The 2014 NFL Draft is growing closer and closer. The biggest names are endlessly talked about, and athletes are excited to attend and walk across that stage when their names are called May 8.
On this day, however, only 32 names will be called. As excited as everyone is to see who their favorite teams take on that first day, what is even more important are those next six rounds featuring 224 more players who can help build the teams of the NFL.
Every year there are hidden gems in the middle rounds who make huge impacts. Do I have to be the millionth person to bring up when Tom Brady was selected? No? Good, you get it. Now, let’s take a look at a few of the gems who will be hiding in this year’s class.
……Oh, and about that Tom Brady thing,
Shayne Skov: inside linebacker, Stanford
Shayne Skov is one of the more interesting prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft. Off the field, Frank Cooney of CBS Sports said, “What you get is a well-educated, but complicated, multi-lingual, multi-faceted guy who has described himself as ‘half-white, half-black and half Mexican.’” This is due to his white father, black mother and his Mexican football heritage.
His family moved from California to Guadalajara, Mexico when Skov was only 12 years old. At age 13 Skov was on his first American football team in Mexico.
This made Skov culturally diverse, and it also made him the hard-hitting football player that he is today. Kevin Armstrong of Sports Illustrated described the football playing conditions for Skov as such,
Without resources for upkeep, the practice field had no grass and was hardened into compact dirt littered with shards of glass and pebbles. Reflective of the macho culture, coaches encouraged hitting. ‘Those were the hardest practices I've been through,’ said Shayne.
Skov would have likely been a first-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft had it not been for an unfortunate knee injury that sidelined him for the 2011 season.
Shayne has appeared to have lost a step in his game since then and, despite rebounding strong in 2013 from a not-so-great 2012 season, his draft stock has taken a hit. Many experts are projecting Shayne will be a third or fourth round pick.
He may have lost a step as far as chasing down plays along the edges, but he could still be an ideal 3-4 middle linebacker in the NFL. He is one of the smartest and most instinctive players in this year’s class.
Skov is strong and reacts very quickly to the direction a play is developing. He tends to be upright and could use some coaching with his block-shedding technique, but he has the potential to be a dangerous pass-rusher.
One more aspect of Skov’s that he could clean up is at the point of attack. He is a great tackler but will sometimes take the wrong angle and has, on too many occasions, had to make tackles with one arm.
As, Bleacher Report’s own Matt Miller says in the video above, Skov draws comparisons to a player such as Jon Beason. With the right system, Shayne Skov could make an immediate impact for an NFL team.
Colt Lyerla: tight end, Notre Dame
Colt Lyerla is a tremendously athletic tight end and one of the most talented players in the draft. He is so good, in fact, that last April, Chris Burk of Sports Illustrated had him in the first round of his mock draft.
Unfortunately talent will only bring you so far if you are unable to accept your responsibilities, which Colt failed to do in 2013. It was a very bad year for the young man, and his life appeared to be on a downwards spiral.
The issues began in April when Lyerla took to Twitter, defending conspiracy theories about the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.
Next he began to have troubles with his team. According to an ESPN report, he missed Oregon's game against Tennessee due to an illness, then was suspended when the team faced Colorado. Ultimately Lyerla decided to quit the team in early October.
Later that month he was arrested for unlawful possession of cocaine and interfering with a police officer.
Lyerla found his biggest problems in college, but even in high school there were signs that his mind was not always in the right place. According to Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian, “Sometime he partied too much. At times his priorities were out of whack. It was a struggle to stay focused when he had virtual free rein at home. His grades suffered. He missed weeks of school at a time.”
There is no excuse for the offenses Lyerla committed, and this has caused his draft stock to plummet. This, like so many athletes who come from troubled backgrounds, is Lyerla’s last opportunity to turn things around and make something of himself.
Has Colt Lyerla learned his lesson? It at least sounds like it. In a quote from Sports Illustrated, Lyerla said,
As much as I hate to say it, I think some of the mishaps that happened and me getting in trouble probably is the best thing that’s happened to me. Because it really put me at a point in place and gave me time to self-reflect, and just helped me realize exactly what I want out of life and what I need to do to get it.
If we can pick up Colt Lyerla in a late round, Chicago will fall in love with him. Played with him. Tone setter, great hands, freak athlete— Kyle Long (@Ky1eLong) February 6, 2014
Lyerla has current NFL stars backing him, as seen in the above Tweet. He is a tremendous talent but holds in a lot of pain from his past. Some of us need everything to be on the line in order for us to see what we want out of life. Everything is now on the line for Lyerla. As a potential day three selection, provided that he stays out of trouble, Lyerla will be an absolute steal.
Garrett Gilbert: quarterback, Southern Methodist
Garrett Gilbert is a name that may sound familiar. You know, THE Garrett Gilbert. He led the National Championship game in passing during the 2009 season. Still nothing? Do you call yourself a football fan?
Alright, I am kidding. Not about him leading the game in passing, but that his performance was memorable. He really only threw for 186 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions. To his credit, he was a freshman, playing the most he ever had in a college game—and it was in the National Championship against Alabama.
Garrett Gilbert was one of the top quarterbacks in the country coming out of high school. He decided to go to the University of Texas, where he would back up Colt McCoy during his freshman year and jump into the driver’s seat as a sophomore.
On January 7, 2010 McCoy had led the Longhorns to the National Championship against the Crimson Tide. In the first quarter, however, after McCoy had thrown only two passes, he was struck by Marcell Dareus. He injured his right shoulder on the play, and the driver’s seat became Gilbert’s long before he was ready.
The Texas Longhorns lost that game 21-37. Despite Gilbert’s rough game, the expectations for him began to grow rapidly. He was one of the preseason Heisman Trophy candidates going into his sophomore season. He even ranked ahead of current NFL QB’s Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Christian Ponder and Matt Barkley.
Unfortunately, he disappointed during his sophomore year, throwing only 10 touchdowns along with 17 interceptions. He was on the team for a third year but in October, 2011 he was released from his scholarship and transferred to Southern Methodist University.
Another disappointing season awaited him in 2012 with SMU, but there was progress. This time he was a bit more balanced, throwing 15 touchdowns as well as 15 interceptions.
I suppose no one should be breaking out four years after they played in the national championship, but this was the case for Gilbert in 2013. His passer rating this season was 136.2; he threw for 21 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.
He has been one of the lower rated quarterbacks by most draft analysts but with an impressive pro day, he has people turning the tape back on. Gil Brandt of NFL Media had the following to say, “When all is said and done, I think he'll end up being a mid-round draft pick, maybe even as early as the third round.”
He is a bit raw as a passer, but he has ideal size at 6’4”, 220 pounds. He is also a great athlete who can extend a pocket or break through gaps when a play opens up. Pocket presence is the best attribute I have seen in Gilbert, and that is extremely important at the next level.
He would be an ideal candidate to back up one of the veterans in the league such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. If that situation does play out, let us only hope that Gilbert’s first experience as an NFL QB is not in a Super Bowl.