2014 NFL Draft: Best Under-the-Radar Players of Round 1

Kenny DeJohn@@kennydejohnAnalyst IIIMay 8, 2014

WR Jordan Matthews
WR Jordan MatthewsMichael Conroy/Associated Press

The 2014 NFL draft is upon us, and by now, you're probably all sick and tired of hearing the same names over and over again.

Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and others have garnered all the attention up to this point, but there are other players who aren't getting nearly enough recognition. These guys also could go in Round 1, so it's strange that we haven't heard more about them.

Here are three under-the-radar NFL prospects who deserve more recognition. They'll have a future at the next level.


Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Kony Ealy is a versatile defender on the defensive line, and that makes him a valuable commodity for teams seeking an upgrade defensively. Tod Palmer of The Kansas City Star broke down his versatility based on his stats from last season:

Ealy, who declared for the draft after racking up eight sacks and 14 tackles for a loss last season, is a versatile and athletic edge rusher. He made 42 tackles last season, so he can also play the run, and broke up six passes to go with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown at Indiana.

He’s a smart player, who can also drop into coverage.

Ealy can do a little bit of everything, but he doesn't dominate any particular area of the game. That's what puts him a clear tier behind Clowney. That said, he has the potential to make a huge impact in the right NFL defense.

Formerly projected as a high first-round pick, Ealy has dropped a bit as other players continue to soar up draft boards. He's still in play for Round 1, though, as Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego points out via Twitter:

It might take a little time for Ealy to transition to the NFL, but he'll be a stud.


Demarcus Lawrence, DE/OLB, Boise State

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Demarcus Lawrence is a very under-the-radar player, but NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has him within his top 40 players, via Mike Huguenin of NFL.com. Jeremiah also speaks highly of Lawrence's athleticism and how that makes him valuable (via Huguenin):

"If you're a team running a 3-4 defense, you're looking for someone to come off the edge to give you some pressure but also athletic enough to drop into coverage. I think he gives you these things."

Lawrence is quick off the snap and boasts a variety of techniques that he can use to get by offensive linemen and storm the backfield. He's also pretty strong, which gives him the ability to outmuscle an opposing player when he tries to block him.

He'll likely convert to an outside linebacker in the pros given his skills. This is fine considering he shows traits that suggest he'll at least be decent in coverage.

I think Lawrence is a fit at the back end of Round 1, though Rob Rang predicts he'll go No. 20 to the Arizona Cardinals, via CBS Sports.


Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Jordan Matthews, the leading receiver in SEC history with 262 receptions and 3,759 yards, has the chops to be a potential No. 1 wide receiver. He's not on the same level as Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans, but it's safe to put him into the next tier with Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee and others.

This is one of the deepest classes of wideouts we have seen in years. In any other draft, Matthews might be a lock as a first-rounder. Not this year, however.

The other receivers ahead of him possess more measurable skills, but that shouldn't stop a team from taking him in the first. His size (6'3", 212 lbs) is what sets him apart from other wideouts.

This size allows him to make plays in traffic. It also makes him a valuable target in the end zone and on third downs. Quarterbacks love guys with good hands who can make plays in clutch spots, and that's exactly who Matthews is.

Teams desperate for a wideout like the Carolina Panthers (No. 28) could certainly take a chance on the former Vanderbilt star.