2014 NFL Draft: 8 Seriously Under-the-Radar Prospects

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJanuary 16, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: 8 Seriously Under-the-Radar Prospects

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    It seems like there are so many "under-the-radar 2014 NFL draft prospects" articles around that you have to wonder about about whose radar is being used for their parameters. 

    For any college football or NFL draft follower, who would presumably be the audience for these articles, guys like Khalil Mack, Carlos Hyde, Brandin Cooks, Allen Robinson and Ka'Deem Carey are not at all under the radar.

    If you play a skill position like quarterback, wide receiver or running back in a major conference, put up big numbers and/or win awards and have been getting some significant draft hype, how can you possibly be under the radar?

    So for this article, I tried to really dig deep and find some guys who may work their way up draft boards in the near future, or end up being mid- to late-round steals.

    I also did not include any players from smaller school in this list. That eliminates FCS schools, Ivy League schools, and any non-Division I school. That is an article for another time.

    These six prospects play for big schools, but are actually under the radar. If you're very familiar with all of them, let me know in the comments. 

Brent Urban, DE, Virginia

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    Urban is a mammoth defensive end, coming in at 6'7", 295 pounds. He lacks elite quickness or strength, but makes up for it in other areas. This article by The Daily Progress' Andrew Ramspacher tells a little bit about Urban's quirky nature and interesting background.

    He had 11.5 tackles for loss this season, despite missing four games with a high ankle sprain. He also had nine pass breakups, which is a pretty impressive number for a lineman in a shortened season.

    While he isn't really a great pass-rusher, he brings a lot of other things to the table. His strength against the run and knack for batting down passes (pictured above) is extremely useful, and he could fit well into a 3-4 defense in the NFL.

    Urban will be participating in the Senior Bowl, which will allow him to showcase his skills against the top talent in the nation. I'll be watching him closely to see his burst and use of hands to stave off blockers.

    For now, Urban is a third-rounder in my eyes. But I think that with a strong combine and Senior Bowl, there's a chance he's a late riser who gets taken in the second.

Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming

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    I just ranked Smith as the sixth-best quarterback in this draft class, and there was understandably some surprise among readers in the comments.

    But Smith is the real deal. He's an extremely versatile and talented quarterback who I believe has the potential to become a legitimate NFL starter one day.

    I go into a little more detail about Smith in that article, but he's an athletic kid with a good arm who has failed to generate any hype for himself while playing out in Wyoming.

    A team like Arizona or Denver would do well to grab him in the third round and let him develop for another couple years behind their current starters.

Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State

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    I think that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a fantastic prospect, but I'm still not 100 percent convinced that Bucannon isn't the best safety in this class.

    Need some convincing? Check out this short highlight tape from Bucannon's senior season, which showcases his incredible playmaking talents and hard-hitting capability.

    The Walter Camp Second Team All-American is a rangy athlete who is a natural hitter and fierce competitor in the secondary. This piece by Brian Floyd over at SB Nation tells the tale of Bucannon's career at Washington State.

    He's known for being a quiet leader off the field who turns into a fearless beast on it. His hits can be earth-shattering, although he plays with a reckless abandon sometimes that will have to be reined in at least a little in the NFL.

    He's an early second-rounder for me right now, with plenty of room to rise. I wouldn't be surprised if he's ranked in the teens for me by the time the draft rolls around.

Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin

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    Abbrederis walked onto Wisconsin's football team as a quarterback and worked with the scout team before switching to wide receiver and really finding his stride.

    Fast forward to today, and Abbrederis is one of Wisconsin's most decorated pass-catchers ever; and he will be preparing for the Senior Bowl, where he could win over a lot of scouts and fans with his unique style of play.

    While he isn't a burner, Abbrederis is very elusive and can get open downfield across the middle, which is where he may make his paycheck in the NFL.

    He has extremely solid hands and is a slick runner who will also contribute on special teams as a kick and punt returner. The only problem is that the receiver class is exceptionally deep this year. 

    Because of that, Abbrederis is only in the fifth- or sixth-round range for me. But he could become a very productive No. 3 wideout in the NFL.

Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut

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    For some reason, Connecticut really churns out solid NFL defensive prospects these days. Last year, it was Sio Moore, Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Trevardo Williams.

    This year, Smallwood will need to carry the torch on his own. But although he isn't getting much hype, he is more than capable of being a productive NFL starter quickly.

    This isn't the best draft for inside linebackers, and Smallwood is a really intriguing prospect. He's a quiet talent who won't wow you with any one thing on the field, but he does everything well.

    At 6'3", 236 pounds, he has the size to be an inside linebacker in a 3-4 with the range and tackling ability to match. He racked up 118 tackles this year for the Huskies.

    The redshirt junior is a third-rounder in my book, and I think he'd be a good value there.

Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame

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    Niklas bucks the trend of "joker" tight ends who have become the most recent NFL fad. Guys like Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas are mostly just big pass-catchers.

    But Niklas is a really strong blocker, and spends a lot of time doing that, which is why he doesn't have big numbers and isn't getting much hype.

    The junior surprised Notre Dame fans by declaring for the draft, but this tight end class is pretty weak outside of the top three prospects. Niklas is the best blocker in the class and has the natural ability to develop into a good receiver, as well.

    Some teams will fall in love with him simply because of his frame. He's roughly 6'6", 270 pounds and is extremely muscular and coordinated.

    I like him in the fourth round right now. But if he goes to the combine and looks good catching the ball, there's definitely room to move up. 

Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse

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    On a list full of under-the-radar guys, Bromley may be the furthest out of the spotlight. But it's difficult to generate much buzz while playing on the interior defensive line for Syracuse.

    Bromley doesn't have eye-popping statistics or measurables, but he's a rock-solid prospect who has been impressing this week at the East-West Shrine Game practices.

    This article by Justis Mosqueda over at Optimum Scouting goes into more detail about Bromley, but there are a few key things to pull from it. First is that he's got a really quick first step and can rush the passer from the inside, which is rare and valuable.

    Second, you can't help but marvel at some of the things he's overcome in his life; he seems to be a real leader and a hard worker who will bring some grit to his NFL squad.

    Count me as a huge fan of Bromley's. I need to evaluate him more, but he's pushing up towards the third round right now.

David Fluellen, RB, Toledo

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    The University of Toledo might not get much attention for its football program, but Fluellen is a prospect worth keeping an eye on throughout the draft process.

    The senior was injured sporadically throughout his college career, which is likely what prevented him from ever breaking through into the national spotlight despite putting up big numbers.

    Fluellen was one of the nation's best backs in 2012, rushing 259 times for 1,498 yards and 13 scores while catching 32 passes for 246 yards. Those numbers were scaled back some in 2013, but he improved his YPC average from 5.8 to 6.7.

    There's a lot to like about Fluellen. He's strong enough to break tackles and pound the middle but fast enough to beat guys around the edge. 

    His injuries are what will hold him back and why he's only a late-round pick at this stage. But if he impresses enough at the combine, a team will take a shot on him in the fourth or fifth round. The talent is certainly there.