NFL Draft 2014: Unheralded Prospects Who Offer Great Value in Later Rounds

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2014

Oct 12, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans linebacker Max Bullough (40) looks over Indiana Hoosiers offense during the second half in a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 42-28. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Any general manager can draft guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Jake Matthews, Greg Robinson, Jadeveon Clowney and Sammy Watkins knowing full well he got one of the best players in the draft. The best GMs are the ones who find the late-round gems everybody dismissed.

Everybody brings up how Tom Brady was a sixth-round selection, and while that parable is tired, it does demonstrate that you can find potential Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers in any round.

Donald Driver and Shannon Sharpe went in the seventh round, Terrell Davis and Matt Hasselbeck the sixth, Rodney Harrison and Zach Thomas the fifth and Jared Allen the fourth.

The four players listed below are likely to fall in the third round and beyond. They could even slip into the fifth or sixth rounds. However, they have the potential to be impact players at the next level.

David Fales, QB, San Jose State

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 25:  David Fales #12 of the South squad drops back to pass against the North squad during the Reese's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 25, 2014 in Mobile, Alabama.  The South defeated the North 20-10.  (Photo by Stacy Re
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
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Beyond the top four prospects, this year's crop of quarterbacks is unspectacular. You've got decorated college stars like AJ McCarron, Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray and Tajh Boyd, along with smaller-school wild cards like Jimmy Garoppolo, Brett Smith and Keith Wenning.

Also smack dab in the middle of that second group is David Fales.

In his two years at San Jose State, Fales threw for 8,382 yards, 66 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. Part of the reason for those gaudy numbers is the Spartans' offense, but you have to give the quarterback his fair share of the plaudits.

Even after such a successful college career, Bleacher Report's Chris Trapasso feels that Fales isn't getting enough attention:

While Fales won't be Andrew Luck or Cam Newton when he hits the NFL, Fales should become a steady, productive starter. He can read the game at the line of scrimmage and has an accurate arm.

Perhaps a team with an aging QB should take a flier on the Spartans signal-caller, give him a year on the bench and let him show what he's got.

Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State

Nov 30, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers running back Donnell Kirkwood (20) is tackled by Michigan State Spartans linebacker Max Bullough (40) during the 2nd half a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 14-3.  Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter
Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Few players have been their own worst enemy quite like Max Bullough has. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller listed the Michigan State linebacker as No. 2 in his "Five Down" portion of his most recent Scouting Notebook:

Bullough ended his senior season with a suspension that cost him the Rose Bowl game. He wasn't on the field for the biggest game of his career. He followed that up by showing up to the Shrine Game at 265 pounds, 20 more than his listed weight of 245. While there, Bullough refused to talk to the media and struggled on the field.

All those red flags add up, and there are many inside linebackers with similar talent and none of the issues.

All of this kind of makes you think of another inside linebacker who had his fair share of red flags heading into the draft: Vontaze Burfict.

Burfict had a terrible junior season marred by personal fouls, weight gain and inconsistency.

The Cincinnati Bengals picked up the linebacker as an undrafted free agent in 2012. In the 2013 season, he led the league in tackles and made the Pro Bowl.

Bullough has been a bonehead and deserves to drop precipitously down teams' draft boards. If he can get his head straight, though, he would be a great value pick in the later rounds. The Spartans standout is instinctual on the field and has the requisite technique to become a dependable starter.

Ahmad Dixon, SS, Baylor

GM Andrews/Associated Press

For teams looking to add a strong safety in the draft, Ahmad Dixon might be the best option. Although he's surely not going to be the first off the board, between his talent and likely draft position, he may have the best value.

Dixon is a good athlete, but he can struggle when recovering. His ability to read the game is a bit questionable, thus feeding into the first problem.

While at Baylor, Dixon earned a reputation as somebody who goes for the big hits rather than the most efficient tackle. However, in speaking with MLive.com's Justin Rogers, he wanted to dispel that notion:

"I'm a big hitter, but I can tackle as well," Dixon said. "I can make the usual wrap, just to make the tackle. I realize every hit won't be a big hit. Sometimes you have to get nasty and grab an ankle or jump on a back, whatever it takes to get a guy down."

Another red flag for Dixon is his September 2013 arrest for assault, although charges were eventually dropped.

Per Rogers:

"I'm god-fearing," Dixon said. "I operate under respect and loyalty. Some things happened in my life where those two things were broken. I didn't handle the situation the right way. But that's just not how I normally operate. I'll let those guys know that, and move forward."

If he can improve his coverage skills and learn to read the game better, Dixon will become a regular starter in the league. In the fourth or fifth round, a team could do much worse.

Dri Archer, RB, Kent State

G.M. Andrews/Associated Press

Dri Archer is one of those players who in the right kind of system can be a weapon in an NFL offense.

At 5'8" and 175 pounds, the Kent State star is way too small to be considered an every-down running back. However, he could easily fit into a Darren Sproles-type role where he does a little bit of everything.

In his junior season, Archer was a revelation. He ran for 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns, caught 39 passes for 561 yards and four touchdowns and then returned three kickoffs to the house.

Archer's senior season wasn't anywhere near as successful, as defenses adjusted accordingly, and Kent State fell back down to earth, dragging the running back down with it.

As soon as he hits the NFL, Archer can be a threat in the return game, and over time, he could grow into a sort of jack of all trades.


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