The 2014 NFL draft features one of the deepest classes in years and there are plenty of exciting prospects to be found after the first round.
According to Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert recently said it was the deepest class in 30 years, though he mentioned that some of the underclassmen should have stayed in school for more seasoning:
#Steelers GM Kevin Colbert calls this the deepest draft class in 30 years. But with 100-plus underclassmen, says some aren't ready for NFL.— Alan Robinson (@arobinson_Trib) February 12, 2014
With so many talented players to chose from, there are bound to be at least a few instant-impact prospects who will fall through Round 1.
Not only will they be tremendous steals for their new teams, but they'll likely play with a huge chip on their shoulders after being passed over in the first place.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
It will be completely shocking if a single running back is selected in Round 1 this year. The position has seen its value decline over the past couple of years as more and more excellent players are being found in the latter rounds.
"It does kind of bother me," Hyde told reporters at the combine. "I feel like they are just down on us. They don't think we are capable of doing what we know we can do. They are kind of just downplaying us: 'We can just wait to get ya'll' (later in the draft)."
If any back is going to sneak into Round 1, it's Carlos Hyde out of Ohio State. Unfortunately, Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com reports that he hurt his hamstring running the 40-yard dash at the combine:
Shame to see Ohio St. RB Carlos Hyde pull up w/ hamstring injury at #NFLCombine. Could've solidified himself as top runner and 1st Rounder.— Scott Wright (@DraftCountdown) February 23, 2014
A team in need of a new starting running back would be smart to target Hyde in Round 2, however. He's ready to step right into the starting lineup and contribute in a big way, featuring plenty of size, agility and power to go along with adequate speed.
Hyde will have an Eddie Lacy-type impact for his new team in 2014 be an early favorite to win the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
This year's draft features many talented pass-rushers, with Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina, Khalil Mack out of Buffalo and Anthony Barr out of UCLA leading the class.
Kyle Van Noy has somewhat fallen through the cracks after a relatively quiet season during which he logged just four sacks, but he's primed to have a huge impact at the next level.
In his career at BYU, Van Noy tallied 26 sacks, seven interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and scored five touchdowns, showing excellent playmaking abilitiy.
According to Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com, he said, "I feel like I'm an offensive player on defense."
This is BYU LB Kyle Van Noy. He had 11 FFs and 5 TDs in his career. "I feel like I'm an offensive player on defense." pic.twitter.com/cbhALjGFcV— Mike Wobschall (@wobby) February 22, 2014
While Van Noy didn't wow on the track at the combine (4.73-second 40-yard dash), he's a natural athlete with excellent instincts and a knack for making plays on the ball. Even better, he's capable of thriving in any scheme, though he'd be best-suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Every team would love to have Rob Gronkowski on its roster, which is why Notre Dame's Troy Niklas will likely be scooped up sometime in Round 2 despite the fact he didn't make a huge impact during his tenure at Notre Dame.
A former starter as a true freshman outside linebacker on defense, Niklas was moved to tight end by head coach Brian Kelly before the 2012 season.
In two seasons, he caught just 37 passes for 573 yards and six touchdowns, but don't let the lack of production fool you. Niklas is a star in the making.
Measuring in at 6'6" and 270 pounds, he's a phenomenal run-blocker who understands how to gain leverage against bigger defensive players, as pointed out by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
When asked to kick out a defensive end or linebacker in the run game, Niklas puts all 270 pounds into his blocks.
I talk a lot about three-down tight ends, and Niklas is pro-ready right now.
In addition to his run-blocking prowess, Niklas is an excellent receiver who uses his body well to shield defenders. He'll become an integral part of the offense in short order for the team that drafts him this year.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.
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