NFL Draft 2014: Getting to Know Elite Prospects Flying Under the Radar

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2014

USA Today

College football superstars Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel have dominated the conversation surrounding the 2014 NFL draft since the season ended, and rightfully so.

But with the draft less than four months away, it's time to get to know some overlooked talents.

Below, I'll highlight a handful of elite NFL draft prospects flying under the radar ahead of February's scouting combine.


Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Nov 5, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Bulls linebacker Khalil Mack (46) and Ohio Bobcats cornerback Dyquan Stewart (20) during the first half at University of Buffalo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Pass-rusher extraordinaire Khalil Mack has top-10 potential this spring. But because he played for an overlooked program in Buffalo, few football fans are aware of his elite skill set. 

At 6'3", 245 pounds, Mack has the ideal frame to transition to the next level. His durability, overall production and versatility make him a can't-miss defensive prospect in 2014 and a player who is sure to come off the board early on.

NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah had the following praise for Mack on The Dan Patrick Show on Jan. 2, per's Mike Huguenin"Mack is a stud. He is a big-time guy. He can rush the passer, he can cover, he can do everything."

Mack recorded 10.5 sacks this past season with the Bulls en route to winning the Jack Lambert Award. 

In addition to tallying nearly 29 sacks during his time at Buffalo, Mack set NCAA career records in tackles for a loss (75) and forced fumbles (16), making him one of the most dynamic pass-rushers college football has ever seen.


Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia 

Sep 28, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Virginia Cavaliers offensive tackle Morgan Moses (78) blocks Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker Nicholas Grigsby (3) during the third quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh defeated Virginia 14-3. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses isn't one of the top linemen being talked about this winter, but given his rare blend of size and athleticism, he's sure to find a new home quickly come May.

The 6'6", 332-pound tackle is among the top five prospects at his position in the 2014 class and brings solid awareness and physicality to the table as a player who can hold up well in pass protection in addition to starring as a bruising run-blocker. 

If there are downsides to drafting Moses, though, they are his potential weight concerns and lack of aggression at times. 

While both can be monitored and improved upon at the next level, you simply can't teach what Moses offers in terms of size, strength and instincts. 


Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 9:   Cornerback Justin Gilbert #4 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys runs downfield for a touchdown on the opening kickoff against the Kansas Jayhawks Novemeber 9, 2013 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  (Photo by Bret
Brett Deering/Getty Images

While most of the top-flight cornerback conversation in college football has centered on Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Florida's Loucheiz Purifoy, Oklahoma State defender Justin Gilbert may be the top defensive back available in 2014.

Gilbert never missed a game during his four seasons with the Cowboys and impressed with his cover skills and ability to help out in the running game. 

The 6', 200-pound corner intercepted a remarkable seven passes this past season, returning two for touchdowns. Unsurprisingly, Gilbert is also an explosive return man who can also star on special teams in the NFL.

On top of his playmaking ability, Gilbert's physicality and closing speed make him an elite prospect with first-round potential. 


Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

There are a wealth of top-flight defensive prospects available in 2014, but few are quite as promising as Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman, who ranks among the top players at his position thanks to his massive frame, quickness and ability to pressure the quarterback.

Hageman recorded 13 tackles for a loss as a senior with the Golden Gophers in 2013, showcasing the quick hands and feet scouts love to see.

Although Hageman isn't going to jump off the film with relentless energy or an intimidating style, his size (6'6", 307 pounds) and pass-rushing ability will certainly grab your attention. 

While there's plenty of room for him to improve at the next level, you likely won't come across a better athlete than Hageman at the defensive tackle spot, per analyst Bucky Brooks

Hageman is unquestionably one of the most explosive athletes in college football. According to a report from noted college writer Bruce Feldman, the Golden Gopher standout has posted some impressive measurements in the weight room. Hageman has recorded a 36-inch vertical jump and clocked an astonishing 1.57-second 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash. Factor in his reported 465-pound bench press, and Hageman will be expected to rank among the top performers at the NFL Scouting Combine in a few months.

As Brooks points out, there is significant bust potential with Hageman. However, given his upside, there's no question a team will be willing to take a chance on him in the early stages of the 2014 NFL draft.


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