I did this article two years ago and featured John Skelton, a lanky quarterback from Fordham, and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, an undersized but speedy corner from Indiana (Pennsylvania). Like others featured, neither got too much draft attention and simply became names and faces in the crowd. Skelton was selected in the fifth round and Owusu-Ansah in the fourth. Two years into their respective careers and Skelton has already started for an NFL team (Cardinals) and Owusu-Ansah became the featured kick returner in Dallas.
The point of this article will be to tell you about some names you don’t necessarily know right now, but may once they get to the NFL. While the first, second, and even third round are often filled with starters and Pro Bowlers, mid- to late-round gems always seem to shine through as well. Here are some of those candidates:
Amini Silatolu, OT, Midwestern State
Projected Round: 3rd
Who? Where? Silatolu’s name and alma mater make him sound like a seventh round draft pick (Is that profiling?) but he should go well before then. When NFL draft prospects come from lesser-known schools where the competition level leaves something to be desired, scouts want to see players absolutely dominate their opponents.
Silatolu won’t rack up the pancakes, but he won’t allow too many sacks, either. He is surprisingly nimble for a 311-pound human being and his athleticism may translate to a pulling guard at the next level. Either way, Silatolu may be a little bit of a project, but there were no glaring holes to his game at the level of competition he did face in college.
Josh Norman, CB, Costal Carolina
Projected Round: 4th-5th
Norman won’t light you up with his 40-time, but his instincts are solid. He doesn’t always look for the big pick, but he doesn’t shy away from taking calculated risks, either. This cerebral awareness only compliments his well-rounded game. He can become an obstruction in the secondary with his tall, 6-foot frame just as easily as he can come up and play the run.
Norman was a shining star in the lowly Big South Conference, and transitioning to becoming a role player in the big, bad NFL may take some time. If Norman can learn to help out where he is needed, it won’t take long for defensive coordinators to give him opportunities on “every down” plays.
Asa Jackson, CB, Cal Poly
Projected Round: 6th
Jackson is that classic ball-hawking corner from a school nobody really cares about. He makes mistakes on defense, but has the acceleration and agility to get back into almost every play. The Great West conference (in which Cal Poly plays) isn’t the Mecca for premier receivers, but Jackson hasn’t disappointed in his few opportunities against better competition, either.
Being a four-year starter, game experience isn’t a concern with Jackson. Still, he will need time to transition to the NFL and the “project” label will hurt his draft stock significantly. If he can increase his physicality while covering receivers, his odds of starting in the NFL will improve greatly.
Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette
Projected Round: 4th
Offensive gurus are growing more and more aware of the fact that large, athletic tight ends provide a huge matchup problem for defenses. As such, we have seen the meteoric rise of guys like Rob Gronkowski. Green is no Gronk, but he could make a perfect second punch in a double tight end set. He is big (6’6″) and fast (4.53 40-time) with a freakish body that screams red zone target.
He needs to polish his game to an NFL standard, but the right coaching staff can help him accelerate that process. What you can’t coach are his intangibles, which he already has, and will likely have someone take a flier on him in the middle rounds.
B.J. Coleman, QB, Tennessee-Chattanooga
Projected Round: 4th-5th
SEC fans may remember Coleman as the gunslinger who transferred away from the Vols after being ousted as the starting quarterback. The keyword in there was gunslinger. Coleman doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, he has a laser gun. He can put exceptional zip on throws and fire them into closing holes between defenders.
The complexities of an NFL offense may be too much for Coleman and too often he can get tunnel vision with his number one option. As such, places like Houston or Arizona may not be good fits for him. But don’t get too down on Coleman as there is plenty of room for growth here.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing for GuysNation, he is on Twitter! Follow him @bclienesch.