With minicamps and OTA's still fresh in their minds, NFL teams in need of a talent boost will get another opportunity to add to the roster with the annual supplemental draft slated for Thursday.
This year's class offers just four names and lacks the obvious talent that led the Cleveland Browns to invest a second round selection in former Baylor wideout Josh Gordon two years ago. None of the players are expected to fetch a high pick but a few offer enough intrigue that a late round selection could occur.
Alphabetically, the official four prospects eligible for the 2014 Supplemental draft are:
WR Chase Clayton, New Mexico (6-2, 204, 4.54): Clayton was ruled academically ineligible in 2013 and did not play, a significant loss to the Lobos as he flashed playmaking ability as a sophomore, returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and earning Honorable Mention All-Mountain West accolades with an average of 30.4 yards per return, fifth best in the country. He signed with New Mexico as a defensive back but his agility and vision pushed him to the offensive side of the ball, where he saw time at fullback and running back in the Lobos' pistol option offense. He leaves New Mexico with 209 rushing yards and just five receptions for 48 yards. Clayton's length and athleticism are enough to warrant investigation but he's unlikely to be drafted Thursday.
LB Darius Lipford, North Carolina (6-3, 245, 4.77): Lipford signed with UNC as a highly regarded prep prospect and earned immediate playing time, seeing action in 11 games and even starting once in 2010. He enjoyed his best collegiate season as a sophomore, emerging as the Tar Heels' starting strongside linebacker late in the year and recording 42 tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Lipford tore the ACL in his left knee in UNC's Independence Bowl loss to Missouri and missed the entire 2012 campaign. He returned to play at the Bandit linebacker position for the Tar Heels last season, generating six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks among his 20 stops. Lipford's length and athleticism earned him the nickname "Freak" by teammates at North Carolina but he never developed as expected, in part due to average instincts. He is a fluid, explosive athlete with clear upside and therefore could warrant a late round selection if teams are comfortable with his medical report.
DT LaKendrick Ross, Virginia-Lynchburg (6-5, 365, 5.0): Boasting a startling combination of size, strength (reportedly lifted 225 pounds 46 times during a recent workout) and athleticism, Ross is precisely the type of diamond in the rough prospect that sends scouts scurrying across the country to investigate. He earned interest from D-I schools out of high school and signed with Morgan State but academics pushed him to Virginia-Lynchburg. He only played one season (2012) before academics pushed him off the field again but he turned heads, recording 19 tackles, including five tackles for loss and four sacks in just six games. Ross had a tough upbringing. His mother passed away when he was 10 and with his biological father out of the picture, Ross bounced around through foster homes. His tape reveals a very raw prospect with almost no hand technique or understanding of leverage. Ross' natural tools and tough-luck story, however, were enough to reportedly convince 14 teams to a Pro Day workout, so a selection is possible.
RB Traylon Shead, SMU, Texas (6-2, 230, 4.59): While last alphabetically, Shead is the most high profile prospect of the 2014 Supplemental class. He was an all-everything running back recruit from a small town 90 minutes outside of Dallas and was viewed as one of the top prep players in the nation after setting several state rushing records. He arrived in Austin at Texas as a ballyhooed recruit, but struggled to fit in, redshirting in 2010 and deciding to transfer midway through the 2011 season. Shead spent the 2012 season at Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas before transferring again closer to home at SMU. In 2013 with the Mustangs, he played in four games and finished fourth on the team in rushing with 197 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 3.9 yards per carry. Shead battled several injuries last season as a junior, including a sprained left knee in the 2013 season opener, but he was expected to battle for the starting SMU running back job in 2014 before deciding to enter the Supplemental Draft.
At 6-2 and 230 pounds, Shead has the size to be a bruising runner between the tackles with light feet to pick his way through inside lanes. He is more of a one-speed runner with ordinary burst and quickness, but shows the decisiveness to get north-south quickly. Shead has the natural power and brute strength to keep his legs pumping and force defenders to slip off his stout frame. Running a tad upright, he rarely makes anyone miss and needs to better utilize his power to deliver a pop at contact and keep his pads low to the ground. Shead has some experience in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield with some positive results, but is still a work-in-progress in both areas.
Nine teams attended Shead's Pro Day last week and while he hasn't done much that separates him as a NFL prospect, he has raw skills that make some scouts believe his best football is ahead of him.
The supplemental draft was originally created for players who had lost their eligibility between the primary NFL Draft in April and the beginning of the next season. Typically they are players who ran afoul of the law or failed to keep up with their academic obligations.
The supplemental draft has grown in popularity in recent years with 11 of the 43 players selected since the draft's inception in 1977 coming since 2002. Other than 2008 (which was canceled due to a lack of eligible athletes) and last year (none of the six eligible players were drafted), at least one player has been selected in the annual supplemental draft since 2005.
Among the most notable Supplemental selections were quarterback Bernie Kosar (Cleveland, 1985), wide receiver Cris Carter (Philadelphia, 1987), linebacker Brian Bosworth (Seattle, 1987) and, of course, Gordon (Cleveland, 2012).
Unlike the televised April draft, the supplemental is carried out via e-mail among teams. The teams, slotted into three groups based on their won/loss percentage the previous year, contact the league with a list of the players they would draft and the round in which they would take them. Any team that uses a supplemental draft pick would then lose the corresponding selection in the next year's draft. The selection order will be determined shortly before the draft and has not historically been released to the public.
The 2014 supplemental draft will begin at 1 p.m. ET. These are the only four players eligible for the draft. Players not selected are considered street free agents and can sign with any interested club following the draft's conclusion.
NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Dane Brugler contributed to this report.