2017 NFL Draft: Matt Miller's Hidden Gem at Every Position
As the 2017 NFL draft class starts to take shape, it seems like everyone gets caught in a routine of talking about the same players. Leonard Fournette, Myles Garrett, Jabrill Peppers. Rinse, wash, repeat.
But what about the rest of the class?
There's a legitimate MVP candidate at quarterback in Dallas who was picked in the fourth round last year, after all. It's time to shine a light on the best-of-the-rest prospects. Position-by-position, here's my look at the draft's hidden gems.
Quarterback: Davis Webb, Cal
A senior quarterback who went to California by way of Texas Tech, Davis Webb is excelling in the same system that produced No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff last season.
Webb isn't Goff, though. On the plus side, he has a stronger arm and is a better athlete on the move. His 6'5", 230-pound frame is more compact and solid than Goff's 6'4", 215-pound build. With that bulk comes good pocket movement and an ability to tuck-and-run when needed.
Having played in two Air Raid systems, Webb isn't ready for the NFL right away, but with patience and good coaching, he has the tools to develop into a starter. He'll need his footwork cleaned up while he learns to call a play in the huddle and make progressions in the passing game—the same things that kept Goff on the Rams' bench for 10 weeks—but if you wanted a mid-round passer to work with on the side, Webb is the best of the bunch in this class.
A big week at the Senior Bowl could push his stock up the board, with Webb emerging as the best senior in this limited quarterback class.
Running Back: Brian Hill, Wyoming
It's OK if you've missed what Brian Hill has done this season. So much of the focus goes to Leonard Fournette, Donnel Pumphrey and D'Onta Foreman—and for good reason. But Hill's 18 touchdowns and 1,548 yards this year are noteworthy. And unlike the 5'9", 180-pound Pumphrey, Hill's frame is NFL-ready at 6'1" and 220 pounds.
Watching Hill against Boise State this season, you saw a power back who can run over tacklers and pick up tough yards against defenders in the box, but also a back who is nimble and agile enough to create yards on his own. Hill isn't a back held to his scheme but is a player who can work in any system.
He isn't much of a receiver, but the athletic ability is there for him to be a good one-cut back right away in the NFL. He may be a mid-round pick in a loaded class at the position—and he's just a junior, so he may not even come out this year—but Hill's name is one to remember.
Wide Receiver: Corey Davis, Western Michigan
Corey Davis isn't a complete unknown, but when people talk about the best wide receiver in the 2017 draft class, they need to mention the Western Michigan star.
Davis' numbers are amazing. He has 309 career catches, almost 4,980 yards receiving and 49 touchdowns in four seasons of being the No. 1 wideout for the Broncos. On paper, Davis passes the eyeball test. He does on film, too.
Of all the receivers in the class, Davis is the best route-runner. He's a silky-smooth mover and has easy, quick feet when making transitions. He can go from a sprint to a hard cut on his outside foot in a second and has the acceleration to come out of those breaks in a flash. There are no wasted steps with Davis, and that's something you rarely see in college receivers.
At 6'3" and 213 pounds, Davis also has the frame teams want from a No. 1 wide receiver. And by late April when the NFL draft starts, don't be surprised if the best senior wide receiver in the nation is talked about as a first-rounder.
Tight End: Gerald Everett, South Alabama
A transfer from UAB when it was thought that program would shut down, Gerald Everett has been a godsend for South Alabama.
The 6'4", 240-pounder has at least 40 catches in his two seasons with the Jaguars and has totaled 12 touchdowns in that span. But it's his athleticism and potential that have NFL scouts swarming to Mobile, Alabama.
Everett, who has already accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl, has the size, speed and agility to be an excellent "move" tight end in the NFL. Teams that want to split the tight end out and get an athlete at the position will be drawn to his existing talent but also to the considerable upside Everett brings to the table.
Offensive Tackle: Taylor Moton, Western Michigan
Taylor Moton hasn't given up a sack all season, per College Football Focus.
Playing on the right side of the line, Moton is put to the test as a run- and pass-blocker, which is where his athleticism stands out, given his balance and agility. At 6'5" and 328 pounds (per scouts), Moton has the length and power to move defenders out of the hole in the run game. He also has a quick step, which allows him to meet pass-rushers off the edge and get his hands inside their frame to shut them down.
A potential right tackle or offensive guard in the NFL, Moton's power game will draw scouts to his tape when they show up to check out wide receiver Corey Davis. And it's that power and ability to dominate in the run game that have him rising up my board to a potential Round 3 spot.
Offensive Guard: Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
When I turn on the Western Kentucky film, I feel like Brick Tamland from Anchorman saying "I love Lamp" over and over again. But in this case it's offensive guard Forrest Lamp.
Lamp plays left tackle at WKU, but his 6'4", 300-pound frame is perfectly suited to a guard spot in the NFL. At guard, Lamp's experience at tackle will come as an advantage given his ability to play in space and create distance between himself and the defender.
Lamp isn't a power player like most current guard prospects, but he can mix up agility with finesse moves and a mean streak that has him attacking the second level without issue. That combination of tools is why Lamp hasn't allowed a single sack this season based on my charting of his games.
Center: Mason Cole, Michigan
The center at a pipeline program like Michigan is rarely underrated, but that's where Mason Cole finds himself in this draft class dominated by Pat Elflein at Ohio State and Ethan Pocic at LSU. But in Jim Harbaugh's offense, Cole is playing as well as any center in the nation in his final season.
Throughout the season, Cole has given up zero sacks, per Pro Football Focus, and is showing the decision-making of a starting NFL center. The 6'5", 305-pound senior checks every box from a size, strength and athleticism standpoint. Cole is also an easier transition to the NFL than many college centers thanks to the offensive system and coaching at Michigan.
Currently ranked as the No. 3 center in this class, Cole has a shot to become the best of the group.
Defensive Lineman: Davon Godchaux, LSU
The starting nose tackle as a junior at LSU, Davon Godchaux has the tools to play all over the defensive line in the NFL. His athleticism makes him scheme-versatile, and the 6'4", 300-pounder could easily play as a 5-technique (defensive end) in a 3-4 defense.
Godchaux has had some off-field issues—he was suspended after being booked with a domestic battery/child endangerment charge that was later dropped—and will have to convince teams this one issue wasn't indicative of his character. If he can do that, his on-field play and potential are good enough to get him into the first three rounds in April.
Playing on the defensive line at LSU usually means a fair amount of exposure and hype, but Godchaux is flying under the radar this season while being overshadowed by teammates Arden Key and Lewis Neal.
Edge-Rusher: Trey Hendrickson, Florida Atlantic
When this article idea came about, I texted a few scouting friends to see if there was anyone I hadn't seen yet that I needed to check out when looking for the top sleepers at each position. Oddly enough, multiple people replied with one name: Trey Hendrickson.
The Florida Atlantic defensive end has the body of a stand-up outside linebacker in a heavy 3-4 scheme (6'4", 270 pounds), but he could also put his hand in the dirt and play as a 4-3 defensive end like he does for the Owls. Hendrickson knows how to use a variety of pass-rush moves to get into the backfield, and that, coupled with his pro size, will turn heads.
It doesn't hurt that Hendrickson is the all-time sack leader (29.5) at FAU and has 9.5 sacks this season after posting a career-best 13.5 in 2015. With his power, length and ability to chase down quarterbacks, Hendrickson looks like one of those mid-rounders who goes onto a productive 10-year career in the NFL.
Linebacker: Vince Biegel, Wisconsin
During the 2015 season, many watched Wisconsin football games and focused on Joe Schobert, who went on to become a fourth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns. However, it was hard not to look at the outside linebacker playing opposite Schobert and see NFL talent. That other linebacker was Vince Biegel.
Biegel, who should have become a household name this season, was slowed by a foot injury while being overshadowed by the power of the Watt family in the form of playmaking linebacker T.J. Watt. But Biegel is still playing at the high level he showed last season, and he has the tools to be a Day 2 pick when healthy.
When the April 27 draft rolls around, Biegel is the hard-nosed linebacker type who can play in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, has shown he can rush the passer (13 career sacks) and can to close down rushing lanes with his 6'4", 246-pound frame. File his name away in your memory bank and watch for him in the NFL, because he has the tools to be a better pro than he was a college player.
Cornerback: Rasul Douglas, West Virginia
Two straight weeks of watching Rasul Douglas against Texas and Oklahoma have him rising on my board. A JUCO transfer from East Orange, New Jersey, Douglas has the length (6'3") and toughness to be an outside cornerback in an NFL defense right now.
Douglas isn't just a tall cornerback with no quickness or agility. He excels at the line of scrimmage and has the hands to press receivers off the ball, but Douglas has also shown remarkable recovery and transition skills. His interception on a comeback route against Texas showed how well he can plant and drive on the ball and jump routes.
Douglas is still a bit raw—Dede Westbrook of Oklahoma got him for a 75-yard touchdown on one of his two catches—but he has the size and athleticism to become a starter in the pros.
Safety: Lorenzo Jerome, St. Francis
The last time St. Francis had a player drafted, it was 1944 and the U.S. was about to land on a place called Normandy. Free safety Lorenzo Jerome has a chance to change that.
Jerome, 5'11" and 190 pounds, runs well enough to get a look as a third safety (estimated mid-4.5-second 40-yard dash speed) and has the playmaking skills against a lower level of competition to stand out on tape. Jerome's interceptions, instincts and ability to make plays on special teams as a returner will get him looks a small-school player wouldn't normally get.
An opportunity to play at an all-star game—like the Senior Bowl—would be a major boost to Jerome's stock if he can get invited. For now, he'll have to show out in the FCS playoffs. Jerome has a solid late-round grade as of now.