NFL Draft Preview - Under-the-Radar Prospects

By John Laub
John Laub



The annual allocation of college talent takes place in late April, and NFL general managers and coaches are drooling at the number of talented prospects available. 


Despite the massive scrutiny and analysis, players are overlooked every spring by personnel departments: Kirk Cousins, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Thomas Rawls, Arian Foster, Alfred Morris, C.J. Anderson, Justin Forsett, John Brown, T.Y. Hilton and Emmanuel Sanders were all underrated by NFL franchises before the draft. Nevertheless, all became valuable gridiron performers. 


Fantasy diehards are always searching for Under-the-Radar collegiate stars with long-term potential on Sundays. Listed below are nine possible fantasy contributors, who should be watched closely during the forthcoming seasons.


QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford

Three-year starter for the Cardinals, following Andrew Luck. As a senior, led Stanford to the Pac-12 title and was named Championship Game MVP. A two-time team captain and an advanced prospect. At 6’3” and 218 lbs., tall with broad shoulders on a good frame. Athletic pocket passer with good anticipatory skills. Played in a complex pro-style offense. Pinpoint ball placement on short and intermediate throws. Stretches the field with above-average arm. Remains steadfast and focused with traffic bearing down. Good decision maker and squeezes ball into tight windows with velocity. Takes educated gambles throwing into coverage, allowing teammates to make plays. Natural ability to feel pass rush, climbs pocket well and impressive escapability. First-rate intangibles. Tough, gutsy, and cerebral leader. Quick feet for a big athlete. Consistent decision maker and protects the football. Keeps plays alive with eyes downfield. Effective two-minute commander. An unorthodox passer with a prolonged and slow delivery. Stands in pocket with wide base. Intermittently, throws off balance and accuracy drops. Poor mechanics and bounces while scanning the defense. Possibly, the most overlooked signal caller available: A team probably covets demeanor and leadership skills during the third day of the Draft. 

Key Career Stats

Games: 46

Passing Efficiency: 154.6

Completion Percentage: 65.9

Yards per Attempt: 8.5


WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State

One of the more intriguing prospects in the draft. “Hollywood” does not lack confidence; nevertheless, humble player with a magnetic smile and personality. Remarkable resume: As a sophomore, first Rams player in 20 years to be named consensus All-American. Last season, named First Team All-Mountain West. Colorado State’s all-time leader in catches, yards (3,643) and touchdowns (31). At 6’1” and 196 lbs., good height and length with light feet. Short strider with a slender build. Utilizes speed and quickness on underneath routes and beats defenders vertically. A combination route runner with natural instincts and craftiness. Maximizes performance with head fakes, double moves and fluidity. Prospers in isolation situations with high-route IQ. Keeps defensive backs guessing with stutter steps, efficient footwork and body moves. Good vision and terrific hands. Great interior route-tree runner and fearless in the middle of the defense. Flawless release and fancy footwork: Elusive and quick-twitch athlete. Creates throwing windows for quarterback in red zone. Easy strider with natural body control. Primarily “X” receiver on campus. An above-average hands catcher with astonishing focus when tracking the ball and high-pointing passes. Occasionally, ball hits chest. Must improve sharpness of routes and concentration. Lacking idyllic play strength. Overall skill set impresses scouting departments enough to warrant a draft pick and likely to make a contribution at the next level.



Key Career Stats

Receptions: 238

Yards per Reception: 15.3 

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.64

3-cone drill: 7.13 (Pro Day Results)

20-yard shuttle: 4.53 (Pro Day Results)


WR Kenny Lawler, California

First Team All-PAC 12 in 2015. Caught 102 passes for over 1,300 yards and 22 touchdowns during final two campaigns. Finished collegiate career second on the Bears’ all-time touchdown receptions list with 27. Made a catch in all 35 games at Cal except one, and only player in school history to notch three touchdowns in a contest four times. At 6’2” and 203 lbs., physical competitor who uses hands well to snatch contested passes. A good athlete with wiggle in the open field and makes difficult catches. A nice red zone target with a long and lanky frame. Tantalizes scouts with technique and ball skills and fans with highlight grabs. Great leaping ability with strong hands. Boxes out corners and fights for the pigskin. Tracks football well with wonderful read-and-react abilities when the ball is in flight. Good flexibility to adjust to poorly thrown passes. Establishes leverage and gains positioning versus defenders. Makes first defender miss. Outside receiver: Vast majority of the time lined up on the right side of the offense. Worthy toughness as a blocker. Ran pro-style routes. In short-area game, does not always create separation and too much movement initially. Nuance development required to be a NFL starter. At stem of route, must attack defender, closing the gap between the two. In order to disguise the route against professionals, essential to make crisper cuts in and out of breaks. Lacks top end speed.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 143

Yards per Reception: 11.9

Breakaway Ability 

40-yard dash: 4.64

3-cone drill: 7.13

20-yard shuttle: 4.20


Kelvin Taylor, Florida

Son of former NFL star Fred Taylor, who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bypassed senior season to enter the Draft. Disappointing first two years on campus. As a junior, finally met expectations with 1,035 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Compactly built at 5’10” and 207 lbs. Light feet with balance and efficiency. Good vision and instincts. Scampers with patience, vigor and oomph. Big enough to endure the physicality between the tackles. Burst and explosion to hit a home run. Churns legs to whistle and leans forward for additional yardage. Finds cutback lanes with quick decisions. Makes sharp lateral jumps and reaches the boundary. Nice screen runner and swiftly finds the open field. Over 510 career touches and never fumbled. Occasionally indecisive and vision nose-dives. Does not break many tackles. Must improve reading blocks. Endured ankle and hamstring issues. Early last season, a sideline dispute with coach Jim McElwain will be examined by clubs during the interview process. Athletically talented enough to earn a roster spot after training camp and could be a solid backup in a committee.

Key Career Stats

Yards per Carry: 4.3

Receptions: 24

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.60

3-Cone Drill: n/a


WR Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina 

First Team All-SEC Wide Receiver in 2014 & 2015. All-Purpose game breaker: In 36-career games, logged 2,163 receiving, 513 rushing, 118 passing yards as well as 359 kickoff and 172 punt return yards. Also, produced nine career 100-yard receiving games and five plays of 70-plus yards. At 5’11” and 203 lbs., physical and tough playmaker. Explodes out of the starting block with especially quick feet and instantaneously reaches top speed. Good vision and speed. Imaginative moves and alters course without slowing down. Strong competitor who absorbs hits from defenders. Sacrifices body to make the catch. High-flying and fearless performer. Makes highlight reel catches. Elusive in space: Plug and play special teamer from first day of camp. Beats defensive backs vertically with combination of wily moves, suddenness and velocity. Ankle breaking stop-and-start ability. After catching pass, transforms into a running back. From the slot, runs excellent patterns underneath the coverage. Continued to be productive despite unstable offense, poor quarterbacking and head coach resigning. Non-advanced pattern runner: Offensive system did not require complex route combinations. Lots of dump offs, screens and deep patterns. Poor ball protection might lower draft stock. Smaller catch radius than NFL teams covet. Shuffles, not explodes, out of cuts. Will earn playing time immediately on special teams and could see action in the slot as a third or fourth receiver. 

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 138

Yards per Reception: 15.7 

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: n/a

3-cone drill: n/a

20-yard shuttle: n/a


WR Roger Lewis, Bowling Green

The most interesting MAC receiver prospect in the Draft. First Team All-MAC in back-to-back seasons. Named FWAA second-team All-American in 2015. Eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier both campaigns on campus and scored 23 times in 28 games. As a redshirt sophomore last year, grabbed 85 passes and finished second in Falcons’ single-season history with 1,544 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns. Only player at Bowling Green to ever record over 200 yards receiving in consecutive contests. Never missed a game and caught a pass every time in uniform. At 6’0” and 201 lbs., possesses raw athleticism. Explodes off the line of scrimmage and is a fluid runner who reaches top speed quickly. Adjusts routes well and avoids head on collusions with slippery moves. Good vision to locate ball and make difficult catches. Wonderful hand-eye coordination with strong hands and plucks the pigskin out of the air. Eats cushions by corners and gets over the top: Last season, half of touchdowns scored beyond 45 yards. In high school, charged with two counts of felony rape: Acquitted on one account and negotiated a plea deal on the other. Played at a North Carolina Prep school before entering college. Enters the NFL with a limited route tree resume in a simple system: Lots of quick screens and verticals and frequently snatched ball in space. Allows passes to hit chest too often. In tight confines, deficit of quick-twitch moves. Upper body strength a necessity. If a team overlooks the off-the-field transgressions and feels comfortable with personal development, could become a solid professional and steal in the later rounds.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 158

Yards per Reception: 16.7

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.48 (Pro Day Results)

3-cone drill: 7.50 (Pro Day Results)

20-yard shuttle: 4.45 (Pro Day Results)


RB Kenyan Drake, Alabama  

Played second fiddle in the Crimson Tide backfield throughout tenure. Despite the lack of opportunities, produced a whopping 7.4 yards per touch and reached the end zone 22 times. Big-time bullet in the Alabama aerial assault: Nabbed 29 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown last year. Well-muscled and proportionate frame at 6’1” and 210 lbs. A quick athlete with good size, excellent speed, terrific feet and worthy vision. Nice combination of creativity, patience, balance and burst. Dangerous in the open field. Second gear to blow past defenders and diminish pursuit angles. Must improve navigating traffic between the tackles and bursting through tight windows. Tends to rely on athletic ability and wants to bounce plays outside. While on campus, spent spells in the coach’s doghouse: Fumbling issues, in 2012 suspended, in 2013 missed the Virginia Tech game and the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma. Also, arrested for obstructing a government investigation. Off-the-field issues improved the past two seasons. Appears to have matured. Not an every down back as a professional: A versatile player and third-down specialist who could earn 10-15 touches weekly. A special teams maven who will contribute immediately. High ceiling and very low floor as a professional. 

Key Career Stats

Yards per Carry: 6.4

Receptions: 46

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.45

3-Cone Drill: 7.04


WR Chris Moore, Cincinnati

An easily overlooked prospect by many Draftniks and armchair scouts. A big-play performer: Averaged over 21 yards per catch (ypc.) during past two seasons on 70 catches. Last year, ranked eighth nationally and second in the AAC at 21.2 ypc. As a junior, logged four touchdowns beyond 60 yards and as a senior, scored three times from at least 40 yards. Spectacular contest versus Ohio State in 2014: Reached the end zone on all three catches for 221 receiving yards, averaging 73.7 ypc., setting a NCAA single-game mark. Chronicled a school-record 26 career receiving touchdowns on only 119 receptions. Very good NFL size at 6’1” and 206 lbs. Crisp route runner with explosive burst. Large catch radius with long arms. Snatches ball away from body and high points passes. Attacks the football. At times, makes tough over the-head catches. Difficult to jam at line of scrimmage. With long strides, gets on top of corners who fail to revere deep speed. Lined up in slot and on the perimeter of the offense. Good effort blocker. Supporting role in Bearcats’ aerial attack and never complained. Excelled in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. Raw pass catcher. No return game experience. Must improve patterns in order to play expertly. Might be a one-trick vertical receiver. Average hands and lacks elite speed. Professional ceiling might be limited as a number two threat on the gridiron.


WR Chris Moore


Key Career Stats

Receptions: 119

Yards per Reception: 19.3

Breakaway Ability 

40-yard dash: 4.53

3-cone drill: 6.76

20-yard shuttle: 4.20


TE Ben Braunecker, Harvard

In 2015, Team Captain and First Team All-Ivy. Three-year starter and dominated at the FCS level. Led Crimson in receiving with 48 catches for 850 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Pre-med student as an undergraduate.  Idyllic length, size and speed at 6’3” and 250 lbs. Natural hands catcher with soft mitts, good concentration and nice catch radius. For a big competitor, great explosiveness and agility. Excels at finding vacant areas in zone defenses. Cuts with sharpness in-and-out of routes. Uses leverage to get open. Runs with power after corralling the pass. Deployed on and off the line of scrimmage. Sacrifices body to make catches in the middle of the field. Plays with an attitude: Nasty and physical inline blocker. At Combine, dominated tight end competitors, finishing among top five in all seven of the athletic categories. A matchup advantage in a creative offensive scheme.  

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 68

Yards per Reception: 17.2

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.73

3-cone drill: 6.90

20-yard shuttle: 4.20


Deep Sleepers

WR Mitch Mathews, BYU

6'5" playmaker with great hands: 4.44 40-yard dash Pro Day.

WR Jordan Payton, UCLA

Good hands, rarely drops catchable passes, projects as a possession receiver.

RB Darius Jackson, Eastern Michigan

Impressive Pro Day: Recorded a 4.35 40-yard dash and 6.82 3-cone drill.

WR Devin Lucien, Arizona State

Great size, wonderful hands, good YAC runner: 4.42 40-yard dash.

QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State

Draftniks have varying opinions on Jones as an NFL signal caller. Pocket passer with incredible size: Lacks game experience. Needs to learn the game on the sideline.

RB Peyton Barber, Auburn

Prototypical NFL size: 5’10” and 228 lbs. Impressive short-area burst 4.21 20-yard shuttle and 7.00 3-cone drill.


With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, John Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional fantasy football. Laub has played fantasy football for over 25 years and provided with weekly player rankings for nearly two decades. He won $10,000 in 1993, defeating nearly 15,000 owners, and published Audibles: Winning is Everything in the 1990s. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar. 

Twitter: @GridironSchol91 or e-mail: