Which Prospects Are Poised for Green Room Nightmares in 2014 NFL Draft?
While every prospect might want an invitation to the “green room” at the 2014 NFL draft, no player wants to be the last man sitting in Radio City Music Hall.
If you’ve watched the NFL draft, you’ve seen the situation unfold before. A prospect who received considerable hype leading up to the draft suddenly gets stuck waiting uncomfortably for a phone call while watching his peers celebrate with their families and hold up jerseys on stage.
It’s not usually expected that a green room prospect will be left waiting for long; the NFL invites players because of their likelihood to be among the first players selected.
Nonetheless, it’s inevitable that a number of prospects in New York will be left waiting hours if not a full day. While the NFL hasn’t yet released this year’s list of draft attendees, last year’s group included 23 players, four of whom weren’t drafted until Round 2.
It’s not yet known how the NFL is divvying up the invites this year—or which prospects will accept/decline them—but the following five could all be poised for significant waits if they end up being present in the Big Apple.
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
The top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft will each almost certainly receive an invite to the green room, and in a year where there is no consensus top signal-caller, it’s quite possible that any, if not multiple of them, could be in for a long wait when the draft begins.
While Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, UCF’s Blake Bortles and Fresno State’s Derek Carr each could potentially end up as a top five draft selection, all of them have doubters who expect them to fall much farther down the board. Given that, there’s little doubt that this year’s televised draft coverage should include no shortage of discussion around the waiting game for any of those quarterbacks who fall out of the top 10.
If any of those signal-callers is to fall out of the top 20 or Round 1 altogether, Carr seems the most likely to drastically slide. While his physical tools and pocket-passing production might be enough to warrant the top spot on some quarterback draft boards, his issues with accuracy and decision-making under pressure could push him below the other three projected first-rounders.
To an extent, Carr’s potential fall seems well-scripted for TV. For every pick that Carr goes unselected, contrasts will be raised to his brother, David Carr, who went No. 1 overall in the 2002 NFL draft.
While Derek has surely sought advice from his brother throughout the draft process, the potential to be kept waiting is one area where David won’t be able to speak from first-hand experience.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
There wasn’t much waiting to be done for the top offensive line prospects in last year’s draft, in which the blockers up front constituted six of the first 11 overall selections. This year’s draft, on the other hand, might not have as many teams in the market for offensive linemen among those franchises who hold the top draft selections.
That sets up the potential for a fall for a prospect like Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, who is widely considered this year’s No. 3 offensive tackle prospect behind Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Auburn’s Greg Robinson. If either of those prospects falls farther than expected, it could create a domino effect that pushes other top offensive linemen like Lewan and Notre Dame’s Zack Martin further down Round 1.
Lewan’s potential for a draft-day slide, however, is compounded by off-field concerns. The four-year Wolverines standout is set to be arraigned on three misdemeanor assault charges, according to Kyle Feldscher of MLive.com.
Talent alone would make Lewan a likely top 15 draft selections. While he isn’t as technically sound as Matthews or Robinson, he has a rare combination of size, athleticism and power that give him elite potential as an NFL offensive tackle.
Ultimately, it only takes one team confident in both Lewan’s football ability and behavior for him to be a high draft selection. The additional red flags raised for the Michigan offensive tackle, however, make him one of the top prospects whose draft slide would come most plausibly.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT/G, Alabama
The two Alabama offensive linemen invited to the green room last year, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker, didn’t have to wait long as the duo were selected back-to-back with the Nos. 10 and 11 overall selections. This year, it’s likely that Cyrus Kouandjio will follow in their footsteps in receiving a seat at the draft, but if that’s the case, he still might end up waiting much longer than either Warmack or Fluker had to.
While Kouandjio was expected to emerge as an early first-round prospect in his junior season, his play failed to improve significantly and he continued to have trouble against outside speed rushers.
Kouandjio is a powerful blocker with a massive frame (6’7”, 322 lbs), but his limited athleticism and struggles on the edge could make him a guard projection rather than a franchise player at offensive tackle.
In a deep class of offensive tackles, Kouandjio might not only fall into the second round but potentially significantly within it if other top offensive line prospects start to slide.
He might not even receive an invite to the draft for that reason, but the former Crimson Tide left tackle has enough potential and name recognition for a ticket to New York.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
Given that the Seminoles won this year’s BCS National Championship Game, it’s likely that at least one Florida State draft prospect will be present in the green room. The most likely invitee might be Timmy Jernigan, an early entrant to the draft regarded as one of its top defensive tackles.
Jernigan has been projected by many, including CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler and Rob Rang, as a top 16 draft choice (No. 14 to the Bears by Brugler, No. 16 to the Cowboys by Rang). Should he fall past those selections, however, he could be destined to slide into the late first round or possibly into Day 2.
While Jernigan was a productive player up front for college football’s best team, there isn’t anything that particularly stands out about his game. That’s especially true in comparison to the players he is vying for draft position with: Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald is a more explosive penetrator, who was incredibly productive in college, while Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman and Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III combine intriguing sizes with impressive athletic traits.
That said, Hageman and Nix could also be in position for long waits on draft weekend, as both are potential New York invitees yet neither should be considered a first-round lock. Donald seems like a safe bet to be a top 20 pick after his exceptional senior season, Senior Bowl performance and combine showing.
Any FSU player who gets an invite to the draft is likely to be under a spotlight given the team’s 2013 success. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and defensive back LaMarcus Joyner are also potential green room selections but both of them would be in the same boat as Jernigan, perhaps to a greater extent, as players who could slide to the draft’s second day.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
One player who has already confirmed his presence for the 2014 NFL draft is TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, who tweeted last week that he has received an invite to Radio City Music Hall for the selection meeting. While he is very much a deserving candidate of the invitation, he is no lock to be a first-round pick.
The argument could be made that Verrett, an explosive athlete with terrific feet and hips, who has great ball skills and plays with aggression, is the best cornerback in this year’s draft. That said, it’s also quite possible that up to four cornerbacks—Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert, Ohio State’s Bradley Roby, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller—could be selected ahead of him.
His small stature, at 5’9” and 189 pounds, increases the likelihood that Verrett will be among the latter of that group to be selected. Additionally, he is coming off surgery to repair an injured labrum in his shoulder, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net.
Verrett might be the first to confirm that he’ll be spending his draft wait in the green room, but he probably won’t be one of the first to take the stage in New York City.
Measurables courtesy of NFL.com.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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