2014 NFL Draft: Predictions for This Year's Unheralded Prospects

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2014 NFL Draft: Predictions for This Year's Unheralded Prospects
Gene J. Puskar

Jadeveon Clowney. Johnny Manziel. Sammy Watkins. We all know these names, players who are absolute stars and truly flash on the film. Players who will be selected early in the 2014 draft and expected to be franchise-changing talents.

But what about the players we aren't talking about quite as much? The stars in college who have gone less noticed in the NFL draft process? The guys who could become sneaky studs in the NFL?

Let's focus on a few of those players below. Get to know them now—they have the potential to become household names very quickly.

 

Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

I continue to see Allen Robinson pegged as a second-round pick, and, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure why. In my opinion, he's a guy who should be snagged in the late first.

Why? Well, for starters he produced like a star in the past two seasons for Penn State, catching 174 passes for 2,450 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has good size for the position, and his 39-inch vertical at the NFL Scouting Combine supports what you can readily see on tape—Robinson can go up and get the ball.

But he's more versatile than simply being a jump-ball artist. He already has a full route under his belt and can play the role of possession receiver if called upon to do so. He also is very good after the catch and can turn a modest play into a big gain.

No, he doesn't have top-end speed at the position, the most glaring weakness working against him. But it certainly didn't stop him from being productive at the college level.

He also comes to the NFL with a great attitude. When asked if he would be disappointed if he weren't a first-round pick, he answered as follows, via Audrey Snyder of PennLive.com:

I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t highly recruited out of high school, so I’m not too worried about not getting drafted. All I can do is work; my whole life has been sitting around waiting so whatever round I go in, it is what it is. But at the same time when I get to my team, I’m going to grind and earn my spot.

That's a guy I'd want on my team.

I could see him landing on a team like the San Francisco 49ers, quickly becoming the third option for Colin Kaepernick in the passing game behind Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis. With Davis stretching defenses down the seam and Crabtree working the intermediate routes, Robinson could be a weapon both over the top and after the catch. 

It remains to be seen if Robinson will develop into a full-fledged No. 1 receiver, but in San Francisco he wouldn't need to be the top option, at least not right away. Feels like a great fit to me.

Destination: San Francisco 49ers

 

Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

You just wonder where Jason Verrett would be selected if he were, say, an inch or two taller. He'd probably be a top-15 pick, right?

But teams might nick him for being 5'9", despite the fact that he ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash or posted a 39-inch vertical leap. Teams might drop him down their board for being, as his combine profile reads, "diminutive, skinny-waisted and thin-boned with small hands and short arms" despite the fact that he finished his college career with 160 tackles, nine interceptions and 41 passes defensed.

It seems odd for a player who had such a strong college career and matched up against a lot of future NFL talent, but Verrett is a guy who could easily drop into the second round. 

Where he'll fit is with a team where he isn't expected to be a No. 1 corner from the get-go, where he can perhaps slip into the slot initially or as a No. 2 option. I really like him with the Bengals, a team that has veteran cornerbacks in place but desperately needs to get younger at the position.

Destination: Cincinnati Bengals

 

Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Jace Amaro isn't going to go nearly as high as his counterpart, Eric Ebron, and the fact that this is such a deep receiver draft could drop him right out of the first round. But boy, does his production in college suggest the opposite should occur.

Amaro is coming off a season in which he caught 106 passes for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. He's a pass-catching machine, though he probably doesn't project as a traditional tight end at the next level, which may drop him down the board for some teams.

He also doesn't have the sort of top-end speed to really challenge defenses down the seam. He's going to be an intermediate-route option at the next level.

But for a team willing to move him around the field in different formations and essentially treat him as a big slot receiver, he'll do a lot of damage. I'd love to see him on a team like the New England Patriots, where he could fill the role Aaron Hernandez once filled while Rob Gronkowski played as a more traditional tight end. 

Amaro would quickly become a reliable possession receiver for Tom Brady and would fit that offense perfectly. It's a match made in heaven, and I think the Pats would be wise to snag him at the end of the first round.

Destination: New England Patriots

 

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