The supplemental draft is the NFL fan's version of an icy cold drink in the middle of the desert, giving diehard football fans something to talk about other than arrests and which team's hat a player is wearing during the quiet month of July. What's worth talking about in this year's supplemental class?
Six players have forfeited their college eligibility for a chance to play in the NFL during the 2013 season, but unlike last year's crop—headlined by Josh Gordon—there are no guarantees that anyone will be selected in the lottery-based draft on July 11.
The six players eligible for the draft will not be well-known to casual fans in the college football or NFL world, but each player does come with upside if he can get in the right system, overcome off-field issues and respond to coaching. Who are these prospects, and what do they bring to the table?
James Boyd, Defensive End, UNLV
6'5", 255 pounds.
Backstory: A highly regarded high school prospect, Boyd originally committed to USC and was thought to be the next big thing as a two-way threat at tight end, quarterback and defensive end. The athletic potential is huge with Boyd, but he's very raw as a football player. With his athletic ability, he was even considered a potential walk-on to the USC basketball team.
Boyd never found his footing at USC and left after the 2011 season. From there he went to West Los Angeles City College and sat out the 2011 season. With an eye on playing quarterback, he transferred to UNLV but found himself back at defensive end. Boyd played well there in 2012, notching 2.5 sacks in limited playing time.
Positives: The first thing you notice is Boyd's athletic ability. He's a naturally gifted mover and has the quickness and burst to make plays in space. He shows the instincts to attack the backfield and go after the quarterback, and he has a natural hip rotation that will help him beat blockers on the edge. There's a ton of raw upside here to work with.
Negatives: Incredibly raw as a football player, Boyd hasn't been coached up in technique and relies too much on his athletic ability to beat blockers. He will need work in every aspect of the game—from reading an offensive lineman to proper nutrition and strength training.
It's bothersome that Boyd has never been a starter, and even moved down the depth chart during his season at UNLV. There's also a chance that he still sees himself as a quarterback and not a defender. His talent is undeniable, but NFL teams will not be likely to gamble away a future draft pick on such an unproven prospect.
Best Fit: 4-3 defensive end
Nate Holloway, Defensive Tackle, UNLV
6'3", 365 pounds.
Backstory: Finding game film on Nate Holloway will be a chore for NFL scouts. In his redshirt freshman season, Holloway played in 13 games and asserted himself well as a run-stuffer. From then on, he struggled to stay eligible due to academics.
Holloway joined five other teammates who left the team in June 2012, which is why he finds himself in the supplemental draft.
Positives: You won't find many players with Holloway's raw size and strength. From an upside perspective, he looks and moves like a more raw version of Dontari Poe, but the Chiefs' 2012 draftee makes Holloway look like a middle schooler in terms of technique and football IQ. The biggest selling point with Holloway is his upside and size.
Negatives: There simply isn't enough recent tape to judge Holloway on. Leaving the program early will certainly come up for NFL teams when looking at Holloway, especially since he left for "undisclosed reasons." The limited film available is a killer, and Holloway looks like the one player in this supplemental class who will struggle most with making an NFL team.
Best Fit: 3-4 Nose Tackle
Toby Jackson, Defensive End, Central Florida
6'5", 257 pounds.
Backstory: Stop me if this sounds familiar. Former prep star signs with school close to home (Georgia) but never sees the field due to academic issues. That's the story for Toby Jackson, who was a big get for Mark Richt's Bulldogs before transferring to Georgia Military College after running into academic issues.
Jackson went from Georgia Military College to Navarro College (Texas) and finally found himself at Central Florida late in 2011 after receiving offers from Alabama and Tennessee. He never became what many expected at UCF, seeing time in just nine games and recording only 14 tackles. In predictable fashion, Jackson was academically ineligible for his senior season.
Positives: There is no denying that Jackson has talent. If Nick Saban wants you on his team, there's reason to believe you have the talent to make an NFL roster someday. In Jackson an NFL team will get a high-level athlete with good movement ability and nice instincts. He's not quite as raw as Holloway or Boyd, and even has some game film to evaluate from. If his stint at Navarro College is any indication of his upside, Jackson might be worth a late-round draft pick as a developmental player.
Negatives: It is always tough to gauge how much academic issues can plague an NFL player's career. Staying eligible in college is one thing, but being able to learn a playbook and read an offense is another entirely. It is a concern, though, that Jackson has struggled to stay on the field at several different schools. Jackson's size, athletic ability and upside make him intriguing, but the academic issues raise a set of concerns that may be too risky.
Best Fit: 4-3 Defensive End
Dewayne Peace, Wide Receiver, Houston
5'11", 190 pounds.
Backstory: A leading receiver for the Houston offense in 2012, it's surprising to see Dewayne Peace entering the supplemental draft until you dig deeper. Peace was suspended for three games in 2012 after breaking team rules. That didn't keep Peace from joining the team for spring practice, but reports were that his stock had fallen with coaches to the point where he wouldn't see playing time.
That speculation was compacted with the news that Peace, who started his career at the junior college level, was academically ineligible. The only logical option for the former go-to wideout was the supplemental draft.
Positives: Peace put together a solid 2012 season in a high-flying Houston offense that saw him running a developed route tree and challenging the defense underneath. It's a benefit to him that he posted productive numbers in 2012, giving scouts a good picture of his actual ability and not just his potential.
He's able to make tough grabs over the middle and shows a willingness to cut through traffic and go after contested passes. Peace is a quality underneath receiver with strong hands, and he brings some value as a punt returner.
Negatives: A smaller wide receiver for the outside, Peace will likely be kept in the slot or used as a possession-style receiver in a West Coast offense. He doesn't have great acceleration away from the ball and struggles to find openings in the red zone.
While he has solid hands, he's not a big-play threat or someone who can stretch the field vertically. The biggest knocks will be his inability to stay eligible, his lack of top-end speed and the spread-passing aspect of the Houston offense that will cause scouts to call Peace a system player.
Best Fit: West Coast offense
O.J. Ross, Wide Receiver, Purdue
5'10", 188 pounds.
Backstory: Considered a recruiting steal for Purdue in the 2010 class, O.J. Ross was expected to make a major impact immediately. At Purdue he was able to start four games as a freshman, showing off his athletic ability and potential to a fanbase desperate for an offensive star.
Ross has great potential on the field, but off it, he found trouble. He was suspended by the team for the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl after the 2011 season and then was stripped of his scholarship due to academic issues—the team would reinstate him that spring.
Ross performed well in 2012, showing the big-play potential many believed he possessed. The Boilermaker offense was to be his in 2013, but he was suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules in February.
Positives: My favorite of all the supplemental draft prospects, Ross has a steady catalogue of film to study and has the production at Purdue to back up his potential. That's something few players in this year's class—or even previous classes—can boast.
A quality return man, Ross has the ability to separate from defenders with speed in the open field. He shows the quickness to turn short catches into big gains and is slippery enough in space to pick up yards after the catch. Ross is more of a finished product than any other player in this year's class, and he should garner the most attention.
Negatives: It's always a concern for me when a player is suspended by the team—especially a player with Ross' production. As a receiver prospect, he doesn't have great size and didn't operate much in the slot at Purdue—instead playing mostly outside the hashes and in space. His attitude will be questioned due to the suspension, but there is no doubting his playmaking ability on the field.
Best Fit: West Coast offense, return man
Projection: Sixth Round
Damond Smith, Cornerback, South Alabama
5'11", 181 pounds.
Backstory: In what is becoming a common story for supplemental draft prospects, Smith was a one-time prep star who couldn't settle into the routine of college life. A commit to Western Michigan originally, Smith spent two seasons there and showed starting potential. A fight with teammate Doug Wiggins on the field led to his suspension and eventual transfer to South Alabama.
Smith made his way to South Alabama but never made an impact. Suspended midway through his first season there for "violation of team and departmental rules", he was removed from the program just as he was starting to emerge as a standout player for the team. There have been reports of a failed drug test with Smith, but the school never verified that information publicly.
Smith was almost a member of the Green Bay Packers, until it was learned that he hadn't filed his paperwork correctly and wasn't eligible for the NFL just yet.
Positives: When you see Smith playing at South Alabama, you see an NFL-level cornerback. He's smooth, confident and physical enough to play on the edge. At 5'11", he has the height and length to attack the ball in-flight and can high-point the ball on jump balls. You could easily move Smith to safety, too, and let him play more in space. He has the range to attack the ball and can play both at the line of scrimmage or back in a soft zone.
Negatives: Fighting with a teammate on the field and failing a drug test might be too much for most NFL teams to overcome. It's the biggest concern on Smith's scouting report and could prevent teams from even looking at his game film.
When you see Smith play, you see a technically raw player. His transitions are sloppy and ill-timed, but his quickness and natural athleticism cover up many of his fundamental problems—at least against lower-level talent. Having never faced elite competition, Smith's stock is based purely on projection and upside. If an NFL team can get through to him, he has enough talent to be a draftable prospect.
Best Fit: Zone system cornerback
Projection: Seventh Round