2014 NFL Draft: Highlighting Prospects Who Aren't Getting Enough Hype
Successful teams in the NFL know that in order to maintain prominence over the course of time, it's critical not to get swept away in the free-agency frenzy. They understand the cheapest free agents available are the ones you find on draft day after watching countless hours of tape and learning everything you can about each available prospect.
With that said, highly skilled prospects seem to slip through the cracks as media and NFL personnel alike try to peg the best of the bunch.
Some prospects become household names before they even strap on an NFL helmet. Other guys manage highly successful collegiate careers, yet somehow seem to be lost in the shuffle.
It’s hard to say why certain guys get a first-class seat while others are left behind on the annual hype train headed straight for Radio City Music Hall.
Whatever the case may be, this list is a tribute to a few of those who were left scratching their head back at the train station while other names are quickly infused into our daily vernacular.
You may not be completely familiar with these prospects now, but before the sun sets on their careers years from now, you most likely will be.
Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
Weight: 218 pounds
What he does well:
For a guy who weighs just under 220 pounds, Telvin Smith has remarkable functional strength and pairs it seamlessly with a hefty dose of aggressive, hard-nosed energy.
It’s rather amazing to watch this kid, with the body of a safety, clogging up gaps in between the tackles like a 500-pound grizzly bear. He's incredibly stout at the point of attack against blockers and knows how to shed those 300-pounders quickly and effectively when the time’s right.
Smith also has the quickness and athleticism to weave around trash and instinctively find his way to the ball-carrier. Once he gets there he finishes the play with reliable tackling and remarkable verve—often from behind the line of scrimmage.
If that wasn’t enough, this underappreciated prospect may be one of the best coverage linebackers I’ve seen in three years of draft study.
Telvin Smith latches on to receivers, tight ends and running backs like glue in intermediate routes. If the quarterback does decide to target him, the receiver will always be forced to make a difficult catch if the ball isn’t batted down first.
Teams looking for a 4-3 linebacker with the versatility to play inside or out should have Telvin Smith high on their list. He could end up being one of the best non-rush backers in this draft class.
Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
Weight: 205 pounds
What he does well:
Brett Smith’s Wyoming film was so impressive that I wrote an article which focused on him in rather lengthy detail.
This kid may not look pretty in what he does, he may not have the best footwork or strongest arm, but when you watch close enough, you start to understand what makes this wiry warrior so intriguing.
Smith is a uniquely tough competitor with rare ability to deliver pinpoint accurate passes in the midst of chaos.
To say his offensive line was porous would be an understatement. He was constantly under duress, dodging blitzes, shedding would-be-tacklers and running away from trouble, all while keeping his eye down the field and looking for an open target. Once found, a quick release and the snap of the wrist would send the ball whizzing through the air, landing masterfully between two defenders before hitting the receiver perfectly on the numbers.
This type of play would act itself out play after play and game after game.
When there was no receiver to be found, Smith had no problem tucking the ball in and running for huge chunks of yards in a similar way Johnny Manziel has become famous for.
Smith is a fierce competitor with good strength, elite toughness and outstanding poise. Unfortunately, he was egregiously overlooked and failed to receive an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, despite declaring for the draft early after his junior year.
There is a real chance Smith is undrafted come May. But whichever team has the ability to see his potential, will not regret putting their faith in a little-known quarterback from the University of Wyoming.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
Weight: 220 pounds
What he does well:
If you like wide receivers who can turn a quick slant play into a SportsCenter highlight on ESPN, then Allen Robinson might be the guy for you.
With prototype size, reliable hands and outstanding playmaking instincts, Robinson electrified the crowds on a weekly basis during his time at Beaver Stadium. In his last two seasons at Penn State, this dynamic playmaker had more than 2,400 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns in a pro-style offense.
His speed is deceptive in a way similar to Hakeem Nicks. Robinson does display the requisite quickness to separate at the top of routes and run away from would-be tacklers. He also possesses the vision to anticipate angles and avoid tacklers by finding nearly undetectable running lanes, even if it means reversing course to the opposite sideline en route to a highlight-worthy touchdown.
Robinson’s strength and size should translate well at the next level when he’s asked to evade press coverage and/or highpoint a ball in traffic.
With a deep collection of talented receivers in this draft, Robinson appears to be getting overlooked. This kid has first-round talent and could emerge as a top rookie wideout by season’s end.
Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
Weight: 215 pounds
What he does well:
This All-Conference wide receiver is an underclassman out of Indiana who has been virtually invisible around draft circles thanks in large part to the impressive array of talented pass-catchers this draft class has to offer.
Cody Latimer may not be a popular name, but his raw athletic ability immediately pops out on tape. Latimer is well built with both NFL size and strength, put on full display when he posted a position-high 23 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the scouting combine. He has a great NFL frame that should create a ton of mismatches at the next level.
Alongside his coveted stature, Latimer makes some amazing catches and has shown very impressive hands in my tape study. This talented athlete is a former basketball player who apparently got into football because his mother told him to, according to Chris Goff of Indysportslegends.com.
Perhaps as a result of his basketball background, Latimer is one of the more explosive receivers I’ve scouted over the years. This explosion shows up all over his tape as he cuts, jumps and moves with incredible power and quickness. In addition, he possesses the type of breakaway speed that can really stretch a defensive.
When you watch tape of this kid, you’re sure to fall in love with his effort as a blocker. Why? Because there’s a real nasty streak in the way he goes about his blocking that you rarely see from those diva wide receivers.
So if you’re wondering just how impressed I am with Latimer, allow me to put it to you this way: I think this kid would be a steal if drafted as high as the third round. Simply put, this guy is going to shine on Sundays and it’s about time more people started talking about it.
Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
Weight: 314 pounds
What he does well:
Morgan Moses might not have the impressive athleticism of a Taylor Lewan or Greg Robinson. He might not have gotten a lot of exposure from nationally televised games. But when you strip away all of the measureables and just look at the football resume built over years of hard work and elite-level competition, you should come away impressed with what you see in Moses the football player.
This kid has necessary foot speed for the next level. In addition, he shows up as one of the more technically sound blockers in this draft who is effective against both power and speed rushers, thanks in large part to his anticipation and long arms.
What separates Moses from a crowded pack of tackles in this draft is his consistency and ability to pack a powerful punch with heavy hands and amazing applied strength. One punch from Moses and most guys concede to his will and are instantly humbled by his physical dominance. This effect is exasperated by his intensity and desire to finish blocks, which is a rare element to find in a blocker these days.
To learn more about Morgan Moses, check out Bleacher Report’s Alex Dunlap’s detailed scouting report.
Kyle Van Noy, Edge-Rusher, BYU
Weight: 243 pounds
What he does well:
Some things in football cannot be coached. When it comes to playmaking instincts, you either have it or you don't.
Kyle Van Noy’s playmaking abilities are off the charts and certainly an element to his game that teams get excited about, even though they don’t fully understand how it’s happening.
Many times in the draft evaluation process, scouts and personnel guys tend to chalk these instincts up to luck, or being a product of the system. Though these may be true in some cases, this stigma can cause a lot of highly skilled prospects to go undervalued and overlooked.
Although Van Noy may be one of the more well-known names on this list, it was important to include him once he began receiving mid-round grades from draft experts. Van Noy is slated to be a third-round pick and is ranked as the 58th best prospect on Josh Norris’ big board via Rotoworld.com.
Kyle Van Noy does not possess the same elite physical gifts as Khalil Mack or Anthony Barr, but his feel for the game is unparalleled on the defensive side of this draft class. In fact, I like to compare him to a linebacker version of Tyrann Mathieu in terms of his ability to be incredibly disruptive by knowing exactly how and when to take chances.
It's almost certain that UCLA's Barr is drafted before him come May, but I suspect Van Noy could be the pass-rusher who ends up having the bigger impact on Sundays.
In his last three seasons at BYU, Van Noy has tallied a whopping 54 tackles for a loss, 23 quarterback sacks, nine forced fumbles, seven interceptions and three blocked kicks. This should speak to the disruptive force he can be on multiple levels.
Personally, I think Van Noy should be closer valued as a late first- early second-round selection. He has the requisite physical tools and the instincts to be a true difference-maker at the next level.
Shaquil Barrett, Edge-Rusher, Colorado State
What he does well:
When you take a quick look at Shaquil Barrett on a football field, you might get the initial impression that he doesn't fit the typical mold of a pass-rusher who would be playing on Sundays.
However, one of Barrett’s secret weapons, that helped him rack up 12 sacks in 2013, was his impressive use of hands against blockers. Barrett shows rare ability to keep blockers out of his chest by executing a perfect swipe move. He also has decent push on bull rushes and the motor to wear down his opponent throughout the course of a game.
Barrett may not have a great get-off but he does happen to possess incredible quickness that he uses in a rather clever way. Instead of rushing around an edge at one speed like a missile, which often results in running yourself right out of the play, Barrett opts to slow-read his lineman. Then when the time is right, he activates an amazing dip move to get around a reduced corner.
One of the more rare qualities about this prospect that generally goes overlooked is his awareness not to run himself out of a play.
Against the run, Barrett is strong when it comes to taking on blocks, flashing violent intentions at the point of attack. He anchors well and sets a firm edge when needed or he can utilize impressive instincts to penetrate into the backfield, which he does with regularity.
He’s a solid tackler overall, but may not be drafted until the later rounds because of his short and somewhat awkward frame for an edge-rusher.
Barrett was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine but ran a 6.9 in the 3-cone, according to his agent, Greg Linton. It’s worth noting only five outside linebackers invited to the combine ran under 7 seconds in the 3-cone.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and currently writes for Bleacher Report
For more draft info follow me on Twitter @Ryan_Riddle