The 2014 NFL draft is highlighted by a handful of prospects who have been receiving relentless media coverage and tons of buzz ahead of their leap from college to the pros. However, because there are 32 picks in the first round, not every player selected on Day 1 is going to be a hyped star.
There are some unheralded players who aren’t getting much attention right now but should certainly wind up making an impact in the NFL.
Lets take a look at a few under-the-radar prospects who are poised to come off the board in the first round.
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Pass-rushers are at a premium in the modern NFL, as there is an abundance of elite quarterbacks, and offenses have opened the playbooks for them, leading to more throws of the ball than ever before.
Defensive coordinators would love to add a player like Ryan Shazier into the fold, giving them another weapon to strike back against these pass-happy attacks. Shazier has a knack for finding a way into the backfield and causing disruptions while also being versatile and talented enough to play on the inside and work as a run-stopper.
This Buckeyes product stands at 6’1”, 237 pounds, giving him ideal size to line up as either an outside rusher or interior linebacker. His speed is off the charts and allows him to go from sideline to sideline in a flash, something that Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated raved about:
To me, Ryan Shazier is the prototype of the every-down true linebacker. Lighter, faster, more explosive. Moves inside to outside and back.— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) April 22, 2014
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports heard one scout describe Shazier as a mix between Daryl Washington and Lavonte David:
" I see a mix of Daryl Washington and Lavonte David..." - some high praise from one NFL scout on OSU LB Ryan Shazier #ScoutsRoundtable— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 19, 2013
With 315 combined tackles during his four years in Columbus, there is no doubt that this young man can hit. He has a nose for the ball and always finds a way to put a helmet on it, but he can also drop back into coverage or surge after the signal-caller in obvious passing scenarios.
After a stellar pro day—a performance in which he jumped 42 inches vertically, leapt 130 inches on the broad jump, crushed his 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds, blitzed through the 20-yard shuttle in 4.21 seconds and dominated the three-cone drill in 6.91 seconds—Shazier admitted he should be a first-rounder.
He told Doug Lesmerises of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, "I'm really happy with what I did. I feel I kind of did what everyone wanted me to do. I definitely feel like I'm a first-round pick."
With that body of work, elite athleticism and coveted skill set, it would be a surprise if he fell into the second day.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Derek Carr may not be as popular as Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles, but there is a real chance he not only gets drafted higher than some of these quarterbacks, but also has a better career than them.
Carr has been one of the most consistent, efficient quarterbacks in the country, but he has been plying his trade out of the spotlight with Fresno State. He is coming off a ridiculous 50-touchdown season with the Bulldogs, where he also completed 453 of 659 passes for 5,082 yards.
While some will instantly point to the fact that those numbers came in a spread system that is unrealistic at the NFL level, supporters should note that Carr did run a pro-style system back in 2011. He completed 279 of 446 passes for 3,514 yards and 26 touchdowns that year, showing immense poise, discipline and read progression for a young prospect.
ESPN analyst Louis Riddick spoke to ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox about Carr’s proven ability to handle an NFL offense:
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.
Factor in some impressive athleticism and elusiveness, and you are looking at a signal-caller who jumps off the page in just about every category. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller came away impressed by his speed:
Surprised by the 4.68 for Derek Carr. Knew he was a good athlete, but that's impressive speed.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 23, 2014
There isn’t much to knock on Carr’s game, and he should be one of the premier quarterbacks to come out of this class. Don’t sleep on a team falling in love with his overall ability to play the position and taking him as early as the top 10 when the first round starts May 8.