presents the athleticism to bounce around the edge, get upfield and force a defense to gang tackle.
Plus, he accumulates solid yards after contact and is a reliable checkdown option.
As previously mentioned, not many undrafted free agents who enter the league immediately dominate. But there are those capable of becoming gems that slip through the actual draft.
Zac Stacy: RB, Vanderbilt
It's quite easy to overlook Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy.
Coming from an SEC program that doesn't garner nearly as much exposure as some of its counterparts, the Commodores have seen a strong turnaround under James Franklin.
A large part of that immediate success is courtesy of Stacy.
He combined for 2,334 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns the past two seasons. Even more impressive is Stacy's 5.7 yards per carry average in that span. He's an explosive back who quickly gets downhill and possesses the lower-body strength to run over would-be tacklers.
There's also impressive agility that results in fast cuts and making defenders miss in open space. Factor in Stacy's pass-blocking skill set and the guy is a complete ball-carrier.
Kemal Ishmael: Safety, Central Florida
The 2012 college football season all came together for Central Florida's Kemal Ishmael.
He has been a sure tackler his entire career by logging 244 tackles, defending 12 passes and forcing three fumbles from 2009 through 2011.
This past season, though, he completed the defensive puzzle with 124 tackles, seven defended passes (three picks) and three forced fumbles. Ishmael was a turnover-generator and created opportunities because of sure tackles and keen field awareness.
Ishmael also has solid size for the position, as it allows him to roll down for run support or blanket a slot receiver man-to-man. When sinking back in a Cover 1 or 3, his instincts and dependable reactionary skills prove to make plays when needed.
In short, don't overlook Ishmael as he will make an impact when given an opportunity.
Cameron Lawrence: LB, Mississippi State
When we think defense in college football, rightfully, Alabama immediately comes to mind.
That said, linebacker Cameron Lawrence of Mississippi State brings an immense amount of potential.
Between 2011 and 2012, Lawrence compiled 243 tackles, six sacks, defended 13 passes and forced four fumbles. He plays all over the field, and has to, because Lawrence isn't the biggest or fastest.
His instincts, pre-snap anticipations and wherewithal of every developing play factors into his recent consistency. The deal-breaker entering 2012 was how Lawrence would perform with his stud college teammate Fletcher Cox leaving for the NFL.
Well, Lawrence pulled an encore this past campaign and deserves more recognition.
He's quick, a reliable tackler and has drastically improved against the pass and deciphering plays. And because of great athleticism, Lawrence's development will allow him to contribute as an outside linebacker—or if he loses 10-12 pounds—a safety.
Marquess Wilson: WR, Washington State
Marquess Wilson is an appealing prospect because the Washington State receiver possesses freakish athleticism.
Hauling in 82 passes for 1,388 yards with 12 touchdowns in 2011, Wilson's size and leaping ability paid extreme dividends for the Cougars.
This past season was on track to echo 2011, as Wilson snagged 52 receptions for 813 yards and five scores through nine games. And, he dominated the Oregon Ducks for 182 yards on 12 catches, including one score.
Then, character issues arose.
According to Graham Watson of Yahoo! Sports in December of 2012:
In November, Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson quit the team and wrote a letter alleging abuse by coach Mike Leach and his staff.
But it turned out Wilson didn't mean the things he said in the letter and was acting out of self-preservation.
In early January, Wilson then declared for the 2013 NFL draft, per Charles Whisnand the Porterville Recorder. So, he leaves college early and with some baggage as well.
At the same time, Wilson's potential development remains rather high given his athleticism, size and route-running.