We've already touched on 10 defensive players to be wary of in the first round. Now let's take a look at five players on the offensive side of the ball who may not be getting enough attention and could end up steals in the middle to late rounds.
1. Ryan Broyles - WR - Oklahoma - 5'10, 188lbs
Broyles could be overlooked for the first couple of rounds come draft week, and some will say it's due to the injury he suffered toward the end of the season. While the injury was significant, Broyles probably would have fallen regardless. These days, there's so much emphasis on size, speed and raw athleticism when it comes to traits that teams are most enamored by, that consistency, instincts and fundamentals are way too frequently overlooked.
The Stephen Hills (Georgia Tech) and Dwight Joneses (UNC) of the world end up projecting higher on many draft boards than a guy like Broyles (even the healthy version), despite Broyles projecting as a much more reliable, consistent performer when breaking him down on tape. Despite the fact that he isn't an absolute blazer, Broyles has quick feet, hip flexibility and balance that allow him to create separation out of his breaks. He can diagnose and
exploit zone holes extremely well, gets his head around and locates the ball early, tracks well over his shoulder and secures the ball off his frame.
He's fearless over the middle and displays some "shake" to evade defenders after the catch, and he'll willingly initiate contact to reach the sticks. This combination of awareness and good technique, along with the fact that he consistently performed at a high level against some of the nation's top competition, make him a guy who could be a huge steal for a team between rounds 3 and 5, despite the injury that he's recovering from.
2. Andrew Datko - OT - Florida State - 6'7, 328lbs
There will be, in all likelihood, a minimum of four offensive tackles off the board by the time the first round comes to a close in April. Datko will not be one of those guys. He's not the makes-it-look-so-easy athlete that Matt Kalil and even Reilly Rieff appear to be. He doesn't possess the raw power of a Mike Adams. He doesn't display the graceful footwork in pass protection that Jonathan Martin does. But he gets the job done.
He comes off the line a bit awkward, almost as if he's crouching down, or folding over at the waist. His kick-slide looks somewhat "clunky" and his upper body and lower body don't always appear to be connected. Sounds bad, right? A closer look shows a guy who, considering his long frame, understands the importance of knee bend and absorbing impact with his lower body. Watching him engage with a defender, it's clear that for the most part, the impact is being transferred properly despite the initial appearance of a guy who lacks the grace that scouts would like to see at tackle.
As for the footwork, although it's unorthodox, he possesses enough lateral agility and quickness to seal off the edge or move back inside to defend the spin. He won't always blow his guy off the line when run blocking, but he stays with it, and displays good use of his long arms and lower body leverage to steer defenders out of the play. He has good arm length, is pretty lean for his size and can get to the 2nd level consistently when asked to blow and go in the running game. He plays to the whistle and puts out great effort consistently. I think Datko could start on either side at the next level within 1-2 years, primarily due to the fact that he gets results consistently, and has done so against some top college competition.
More after the jump...
3. Ryan Miller - OG - Colorado - 6'8, 321lbs
Miller is the classic case of a guy who has gone relatively unnoticed simply due to the fact that he played on a bad team. When you watch the tape, however, you see a guy with massive size, surprisingly quick feet, and impressive strength. Technically, he's not as consistent as you'd like him to be in terms of keeping his feet moving on contact or keeping his pads low. He comes off the line a bit high and relies on his size and impressive reach to wall-off defenders more than he does consistently slide to mirror his man, but when correct, he flashes dominant capabilities.
From an athleticism standpoint, he possesses a long frame with good lower bend and above-average lateral agility for his size. As a run blocker, he has what it takes to get down field in front of the run and pick up second level targets, and he's physically aggressive in taking would-be tacklers out of the play completely. His effort is consistent and he has shown steady improvement with his technique. To me, Miller looks like a guy who could be a starting guard in the NFL after a year or two.
4. B.J. Cunningham - WR - Michigan State - 6'2, 215lbs
I've been vocal about my admiration for Cunningham as a prospect. I think he's a highly underrated receiver who will be a steal for a team in the middle rounds. He's not a blazer, but gets off the line pretty clean against press, knows how to run routes, locates early and consistently catches the ball with his hands. He possesses long arms, a big frame, toughness to finish over the middle, and displays impressive body control when asked to adjust to throws off stride.
A solid leaper who times well on the high toss, and strong hands to bring it down in a crowd. There's nothing flashy about him, and he won't straight beat defenders in a foot race, but he's crafty with how he uses his hands to keep clean at the line and create separation across the middle. He doesn't always sink his hips into the sharper routes (i.e. digs, deep outs), but he's sudden when planting on come-backs, and is an effective quick slant runner against press. He tracks well, too.
A lot to like, despite the fact that he's not the explosive, fast playmaker who will pop the top off a defense. He's a solid, well-rounded, consistent performer who will make the tough catches and create space for himself. A possession guy who could be a nice 3rd or 4th option for a team right away, with No. 2 potential.
5. Chandler Harnish - QB - Norther Illinois - 6'2, 220lbs
Harnish is one of my favorite QB prospects in this year's class, because he's much more refined technically than many give him credit for, and I can see him being a real steal late, and potentially competing for a starting NFL role within a couple of years. He's a "plus" athlete for the position with a good feel for escaping pressure and making throws on the run. His accuracy is almost better on the run than in the pocket (not necessarily a good thing), but when he sets his feet and steps up, he displays good accuracy and more-than-adequate zip on short and mid-range throws.
The deep ball is inconsistent, but he has the arm strength to hit all the routes, and he does show the ability to hit vertical routes in stride, again, even on the run. There is a rawness to him, in the sense that he needs to be more of a quarterback than an athlete, as he tends to tuck and run before he needs to. I actually see a lot of similarities to Ryan Tannehill, in that Harnish is developing still at the position and although it may take a couple of years, if he continues to improve, he could move up a depth chart and compete for a starting role.
He's got poise, he's tough, and exudes a confidence and leadership on the field that will appeal to NFL scouts. Anywhere past the 4th round, I see Harnish as a value pick for a team willing to develop him.
Editor's note -- Derek also runs ScoutTheDraft.com - a draft analysis hub that combines his big board, player analysis and scouting reports, mock drafts, an NFL Draft commentary column, and user submitted mocks and scouting reports so sure you head over and give it a read and contribute. --