NFL Draft 2014: Predictions for Under-the-Radar Prospects

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NFL Draft 2014: Predictions for Under-the-Radar Prospects
Nam Y. Huh

There are so many great prospects at just about every position in the 2014 NFL draft class, so teams are going to be facing some interesting dilemmas this spring—especially in the latter part of the first round.

After the can’t-miss talent, such as South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, comes off the board, franchises will be forced to weigh their options and likely have to choose either the best available player or someone who fills a pressing need.

While there are occasions where one prospect will fit both of these conditions, that often isn’t the case. This quandary can cause teams to reach for a less-skilled player or find it hard to assimilate a rookie at a position of strength.

Let’s take a look at some under-the-radar athletes both good enough to be drafted in the first round and ready to fill a major hole for the team projected to select them.

 

Derek Carr to Minnesota Vikings at No. 8

The Vikings desperately need to nab a signal-caller in this upcoming draft. While there are a handful of highly touted prospects, such as Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, drawing plenty of attention this offseason, Minnesota might be best served going with a less heralded option.

Carr is a gifted quarterback who has been dominating at Fresno State for the past few years and has proven, time and time again, that he is ready to make the leap to the next level.

His numbers are out of this world, as he completed 453 of 659 passes for 5,082 yards and 50 touchdowns in his senior season alone. While Carr’s stats from the past two years came in a spread-style offense, he displayed an innate understanding of a pro-style offense back in 2011.

The then-sophomore competed 279 of 446 passes for 3,544 yards and 26 touchdowns, so he’s clearly capable of managing the game and opening the offense up for the Vikings.

ESPN’s Louis Riddick spoke with ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox about Carr’s experience and his ability to seamlessly translate to the pros:

When you see him now in that type of system when he went to the Senior Bowl, during the practices, during the week, during the game, during his pro day, he was very comfortable with the footwork, timing, mechanics, accuracy that he's going to need at the NFL level. There are some people that are very, very, very impressed by what they think his skills are relative to an NFL projection.

Carr isn’t just a game manager, as he has the ability to throw deep down the field and is even elusive when exiting the pocket. His speed caused Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller to raise his eyebrows:

If they decide to take Carr at No. 8, the Vikings would get an ideal prospect to lead their franchise for the foreseeable future. Even if it means passing over one of the more hyped options at the position, Minnesota has to explore this option.

 

 

Cody Latimer to Kansas City Chiefs at No. 23

Latimer is soaring up the big boards after wowing scouts at a pro day workout in late March. The Indiana Hoosiers wideout wasn’t able to perform at the combine due to a foot injury, but he healed quickly and appears to be riding a surge of momentum in the first round.

While he did hit the bench press in Indianapolis and led his position in reps, scouts didn’t start buzzing about Latimer until his Bloomington-based pro day saw him blitz through a 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds. That showing is rendered even more impressive if you consider how he underwent surgery on his foot less than two months prior.

Zach Osterman of The Indianapolis Star posted the official time:

NFL.com’s Gil Brandt described the workout:

Due to a broken bone in his foot, Latimer was only able to run straight ahead and did not participate in any positional drills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 and 4.45 seconds. He also had a 39-inch vertical jump. Latimer was at the NFL Scouting Combine, but only competed in the bench press (in which he led his position group with 23 reps of 225 pounds).

ESPN’s Todd McShay gave a brief scouting report on what makes Latimer so special outside of the weight room (subscription required):

[Latimer] does a great job of getting off the press, has extremely reliable hands and is a threat after the catch -- three things that make him a perfect fit for a West Coast-style offense. He is dealing with a foot injury but his healing is ahead of schedule, and he recently ran in the 4.4-range at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds.

Is Latimer worth a first-round selection?

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The Chiefs desperately need to add a dynamic pass-catcher in the first round. They have talent all over the field and should be back in the playoffs at the end of the 2014 campaign, but have to evolve the offense past checkdown throws to Jamaal Charles.

If Latimer is still on the board when the team picks at No. 23, it will be tough to pass this kid up. He’s the perfect combination of size, speed, playmaking ability and soft hands.

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