NFL Draft 2014: Highlighting Raw Prospects with Tremendous Upside

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NFL Draft 2014: Highlighting Raw Prospects with Tremendous Upside
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The 2014 NFL draft is an opportunity for teams to land polished and unpolished gems alike. There are some intriguing raw prospects in this year's class who have the potential to become superstars at the next level, though they will take time to develop. 

A recent example of such a player is current Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Coming out of Memphis in 2012, Poe didn't have a lot of good tape but blew up the combine with impressive totals in his drills.

Clearly, he was a player who possessed the talent to become a dominant force in the NFL, which is why the Chiefs drafted him No. 11 overall. However, Poe's first year in the league wasn't pretty, and many started writing him off as a first-round bust.  

But Poe quickly turned things around as his understanding of his responsibilities grew, and he was one of the top nose tackles in the league last year—and he still has room to grow. 

Here's a look at a few players with similar raw potential in this year's draft.

 

Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

NFL teams are always looking for receivers who combine size and speed.

At 6'4" and 211 pounds, Martavis Bryant ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine and showed up well in every drill, proving Sammy Watkins isn't the only Clemson receiver worth looking into during the 2014 NFL draft. 

His "unofficial" 40 times were even faster, clocking in at 4.34 and 4.35 seconds, respectively. Clearly, Bryant has blazing speed, and while he is a raw route-runner and needs to work on his consistency catching the ball, this is a kid who has the tools to become a top receiver in the league. 

His raw playmaking ability was on display at Clemson last year, when he caught 42 passes for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. 

Scouts Inc.'s Kevin Weidl recently wrote this about Bryant's abilities on the field (h/t ESPN.com's Scott Brown, subscription required):

Bryant has a long and flexible frame with excellent top-end speed. He is at his best as a vertical route-runner where he displays the ability to quickly eat up cushions and run by defenders. While he has his share of drops, he also has a wide catch radius and range tracking the ball downfield.

If he makes it out of Round 2, it will be a surprise. Most teams lack the kind of deep speed he provides, which makes him an attractive option after the first round. 

 

Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

Ra'Shede Hageman is this year's Poe.

He's a huge man, at 6'6" and 310 pounds, who moves exceptionally well for his size and not surprisingly excels at basketball as well as football.

However, he doesn't have a lot of experience playing against top competition and was never coached up like he needs to be to succeed in the NFL. 

Where should Hageman land in the draft?

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Given his size, agility and strength, Hageman has the ability to fit into any scheme in the NFL, which will help him get drafted early. He reportedly met with the Baltimore Ravens at the combine, per Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun, where he'd fit in perfectly as a 3-4 defensive end.

"I definitely use my basketball skills when it comes to playing football," Hageman said, per Wilson. "But I feel like me being athletic definitely helped me get to where I am. But I feel like in the NFL, I feel like everyone in the NFL is athletic. So, I definitely have to kind of stay to my fundamentals to get better.”

Hageman might not succeed immediately, but there's no doubt he has the physical makeup to become a dominant force inside in the NFL. 

 

Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

It's hard to imagine a player who racked up 23.5 sacks the past two years in the Pac-12 is raw, but that's exactly the case with Anthony Barr out of UCLA.

Barr started out his college career as a running back and was switched to defense just two years ago. He's still just a pup when it comes to understanding what he's doing on the field, and he doesn't have a strong repertoire of moves to use against NFL offensive tackles. 

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Throughout his time at UCLA, Barr relied almost solely on his freakish athleticism and speed to get to opposing quarterbacks, but that strategy won't work well against seasoned pros. He must learn to use his hands better and develop an inside move to keep offensive tackles off-balance. 

Furthermore, his 15 reps on the bench press show a lack of upper-body strength, which he'll need to improve to compete at the highest level. 

But strength will come, as will a versatile skill set as a pass-rusher, as he works with his coaches and strength-and-conditioning department. In a couple of years, it will be surprising if Barr isn't one of the most dangerous defenders in the league.  

All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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