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With much of the media’s attention, understandably, on the potential first-round prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft, it feels right to put the spotlight on some of the prospects that are currently going under the radar. Here’s a look at the offensive prospects that could be real bargains for teams on the third day of the draft, particularly if they find a home in the right schemes.
Aaron Murray, Quarterback, Georgia
At no position is the leap from the college game to the NFL bigger than at quarterback. That being said, four years of starting in the SEC is perhaps the greatest preparation for the professional game you can get, and that’s exactly what Murray has. In 52 starts for the Bulldogs, Murray passed for 13,166 yards, at a 62.3% completion rate, 121 touchdowns, and 41 interceptions. A torn ACL and height (6’0) potentially push Murray to the third day of the draft, but with a stellar college career, good accuracy, and deceptive mobility, Murray should at least become a very good backup QB. He also has a great chance of blossoming into a starter if given a year or two to learn from a veteran, and given the physical similarities to Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints could be a very nice fit for Murray if they are looking to draft Brees’ long-term successor.
Storm Johnson, Running Back, UCF
There are plenty of questions surrounding Johnson, most notably whether one great year of production is enough to project him as a potential starter in the NFL. My two cents is that it’s not, but this is no longer the NFL where your featured running back could take you to the Super Bowl (unless of course you’re Adrian Peterson, and even then it’s unlikely), and you now need two or even three complimentary backs to help facilitate a successful running game. Very few are calling Johnson a featured back in the NFL, but he can certainly be an effective change-of-pace player, particularly in short-yardage situations. The Baltimore Ravens are one of a few teams believed to be interested in adding a physical runner, and Johnson could well be that guy.
Brandon Coleman, Wide Receiver, Rutgers
At 6’6 and 220lbs, Coleman offers the prototypical size that almost all NFL franchises want from their number one receiver. He didn’t put up the best numbers during his time at Rutgers, and whilst much of that can be put on the QBs he was playing with, he is most certainly a project player as opposed to an immediate starter. The potential he offers though is very impressive, and if he slips to the third day, which he could well do, then the risk in using a later draft pick on him could turn out very nicely for any team brave enough to make the move. He outshone the physically similar Kelvin Benjamin at the NFL Combine, and given that Benjamin is being evaluated as a late-first round talent, Coleman’s stock could be rising, particularly for teams with an ageing number one receiver.
Colt Lyerla, Tight End, Oregon
Some General Managers won’t touch Lyerla with a bargepole, whilst others will be intrigued by his talent, particularly if he lasts till the third day. He was initially removed from the football team at Oregon for violating undisclosed team rules, and was then subsequently arrested for possession of cocaine, after being caught using the substance by undercover police. These red flags aside, and they are considerable, Lyerla is a very talented football player about to enter a league where tight ends are more valuable than ever. He failed to impress at the Combine, but teams will still recognize his talent, and it would be a surprise if he fails to get drafted. The New England Patriots are still reeling from the last tight end they drafted with red flags, but Lyerla could be worth the risk in the sixth or seventh round.
Seantrel Henderson, Offensive Tackle, Miami
Just like Lyerla, the talent is there in spades for Henderson, but so are the red flags. Off-field issues and injuries have plagued his time at Miami, and although nowhere near as serious as Lyerla’s, they have caused a potential second-round talent to fall into consideration at the tail end of the draft. Teams will like his 6’7, 331lbs frame, but his technique is raw and starting from day one in the NFL is very unlikely for Henderson. He can become an incumbent right tackle if given the correct mentoring and coaching, and teams looking to bring in the heir apparent for their ageing/soon to be free agent right tackles, will all consider Henderson.
Jon Halapio, Guard, Florida
Halapio was a leader on the offensive line at Florida, and showed great determination and resilience to play through a pectoral tear in his senior year. These qualities will make him a valued commodity later in the draft, despite the fact he doesn’t always seem to generate the power you would expect of someone with his frame. No one is labeling him a perennial All-Pro, but he should become a starting guard in the NFL, and has a chance to do so immediately with the right time. Given the controversies surrounding the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line last season, as well as the now glaring needs at the guard position, the leadership and character of Halapio would make him an excellent pickup.
Bryan Stork, Center, Florida State
The center position is relatively under-talented in the NFL right now, but this year’s class could go a long way to changing that. Stork is arguably the third or fourth best prospect at the position, but could start immediately in the right scheme. He dealt well with power rushers and ‘lane cloggers’ during his time as a Seminole, whilst also displaying a surprising mobility, which could see him well-suited to zone-blocking schemes. Strict adherence to the ‘best player available’ draft philosophy would likely see Stork gone by rounds three or four, but the lineman should still be available well into day three, given the lack of priority usually given to the position. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a good fit for Stork following the trade of Jeremy Zuttah to the Ravens, whilst the Green Bay Packers have been looking for a franchise center for some time now.
Image credit: Aaron Murray via Facebook.com