The Most Overlooked Players in the 2013 NFL Draft
This slideshow focuses much-needed attention on this year's less notable NFL prospects. These guys may not be household names today but could be in five years.
Whether because of size limitations, injury or the lack of exposure that comes from playing at a small school, these talented individuals have been overlooked and underestimated.
With the NFL Scouting Combine just days away, this list should come in handy in Indianapolis. These players may soon be catapulted into the spotlight by a blazing 40-time or buried further into the back pages of draftniks' big boards when their weaknesses are exposed.
Either way, these prospects should not be overlooked, especially when many of their skills are highly applicable to the NFL.
So get familiar with this list. In time, one of these players could be a central piece in your team's Super Bowl victory.
WR Tavarres King, Georgia
Projected Round: 4th to 6th
Weight: 195 pounds
Tavarres King has a nice frame for the next next level. In 2012 he demonstrated an elite ability to create separation from defenders while emerging as one of the nation's most productive deep threats. King averaged just over 22 yards per catch his senior season and scored nine touchdowns.
If asked which receiving prospect in this year's class is the best route-runner, my answer would be either DeAndre Hopkins or King.
Though King is not likely to set the NFL on fire with his elusiveness, he does show an ability to juke and avoid tacklers.
In summary, King is an elite route-runner with good speed, decent hands and attractive NFL potential. Most projections have him being taken off the board in the mid-to-late rounds. If he ends up being around that long, some team is going to get a big-time steal.
His talent alone could easily justify a second-round selection, but his performance at the NFL combine might decide where he goes in the draft. If King can nail a sub-4.5 in the 40-yard dash, he should be gone well before the sixth round.
RB Spencer Ware, LSU
Projected Round: 7th to undrafted
Weight: 225 pounds
Although Spencer Ware may not have wowed scouts this season with statistics, his running style and body frame are ideal for the NFL. Ware shared time in a crowded backfield at LSU, where he was used primarily as a short-yardage power back.
The truth is, Ware is an extremely hard runner with strong leg drive. He's incredibly tough and was willing to put his head down and run over SEC linebackers.
For a bigger back, Ware hits the hole fast while always running north-to-south. He's a one-cut runner with good vision, balance and will run through arm-tackles like they're wet noodles.
Considering most draft sites don't even rank Spencer in the top 10 at his position, and Draft Breakdown has him 28th-best running back, Ware could be waiting a couple days before his name is called.
But Ware's true value, given his NFL compatibility, is as a third-round pick. He's not a home run hitter, but is still an important asset for any NFL offense looking to establish an effective power running game.
WR Ace Sanders, South Carolina
Projected Round: 5th to 6th
Ace Sanders is obviously short by wide receiver standards, but his elusiveness is enormous. This kid is best known for his ability as an electrifying punt and kick returner and for being slippery as a greased pig.
Sanders has tremendous potential as a slot receiver at the next level. At the least, he should become one of the best return men in the NFL.
Watching him weave in and out of defenders' reach the way he does is a thing of beauty. He's a guy who can spark a team by creating big plays out of nothing. His value as an improvisational spark plug is why he should be selected somewhere in the third or fourth round.
A player can't change how tall he is, but he can decide how big he's going to be on a football field. By that measure, Sanders is one of the biggest weapons in this year's draft.
WR Brandon Kaufman, Eastern Washington
Projected Round: 7th
Weight: 215 pounds
This tall, smooth target from Eastern Washington has elected to forgo his senior season to enter the draft. Unfortunately, he picked a bad year to do so considering how much depth and talent there is at his position. This, along with being from a small school, is part of the reason why sites such as NFL Draft Scout have him projected as a seventh-round pick.
Brandon Kaufman has NFL size and adequate speed. His hands are reliable and he's a solid route-runner. His body control and ability to quickly change directions set him apart from other big receivers.
He was also highly productive. According to the NFL Draft Scout, Kaufman set the FCS single-season record for most receiving yards with 1,850. He averaged 19 yards a reception and scored 16 touchdowns.
If this were any other draft year, Kaufman would easily be a second- or third-round option. But despite the depth at receiver, this guy is more talented than most receiver prospects and can keep a defense honest.
For those reasons, Kaufman deserves to go somewhere on Day 2.
S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
Projected Round: 6th or 7th
Weight: 217 pounds
Shamarko Thomas is a compact torpedo with no regard for his body. He hits hard and runs fast. This kid is loaded with athleticism and raw ability. He displays heart and toughness and can close ground like few people can.
His high energy and vigor in the secondary helped him lead Syracuse in tackles while being named first-team All-Big East.
Though there are some rough spots in Thomas' game, he has all the ingredients to be a special teams standout. This should buy him valuable time on NFL rosters, where I believe he will eventually become an outstanding safety.
Starting-caliber talent is rarely found in the last couple of rounds. But if Thomas lasts that long, he has a great chance to be one of those lucky few. Personally, I like his athleticism and potential enough to draft him in the third round.
I love safeties with elite speed and the moxie to dislodge the rock from unsuspecting ball-carriers. With improved technique in coverage and better pursuit angles, this kid can be a big-time playmaker in the NFL.
DE Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky
Projected Round: 3th to 5th
Weight: 244 pounds
This small school prospect with big-time talent suffered a torn ACL this past November, causing him to miss his final three games, yet he managed to rack up 12.5 sacks. Three came against Alabama, which had one of the best offensive lines in the country.
Quanterus Smith is a long, thin-framed pass-rusher, but he plays tough and strong. He has a nice dip move to get around the edge and bends with impressive flexibility and balance.
Smith looks like a good athlete who has a deep arsenal of pass-rush moves using sound technique and quick feet. During the Alabama game, he beat both of its starting tackles for sacks, including one sack-fumble.
Smith does tend to get pushed around at times by blockers, but his high motor and long arms help him overcome deficiencies in functional strength. He may be the best all-around pass-rusher in this year's draft.
With that said, elite pass-rushers do not often come off the board in the middle rounds. The best at applying pressure are usually gone fairly quickly.
Smith should easily be a late first- or early second-round prospect, but injury and his small-school status have severely damaged his value.
I wouldn't hesitate to grab Smith in the second round.
RB C.J. Anderson, California
Projected Round: Undrafted
Weight: 210 pounds
I've seen every game C.J. Anderson played in college, and I'm convinced he has a future in the NFL.
No. 9 spent most of his Cal days sharing carries with running back Isi Sofele. The head coach at the time, Jeff Tedford, continuously made the error of giving Sofele the bulk of the carries while under-utilizing Anderson. This likely contributed indirectly to Tedford's firing, considering he increasingly lacked the ability to see and use the talent available to him.
C.J. Anderson has the size and strength to withstand an NFL pounding. He's also highly underrated making defenders miss en route to big runs. This skill is paramount to his success.
Anderson has all the tools necessary to make a splash in the NFL and plays much faster than his 40-time is likely to indicate.
This talented running back, lost in a game of politics and favoritism at Cal, needs an opportunity to shine at the next level. He's not likely to be drafted, but will get his shot at a training camp. I'd draft him in the fifth round.
CB D.J. Hayden, Houston
Projected Round: 6th or 7th
Weight: 190 pounds
After studying tape of D.J. Hayden, I came away thinking he's not the best athlete but has an impressive feel for the game. He consistently applies tight man-to-man coverage and plays the ball extremely well.
Hayden was on his way to finishing up a stellar senior season before he suffered a life-threatening injury. According to NFL Draft Scout, he tore his inferior vena cava in the heart after colliding with another player in practice.
This injury clearly has caused Hayden to become a medical red flag, which will likely completely scare off many teams.
Aside from the significant medical issue, Hayden also has trouble against blockers and tends to avoid contact whenever possible. He's also not a speedster, but has demonstrated consistency in being able to run hip-to-hip with almost any receiver, including Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton, who he did a fantastic job against.
All things considered, Hayden is still worth the risk in the late third or early fourth round.
I've quoted this excerpt from NFL Draft Scout, which was taken from Houston Football:
Prior to his injury, just 45 of 362 pass attempts (12.4%) from UH opponents went Hayden's way. Of the 45, just 11 were completed, representing just 5% of the 216 completions from UH opponents with Hayden in the lineup. The senior also had eight pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
WR Reggie Dunn, Utah
Projected Round: 7th or undrafted
Weight: 170 pounds
One of the best things about dynamic kick returners is they possess the skills to be just as dynamic and elusive on offense if used properly.
Reggie Dunn was not used much in Utah's offense, but his ability to be a game-changer was still fully established through special teams alone.
This stat alone blows my mind; With only 10 kick returns in 2012, Dunn took four to the end zone. That means almost half of his kickoffs were returned for scores. This is unheard of.
Dunn potentially can run his 40-yard dash in the low 4.3s, which would make him one of the fastest players in this draft.
Based on his speed, explosive return abilities and the potential to use him in specially designed offensive plays, Dunn easily has fourth-round potential. If he happens to go undrafted, that would be a big surprise.
RB Miguel Maysonet, Stony Brook
Projected Round: 5th to 7th
Weight: 205 pounds
Miguel Maysonet was the heart and soul of the Stony Brook football program. It was his effort and ability that nearly willed the small school to victory against Syracuse.
Despite his lack of notoriety, Miguel is one of the more talented running backs in this draft. He is a not only a skilled and superior athlete, but also a high-effort guy who keeps his legs churning to move a pile. He has an impressive combination of vision and balance.
But the most impressive thing that showed up on tape was his competitive spirit. This tool alone is more valuable than all the others. It will help him push through the inevitable struggles and hardships experienced in a league that replaces nearly 300 guys each year.
Maysonet won't be the biggest, fastest or strongest running back in this class, but he might be the most competitive and productive. For these reasons, his value should be as high as the third round.