Players Who Could Be Steals in the 2014 NFL Draft

It happens every year, and happens multiple times. Be it through over-analyzing, under-evaluating, or just plain error, a player falls in the draft and then lights up the NFL. Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Randy Moss, the list goes on and one. For various reasons, there are always guys who teams pass on that should go much higher. This year will have its share of draft day steals as well. Some may be guys with top ten talent that fall into the later part of the round; some may be guys with early round talent that fall into day three. Here’s a look at some guys who, in a few years, might be looked at as the steals of the draft.


Quarterback: Derek Carr, Fresno State

Carr has an NFL arm right now. He can throw it a mile, and is accurate enough with his deep balls. He also has displayed an ability to read coverages and go through his progressions to find the open receiver and deliver it to him. However, his 2013 season seems to have hurt him in the eyes of many. The offensive scheme called for a high number of screens and easy throws, limiting Carr’s ability to shine. He also closed the season with a tough outing against USC, leading many to question his pocket presence. This is a mistake. He was under fire in that game, and Trojans blew up his offensive line. He can play in any system, and make every throw. Somebody is going to draft him in the late first round or early second and be a very happy team.


Running Back: Terrance West, Towson

The 2014 running back class doesn’t have a can’t-miss prospect, and probably won’t have a player taken in the first round. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some talented guys available, though. West may not be as widely known as some of the more highly rated ball carriers, but he could be as good as any of them. He brings a big body, and an ability to absorb blows and break tackles, and he pushes the pile as well as anybody. He also uses his blocks well, and has good vision, usually choosing the correct hole to go through. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he’s quick in traffic, and can get outside often enough. He lacks the burst of some of the more highly rated prospects, and figures to be, at best, a late third round pick, but he’ll be a solid player for somebody.


Wide Receiver: Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

This year’s class of receivers might be the deepest in NFL history. There are speedy guys, possession guys, athletic guys, and do-it-all guys. Coleman is 6’6” and 225 lbs, with good speed and a nice set of hands. He’s not an explosive receiver, and doesn’t have blazing straight-line speed, but he’s quick with the ball in his hands, and can pull away from would-be tacklers after the catch. His size gives him a huge advantage over most cornerbacks, and he has a natural ability to go up and make catches at the high point. He also uses his body well in traffic, getting a little extra room for himself to make plays. A lot of analysts have him as a day three pick, but he’s a day two talent in most years.


Tight End: Colt Lyerla, Oregon

Obviously, Lyerla’s success depends on his ability to overcome himself. His drop down draft boards isn’t due to injury, poor stats, or a bad workout. His season, which included a suspension, his leaving the team, and an arrest on drug charges will have teams doing their research before taking a shot, and using a draft pick on him. Skill-wise, he’s as good as almost anybody in the draft. He’s got size, catches the ball well, can run and get open, and plays physically. Before the year, he had a shot at being a first round draft pick. Teams will be scared to take him anywhere near that in this draft, but if he can get out of his own way, he could bring first round talent as a late round pick.


Offensive Line: Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

“Tiny” is behind some tremendous talents at the tackle position, but he’s not as far behind as it would seem. At 6’6” and 336 lbs, he certainly has the size necessary for the NFL, but he’s also light on his feet, and is more athletic than a man that size should be. He’s inconsistent at times, and can be gotten off-balance, but he’s quick at the snap and has strong hands and arms. Defensive ends will struggle to not only get around him, but will have a hard time disengaging from him once he gets his hands on them. With a little work on his technique, he could be an immediate starter as a professional, and a long-time star at left tackle.


Defensive End: Aaron Lynch, South Florida

A few years ago, it seemed as if there was no doubt that Lynch was going to be a great NFL player some day. After a lackluster 2013 season, he has fallen a long way down boards. Obviously a talented player, he flashed tremendous amounts of ability in his freshman season at Notre Dame. He routinely displayed great speed, agility, and an ability to rush the passer. However, since then, he has gained a reputation as a “me first” player with attitude issues. After transferring and sitting out a season, he wasn’t the same player. He lost weight and his technique seemed sloppier. He has raw ability in spades, and could get back the thing that made him special. If he does, he could make a lot of teams pay for not taking the chance on him.


Defensive Tackle: Caraun Reid, Princeton

There’s a lot to like about this Ivy Leaguer. He starts the play with tremendous quickness off the snap, immediately getting a jump on blockers. He also has good technique, and has a natural ability to get pressure on the quarterback, and possesses a solid set of moves. He is obviously an intelligent player, putting that Princeton education to use. There are questions about the level of competition, though he may have silenced some of those voices with an outstanding performance at the Senior Bowl. He also might be strictly a 4-3 defensive tackle. However, he may become a very good 4-3 defensive tackle and a starter for years to come.


Linebacker: Shayne Skov, Stanford

Skov is, first and foremost, a leader and a pure football player. He has good size, great instincts, and a nose for the football. He plays with physicality and passion that is evident on every play. He most often gets knocked for a lack of speed and a tendency to over-pursue. He also has a serious knee injury in his past, so medical evaluations will be important. However, in his time at Stanford, he’s shown that he can do the job. He could be drafted as late as the third round due to the questions about his athleticism, but he’s a guy that a team will love to have around, and he could become a stalwart in the middle of an NFL defense.


Cornerback: EJ Gaines, Missouri

Gaines isn’t the biggest cornerback in the draft at 5’11” and 195 lbs, though he’s solidly built and athletic. He’s also not the fastest cornerback. He is fast enough though, and by combining it with long arms and a great feel for coverage, he’s got all the tools to be a very good NFL player. He’s excellent at reading the play and breaking on the ball, and makes the play a high percentage of the time. He’s had some excellent games this year against top competition, including a great game against Texas A&M. He’s not a big hitter, but he’s a solid tackler, able to get his guy down most of the time, and not afraid to support the run. In a deep cornerback class, he may drop in the late third round, but he should go higher, and will show why once he’s on the field.


Safety: Dion Bailey, USC

Size is the biggest knock on Bailey. At 6’0” and 200 lbs, Bailey isn’t the biggest, most physical safety in the draft, and as such, could have issues with tackling in the NFL. However, he does a lot of things very well. He’s instinctive for starters, and diagnoses plays accurately. He’s also speedy, with no waste of motion. He also has plus hands, and will pull down some interceptions. There will be some questions about where he can play at the next level, but like Tyrann Mathieu last year, he’s a guy that just makes plays. There is always a place in the NFL for a guy like that.


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