We see them every year. Players who have shown flashes of their true talent but have been pushed down draft boards for some reason. It’s an unfortunate reality of the National Football League.
For some, it’s the simple fact that they are coming from a small school and just haven’t gotten the national attention some of these other guys get. For others, they’ve been discounted for a few bad games or even just their small stature.
For Michael Campanaro, a budding wide receiver from Wake Forest, the NFL will be a chance to prove that size doesn’t necessarily matter. He had a stellar career with the Demon Deacons and could definitely find his niche in the NFL sooner than later.
Camp is just one of many NFL hopefuls who are currently flying under the radar but will have a chance to prove themselves as elite football talent.
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
Brandon Coleman may not be the most highly touted receiver in the draft, but there’s a chance he turns into one of the class' most productive prospects a few years from now.
He has size that is unrivaled by most receivers (6’6”, 220 pounds), and he wins most matchups against smaller corners because of this.
Coleman does need some work in terms of his route running, but his combination of size and athleticism is rare enough that an NFL team is sure to take a chance on him. After all, you can teach a guy to run a post pattern, but you can’t teach him how to be 6’6”.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com describes him as a "Josh Gordon-like prospect" with "big time potential," further proving that Coleman could be the diamond in the rough that an NFL team has been waiting for.
He's an interesting prospect that will likely be taken between the second and third rounds of the draft, and if he lands with the right team, he could be a star in the NFL sooner than later.
Mike Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest
Although he’s a bit small, Campanaro is a tremendous slot receiver and could turn out to be the next Julian Edelman. He has extremely soft hands, which pairs well with his blazing speed, and is quite polished as a route-runner.
Camp was extremely productive in both high school and college, and he will look to have a smooth adjustment to the NFL. He’s versatile enough to be moved around in the offense and could play out the backfield as well as in the slot.
Campanaro would also be a strong special teams player as both a gunner and return man.
We’re seeing more and more small, athletic players like Denard Robinson and Dexter McCluster in the NFL, and Campanaro looks like he could be the next offensive weapon to come out of the draft.
Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
Daniel McCullers of Tennessee doesn’t have much hype as we head toward the combine and draft, but he is someone who could produce right away in the right defense.
The mammoth defensive tackle possesses tremendous strength and uses it to overwhelm smaller linemen. He’s doesn’t have the eye-popping stats you’d like to see, but McCullers has big potential to match his big frame.
He showed flashes of being an early-round pick at the Senior Bowl but doesn’t have a ton of tape to back it up, which will turn some teams away. Still, McCullers is worth a look or two.
He could end up having the same impact that Joe Vellano had for the New England Patriots last year. Vellano didn’t have much hype, either, but he ended up doing a great job anchoring the Pats defensive line while Vince Wilfork was injured.
McCullers will be a solid rotational player at the very least, and he could blossom into a special player.
Jordan Tripp, MLB, Montana
As one of the best small-school prospects of this year’s class, Jordan Tripp could be a great starter in the NFL one day. He has the ideal size for a middle linebacker at 6’3”, 240 pounds, and he plays with tremendous football IQ.
He plays with great athleticism and also does well in coverage; he intercepted three passes during his senior season.
Tripp also has solid speed for a linebacker and allows his instincts to guide him when he’s on the field. His speed also helps him get to the outside and set the edge for opposing runners, making him a valuable player against the run.
Tripp also had a strong showing during the week of the Senior Bowl, which certainly helped his draft stock a bit. He isn’t projected to go in the first half of the draft but would be a quality pickup for many teams in the later rounds.
Gil Alcaraz of RantSports.com mentioned in his scouting report of Tripp that he sees him as a seventh-round prospect at the earliest, but after what he showed at the Senior Bowl, I think it'll be hard for teams to pass him up past the fifth round.
Plus, Tripp still has the combine (if he's invited) and his pro day to prove his worth as an NFLer, and he could really solidify his status as a mid-round guy with a strong showing.
Granted, Tripp’s a bit raw as an overall prospect, but the technique, smarts and natural ability are all there for him to develop into a monster of a linebacker at the next level.