Presuming you have turned on a sports channel in the past three months, you know the names Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney and Blake Bortles. Throw in the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Sammy Watkins and others, and we are talking about some of the top NFL draft prospects available in 2014.
However, there are sure to be certain players who fall into the second round (or later) who produce big-time numbers right away in the NFL.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the underrated offensive prospects to watch in the 2014 NFL draft.
RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Carlos Hyde was simply born at the wrong time.
If we are working under the assumption that Hyde is the best running back in the draft because of his ability to flatten linebackers in the hole and burst through lanes with underrated speed, he may have been the top pick in the draft 15 years ago.
That being said, the entire position of running back has been devalued in the NFL, and we may not even see a single one taken in the first two rounds. That doesn’t mean Hyde won’t produce at the NFL level.
In his final two years at Ohio State, he racked up 970 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior and 1,521 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns as a senior. He became the first-ever Urban Meyer-coached running back to crack 1,000 rushing yards in a season and did so without playing in the first three games of the campaign.
Hyde believes he is capable of producing like a first-round draft pick, via Tom Pelissero of USA Today: "They say the NFL is a pass-happy league now. I do a great job of catching, a great job of picking up blitzers, recognizing defenses. I feel like I'm a complete running back. I definitely feel like I'm a first-round talent."
Hyde is a bruising and physical running back, but he fit in beautifully in Ohio State’s spread offense (even if it is a spread offense that emphasizes running the ball). Look for him to both adjust and thrive to whatever system he is placed in at the next level.
WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Jordan Matthews is overshadowed by how deep of a class this is at wide receiver, but he isn’t overshadowed by anyone in the history of the SEC statistically.
In fact, nobody has ever registered more receptions or receiving yards in an SEC career than Matthews, and he seemed to improve every season, even with less-than-stellar quarterback play.
As a freshman, he tallied 15 catches for 181 yards and four touchdowns, as a sophomore he finished with 41 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns, as a junior he grabbed 94 catches for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns and as a senior he totaled 112 catches for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns.
John Glennon of The Tenneseean noted that some think Matthews could still be a late first-rounder:
Matthews could thrive as a third option on a team, because all he does is produce.
He can go up and get the ball at its highest point in the red zone or make plays over the middle on slant routes. He would pair nicely on a squad that has at least one elite receiver to draw double-teams, because Matthews can beat one-on-one coverage consistently.
If he lined up in the slot, Matthews could be too physical for a number of safeties and too fast for most linebackers, which would be the ideal situation for the Vanderbilt product.
WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
It may seem strange to be talking about the Indiana Hoosiers and draft prospects in football and not basketball, but Cody Latimer is an underrated talent who could thrive in the right situation.
In fact, Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated gave a lofty comparison for Latimer recently:
The Keenan Allen comparison, in my opinion, is quite apt. Like Allen, Latimer doesn’t explode off the tape with demon speed—instead, he gets open and makes plays with toughness, route awareness and field intelligence. I believe that he will be an ideal number-two receiver in just about any NFL system. Allen was selected in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Chargers, and he responded with a fabulous rookie campaign—71 catches for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Latimer, under the right circumstances, could do the same.
Latimer registered 135 catches for 2,042 yards and 17 touchdowns in his three seasons in Bloomington, and in 2013 alone he tallied 72 catches for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns.
He has solid speed, but it is his ability to make plays with the ball in the air that should appeal to a number of NFL teams.
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