2014 NFL Draft: 5 Most Likely Day 2 Prospects to Sneak into Round 1
Seemingly every year a player that was looked at as a Day 2 prospect is taken in the first round of the NFL Draft, leaving many scratching their heads.
In 2013 the Chicago Bears took Kyle Long 20th overall, in 2012 the San Francisco 49ers took A.J. Jenkins 30th overall, and in 2010 Tim Tebow was taken 25th overall, despite each being projected as a second-day pick at best.
Many times these players are taken higher than expected because a team's opinion is far different than all of the draft pundits who have these players pegged for the second round.
Not every player will wind up having a Pro Bowl rookie season like Kyle Long did for the Bears in 2013, but just because a player is taken higher than expected doesn't mean he won't have an instant impact for his team.
Here are the five most likely Day 2 prospects to sneak into Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Cody Latimer, Wide Receiver, Indiana
In 2013, Indiana's Cody Latimer became the fifth Hoosier to surpass 1,000 yards in a season, and his total of 1,096 yards in 2013 ranks third all-time, which led to him being named second-team All-Big Ten.
He possesses good size and speed but was not able to show off during the NFL Scouting Combine due to a foot injury. Despite the injury, he bounced back in his pro day.
Nolan Nawrock of NFL.com wrote that Latimer is a "well-built, sure-handed, West Coast possession receiver whose hardwood background is evident in his leaping ability, body control and hand-eye coordination." While he praised his athletic abilities, he also noted that he "lacks ideal explosiveness," but his pro day helped solidify his top-end speed.
4.44 on Cody Latimer's first 40 attempt, per a source at Indiana Pro Day— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 26, 2014
According to IndyStar.com, Latimer received a third-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Committee, but Bleacher Report's Matt Miller bought into the hype, tweeting:
Cody Latimer generating big buzz now that he's close to healthy. Lot of teams bringing him in here soon. Late 1st/Early 2nd possible.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 30, 2014
Miller also wrote that, "as long as his foot checks out for teams at individual workouts, he could surprise as a late first-round pick."
He will need to prove that his foot has healed, but his combination of size, speed, soft hands and good route-running could make him hard to pass up for a team like the Carolina Panthers, which lost Ted Ginn, Jr., Brandon LaFell and Steve Smith, or for the New England Patriots late in the first round.
Kyle Fuller, Cornerback, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, despite his smaller size (5'11", 189 lbs), is one of the most physical cornerbacks in the 2014 draft.
He impressed with his speed at the combine, running a 4.40 40-yard dash, and that speed translates on film. He has great awareness and reads and reacts well but will need to work on his footwork at the next level.
CBS Sports' Dane Brugler prefers Fuller over consensus No. 1 cornerback Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, tweeting in February:
Great to see CB Kyle Fuller getting some love, he's deserved it the past few years. Very natural. I'll take him over Justin Gilbert— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 25, 2014
Despite the high praise, Brugler still lists Fuller as a first-to-second round pick and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller currently lists him as his 28th overall prospect on his big board. It still may surprise some if he goes in the first round consider the bevy of talent at the position.
In the end, the surprise may not be the fact that he was taken in the first round but just how high he was selected. CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco has Fuller going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 15 in his latest mock draft and writes that he is a "player teams are saying is rising up a lot of boards."
How high he goes will be based on how well he fits a team's needs. He may be one of the biggest surprises in the first round of the 2014 draft.
Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois
A virtual unknown heading into the 2013 season, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo has skyrocketed up many big boards after his strong showings in the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl.
Garoppolo, the Walter Payton Award winner last year as the top offensive player at the FCS level, threw for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns and just nine interceptions for the Panthers.
After his strong performances at the bowls, a large contingent of NFL teams came to his pro day at Northwestern last month.
“He’s got a quick release. He’s athletic," O'Brien told The Chicago Tribune. "I really enjoyed talking football with him. He’s a great kid.”
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller also had high praise for Garoppolo, writing:
Watching Garoppolo play, it's easy to see some Tony Romo in him, or maybe even a little Drew Brees. He moves well in the pocket and then unloads with a big arm that allows him to make every throw on the field. Velocity and ball placement are there, too, and he'll do it from various release points to find a passing window.
Garoppolo possesses all of the tools that are required of a top-level quarterback with his smooth setup and release, ability to read and diagnose defenses and accurate arm.
The obvious big question mark is his ability against top level talent after playing in the FCS. Lucky for him, the success of guys like Tony Romo and Joe Flacco at the NFL level have helped paved the way for quarterbacks from smaller schools.
In an ideal world, the Texans could take Jadeveon Clowney with their first overall pick and grab Garopollo with the first pick of the second round but considering how much his stock has risen this offseason, he has the potential to be picked by Cleveland at No. 26—or a team like the Oakland Raiders or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could try to trade back into the first round to grab him.
Jace Amaro, Tight End, Texas Tech
Throughout much of the offseason, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro has been teetering on the line between a first- and second-round pick.
In 2013 he was a first-team All-American and finished eighth in FBS with 106 receptions. His combination of size (6'5", 265 pounds) makes him difficult to match up with one-on-one.
He is a clean route-runner and looks more like a wide receiver in his routes than a tight end. He needs to work on his blocking but would be a perfect fit as a flex tight end because of his versatility. He can line up in the slot, come out of the backfield and can split out wide.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote that Amaro's hands are "strong, tough and battle-tested" and on the game tape shows that he has the ability to go and get the football over smaller defenders.
One reason that he is projected as a second-day pick is because of his sloppy footwork at times, and he may be a liability as a blocker.
The most logical landing spot in Round 1 for Amaro is with the New England Patriots at No. 29 as he has a very similar skill set to former Patriot Aaron Hernandez.
Another scenario would be for a team like the Atlanta Falcons to move up in a trade to get Amaro in the first. Thomas Melton noted how he would be ideal to replace the retired Tony Gonzalez, tweeting:
I love Ebron, but Jace Amaro is a better fit to replace Tony Gonzalez than Ebron is. Great hands, great in traffic + good effort as blocker.— Thomas Melton (@TMeltonScouting) March 21, 2014
The back end of the draft is full of teams that could risk taking a guy like Amaro in the first round because he could instantly add another weapon on offense.
Stephon Tuitt, Defensive Tackle/End, Notre Dame
Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt had a bit of a disappointing 2013 season after he exploded onto the scene in South Bend in 2012. He finished with 7.5 sacks in 2013 after posting the second-most sacks in a season in school history in 2012 with 12.
He was still productive in 2013 but appeared to lack the explosiveness he showed in 2012. He was hoping to show off that explosiveness at the NFL Scouting Combine in February but was sidelined with a small fracture in his left foot, via NFL.com.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller addressed the differences in Tuitt's 2013 game tape and his 2012 tape, writing, "he's big enough to hold the edge and shut down rushing lanes, and has flashed good quickness and pass-rushing ability. The key is figuring out which version of Tuitt is the one you're getting."
Tuitt plays terrific against the run, both inside and outside and gets most of his pressure in the passing game by rushing from the inside. He needs to work on his explosion off the line of scrimmage, as he tends to pop up instead of explode through the blocker.
At just 20 years old, there is still plenty of time for Tuitt's game to evolve, but teams are faced with the difficult decision of whether or not he can have an immediate impact or if he needs more time to fully develop.
@JuMosq Stephon Tuitt is a real wild card. He doesn't do anything especially well but is young/productive, may have Trevor Pryce-like upside— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) March 3, 2014
Tuitt's upside alone may be too tough to pass up for some teams, and his flexibility to play in both an odd and even man front will keep him on many team's big boards.
WalterFootball.com currently has him going late in the second round in their latest mock draft, but his abilities and upside will likely force a team to jump on him in the first round.