2019 NFL Draft Prospects Who Need Time to Develop

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2019

2019 NFL Draft Prospects Who Need Time to Develop

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Patience often separates the best coaching staffs and front offices from the rest in the NFL

    That especially rings true during and right after the NFL draft process.

    The win-now pressure of the NFL causes many teams to make instant-gratification moves, particularly at quarterback. But teams with the patience to develop raw, high-upside prospects have an advantage over those focused solely on the short term.

    The following 2019 NFL draft prospects could become big factors in the pros if they're given a chance to develop gradually rather than being thrown to the wolves as rookies.


Oshane Ximines, EDGE, Old Dominion

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    It's often difficult for small-school prospects to adjust to NFL speed and competition.

    Old Dominion edge-rusher Oshane Ximines dominated Conference USA, finishing with a career-high 11.5 sacks and 18.0 tackles for loss as a senior. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he backed up his tape by measuring 6'3" and 253 pounds and faring well in drills.

    "His fully furnished repertoire of rush tactics could get him a look on Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) and give him a good chance to become an eventual starter in either a 4-3 or 3-4," NFL.com's Lance Zierlein wrote.

    Ximines likely can contribute as a rotational pass-rusher right away, but he'll be a target of opposing offenses until he proves he can handle NFL size and speed.

    With the proper coaching, Ximines perhaps can develop into an every-down player in time. 

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Greg Little's stock has plunged in recent weeks, according to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller

    At the combine, his 5.33-second mark in the 40-yard dash was the second-worst of any player at his position. He also didn't participate in the bench press and had an underwhelming vertical jump (25").

    That doesn't mean Little is destined to disappoint in the NFL.

    The 6'5", 310-pounder managed to survive in the SEC. As NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah noted in February, Little's size and field awareness are major pluses in a tackle-needy league. 

    Little needs to work on fundamentals to capitalize on his strengths. It'll be critical for him to refine his footwork, for example, so whichever team drafts him doesn't end up looking like it burned a pick. 

Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Rock Ya-Sin is everything NFL coaches love in cornerbacks. 

    The Temple product is physical. He's big at 6'0" and 192 pounds. He has press-coverage ability and good ball skills. 

    But going from the American Athletic Conference to the NFL isn't an easy transition.

    "Once he adds some coaching and technique to his physical tools, he's got a chance to take a big leap," an AFC secondary coach told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "We love guys that look like him. That's what you want your GM to draft."

    Whichever team drafts Ya-Sin should resist the urge to trot him out in an every-down role right away. With the proper coaching, he could eventually develop into a No. 1 corner who can handle the top NFL wideouts. 

Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    This year's quarterback class is mostly lackluster. That leaves some wiggle room for an unexpected name like Tyree Jackson to eventually seize his moment. 

    The Buffalo product is far from the biggest name at the position. But it's hard to ignore a 6'7", 249-pound quarterback who threw for 3,131 yards and 28 touchdowns while adding another seven scores as a rusher this past season. 

    Jackson's combination of size and arm strength might behoove him in late April. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, "Many believe he will go higher than expected in draft."

    Jackson remains a work in progress. Scattershot accuracy, little rhythm and the level-of-competition leap will be big hurdles, not to mention coaching and scheme fit. 

    If Jackson lands in the right spot and gets a chance to develop, he could impress down the line. But if he's thrown into the fire right away for whatever reason, NFL defenses will feast. 

Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Good luck ignoring a 6'5", 227-pound wideout on draft day. 

    Iowa State's Hakeem Butler caught seven or more touchdowns in each of his final two collegiate seasons and impressed at the combine, running a 4.48-second 40 and posting a 36" vertical jump and 128" broad jump.

    Butler won in college with his size and physicality, going up the ladder to outmuscle players for the ball or racking up yards after the catch by bulldozing players. However, he also struggled with drops, which is a big no-no.

    "He can get better with his hands," an AFC wide receivers coach told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "He's interesting to me because you see him turn catches into touchdowns just with his strength to break tackles. He's a handful for one guy to bring down by himself."

    Whichever team drafts Butler should mostly deploy him in chain-moving situations or near the end zone to start his career. Otherwise, some of his bigger flaws could set an offense back. 

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf had one of the best combine performances in recent history.

    After weighing in at 6'3" and 228 pounds, he wowed onlookers by running the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds and posting a 40.5-inch vertical jump, which ranked third among all wideouts.

    "From that point on, though, Metcalf would struggle," Brad Kelly of The Draft Network noted. "In his three-cone drill, he ran 7.38 [seconds]. In his short-shuttle, he posted 4.50 [seconds]. Both of these were worrisome, as they were good for just the 2nd and 3rd percentile among wide receivers."

    Since Metcalf isn't viewed as an elite route-runner, those numbers are concerning, especially considering how tough it is for wideouts to transition to the NFL. He caught at least five touchdowns and averaged 16-plus yards per catch in each of his last two seasons at Ole Miss, but he wasn't unstoppable.

    Coaching and time to develop will help Metcalf work around some of his shortcomings, but it could take a while before he lives up to his combine hype. 

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

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    Alonzo Adams/Associated Press

    Kyler Murray was always bound to be one of the most polarizing players in his draft class. Between his short stature, MLB interest and small sample size as a starter, he has it all.

    Murray won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma after tallying 54 total touchdowns as a junior, but he's going to need the right fit and development time to excel in the NFL.

    Murray stands at 5'10", so whichever team he lands on will have to tailor its offense to his strengths and weaknesses like Oklahoma did for him. He can create passing lanes with his feet if necessary, but playing in an offense that does so organically would be ideal.  

    "His burst and movement skills are jaw-dropping and will save him for awhile, but eventually he will need to develop the nuances of his game and perfect his mechanics, which will require a quarterback that is truly bought in to his growth and developmental as a football player," Jon Ledyard of The Draft Network wrote.

    Instinctual and athletic, Murray won't be able to lean on those traits as much in the NFL. His continued development in reading defenses and making decisions on the fly needs to happen quickly, as whichever team drafts him won't want to wait long.