|Louisana-Lafayette TE Ladarius Green offers plenty of athleticism to stretch the field. (US Presswire)|
Whether in the first round or sifting through the undrafted free agent pool, the ability to find hidden or underappreciated gems -- proverbial diamonds in the rough -- is the aspect of player acquisition that separates great scouting departments from the rest.
Below is a list of players who for whatever reason haven't yet received the attention their physical abilities warrant. Some played for smaller schools or ended their career injured. Others broke out as seniors after being forced to wait for playing time. As such, this lot is criticized for either being unproven against elite competition or, in the case of breakout seniors, can be tagged as one-year wonders.
Some others had collegiate success, but are incorrectly characterized as not having the prerequisite skills for the NFL. All are viewed as draftable NFL prospects, though most are unknown to the average fan.
Over the last 10 years, I've highlighted several unheralded prospects who went on to surprise in the NFL. Before NFL fans were learning the names Aaron Kampman, Lofa Tatupu or Jimmy Graham, they were identified by NFLDraftScout.com as Diamonds in the Rough.
My success during this time is neither a fluke nor entirely of my own doing. NFLDraftScout.com's entire staff contributes significantly to our rankings and helps clue me in to prospects who otherwise could have been overlooked. Our success is well-documented.
During the past five years, 168 of the 200 players listed in my Diamonds in the Rough articles were drafted into the NFL. The vast majority of the players not drafted were signed by NFL teams within one week of the draft.
|More on NFL Draft|
|NFL coverage on the go|
Here are the players likely to be second- or third-day picks that I feel will ultimately prove to be steals. I feature one player per position and list five others to keep in mind, along with their heights, weights and time in the 40-yard dash. Also, listed among each position is at least one player not invited to the combine; those players are denoted with an asterisk (*).
Players are listed alphabetically
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin: There has been plenty of talk as to where record-breaking quarterbacks Kellen Moore (Boise State) and Case Keenum (Houston) might be rated if they were just a few inches taller. In reality, besides size, neither possesses the athleticism or arm strength scouts covet. Wilson, on the other hand, has the arm strength, mobility, accuracy, intangibles and production of a first-round pick, but at just 5-11, 204 pounds, he may still be available on Day 3.
Five other quarterbacks to consider:
1. B.J. Coleman, Tennessee-Chattanooga, 6-3, 233, 4.93
2. Austin Davis, Southern Mississippi, 6-2, 219, 4.78
3. Jordan Jefferson, LSU, 6-4, 223, 4.65
4. G.J. Kinne, Tulsa, 6-1, 234, 4.68*
5. Patrick Witt, Yale, 6-4, 225, 4.87*
Bobby Rainey , Western Kentucky: A true workhorse, Rainey led the country with 709 carries during the past two seasons, averaging 139 yards per game during that span. Some will question his level of competition, but he fared well at the East-West Shrine Game and eclipsed the 100-yard mark against the likes of Nebraska, Indiana and Kentucky in recent years. He's short (5-foot-7) but not small at a rocked-up 208 pounds and has the combination of vision, burst (4.49) and surprising power that has allowed other short backs to succeed in the NFL.
Five other running backs to consider:
1. Alvester Alexander, Wyoming, 5-11, 208, 4.64*
2. Lennon Creer, Louisiana Tech, 5-11, 219, 4.71
3. Jewel Hampton, Southern Illinois, 5-9, 218, 4.55
4. Ronnie Hillman, San Diego State, 5-9, 200, 4.45
5. Robert Turbin, Utah State, 5-10, 222, 4.50
Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette: Like the former Sun Belt tight end featured here last year -- former Florida International standout and Arizona Cardinals' third-round pick Rob Housler -- the 6-foot-6, 237-pound Green lacks the bulk teams are looking for in an in-line blocker, but he possesses soft hands and rare overall athleticism (4.53) to stretch the field.
Five other tight ends to consider:
1. Josh Chichester, Louisville, 6-7, 240, 4.79
2. James Hanna, Oklahoma, 6-4, 252, 4.49
3. Beau Reliford, Florida State, 6-5, 256, 4.84
4. Adrien Robinson, Cincinnati, 6-4, 264, 4.55
5. Andrew Szczerba, Penn State, 6-5, 259, 4.79*
T.Y. Hilton, Florida International: A natural playmaker with a similar build, agility and straight-line speed to former Central Michigan and Pittsburgh Steelers' standout Antonio Brown, Hilton signed with FIU over offers from several bigger schools and showed off his electric speed by timing at 4.36 seconds in the 40 at his Pro Day. Tough enough to handle slot and punt return duties, Hilton is more polished than many of the more well-known speedsters from more prominent programs.
Five other wide receivers to consider:
1. Elvis Akpla, Montana State, 6-0, 184, 4.47
2. Aldarius Johnson, Miami, 6-2, 214, 4.56*
3. Rishard Matthews, Nevada, 6-0, 217, 4.62
4. Lavasier Tuinei, Oregon, 6-5, 209, 4.59*
5. Devon Wylie, Fresno State, 5-09, 187, 4.39
Tom Compton, South Dakota: Among the best offensive line prospects that no one seems to be talking about, Compton's size (6-5, 314), athleticism (5.11) and tenacity in the running game make him one of the more intriguing right tackle prospects in the 2012 draft. Compton wasn't highly recruited out of high school due to the fact that he tore his ACL as a senior but he dominated at the FCS level and enjoyed a strong week of practice at the East-West Shrine Game.
Five Other Offensive Linemen to Consider:
1. Jeff Adams, Columbia, 6-6, 306, 5.02*
2. Brandon Brooks, Miami (Ohio), 6-5, 346, 4.99*
3. David Gonzalez, Washington State, 6-6, 286, 5.20
4. Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State,6-4, 311, 5.43
5. Dustin Waldron, Portland State, 6-5, 305, 5.34
Akiem Hicks, Regina (Canada): A highly regarded JUCO prospect who signed with LSU out of Sacramento City College, Hicks instead transferred to Regina (in Saskatchewan, Canada) after his eligibility was put in question when it was discovered that the Tigers committed several recruiting violations in their pursuit of him. Weak competition and questionable coaching to this point certainly make Hicks a developmental prospect, but at 6-foot-5, 318 pounds he's one NFL teams are anxious to work with.
Five other defensive linemen to consider:
1. Hebron Fangupo, BYU, 6-1, 323, 5.18
2. Delano Johnson, Bowie State, 6-4, 270, 5.04*
3. Vaughn Meatoga, Hawaii, 6-1, 294, 5.0
4. Louis Nzegwu, Wisconsin, 6-4, 255, 4.64*
5. Earnest Owusu, California, 6-4, 270, 4.87*
Brett Roy, Nevada: The 6-foot-3, 263-pound Roy lined up at defensive tackle on most snaps for the Wolfpack but some believe his pro future lies at linebacker in the 3-4. Roy plays with excellent instincts and is surprisingly light on his feet. He pursues with passion and shows good balance, closing burst and strength to make the wrap-up tackle of quick ball-carriers.
Five other linebackers to consider:
1. Miles Burris, San Diego State, 6-2, 246, 4.73
2. Demario Davis, Arkansas State, 6-2, 235, 4.61
3. Noah Keller, Ohio, 6-1, 245, 4.84*
4. James-Michael Johnson, Nevada, 6-1, 241, 4.68
5. Korey Toomer, Idaho, 6-2, 238, 4.78*
Trumaine Johnson, Montana: It is well known that former Florida and North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins has first-round talent but enough off-field concerns to potentially push him significantly further down the draft board. Johnson is in a similar boat. Blessed with an exciting combination of size, straight-line speed and fluidity to intrigue any team looking for a press corner, Johnson has top 32 talent but character concerns could push him outside of the top 50.
Five other cornerbacks to consider:
1. Dwight Bentley, Louisiana-Lafayette, 5-10, 182, 4.43
2. Omar Bolden, Arizona State, 5-10, 202, 4.49
3. Ron Brooks, LSU, 5-10, 190, 4.37
4. Asa Jackson, Cal Poly, 5-10, 191, 4.49
5. Buddy Jackson, Pittsburgh, 6-0, 180, 4.42*
Brandon Hardin , Oregon State: Hardin played cornerback at Oregon State but a shoulder injury forced him to miss his senior season. He's choppy in his backpedal and lacks the straight-line speed (4.52) teams want at cornerback, but at 6-foot-3, 222 pounds he has the bulk scouts are looking for as a safety convert. Hardin was not invited to the combine.
Five other safeties to consider:
1. Johnson Bademosi, Stanford, 6-1, 197, 4.55
2. Aaron Henry, Wisconsin, 6-0, 208, 4.54
3. Christian Thompson, South Carolina State, 6-0, 211, 4.50
4. Neiko Thorpe, Auburn, 6-2, 188, 4.54
5. Duke Ihenacho, San Jose State, 6-0, 213, 4.68