Predicting the Best Day 3 NFL Draft Bargains of 2019

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMarch 22, 2019

Predicting the Best Day 3 NFL Draft Bargains of 2019

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    NFL teams go into Day 3 of the draft with intent to fill out their depth chart. Front offices focus on quality reserves and special teamers.

    Some teams inevitably end up unearthing hidden gems with picks outside of the top 100.

    The Seattle Seahawks selected cornerback Tre Flowers, who started 15 games for them, in the fifth round of last year's draft. The Green Bay Packers took wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who ranked third on the team in receiving yards (581) and started 10 games, at No. 174 overall.

    Teams often target positions of need in the late rounds, where general managers can find players primed to exceed expectations. The 2019 class will have several talented Day 3 prospects with starter potential. 

    Whether they're called bargains or late-round contributors, the following eight prospects have a legitimate shot to emerge as draft-day steals early in their careers.

        

RB Bryce Love, Stanford

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    Had he declared for the 2018 NFL draft, running back Bryce Love might have been a first-round pick.

    One injury-riddled season later, he's looking like a Day 3 selection.

    Love dealt with a nagging ankle injury throughout the 2018 campaign and tore his ACL in Stanford's final regular-season contest with California. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller slotted him in the seventh round in his post-Super Bowl mock draft, but he views the elusive tailback as a big-play asset.

    "Forgot how much I liked Bryce Love in 2017," Miller tweeted. "Master of the chunk play. Hope he can get back to that level of play."

    In 2017, Love earned the Doak Walker Award for college football's most outstanding running back and took home Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors because of his 2,118 rushing yards and 19 scores on the ground. This past year, injuries limited him to 166 carries, 739 yards and six touchdowns in 10 contests.

    Love's recovery from a torn ACL figures to scare teams away early in the draft. He couldn't take part in drills during the NFL Scouting Combine, and it's unclear if he'll participate at his pro day.

    But if Love fully recovers, he could turn into a Day 3 steal once he's healthy.

RB Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

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    In a draft class without a star running back locked into a consensus first-round projection, solid prospects may slide a round or two.

    Trayveon Williams eclipsed 200 carries once during his three-year career at Texas A&M. Teams may wonder if he's equipped to handle a workhorse role at 5'8" and 206 pounds, which will likely push him to Day 3. 

    In 2018, Williams racked up 1,760 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground while adding 27 receptions for 278 yards and a score through the air. His soft hands out of the backfield bode well for his transition to the NFL, as teams typically want running backs to boast an expanded skill set.

    Williams also isn't afraid to use his compact frame to protect the quarterback in a pass-blocking role, which gives coaches another reason to keep him on the field for all three downs. 

    If given the opportunity, the former Aggie could develop into a lead running back and reliable pass-catcher.

WR Jalen Hurd, Baylor

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    Jalen Hurd didn't just switch schools. He left Tennessee as a running back and converted to wide receiver at Baylor, as the 6'5", 226-pounder would've been a questionable fit in an NFL backfield.

    Hurd couldn't take advantage of an invite to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, because of his recovery from December knee surgery. He also skipped the 40-yard dash and position drills at the combine but recorded 23 reps on the bench press. 

    Hurd comes into the NFL with a high ceiling because of his size and his smooth transition from running back to wide receiver. He posted 946 receiving yards and four touchdowns in his one year at the position.

    However, clubs may not spend an early-round pick on him because of his inexperience on the perimeter.

    If Hurd continues to grow at his new position, he's a capable starter and No. 2 receiving option. Quarterbacks figure to lock on to him in the red zone because of his height advantage.

OT Max Scharping, Northern Illinois

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    Since Northern Illinois isn't a football factory, Max Scharping doesn't rank among top offensive tackles in this draft class.

    His tape says otherwise.

    At 6'6" and 327 pounds, Scharping can engulf smaller pass-rushers off the edge, but he could also match power with bull-rushers. The big-bodied perimeter blocker has lined up on both sides of the line, although he figures to play right tackle in the NFL because of his ability to seal the end on outside runs.

    Scharping isn't short on collegiate experience, having started 53 consecutive games for the Huskies. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compared him to Detroit Lions offensive tackle Ricky Wagner, who's started 75 games since the Baltimore Ravens selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 draft.

    Because of his versatility, Scharping will likely see training camp reps at both left and right tackle. He may not have a pathway to a starting role without an injury knocking out an entrenched option, but the Northern Illinois product could nevertheless emerge as a steal with his solid blocking in run and pass situations.

DL L.J. Collier, TCU

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    TCU defensive end L.J. Collier can play in even- and odd-man fronts. He's a stout 6'2", 283-pounder who's equipped to set the edge or push the pocket.

    However, Collier wasn't a full-time starter until his senior year, which may knock him down several notches on draft boards.

    Collier's tape suggests he could produce a number of sacks in an expanded role. He attacks offensive linemen with a quick step and a powerful initial punch. Teams will appreciate his tough demeanor in the trenches.

    The former Horned Frog would fare well in a system that allows him to use his attacking style at the line of scrimmage. 

    Collier tallied 14.5 sacks over his final three seasons with TCU, with at least four sacks each year. Despite his experience in a rotation on the interior of the defensive line, he will likely post his best numbers as a strong-side defensive end in a four-man front. A coaching staff could unlock his true potential at that position.

LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards played at 242 pounds during his senior year. But in the NFL, teams have leaned toward athletic defenders to counter the short passing attack and defend tight ends in the seam areas.

    As a result, the former Badger slimmed down to 230 pounds before the combine.

    NFL teams may not feel comfortable rolling out a 6'0", 230-pound linebacker on early downs against the run, but Edwards' skill set translates to the pros. He's a reliable tackler with exceptional coverage ability in the middle of the defense.

    Edwards finds the football when it's in the air. The four-year collegian logged 10 interceptions over his final three seasons at Wisconsin. He isn't quite a ball hawk, but quarterbacks must account for his whereabouts in the passing game.

    The now-svelte linebacker can carve out a role in nickel packages and grow into a starter at the position.

CB Derrick Baity, Kentucky

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    Based on his collegiate production, Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity isn't a Day 1 or 2 prospect. At 6'2" and 197 pounds, he also didn't consistently play to his size with the Wildcats.

    The former Wildcat isn't the most reliable tackler in the open field, and he struggled with his positioning while the ball was in the air last year.

    Front offices will have to see past Baity's warts to visualize his potential.

    Coaching staffs may covet his size and envision him in a press cornerback mold. He flashed some potential on the collegiate level, logging three interceptions during his sophomore year and notching at least seven pass breakups in each of his final three seasons. 

    Baity possesses tremendous upside, and his physical stature will put him on the radar as a high-end Day 3 prospect. If he receives good coaching in the NFL, he could have a lengthy career on the perimeter.

    Regardless of scheme, zone or man, Baity has a shot at a starting role.

S Amani Hooker, Iowa

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    Amani Hooker is a jack-of-all trades defender. He didn't have a full-time starting role until his junior year, and he lacked impact plays on his collegiate reel.

    However, the versatile defensive back proved he's able to put his stamp on a game in multiple positions during his collegiate career. He can line up at strong or free safety and fill the hybrid linebacker-safety role.

    "When the Hawkeyes go to a quirky 4-2-5 defense, Hooker is the one who moves into that hybrid role," John Bohnenkamp of The Hawk Eye wrote. "It gives Iowa five defensive backs, but with the skill of three linebackers."

    Hooker's experience at a position in demand bodes well for his growth potential in the NFL. More importantly, he showed the ability to produce in that spot. In 2018, the Iowa product recorded four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and 3.5 tackles for loss. 

    Hooker could earn a starting spot at safety and adjust to the needs of a pass defense in base or nickel schemes.