Whereas the NFL draft steadily is outlined by gamers seeking to prolong their prolific manufacturing to the following degree, an prolonged monitor document of success is not a prerequisite for a fruitful professional profession.
Las Vegas Raiders working again Josh Jacobs, for instance, was solely Alabama’s third-leading rusher earlier than the Raiders made the primary ball-carrier chosen in 2019 with the No. 24 total decide, and he was chosen to the Professional Bowl in his second season. And from Kansas Metropolis Chiefs tight finish Travis Kelce to Washington Soccer Crew broad receiver Terry McLaurin, the NFL has loads of gamers whose finest work did not start till they began suiting up on Sundays.
With common managers and scouts underneath strain to unearth extra of these standouts, listed here are 10 gamers within the 2021 NFL draft who may very well be extra productive as execs than they had been as faculty gamers:
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Davis Mills, QB, Stanford: After the 5 doubtless early first-round quarterbacks, it is tough to seek out one other surefire starter on this class. For any workforce keen to wager massive on traits over expertise, nevertheless, Mills could be the following tier’s most engaging choice. There’s nonetheless one thing of a disconnect within the former five-star recruit’s recreation, as he at occasions alternates between delivering dazzling tight-window throws and making head-scratching choices. In the end, it is clear that making simply 11 begins throughout two years has inhibited his growth, as he too usually is undone by lapses in his footwork or being compelled off his first learn. But the talent set of a possible starter is ready if a training workers can restore these downside areas.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, Oklahoma: An 18-carry, 186-yard outing in Oklahoma’s Cotton Bowl romp of Florida left many questioning what extra Stevenson might have accomplished in his collegiate profession. The junior faculty switch and backup in 2019 was suspended for the primary six video games of final season resulting from a failed drug check, however he nonetheless managed to steer the Sooners with 665 dashing yards and 7 touchdowns on 101 carries. Stevenson strikes way more nimbly than one would count on from a 6-0, 231-pound again, although he would not run as powerfully as his dimension would counsel. Even when he is not chosen till Day 3 and would not tackle a featured function, Stevenson’s finest enjoying days may nonetheless be forward of him.
Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford: In his remaining faculty recreation, Fehoko confirmed his potential to be a dominant, go-to goal with 16 catches for 230 yards and three touchdowns in a double-overtime win in opposition to UCLA. That manufacturing, nevertheless, represented a excessive level he by no means got here near matching at another level in his profession, throughout which he recorded 62 catches and made simply 5 begins. At 6-4 and 222 kilos with a penchant for making circus catches and utilizing his velocity (4.43 seconds within the 40) to beat cornerbacks vertically, Fehoko evokes comparisons to Seattle Seahawks broad receiver DK Metcalf. Whereas his acclimation to the NFL may be prolonged given his unpolished routes and points with drops, few different receivers on this class can match his upside.
Josh Palmer, WR, Tennessee: With probably six of the highest seven broad receivers on this yr’s draft coming from the Southeastern Convention, it is easy to grasp why Palmer did not garner a lot nationwide consideration throughout a season by which he posted simply 33 catches for 475 yards. But it was clear that Tennessee’s lackluster aerial assault was attributable primarily to teaching and the play of the Volunteers’ quarterbacks fairly than Palmer. The 6-1, 210-pound goal turned heads on the Senior Bowl along with his decided route-running and bodily play. As a possible third- or fourth-round decide, Palmer may very well be a beginning receiver who satisfies the function of creating robust catches in site visitors and dealing with different unglamorous however essential work.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa: Getting open downfield was by no means a difficulty for Smith-Marsette, who routinely ran previous defensive backs for big-play seems. However Iowa’s shaky quarterback play left a lot of these alternatives unrealized, and he recorded simply 25 catches for a team-best 345 yards a senior. Projecting as a deep-threat specialist, Smith-Marsette must exhibit he can catch passes extra comfortably than he did in faculty and keep away from being erased by extra bodily defensive backs. However NFL groups will discover methods to place him for fulfillment, notably on particular groups after he averaged 26.7 yards per kick return for the Hawkeyes.
Tommy Tremble, TE, Notre Dame: With 2020 second-round decide Cole Kmet and star freshman Michael Mayer getting used closely as tight ends in Notre Dame’s passing assault, Tremble recorded simply 35 catches and 401 yards in two years whereas steadily relegated to a job by which he blew open holes within the run recreation. Within the NFL, nevertheless, he could have untapped potential as an H-back or fullback. His drops and underdeveloped route-running may sign some early bumps in his profession, however Tremble gives the athleticism to be a extra productive move catcher whereas nonetheless incomes his maintain as a bulldozing blocker.
Jayson Oweh, DE, Penn State: Pretty or unfairly, Oweh could be recognized to many because the doubtless first-round move rusher who did not document a sack final yr as a redshirt sophomore. Having began his soccer profession when he was a highschool junior, the 6-5, 257-pounder is little question a challenge given the shortage of refinement in his method. However he is one coaches will gladly tackle, as edge rushers along with his dimension, velocity (4.36 seconds within the 40-yard sprint) and explosive traits (39½-inch vertical leap and 11-2 broad bounce) are extraordinarily uncommon. As long as he is paired with a place coach who can hone his instincts, Oweh has a strong probability to turn into a extra persistently disruptive participant on the subsequent degree.
Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan: Like Oweh, Paye did not benefit from the faculty profession one would count on from one of many draft’s most bodily gifted move rushers, ending with simply 11½ sacks in 38 video games. However the two-time second-team All-Massive 10 choice confirmed sufficient promise to entrench himself as a possible first-round decide certain for higher issues. Few of Paye’s friends can pack his degree of fluidity and burst right into a 6-3, 261-pound body. Although he may not be a constant producer of seasons with double-digit sacks, Paye must be a flexible and disruptive fixture alongside a line of defense as soon as he diversifies his arsenal of pass-rush strikes and improves his hand utilization.
Milton Williams, DT, Louisiana Tech: Having recorded 19 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in two seasons, Williams was no underachiever for the Bulldogs. He amplified the thrill round him, nevertheless, when his outstanding athleticism grew to become extra evident on the sphere late in final yr’s marketing campaign. On his professional day, he confirmed off a novel mix of lateral agility, explosiveness and energy. If he lands in a scheme that asks him to faucet into his aggressiveness, Williams might find yourself one as of this draft’s most disruptive defensive linemen.
Jamar Johnson, S, Indiana: A one-year starter for the Hoosiers, Johnson doubtless wouldn’t have ended up on this record had he elected to return after his breakout marketing campaign. He proved to be masterful in making highlight-reel performs on passes thrown anyplace close to him, although his work in stopping the run recreation was sporadic at finest. With the fluidity to deal with the slot and the vary to function deep, Johnson is precisely the type of defensive again that NFL teaching staffs prize.
Observe Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.