2014 NFL Draft: Unheralded Prospects Teams Should Chase After Day 1

Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2014

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 07:  Jordan Matthews #87 of the Vanderbilt Commodores catches a pass against the Austin Peay Governors at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 7, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Round 1 of the NFL draft is where teams hope to snag future franchise studs, but the later rounds are where squads can distance themselves from the pack and create a championship contender.

The middle rounds provide teams the perfect opportunity to fill holes and make some major splashes by stealing a star. Any good fantasy football manager knows they win the league in the middle to late rounds. Real general managers are advised to live by the same mantra, while also not messing up the first round.

These guys are expected to remain available after Thursday night, giving clubs a chance to land a promising talent later in the proceedings.


Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 06:  Running back Devonta Freeman #8 of the Florida State Seminoles celebrates after a three-yard rush for a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers in the second quarter of the 2014 Vizio BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl
Harry How/Getty Images

Running backs have been shunned to the back of the relevance scale. Too many mid- to late- round rushers have morphed into productive players, and general managers have had too many nightmares about Trent Richardson and David Wilson.

Which is fair. Knowing it's not necessary to take a running back early, I wouldn't exert a Round 1 selection on one either. With the league collectively changing the market value on running backs, some overpriced talents now turn into solid mid-round bargains.

One such player is Devonta Freeman, a physical bruiser who averaged 5.9 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns during his junior season. He also showed some promise in limited opportunities as a pass-catcher, grabbing 22 receptions for 278 receiving yards.

Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel also admired his pass-protecting prowess, making him the complete package in the backfield:

Freeman can become a vital member of a team's rotation, and he's obtainable for the cost of a Round 3 pick.


Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, wide receivers are all the rage this year. There's plenty to go around in a loaded class of wideouts, and many of them received Round 1 recognition.

Those not willing to take one so high can wait for the second day to grab Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews.

A beacon of consistency in his final two years, Matthews snagged 94 receptions in his junior year before grabbing 112 catches to conclude his collegiate career. During his final season with the Commodores, he registered at least five catches in every game.

While the numbers paint a pretty portrait for Matthews, some scouts don't feel he offers enough separation to excel at the pro level. Draft guru Benjamin Allbright, however, thinks whatever team takes him will walk away with a steal:

It's easy for a wide receiver to get lost in the shuffle this year, but Matthews should not fall too far down Round 2. 


CB Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 25:  Pierre Desir #30 of the North squad intercepts a pass intended for Antonio Andrews #5 of the South squad during the Reese's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 25, 2014 in Mobile, Alabama.  The South defeated the North
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

After sulking in all of Day 1's glorious madness, take a few moments to read B/R's Jeff Pearlman's profile on Pierre Desir. He's endured a grueling journey to make it through draft day, but the defensive back is far from just a great feature story.

In Pearlman's piece, former NFL defensive back Willie Pile, who worked with Desir at 4th and Inches Sports Performance facility, offered his assessment of the pro prospect:

Is Pierre Desir ready for the NFL? Absolutely. First off, you look at his size and see the prototype big corner. Second, he’s cat quick, and his change-of-direction skills are amazing. Third—and maybe most important—is his maturity. This isn’t a kid trying to figure out life. It’s a man. A grown man who understands what’s on the line, and will do anything to succeed.

The Division II standout must prove he was not simply feasting on subpar competition when he recorded nine interceptions in 2012. He'd be well-served going into a team than can ease him into a regular role, which isn't too much too ask for a player slated to go around Round 3 or 4.