Top Under-the-Radar NFL Draft Prospects Entering 2013 Season
Fans of the NFL draft know all the hot names entering the 2013 season by now, but inevitably a number of under-the-radar prospects will rise up throughout the season.
Much of the rise and fall of draft prospects is related to injuries and playing time, making it difficult to predict, but the following slide show features eight prospects who are in position to potentially make a leap during the 2013 season.
Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Michigan's offense took off once Devin Gardner was inserted into the starting role last season, and he demonstrated flashes of NFL ability down the stretch.
Gardner is not a traditional quarterback and his skills are far from refined. However, he possesses the basic skill set that has led many quarterbacks to success in recent years.
Assuming the read-option offense remains an effective tool in the NFL, Gardner will be an intriguing prospect for teams to keep an eye on in 2013.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
Can a Heisman favorite really fly under the radar?
Miller may be one of the stars of college football, but the NFL draft talk still focuses on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater and Tajh Boyd.
Early in his career Miller was clearly a developmental prospect as a quarterback, but as his sophomore season wore on he began to settle into his role as a passer rather than a runner.
There are still obvious flaws in Miller's games, but few quarterbacks enter the league with his raw talent.
Urban Meyer doesn't have a great track record when it comes to developing NFL quarterbacks, but as pro offenses evolve, players such as Miller are becoming more valuable every year.
Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State
Excluding quarterbacks, Randy Moss is the only offensive skill position player from the MAC to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. But that could change if Dri Archer builds upon his breakout junior year.
Archer is an electric return specialist and will make an immediate impact in that facet of the game. However, NFL teams are also beginning to value the undersized slot-receiver/running back hybrid position.
The Rams overlooked Tavon Austin's size when selecting him in the first round in 2013, and another team could do the same with Archer.
Tyler Lockett, WR, Kansas State
Tyler Lockett was used sparingly in 2012, primarily due to the limitations of quarterback Collin Klein. However, Lockett is a candidate to take a significant leap forward in pros when surrounded by the right talent.
Lockett is a prototypical slot receiver and return specialist who could play a role similar to the one Randall Cobb has played in Green Bay.
He'll need to continue to develop in his junior year, specifically by refining his route running, but all signs point to Lockett emerging as a legitimate prospect.
Boseko Lokombo, LB, Oregon
Boseko Lokombo will play a significant role in replacing Dion Jordan in the Ducks defense, providing him an opportunity to raise his draft stock in 2013.
Like Jordan, Lokombo is long and lean, and slightly undersized for a traditional 3-4 outside linebacker or defensive end. However, he's an impressive athlete and the Ducks will be able to use him to create mismatches around the field.
NFL teams are slowly beginning to favor speed over size at linebacker in an effort to slow the new spread offenses, which gives athletes such as Lokombo an advantage on draft day.
Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina
It's tough for any South Carolina defender to earn recognition these days in the shadow of Jadeveon Clowney.
Quarles is a guy to watch in 2013, as his play has improved steadily throughout his career.
Blessed with an impressive blend of size and athleticism, Quarles can line up just about anywhere on the defensive line and may be a perfect fit in a hybrid defense at the next level.
With the frame to add some weight and play nose tackle, and the athleticism to play the 3-technique or 3-4 end, Quarles' versatility will certainly intrigue NFL teams when he enters the draft.
Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt
Andre Hal has been a known commodity as a return specialist throughout his career, but began to make significant strides as a corner in 2012.
Playing in the SEC, Hal has been battle tested and after another year of matching up with some of the game's top receivers, he should be ready for a smooth transition to the NFL.
Assuming his career trend holds true and he shows further development as a lockdown corner, Hal may begin to enter the first-round discussion by season's end.
Aundrey Walker, OT, USC
Aundray Walker is immensely talented, but has failed to live up to expectations and his limited production has often stemmed from an apparent lack of intensity and effort on the field.
This is a critical year for the junior, who is apparently in a battle for his job at left tackle.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Walker has been lining up at guard, which would be a significant demotion for the former top recruit.
While Walker's career has been spiraling downward, this could be the wake-up call he needs. If Walker finds the motivation to live up to expectations, he will quickly rise up draft boards again, regardless of whether he's lining up at guard or tackle.