NFL Draft 2013: Under-the-Radar Players Starting to Make Waves

Nathan TesslerCorrespondent IJanuary 28, 2013

PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 13: Ezekiel Ansah #47 of BYU Cougars looks to the sidelines during a game against the Oregon State Beavers during the first half of a college football game October 13, 2012 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

For any team trying to rebuild for sustainable future success, the first place to look toward is the draft.

While the NFL has become a quarterback-happy league, this year’s class is a bit weak in quarterback play but very deep in a number of other positions.  As the draft nears, many events and workouts give some of the less-hyped players the chance to boost their draft stock significantly.

For these players, a good day can be the difference between being a second or third round pick to a first-rounder.

As of now, here are a few under-the-radar players who are just starting to raise their stock significantly:

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU 

Ansah, a talented defensive end at BYU, had a monster Senior Bowl and shot up a number of draft boards to roughly the middle of the first round.

The Ghanaian has endless raw talent, at 6’5” and 275 pounds, and is one of the fastest players at his position.  He is already drawing numerous comparisons to New York Giants defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul.  Pierre-Paul only began football when his high school coach nearly begged him to join the team.  Similarly, Ansah did not begin playing football until the 2010 season.

At the Senior Bowl, Ansah showed off the speed and strength for a player who could potentially be an elite defensive end and constant mismatch in the NFL.

Unlike Pierre-Paul, Ansah also showed an ability to go back in pass coverage as well.

Despite his inexperience, Ansah is an incredibly gifted player, and if he continues this form through the combine he could potentially be a top-10 pick.

Vance McDonald, TE, Rice

With the emergence of players such as Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, teams are starting to look for more big, receiving tight ends.

Vance McDonald could be next on that list.

Experts rightly had questions about McDonald’s potential, considering he played for an underachieving Rice University team, and in an underwhelming conference.

McDonald proved them wrong immediately, though.  The first Rice graduate to play in the Senior Bowl since ND Kalu in 1996, he showed off very raw athleticism and the soft hands to be a difference maker as a receiver.  At 6’4” and 262 pounds, McDonald also has the speed to be a mismatch against most defenders.  McDonald did have a few drops during this Senior Bowl though, and is also a bit inconsistent at times as a blocker.

With a strong scouting combine and 40-yard-dash, in particular, McDonald could be a quiet second-round pick, and much like Gronkowski, a household name in the NFL.


Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers

Greene, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year and ESPN All-American, has been the centerpiece of the Rutgers defense for years.

A former safety, Greene had 136 total tackles this year, 12 tackles for loss, six sacks and two interceptions.

Greene has the speed and athleticism to match up against wide receivers and the size to be an every-down linebacker.  Greene is incredibly intelligent.  When he blitzes, he has the ability and patience to wait for teammates to take blocks and subsequently hit the holes hard.  Sometimes he is a bit too patient trying to read plays and has been caught motionless, but Greene will surely work on that in the NFL.

At the Senior Bowl though, Greene showed off why he was so successful at Rutgers.  He showed an ability for pass coverage, pass rush, and run stopping that scouts are surely taking note of.

Greene’s versatility will shoot him up draft boards, and he will definitely be a mainstay for whichever team drafts him. 

At 6’0” and 236 pounds, Greene will need to work on his upper body, but with a solid combine he could conceivably go in the beginning or middle of the second round.