Blog by Rodney Stokes for TonySoftli.com
The NFL Draft typically swirls around the top 50 players or so every year. Yet there are plenty of athletes that fly beneath the media hype and end up having great NFL careers. We call these players gems. Typically these are guys who have NFL traits but for one reason or another don’t make the top of everyone’s list. It can be easy to forget about other players when you’re force fed names like Deshaun Watson, Leonard Fournette and OJ Howard every week. That’s not to say that these possible gems can’t have just as great, if not better careers when it’s all said and done. Let’s take a look at a gem from every position:
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
The most common theme this year with quarterbacks has been “who is the next Dak Prescott”? Before that it was Russell Wilson. Every team drafting a quarterback would love to find one in the middle rounds so they can stockpile on other elite talent early on. Josh Dobbs has the potentially to be this year’s mid round star. Dobbs is a talented dual threat quarterback from Tennessee where he’s steadily improved over his four seasons in Knoxville. 2016 was his best year as both a quarterback and a runner yet he still hasn’t reached his peak in ability. That may be due to the fact that Josh Dobbs graduated from Tennessee with a degree in Aerospace Engineering, an almost unheard of task while playing football. An Aerospace Engineering degree is impressive in it’s own right, but to come out and play football on Saturday and be one of the best players on the field is beyond impressive. As Dobbs focuses on football, there’s an opportunity to take advantage of a growing athlete and who has shown mental strength and ability. While all of his accolades are impressive, there are reasons why quarterbacks from some of the toughest schools in the country struggle to make an NFL impact. Dobbs has work to do in his decision making and not playing himself into a slump. The talent is there, but it’ll be up to his next coaching staff to pull it out of him.
Projected Rounds 3-5
D’Onta Foreman, Texas
If you ask about some of the best running backs in this draft you’ll hear about Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Chrisitian McCaffery and even Joe Mixon. After that it seems there’s a mix of players that could fall in line afterwards. D’Onta Foreman is a name that should be up there with the top backs in this years draft class and for very good reason. Foreman wasn’t able to perform at the combine due to a foot injury, but at his pro day a month later he showed that he’s no average joe. At 6′ tall and 233 pounds, Foreman produced a 4.45 40 yard dash, a time that would’ve placed him ahead of Fournette, Cook and McCaffery at the combine. If that’s not impressive enough, he won the Doak Walker Award for the nations best running back in 2016. Foreman produced over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns to earn that right. It’s a wonder that he isn’t held in much higher regard given all he’s done. Scouts seemed to be concerned that he’s not a power back given his size and opts for the more elusive option. I’d say that his 2,000 yards is enough to say that whatever he does, it works. Foreman may be the fifth or sixth running back taken off the board but he has the potential to be the best in this class.
Projected Rounds 2-3
Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M
Reynolds is a name that may get lost among the receiving corps but his talent is something to be noted. A tall receiver at 6’3, Reynolds excels in his ability to be a deep threat and win in jump ball situations. The comparison that NFL.com gave for Reynolds was Marvin Jones and that’s an excellent find in the middle rounds. To put into perspective the type of deep threat that Reynolds is you have to look at his stats. 61 receptions for 1039 yards comes out to 17 yards per reception and the best part is that he isn’t limited to being a downfield receiver. If there’s a gem on this list that has the best chance of breaking out, Reynolds is the guy. Christian Kirk is the star receiver for the Aggies and will likely be one of the best, if not the best wide receiver prospect in the draft next year. However, Reynolds was able to outperform in almost every wide receiver category outside of receptions. His frame is on the thinner side and he has struggled against press coverage at times. If he’s able to increase his lower body strength and work on his release he can be a great number two option for a team down the road.
Projected Rounds 3-5
Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas
Hunter Henry was the best tight end prospect in last year’s draft. There were arguments however that Jeremy Sprinkle could’ve been just as great. Sprinkle is the type of player that can not only change the game as a receiving threat but he can do his part as an excellent blocker as well. Unfortunately for Sprinkle he had a very lackluster 2016 campaign as a receiving option. Even worse, Sprinkle was caught stealing from a merchandising company that not only supplied him with a gift card of more than enough money, but also was the host for the bowl game that he was supposed to play in. Character issues and not improving in play are reasons for why Sprinkle has fallen so far in the draft. The best part about him though is that he’s going to get a shot to redeem himself on and off the field. He’s an athletic body and showed that in his 2015 bowl game against Kansas State. Sprinkle is an excellent jump ball threat and can win in the red zone if given the opportunity. Will he be one of the better tight ends in the league? That’s tough to say. Sprinkle does possess the talent that you look for and if put in the right system, he could very well be a successful player in this league.
Projected Rounds 4-6
Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia
Tyler Orlosky is fun to watch if you enjoy the play of offensive linemen. He’s not a big guy (for the position/s) at 6’3 and just under 300 pounds, but he plays like a guy with a chip on his shoulder. Orlosky has been a four year starter for the West Virginia Mountaineers and was a team captain last season. You can see his ability to lead pre-snap and he backs it up with an all out effort once the ball is snapped. For the Mountaineers, Orlosky played center and could remain there in the NFL. Some teams may look to use him at guard but his strengths fit the interior line. His style of play is reminiscent to Jeff Saturday in being a smaller player but with the grit to succeed and win. It remains to be seen what Orlosky’s future is but he has the makeup of a player with a long career in the NFL.
Projected Rounds 3-6
Follow Rodney Stokes on Twitter: @RodneyStokes21