It’s common knowledge in the NFL that you don’t win with just your first round picks, you win with your 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th round picks. Guys like Richard Sherman, Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Josh Norman, and most notably Tom Brady were all picked after the first day of the draft. There will be a handful of future stars picked in the later rounds of this years draft, notable stars who will make huge contributions for the franchise that decides to employ them. I’m going to pinpoint 5 prospects that I think can have an immediate impact and have the upside to be pro bowl caliber players for whatever team decides to select them in the 2016 NFL Draft.
5. Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa
With a combination of height, strong hands and the speed to streak away from opponents, Keyarris is an intriguing prospect. Standing at 6’4, 230lb, Garrett boasts an impressive frame, he possesses good speed (4.53) and explosiveness (37 inch vertical, 10’8 broad jump) to be a serious threat on the outside. He had a career year in the AAC as he tallied over 1,400 receiving yards and seven touchdowns and ripped up the conference to the tune of 122 yards a game over 13 games in 2015, which was better than fellow Texas wide receivers Josh Docston (120.6) and Corey Coleman (113.6) who both warrant top 25 consideration and will probably be chosen in the 1st round. Keyarris is still a raw player, he played in a spread system at Tulsa, often lining up behind another receiver so he usually saw a free release off the line and ran a limited route tree against non elite college competition which lead to questions of inflated numbers. He has the size, leaping ability, and talent to be a threat in the red zone right away and with some time to develop in a system and some refined route running, he could be a key component in an NFL offense, which could be a steal for a team in the mid fourth to fifth round.
4. Javon Hargrave, DL, South Carolina State
When playing at the FCS level, you have to dominate your competition to get the scouts attention, and that’s exactly what Hargrave did. Standing at 6’1 , 310 lbs, Hargrave is a little undersized to play defensive tackle all 3 downs in the NFL, but he is an explosive man (4.80 forty yard dash) for his size with quick feet, he has a great motor and plays with a lot of power that commands multiple blockers, proven by his 30 reps of 225 at the combine, he’s strong at the point of attack and gets low underneath to use his leverage. Primarily an interior pass rusher, his frame is versatile enough to play at the 3 technique spot in a 4-3 scheme or the 5 technique in a 3-4 scheme. Even though he has first round talent, his size and the level of competition he played at SCSU will likely cause him to fall on draft day, but I think he’s a day 2 prospect with immense upside.
3. Eric Striker, LB, Oklahoma
A three-time All-Big 12 pick (including First Team honoree the past two seasons), Striker is certainly well known in the scouting community. He posted eye-popping numbers over his career, registering 191 tackles, 46.5 tackles for loss and 23 sacks in all. A little undersized for an NFL linebacker at 6 feet tall, 225 pounds, there will be some teams that would rather have Striker play as an in the box safety, however his instincts to get to the ball carrier and prowess to avoid would-be blockers will serve him well. He showed his versatility at Oklahoma last year by dropping in coverage and playing well in a pash rushing role, I think he could fit at the weak side linebacker position in a 4-3 defense, kind of like Lavonte David or Alec Ogletree, and even play in nickel packages because of his athleticism. He has enough potential to become an impact player right away and is a smart choice in the 3rd or 4th round.
2. Devon Cajuste, WR/TE, Stanford
Devon Cajuste signed with Stanford as a highly regarded tight end prospect but emerged as one of Stanford’s most reliable wide receivers since, cajuste has some ‘tweener traits that could limit his draft stock, but presents the frame (6’4, 240 pounds), agility, and athleticism to become a huge mismatch in the NFL. He ran a 4.57 forty yard dash and had a three cone drill time of 6.49, which was top 5 in the past decade in that drill for wide receivers. He is more of a natural receiver than a inline blocking tight end and was severely under utilized at Stanford which will probably be why he slips in the draft. With a solid supporting cast and coaching in the right system, Cajuste could become a lethal weapon for an NFL offense and is well worth a gamble late on day 2 or early day 3 on draft weekend.
1. Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia
One of the most highly touted prospects coming out of high school, Keith Marshall was poised to for a great career for the bulldogs, but a slew of injuries and playing on the same team with a man named Todd Gurley derailed his hopes of being a college football superstar, a player some thought was headed for collegiate glory and NFL stardom had fallen to the point where it was no sure bet he would get drafted at all. He had the opportunity at the NFL combine to show the scouts what they were missing, and ran a 4.3 4o yard dash at 5’11, 219 pounds (fastest among running backs) and benched 24 reps of 225 (also 1st among RB) to showcase the power and speed to potentially be a 3 down back in NFL. Going from rather unknown just a few short months ago to being one of the biggest risers in the draft, he will most likely hear his name called on day 3 of the draft but there is enough upside to warrant a pick on day 2 and could be an absolute steal in the fourth or fifth round. Whoever selects Marshall come draft weekend is getting an exciting young prospect who has the talent to take on the lead back role in an offense and become a dynamic playmaker down the road.