2014 NFL Draft: 8 Prospects Flying Under the Radar Before the Season Begins
The 2013 college football season is creeping up, which means that the NFL draft buzz will start up again as fans and scouts start preparing and focusing on the new campaign, trying to find those under-the-radar prospects who could break out like Eric Fisher did last year.
There are so many draft-eligible prospects, and with more and more underclassmen declaring for the draft, it is overwhelming to try and keep tabs on everyone in September and October.
But scouts will be pouring over tape, attempting to find guys who had been flying under the radar but could make an impact in the NFL.
While it is nearly impossible to predict who some of those up-and-coming players might be, I've decided to give it my best shot.
Combining overlooked players on major programs and sleepers on smaller teams, I compiled a list of eight overlooked players heading into the 2013 college football season who could be flying up draft boards come December.
James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan of Michigan may be the top two tackle prospects heading into the season, but James Hurst could challenge their rankings at the top.
Hurst has prototypical size at 6'6", 305 lbs., and he has started all but two games since arriving in Chapel Hill. The senior brings a lot to the table both on and off the field and could be a first-round pick next spring.
Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
While I think that the premise of this article is a little ambitious and will not prove to be correct, the overriding point is still a valid one: Aaron Lynch is a legitimate elite NFL defensive end prospect.
As a freshman in 2011, Lynch was a dynamic pass-rusher for Notre Dame. He then made the surprising decision to transfer to USF in order to be close to home. He had to take a year off, and therefore fell off the national radar.
But look for him to come back with a bang in 2013.
Malcolm Mitchell, WR/CB, Georgia
As a true freshman, Malcolm Mitchell was voted a Freshman All-SEC wideout after catching 45 passes for 665 yards and four touchdowns.
But then because of injuries and suspensions, Mitchell trained last summer with the defense and started three games at cornerback for UGA before switching back to receiver.
Mitchell also led the team in kickoff returns as a sophomore. He'll be back as a full-time receiver in 2013, and the ultra-quick junior could entice NFL teams looking for an explosive returner and deep threat in the passing game.
Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
Colt Lyerla isn't the best player at his position in his own conference. And, lining up alongside Marcus Mariota and DeAnthony Thomas, he may only be the third-best NFL prospect on his own offense.
Still, Lyerla has the talent to be a first-round pick.
The tight end is 6'5" of pure athleticism. He comes into his junior season somewhat raw, but possesses tantalizing traits that will have NFL scouts paying extra close attention to Oregon's offense this year.
Quandre Diggs, CB, Texas
After a disappointing 2012 campaign, the Texas Longhorns are being somewhat overlooked for the first time in recent memory. Their secondary took a big blow when Kenny Vaccaro left for the NFL, but Quandre Diggs will try to pick up the slack.
Diggs will be taking over Vaccaro's spot as the nickel back in Texas' famed 4-2-5 defense. He is athletic and combines quickness and physicality, which give him an extremely high ceiling as a defensive back.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Marqise Lee and Sammy Watkins might be the most hyped receiver prospects this year, but Allen Robinson has the tools to be a good NFL receiver some day.
Robinson had a breakout sophomore campaign last year, leading the Big Ten with 77 receptions, 1,013 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's 6'3" with long arms and an athleticism that could help him get taken in the first couple of rounds.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The popularity and value of quarterbacks continue to rise exponentially, and teams are always looking to add and develop signal-callers.
Fresno State's Derek Carr, younger brother of former Bulldog and No. 1 overall pick David Carr, has been overlooked after tearing up the WAC and MWC.
The rising senior had a phenomenal 2012 season, completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards and 37 touchdowns while throwing only seven interceptions. He will move way up draft boards if he continues to improve his mechanics and decision-making.
Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
Andrew Jackson has been a stalwart in the middle of Western Kentucky's defense for two seasons now after missing his freshman year with an injury.
Jackson is a fierce competitor who comes into the 2013 season at a sturdy 6'1", 265 lbs. He was first-team All-Sun Belt each of the past two seasons, leading the team in tackles both years and showcasing a hard-hitting, downhill style that was NFL-ready had he declared for the 2012 draft.
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