5 Under-the-Radar Prospects Who Could Be Top-10 Picks
It's only January, but we already know most of the names who will be considered by the teams selecting in the top 10 of this year's draft.
But as the draft process wears on, inevitably a handful of names who are currently only on the fringe of the public conversation will emerge as strong candidates to be among the top 10 prospects off the board.
With that in mind, here are five prospects currently considered top-10 long-shots who could begin to "rise" up draft boards in the coming months.
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
It's tough to call the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award winner an under-the-radar prospect, but he's been a late riser in terms of how he's viewed as an NFL prospect.
Dennard lacks the speed and agility of the typical elite defensive back prospect, which generated modest expectations for him entering his senior year.
In 2013, however, Dennard elevated his physical style of play to a new level and his draft stock has risen considerably as a result.
The combine will still be crucial to his placement in the draft, because many teams will expect a first-round cornerback to meet certain minimal physical requirements. But a strong performance could push Dennard to the top of many team boards at cornerback and potentially into the top 10 overall on draft day.
Top 10 teams potentially interested: Browns, Lions
Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Greg Robinson is just a redshirt sophomore, but he has been one of the fastest rising draft prospects of the 2013 season.
Originally recruited as a guard, Robinson was moved to left tackle and plugged in as a starter as a redshirt freshman in 2012. He's steadily developed in the two years since and is now on the verge of being a top pick in the NFL draft.
Offensive line is one of the deepest positions in this year's draft, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly where Robinson stands at this very early stage of the process. However, it's safe to assume that, despite entering the season off the radar, Robinson will be in the mix to be one of the first linemen selected should he enter the draft.
Top 10 teams potentially interested: Rams, Falcons, Buccaneers, Lions
Zach Martin, OT/OG, Notre Dame
Zach Martin is probably the biggest long-shot on this list, but don't count him out as a potential top 10 selection.
While he's excelled as a left tackle at Notre Dame, Martin will likely be viewed as a right tackle or guard by many NFL teams.
His status as a guard diminishes his draft stock slightly but teams are more willing to draft based strictly on talent, rather than positional value, since the rookie wage scale was instituted—a trend demonstrated in 2013 when we saw two guards selected in the top 10.
Martin ranks among the most NFL-ready prospects in this year's class and will be attractive to any team looking for an immediate upgrade on the offensive line.
Top 10 teams potentially interested: Bills, Lions
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Eric Ebron isn't exactly an off-the-radar prospect, as he entered the year as one of the most highly touted tight end prospects in the nation. However, he is rarely mentioned among the potential top 10 selections in the 2014 draft.
We don't often see tight ends sneak into the top 10, but Ebron's athleticism makes him a rare prospect.
Ebron is still developing in certain areas and he's far from a sure thing. Most notably, he needs to improve his body control and ability to win battles for jump balls.
Despite his flaws, Ebron's raw talent is unmatched by any tight end in this class and his potential will force certain teams to consider him early in the first round.
Top 10 teams potentially interested: Falcons, Buccaneers, Bills
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
More than ever, NFL teams want speed and athleticism in their defensive linemen.
Kony Ealy has the potential to be an elite pass-rusher at the next level, but he also shows the awareness and athleticism to be an asset against the read-option.
Ealy made significant strides during his junior year and portions of his game resemble St. Louis Rams lineman Robert Quinn, who emerged as one of the most dominant linemen in the game this past season.
At least five or six pass-rushers will be in the first-round conversation this year, so Ealy's draft position could simply be a factor of each team's preference, but his blend of size, strength and athleticism will certainly put him in the top-10 conversation.
Top 10 teams potentially interested: Raiders, Falcons, Vikings, Bills