It's rather easy for quality prospects to get lost in the shuffle of the 2014 NFL draft thanks to the impressive depth a class has not brought to the pros for quite some time.
This is superb news for teams, but not so much for the prospects on an individual level as they lose out on potentially millions in cash. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller helps to explain just how much the 2014 class stands out:
Mentioned this on radio, but 2014 draft class is so deep that many 2nd round picks would be mid-late firsts in "normal" year.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 16, 2014
This means more than ever that sleeper prospects destined for lengthy pro careers have fallen by the wayside in the court of public opinion.
Let's brush up on a few of these names and nail down a surefire landing spot to remove a bit of the shock from the first round come May.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
The talk at wideout has been, and apparently will continue to be, about the likes of Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks and Marqise Lee.
But it's Odell Beckham Jr. who may turn out to be the best in class in hindsight. His 2013 numbers—59 receptions for 1,152 yards and eight scores—are nice, but it's his film that really allows him to stand out in comparison to the rest of the class.
In fact, it's the intangibles on film that made evaluators do a double take after most initially brushed Beckham Jr. off thanks to his height measurement. Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon has the details:
If Odell Beckham were 3 inches taller he'd be a top-10 lock. Which tells me he should probably be in that convo anyways.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) March 31, 2014
He comes in at 5'11" and 198 pounds, which is apparently an issue a year removed from 5'8" and 174-pound Tavon Austin going No. 8 overall.
Alas, Beckham Jr.'s crisp routes and ability to take the ball to the house from any point on the field via returns or a base offense means he'll have plenty of suitors such as New York at No. 18, Philadelphia at No. 22 and even Kansas City at No. 23.
He won't fall any further than No. 26 to the Cleveland Browns where he'll work across from Josh Gordon and assuredly with a rookie quarterback taken earlier.
Prediction: Beckham Jr. lands in Cleveland at No. 26.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Size issues are getting to the point of being laughable in draft evaluations.
Jason Verrett also gets knocked for his height at 5'9" and 189 pounds despite the fact he's one of the better cover corners in the class and—get this—easily the most physical against the rush. Miller explains why the height metric is overstated in Verrett's case:
If Jason Verrett were 5'11" instead of 5'9", he'd be in the running for the No. 2 cornerback spot. Maybe he should be, regardless? Verrett is a physical, fast, attacking cornerback with ball-hawk skills and the tenacity to put a hat on the ball-carrier. He may spend a lot of his time in the slot, but Tyrann Mathieu did as well and was damn near an All-Pro-caliber player in his first season. Verrett is cut from the same cloth and should be a late first-rounder.
Verrett's size, violence against the rush and all-around game has some, such as ESPN's Todd McShay, seeing flashes of Antoine Winfield:
TCU CB J Verrett reminds me of Antoine Winfield. Little guy that plays bigger than many 6-foot CBs. He just earholed Texas Tech TE J. Amaro!— Todd McShay (@McShay13) March 3, 2014
Considering Winfield spent 14 years as one of the game's better corners, Verrett is in a great position to shock the league. He'll be pushed down the board a tad by the class itself, but Cincinnati will be more than happy to scoop him up at No. 24 and let him learn from veterans such as Leon Hall before he takes over the starting gig down the line.
Prediction: Verrett to Cincinnati at No. 24.
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
So it has come to this.
C.J. Mosley has hit unheralded status despite being arguably the best inside linebacker prospect to hit the NFL since Luke Kuechly.
Mosley has two things working against him in tandem, the first being the obvious depth of the class. The second is more subtle—the league places a premium on pass-rushers at linebacker, while rangy, sideline-to-sideline enforcers such as Mosley are simply less important.
To make matters a bit worse, there were rumblings of health issues, but the Alabama product was happy to confirm the rigorous process at the combine and his pro day weeded out those issues, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread.
"I really wasn't worried about it because I knew how I had played with it, and I already had the results back from January," he said. "The scouts, they want to check on everything and make sure they're not dealing with any risk. I understood where they were coming from. They got the same results I got."
There's no easy way to describe Mosley outside of one word—elite. Let's allow ESPN's Kevin Weidl to explain:
Also Mosley is a flat out stud. ELITE instincts and eyes. Vastly improved taking on blocks in tight quarters this year. Definition of alpha— Kevin Weidl (@KevinW_ESPN) January 24, 2014
There may not be a huge value placed on what Mosley does anymore, but he's a sure-fire contributor right away in all facets of the game with an additional leadership trait to boot.
Look for a team like Green Bay to pounce on the interior enforcer and get an every-down stud and some personality right away.
Prediction: Mosley winds up in Green Bay via No. 21.
Note: All height/weight information courtesy of NFL.com.