One Under The Radar 2018 NFL Draft Prospect From Each Power 5 Conference
In this article, I will introduce you to one player from each power 5 conference who could go from being an underrated draft prospect, to NFL star. For each prospect, I have included a breakdown of their game and a pre season grade.
SEC – Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan, USA Today Sports
Not enough draft analysts have been talking about Hurst this off season. He’s one of my favourite players in next years class and should have a long career in the NFL. One of the things I love about evaluating draft prospects is finding guys who ‘wow’ you when you weren’t expecting it. When I turned on the South Carolina tape, I didn’t know too much about Hurst, as I didn’t catch many South Carolina games last season. His tape was incredibly impressive and he quickly became one of my favourite players in the class.
Hurst is a former pro baseball player who walked on at South Carolina and is now a team captain. He has the size you look for at the position (6’5, 253lbs) and has exceptional quickness. He can run away from defenders down the seam and is tough to bring down after the catch. Possesses a reliable pair of hands, adjusting well to errant passes and making tough, contested catches with ease. Plays the game how it’s meant to be played, with violence and aggression, showing great willingness to block. A very well rounded TE with the great athleticism and ball skills, I expect a big year from the Gamecocks TE and for his draft stock to rise as a result.
GRADE: 3rd ROUND
PAC 12 – Lavon Coleman, RB, Washington
Photo Credit: Tim Heitman, USA Today Sports
Coleman shares carries with Junior teammate Myles Gaskin in the Huskies backfield, which is the main reason I think he is flying under the radar. Gaskin gets more carries, but I think Coleman is a far superior pro prospect.
One of the more powerful runners in next years class, Coleman flashes excellent lower body strength and balance on his runs. At 5’11”, 228lbs, he changes direction very smoothly and has excellent burst to the hole and at the second level for his size. Has the speed to break off long runs, which is rare for a back of his size. Running back prospects are increasingly being judged by their ability to contribute in the passing game. Coleman has the ability to be a reliable checkdown option for the QB. Not only a solid receiver, Coleman is a very good pass blocker, something that will help him see the field early in his NFL career.
GRADE: 2nd Round
ACC – MJ Stewart, CB, North Carolina
Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard, USA Today Sports
Stewart did not record a single interception last year, which could be the main reason he is flying under the radar. Many evaluators are drawn in by big numbers at this stage in the draft cycle. As a result, players like Stewart fly under the radar. Stewart has 6 career INTs and shows plenty of ability to get around the ball and break up passes. A look at the tape will tell you that Stewart is a corner who will have a long career playing on Sundays.
Stewart is a physical corner, who gets involved in the run game. He fights blocks aggressively and shows solid tackling fundamentals. Displays excellent fluidity in his hips to turn and run with receivers. Another thing I was very impressed with in Stewart’s game, is his ability to break on the ball. He times his breaks well and covers ground quickly to close on the receiver. Shows solid instincts in zone and displays good route recognition. At 5’11, 200lbs he has plenty of size and versatility to play as an outside corner, or over the slot as a nickel. He’s one of those players who is always in solid position in coverage, receivers will never get much separation playing against him. Stewart has all the tools to be a successful corner in the NFL, with another solid year should start to earn more recognition.
GRADE: 2nd ROUND
BIG 10 – Simmie Cobbs Jr, WR, Indiana
Photo Credit: Darron Cummings, AP
Cobbs took a redshirt last year after suffering a season ending ankle injury in Indiana’s second game of the season. I believe this is the main reason he is flying under the radar as a draft prospect. However, the year before he looked exceptional. Pulling in 60 catches for 1,035 yards. With a bounce back season, he should see his draft stock soar.
The NFL is increasingly looking for big receivers who can go up and grab jump balls, Cobbs fits that bill at 6’4, 225lbs. He possesses superb body control for a player of his size and shows excellent ability to get vertical and high point the ball. Not a receiver who will get held up at the line of scrimmage against press, he uses his hands well to separate from DBs in his release. Shows excellent quickness for his size and is a dangerous runner after the catch. It is rare to see a 6’4” receiver make the plays he makes after the catch. A good deep threat who combines quickness, size and body control to pull in deep passes down the sideline. With Senior QB Richard Lagow throwing him the ball next year, Cobbs should once again put up excellent stats. Look for Cobbs to be one of the biggest risers up draft boards over the next year.
GRADE: 4th Round
BIG 12 – Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma
Photo Credit: Ian Maule, Tulsa World
Okoronkwo is a player who made a few mental errors last year for Oklahoma. This may explain why he is going under the radar at this stage in the draft cycle. Okoronkwo is also slightly undersized for an EDGE player at 6’1”, 240lbs. At a position where scouts value length, it is easy for a player who is only 6’1” to go under the radar. However, Okoronkwo is an exceptional athlete and has great upside as a pass rusher despite his lack of desired length.
The first thing I noticed about Okoronkwo’s game, was his quick get off. He explodes off the snap, showing great upfield burst. Will convert power to speed and can drive blockers back to the QB, despite his lack of ideal size. He possesses rare agility and change of direction speed for an EDGE player which means he can go inside, or around the edge on any pass rushing snap. This makes the blockers assignment very difficult when taking Okoronkwo on one on one. Okoronkwo also displays an excellent spin move which he uses when blockers over set. His pass rushing is excellent; however, he must improve his discipline against the run and in coverage. I can see him being a deadly pass rush specialist early in his NFL career but will have to cut down the mental errors before he can see the field as a 3 down player.
GRADE: 3rd-4th ROUND
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