The player who goes on to have the best career in an NFL draft class is very rarely the #1 overall pick. Oftentimes, future Pro Bowlers sneak under the radar, get drafted with little fanfare, and aren’t picked up until Day 2 or 3. So while talking heads debate Goff v. Wentz at the top, let’s take a deep dive into the later rounds and highlight some names to watch for.
Blake Martinez, ILB, Stanford
Projected Draft Round: 3-5
If your team is looking for a leader in the middle of the defense, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the 6-2, 237 lb. Martinez. This Stanford alum has the size, speed, and smarts that teams crave at the inside linebacker position.
Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
Projected Draft Round: 2-3
Howard has great height and athleticism for a corner. He also put up some impressive numbers during his 2015-16 senior season. But what makes the 22-year-old stand out the most might just be the level of talent he faced off against on a regular basis. He lined up across from fellow Baylor Bear and possible first-round WR Corey Coleman every day during practice.
Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia
Projected Draft Round: 6-Undrafted
No event impacts a player’s draft stock more than the NFL Scouting Combine, and no player took advantage of it this year more than Marshall. The Bulldog ran the fastest 40-yard dash of the weekend at 4.31 seconds, and he benched more than any other tailback. Because of injury issues in college, he may not be a household name, but it would be foolish for teams to ignore his serious skills.
Josh Ferguson, RB, Illinois
Projected Draft Round: 5-6
— Eastbay (@Eastbay) February 27, 2016
Need a receiver out of the backfield? Ferguson’s your man. He may be only 5’9”, but he’s got the shiftiness, route-running prowess, and quickness to wreak havoc on screens and wheel routes. As offenses become more and more passing oriented, this back’s value will only continue to rise.
Temarrick Hemingway, TE, South Carolina State
Projected Draft Round: 5-6
— Eastbay (@Eastbay) February 28, 2016
NFL tight ends play a bigger role in the passing game nowadays than they ever have before. They need to play like super-sized receivers, and torch defenses down the middle of the field. Hemingway fits this modern era perfectly. He’s big, fast, and physical. Hailing from an MEAC school like S.C. State might make him a little raw, but he has the work ethic to catch on quickly.
But obviously these are just some of the names that stand out to us. There will be plenty of Day 2 and 3 selections that will become key playmakers throughout the league. So let us know in the comments, who do you think will be this year’s biggest draft steal?