2014 NFL Draft: 5 Under-the-Radar Prospects You Need to Know
It's official: the 2014 NFL draft is now just a week away.
With NFL franchises prepping their final big boards, there's no better time than the present to talk about a handful of players who have managed to slip "under-the-radar."
By now, fans know all about the "stars" featured in the class of 2014.
Buffalo's Khalil Mack is a one-man wrecking crew, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has endured a pre-draft shellacking and South Carolina edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney is one of the most athletically gifted prospects we've seen in nearly a decade.
But what about the other guys?
The following list was created so that we could shine a spotlight on some of the players who are slated to fall into the latter rounds of the draft.
Watching these guys on tape and incorporating detailed scouting reports from industry experts, each name on this list represents a player who has a chance to turn some heads when they get to the NFL.
So what are you waiting for? Click the slideshow below and let's find out exactly who you should be looking out for on draft weekend.
DE Kareem Martin, North Carolina
Dynamic edge-rushers continue to be a core element of any successful NFL franchise.
Looking for a player who can come in right away and contribute is easy to spot in the first round of the draft. But when you get outside of that realm, it becomes more of a challenge to find guys who can help the cause.
North Carolina's Kareem Martin is one of those prospects.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller said in his pro comparison segment featured above that Martin "looks like a future star at defensive end in the NFL."
At 6'6", 272 pounds, Martin has the size you'd want in an edge-rusher.
He's a fluid athlete who was very productive during his tenure in a Tar Heels uniform—Martin registered 19.5 sacks, 45.5 tackles for loss and 82 total tackles between 2011 and 2013.
The main concern you have with a guy like Martin is that he doesn't show great explosion off the line of scrimmage and at times he lacks ideal speed coming off the edge.
Still, as Miller mentioned, the Tar Heel standout possesses similar traits to Seattle Seahawks stalwart Michael Bennett.
Currently projected to be selected between the second and third round, if a team who runs a 4-3 defensive scheme can get their hands on him, Martin should be able to help that club from the get-go.
RB Senorise Perry, Louisville
The NFL has undergone a massive culture shift when it comes to the running back position.
Today's game revolves more around low-cost, system-type tailbacks instead of high-powered superstars like it did in years past.
Articulating why he believes the position has become devalued, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told MMQB.com's Robert Klemko, "The devaluing of running backs has something to do with some of the offenses that are being run in college."
The Super Bowl-winning defensive maestro would continue to say, "There’s a big group that are part of the zone-read world, where maybe they’re not getting the ball in the backfield and handing it off to a guy and saying, ‘Watch what this dude can do.' "
When it comes to the running back position, finding value in the draft can be tough sledding.
But one player who could end up surprising a few teams is Louisville's Senorise Perry.
The 22-year-old averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2013, finishing the season with 706 yards rushing and six touchdowns on just 141 attempts.
Perry runs with a purpose whenever he gets his mitts on the pigskin.
He's a one-cut runner who has great vision, first-rate lateral quickness and at times can be pretty hard to bring down.
Another interesting part about Perry's tape, is that he's a consistent factor on special teams.
Whether he's out there making tackles or returning kicks, the Louisville tailback is able to produce in more ways than one.
A classic late-round grinder, whichever team winds up drafting him—or signing him as a free agent afterwards—will be adding a quality football player onto its roster.
CB Jaylen Watkins, Florida
If you're looking for one defensive back prospect who could turn out to be a pleasant surprise a few seasons down the road, Florida's Jaylen Watkins is your guy.
Writing about Watkins' value entering the NFL, B/R's Ian Wharton said:
As a member of the most talented defensive backfield in college football in 2013, Watkins was put into a role that he didn’t have much experience in. The film shows that Watkins was the best cornerback on Florida, with all of the physical abilities that can allow him to become a starting player for most NFL teams. Being scheme-diverse will help Watkins succeed. He should be selected on day two of the NFL draft.
On film, Watkins is at his best when he's using his length and speed to guard wide receivers in the slot.
Still, he has a few questions to answer before he can be grouped into that "top" defensive back conversation.
As B/R's Matt Miller referenced in his pro comparison video, Watkins spent the bulk of his career at Florida as the team's No. 3 cornerback.
Even though it would have been nice to see him line up more frequently on the outside, his work in the slot actually may turn out to be his best asset entering the NFL.
With the league's pass-friendly mantra now in full effect, Watkins' experience playing in a nickel defense makes him valuable to a host of clubs.
Team's looking for an athletic defensive back with good ball-skills and a unique ability to get physical with wide receivers at the line of scrimmage will fall in love with this young man—who just so happens to be the brother of Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
WR Isaiah Burse, Fresno State
One of the most robust positions NFL general managers will get the chance to salivate over in this year's draft is at wide receiver.
You have guys who are fast, guys who are athletic, and of course, you have guys who can put it all together and become superstars.
It must have been a rigorous vetting process figuring out what players should be included on each team's draft boards. The further you get into the draft, the muddier those waters become.
Nevertheless, Fresno State's Isaiah Burse is a name worth remembering on draft weekend.
He's a 5'10", 188-pound prospect who can generate pockets of separation and make defenders miss working out of the slot.
NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki scribed a thorough scouting report on the Fresno State wide receiver.
In it, he said:
Good athlete. Shows some suddenness as a route runner to climb defensive backs and can create separation when he needs to with short-area burst and speed cuts. Keeps working zones to come free and has a knack for finding soft spots in coverage. Scrappy competitor. Carries a swagger.
Burse doesn't have game-changing speed, nor does he have the ability to really take the top off a defense. But it's his competitive nature and shiftiness in the open field that will make him an asset in this league.
From the moment he walks into training camp, Burse will be able to provide value as a slot receiver and a kick returner.
TE Justin Jones, East Carolina
We all know about athletic tight ends Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of North Carolina and Washington, respectively.
But one "under-the-radar" guy who could garner a lot of attention on draft weekend is Justin Jones from the almighty East Carolina University.
Standing at a towering 6'8", Jones has spectacular size for a pass-catcher.
After being ruled ineligible for his 2013 season at ECU, this young man comes to the draft with far less experience under his belt than some of the other tight ends floating around.
Still, that tremendous size combined with a 37.5-inch vertical is enough to make NFL teams giddy.
CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora wrote about Jones' draft stock in further detail:
A few months ago I would have called him a priority free agent in all likelihood, but given the NFL attention from teams like the Chiefs, Falcons, Eagles, Giants and Patriots, and conversations with scouts, I believe he gets drafted and I bet he does whatever he can to make an NFL roster.
A good comparison for Jones would be tight end Joseph Fauria from the Detroit Lions.
The 6'7" Fauria wound up becoming a nightmare for defenses to deal with in the red zone, thanks to his colossal frame—he finished the 2013 season with seven touchdown receptions.
After a long lay-off from football, Jones will definitely need to shake the rust off.
Still, thanks to his strong hands and a 6'8" frame to fall back on, you get the feeling that offensive coordinators would love to have a weapon like that at their disposal.
All NFL stats courtesy of NFL.com, unless noted otherwise.
All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) unless noted otherwise.
All CFB stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.