You don’t have to be an NFL fan to know that Tom Brady was passed up by approximately 750 teams before the New England Patriots eventually selected him near the end of the 2000 NFL draft. Brady is far from the only talented player to ever go late in an NFL draft, and there are bound to be some in the 2014 version as well.
Sure, the majority of the headlines from the 2014 NFL draft will come from the first two days, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t impact players to be had during Day 3.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few to watch Saturday.
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon
If we are talking pure speed, it doesn’t get much better than De’Anthony Thomas from Oregon.
In fact, CBS Sports practically raved about the former Duck in its draft scouting report:
Without question, Thomas is the most electric player in the 2014 draft. He boasts remarkable elusiveness, instant acceleration and the speed to pull away from defenders to make him a legitimate threat to score each time he touches the ball. Shows good vision, locating holes and slithering through them to get into the open field. Has soft, natural hands for the reception, easily snagging passes and securing them quickly.
Thomas was an integral part of Oregon’s high-powered attack during his collegiate career, and he has the athleticism and versatility necessary to play in the slot as a receiver or as a change-of-pace running back in the right scheme.
Perhaps the most enticing part about Thomas’ game, though, when it comes to his draft potential is his ability to return kicks.
Ever since Devin Hester took the league by storm, kick returners have been seen as game-changers. Ironically, the Chicago Bears did not bring Hester back this offseason and could be looking for someone with Thomas’ talents in the draft. It should be noted, though, that the return game is far different in today's NFL, with new rules in place that limit opportunities.
Still, look for Thomas to compete for the starting kick returner spot right away. Speed doesn’t care if you are a rookie or 10-year veteran, so he can change a number of games with his electric running ability right away.
Thomas could ultimately compete for Rookie of the Year honors if he takes a couple of kicks back to the house for a contender and gets some looks as a situational player on offense.
Corey Brown, Ohio State
If we are talking electric kick returners, don’t overlook Corey Brown from Ohio State.
Brown brings many of the same traits as Thomas to the table, from incredible speed and soft hands to elusive moves in the open field. He is also a more experienced receiver with better size than Thomas and could play in the slot in a spread offense, even as a rookie.
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports talked about Brown’s ability, via Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
When I saw him live at the combine, I was sitting in the stands watching the wide receivers go through their drills and Brown was just moving at a different speed. He had a few extra gears. He had the quickness and a speed element and his feet were just electric. And that really stood out.
Brown was a kick returner in college as well, so there is more value than just a slot receiver in this pick.
Michael Sam, Missouri
You don’t win Defensive Player of the Year in the nation’s toughest conference without professional potential.
Michael Sam did just that at Missouri and has the power-athleticism combination that teams covet from the defensive end spot. What’s more, he can play some outside linebacker if a team that runs a 3-4 scheme selects him.
Sam’s initial explosiveness allows him to get to the edge, but his strength contributes on his bull rushes and helps stuff the run. There are some concerns about his size, but he overpowers larger linemen by keeping his legs churning throughout the entire play.
Whichever team lands Sam on the third day of the draft will get an absolute steal and one of the most productive defenders at the college level.
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