Fans of the NFL's worst teams in 2013 are salivating at the opportunity to land a top prospect in the 2014 NFL draft, but the best players don't always come into the league with the most hype.
There are some incredible players coming into the NFL in 2014 who haven't gotten the same kind of attention as the big guns like Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins.
But their time is coming.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy is beginning to gain traction as a viable first-round pick after going largely unnoticed for most of the 2013 season.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller recently made a bold statement, putting Ealy into the Top 10 of his Big Board:
RE: Kony Ealy in my Top 10. He's played very well against NFL-caliber tackles and has size/speed to be special. I'd draft him early.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) December 9, 2013
His teammate, Michael Sam, was hyped more throughout the regular season. Ealy stepped up his game in the second half as a disruptive pass-rusher, though he was credited with just six sacks.
Physically, he's got ideal size, athleticism and speed to become a veritable nightmare off the edge. At 6'5" and 275 pounds, he's one inch taller and ten pounds heavier than former Missouri stud Aldon Smith, who's become a premier pass-rusher for the San Francisco 49ers.
It won't be long before Ealy is being touted as a top-10 or even top-five pick by the major networks. Once he hits the combine and shows off his freakish athleticism, power and speed, guys like Mike Mayock won't stop talking (and drooling) about his potential.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
The 2014 draft class runs deep at the wide receiver position.
As a result, Allen Robinson hasn't gotten much national attention for the fine season he had at Penn State—not to mention his potential to become a superstar at the next level.
He isn't a physically imposing receiver like Vincent Jackson or Calvin Johnson, but at 6'3" and 205 pounds, Robinson possesses enough size to have an advantage over most defensive backs.
He isn't the fastest guy on the field, either.
Nobody should be surprised if he doesn't crack 4.50 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is likely one of the reasons he's not getting as much hype as some of the other top receivers.
However, Robinson is a technician at running routes, he has enough strength to get off the line, gaining instant separation, and he possesses sure hands. He's a Marques Colston-esque receiver who will become a quarterback's favorite target early in his career.
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
You're not going to find AJ McCarron on many first-round mock drafts heading into the 2014 NFL draft, but he's got the potential to become a phenomenal NFL quarterback.
Running a pro-style system in Alabama the past three years, McCarron isn't some raw prospect with a cannon for an arm—he's a polished pocket passer and an effective leader with above-average physical tools to get the job done.
Think Andy Dalton with a slightly stronger arm and a penchant for making excellent decisions under pressure.
When will McCarron be drafted?
Over the course of his four-year college career, McCarron put together outstanding numbers, passing for 8,632 yards with 75 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 67 percent of his passes.
Along the way, he won two national championships and learned how to lead a team that expected to win every game it played.
McCarron won't put up jaw-dropping numbers in any combine events, but neither did Joe Montana or Tom Brady (not that I'm comparing him to them, mind you). Given a chance to perform on Sundays, however, the underrated quarterback will thrive.
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