A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how A.J. McCarron, Jerick McKinnon and Colt Lyerla were poised to be late-round steals. Now that the draft is over, it's a good time to revisit these three players to see how things worked out for them. Each player had a different draft experience as one went higher than expected, one went lower than expected and the third didn't get drafted at all.
Jerick McKinnon, Running back, Minnesota (96th overall)
When the Minnesota Vikings drafted McKinnon at the end of the third round, it was a bit of a surprise. Generally regarded as a project, McKinnon was taken ahead of more established running backs like Andre Williams, Ka'Deem Carey and Lache Seastrunk. Regardless, Minnesota is the perfect landing spot for McKinnon.
As I talked about in my earlier piece, the biggest issue with McKinnon was his lack of experience. The former Georgia Southern Eagle played multiple positions in college before settling on running back for the NFL. He has all the physical tools to succeed in the position, being one of the top performers at the combine.
Being drafted by Minnesota is perfect for McKinnon because he won't be expected to be a starter given the presence of Adrian Peterson. This will give him the necessary time to learn the nuances of the position. Speaking of which, he will get to learn from the best running back in the game and arguably one of the best in history.
McKinnon has a very similar skill set to that of Peterson. Both are hard, physical runners who have deceptive speed. General manager Rick Spielman was excited about what McKinnon brings to the team, stating in a press conference:
Very impressed with what he did in the workouts catching the ball with his hands. His running style, that speaks for itself when you watch the tape. He's elusive, he has great speed in open field, and he kinda gives us that dynamic third-down-type back that'll give us a little spark when he comes in.
McKinnon will get a number of touches his rookie season, but it won't be an overwhelming number. Still, out of all three players in this article, he should have the most immediate impact. With Peterson as his teacher and all the physical traits needed to succeed, the sky is the limit for McKinnon.
Colt Lyerla, Tight End, Undrafted
Once a 5-star recruit, Lyerla now finds himself as an undrafted free agent despite being one of the most talented players in this draft. Sadly enough, Lyerla only has himself to blame following numerous off-the-field issues, culminating in a cocaine-related arrest.
If this was a Madden draft where off-the-field issues didn't matter, Lyerla would most likely have been the second tight end drafted after Eric Ebron. But since this is the real world, teams decided his past was too troubling to take a chance.
Even now, 13 of Gil Brandt's top 16 undrafted tight ends have been signed, leaving a slim chance of Lyerla being picked up. Odds are, Lyerla's NFL career ended before it even got started.
*Update 5/16/2014* It is being reported by Darin Gantt of profootballfocus.com that the Packers are giving Lyerla a tryout. If the Packers don't sign him, if he can at least show he has matured and has a good workout, other teams may come calling.
A.J. McCarron, Quarterback, Cincinnati (164th overall)
Johnny Manziel's slide on the first day of the draft was the hottest topic of the draft. However, there were a few other quarterbacks who experienced even worse slides. One of these quarterbacks was McCarron, who slid well into the fifth round.
McCarron was picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals, who were looking to draft a backup quarterback who could potentially push incumbent starter Andy Dalton. Dalton has faced some criticism in his first three years as a starter, despite leading his team to three straight playoff appearances. The criticism comes from the fact their three playoff appearances have all been losses.
McCarron certainly has his fair share of postseason experience, playing in three bowl games, including being a two-time BCS championship-winning quarterback. McCarron and Dalton have similar skill sets, both being more accurate at short to intermediate range passes but capable of throwing the deep ball.
I don't expect McCarron to legitimately push Dalton for starting time this season as he still has to learn the playbook. Cincinnati's offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was clear after they drafted McCarron that, "This is not about Andy Dalton." This will also give him a good rest after the injuries he mentioned during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via NFL.com's Chase Goodbread):
A lot of people don’t realize I wasn't healthy at Alabama. I sacrificed a lot to play for coach Saban and that university; I played through a lot of injuries and we never leaked it because that’s just the way it is...I've played through a lot, just try to fight through for my teammates and my team.
Whether it is with the Bengals or with another team, McCarron should have an opportunity to start in the league and could end up as the most successful quarterback from this draft. He has numerous things working in his favor. He comes from a pro-style offense so the transition to the Bengals playbook shouldn't be as hard as it would be for spread-system quarterbacks.
Also, as mentioned, he won't be thrown into the starting position his rookie year, which is more than can be said for some of the higher drafted QBs like Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. This will give him time to study the position at an NFL level. Not to mention, out of all the quarterbacks drafted, with the exception of David Fales (Chicago), he has the best supporting cast.
One knock on McCarron was that he only played as well as he did because of the high level of talent he played with at Alabama. Well, if you buy into that theory, then it gives even more reason to believe McCarron will succeed as a Bengal. The Bengals boast one of the best receivers, best tight end duos and a potentially dangerous running back combo. McCarron has the physical tools and the supporting cast to step in and excel if Dalton falters.