NFL Combine 2013: Potentially Undrafted Rookies You Can't Afford to Miss Seeing
Each year, some undrafted prospects will make a strong impact as rookies in the NFL.
Arizona State's Vontaze Burfict is a prime example from 2012, because he ended up as the Cincinnati Bengals' leading tackler.
A year earlier, Stanford receiver Doug Baldwin went undrafted and was picked up by the Seattle Seahawks. He finished as the team's leading receiver in yards, touchdowns and receptions.
So, we can't discount the efforts of any college star with NFL potential.
One guy we'll check out ahead is Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson. In a draft that doesn't present any top-10 prospects at running back, that lumps most into the middle rounds. Factor in pro football as a pass-oriented league and it's easy for Jefferson to go unnoticed.
And he's not the only one who will during this draft season.
Sean Renfree: QB, Duke
Sean Renfree didn't put up any sparkling numbers for the Duke Blue Devils during his tenure, but he was consistently reliable and efficient with decision-making.
Between 2011 and 2012, Renfree completed 66.1 percent of his attempts and tossed 33 touchdowns to 21 picks. Possessing good size and strength for the position, Renfree reads well when dropping back from under center and displays a solid play-fake.
He's also more mobile than given credit for and brings the power to make every NFL throw.
While he does need to cut down on turnovers and develop a quicker release, the accuracy and zip reside to earn a look from pro football.
Stefphon Jefferson: RB, Nevada
Playing in a limited role early in his career at Nevada, running back Stefphon Jefferson obviously goes overlooked.
However, he exploded throughout the 2012 college football campaign and led the Wolfpack to a 7-6 record that included three one-point losses.
On the year, Jefferson racked up 1,883 rushing yards and averaged five yards per attempt. Additionally, he accounted for 170 receiving yards on 22 catches and scored 25 total touchdowns.
Much of that consistency can be attributed to his impressive vision and patience when receiving a handoff. Thereafter, Jefferson provides the acceleration to dart through a lane and the downhill attitude to punish defenders.
Because he had just one great season in a non-BCS conference, however, it won't be surprising to see him go undrafted. That said, whatever the case and whichever team gives Jefferson an opportunity will not be disappointed.
Marquess Wilson: WR, Washington State
Marquess Wilson supplies any team with a deep threat and competitive advantage in the red zone.
Totaling 2,394 receiving yards on 137 receptions including 18 scores between 2010 and 2011, Wilson shredded Pac-12 defenses.
He then had caught 52 passes for 813 yards and five scores in 2012 before character issues arose, as explained in an article by Graham Watson of Yahoo! Sports:
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.
On the bright side, Wilson appears to have held himself accountable, per Chris Daniels of NBC King 5 in Seattle in early January:
BREAKING: Pac-12 quotes Wilson "I definitely could have used a different word." Acknowledged mother/stepfather gave "ideas" for letter. #WSU— Chris Daniels (@ChrisDaniels5) January 8, 2013
With the ability to out-jump defenders one-on-one and sift through Cover 2 zones, Wilson has the talent to make an impact. Although, it will be interesting to see his development to the demands of what pro football requires for success.
Jake Knott: LB, Iowa State
Iowa State's Jake Knott is a complete player.
While suiting up for the Cyclones, Knott amassed 324 tackles, eight picks, 22 defended passes and forced 10 fumbles from 2010 through 2012.
The guy simply made plays all over the field.
Though he is an experienced defender with proven consistency in the Big 12, Knott does need to get quicker laterally and react faster to the run. But his size bodes well to fit as a 3-4 inside 'backer or 4-3 outside 'backer, which will help teams improve against the run.
Also, his nose for finding the rock and handling blockers to free up fellow linebackers will benefit in the trenches. Provided Knott can utilize his hands better to prevent from getting blocked, he should develop quickly.
While that development remains in progress, put him in a limited role of a front seven and Knott will produce quite well.
Mike Edwards: CB, Hawaii
Even though Hawaii's Mike Edwards comes in somewhat undersized, the guy possesses nickel/dime back potential as a rookie.
For the Warriors between 2011 and 2012, Edwards defended 29 passes and made 86 tackles.
Not bad given his size and for how often he was challenged by stronger and bigger receivers. Then again, Hawaii also finished the 2012 season ranked No. 14 in pass defense and allowed only a 54.8 completion percentage.
Edwards will also help on special teams quite a bit.
He returned 44 kickoffs for 1,086 yards in 2011 and one-upped himself in 2012. That season, Edwards logged 1,215 kickoff return yards and averaged 30.4 per attempt with three touchdowns.
However, there were some character concerns a few years ago regarding Edwards, according to the Associated Press via ESPN.com in November of 2009:
Two of three Tennessee freshman football players charged last week in an attempted armed robbery have been dismissed from the team.
[Lane] Kiffin [Volunteers' head coach at the time] said wide receiver Nu'Keese Richardson, 18, and defensive back Mike Edwards, 18, were permanently dismissed from the team.
Clearly is appears that Edwards has gotten back on the correct path since joining the Warriors. We can only hope that remains with a potential opportunity in pro football.