Grabbing a franchise player in the first round of the NFL draft is a key to being successful, but finding productive players in the later rounds can be just as important.
The 2014 NFL draft is just two weeks away. Teams are finalizing individual visits to determine both the star players they want and the prospects they feel other teams have overlooked. Some of these prospects who will likely be picked in the fourth round or later have the potential to be quickly successful at the NFL level.
Brent Urban, DE, Virginia
Brent Urban has the physical skills to make an impact in the NFL. He stands at 6’7’’ and 295 pounds with an 80.75’’ wingspan and good athleticism for his size. He played defensive tackle at Virginia during his senior year, limiting his sack total, but he led all defensive linemen in the country with nine passes broken up despite the fact that he played in just eight games.
That combination of size and quickness will allow Urban to transition into the defensive end position in the NFL. Count ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. among Urban's fans:
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.: #UVA's Brent Urban is "a perfect 3-4 defensive end." Late second day, early third day.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) April 23, 2014
With his physical traits, Urban is instantly ready to disrupt passing lanes and get to the quarterback, but a high ankle sprain will likely knock him down to the fourth or fifth round. The Kansas City Chiefs run a 3-4 and could look to add some defensive line depth in the later rounds.
John Brown, WR, Pittsburg State
John Brown had a brilliant career at Pittsburg State, catching 185 passes for 3,300 yards and 32 touchdowns while being named to the All-American team three times. While Brown may not have been well known playing Division II football, he stood out at the combine.
That kind of speed is going to make Brown a home run threat in the NFL, and he should immediately be able to get some snaps as a punt returner and a wide receiver. Teams are obviously concerned with his size (5’11’’ and 170 pounds), but Brown is ready to address the challenge, via Tony Adame of The Wichita Eagle: "I know I’ve been criticized for how small I am, but that’s another point to prove for me. People have been telling me I’m too small to play football my entire life."
The New York Jets hosted Brown on an official visit, and it would make sense for them to take a flyer on a playmaker in the sixth or seventh round.
David Fales, QB, San Jose State
David Fales threw for back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons at San Jose State and led the Spartans to an 11-2 record in 2012. One of those losses came by three points to eventual Rose Bowl champion Stanford. He had a prolific year in 2013 with 4,189 yards and 33 touchdowns, and he continued to showcase accuracy as his biggest strength with a career completion percentage of 68.5.
A big question with Fales is his arm strength, but he showed some extra life on his throws at San Jose State’s pro day while being accurate on 52 of 53 passes. Fales told Jimmy Durkin of the San Jose Mercury News that he is aware of the criticism and is constantly working to get better: "Everyone's going to be a critic and has to analyze something. I know what I need to work on and my strengths and weaknesses. I'll always be working on everything."
Fales is unlikely to get a chance to prove himself as a starter right away, but he will instantly impress a coaching staff with his accuracy and his pocket presence. The Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers have shown interest, and he could win a backup job and start developing into a potential starter with either team.
Ahmad Dixon, SS, Baylor
Ahmad Dixon was an aggressive playmaking safety at Baylor, particularly in run support. He has good size at 6’0’’ and 212 pounds, and he is a punishing tackler, as seen multiple times in the highlight video below.
Unfortunately for Dixon, an ugly 4.64 40-yard dash at the combine is probably going to knock him down to the fourth or fifth round. But Baylor timed Dixon at 4.39 in the 40, and he ran a 4.48 at his pro day. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller was impressed with Dixon’s range at Senior Bowl practices:
Really like Ahmad Dixon. Just showed nice range getting to pylon from centerfield.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 22, 2014
Just one year removed from transitioning from linebacker, Dixon needs to hone his aggressiveness and cut down on penalties. But he should get some early snaps due to his playmaking abilities and will be successful in run defense. The Detroit Lions are among the seven teams that visited Dixon will be looking to add depth at the safety position in the later rounds.