Potential late-round NFL draft steals from the SEC
The first round of the 2016 NFL draft is in the books. The superstars have been selected, including eight from the SEC.
Now it gets interesting. Who will be this year’s sleepers? Who will be that later-round pick that pans out and makes GMs look smart?
Here are five SEC players flying under the radar who could quite possible fit that bill:
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State: The owner of 38 school records, Prescott is the most decorated player in Bulldogs history. He is one of only four players in FBS history and second in SEC history (along with Tim Tebow) to throw for 70 touchdowns and rush for 40 more in a career.
But will that translate to the NFL. Tebow had limited success, and that’s often whom the 6-2, 226-pound Prescott is compared to. But will he be another Tebow, or could Prescott perhaps become the next Russell Wilson? The dual-threat ability is intriguing, just not first-round intriguing. A projected fourth-to-fifth round pick in this year’s draft, Prescott could make some NFL team very happy they took a chance on him.
2. Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida: One of the bright spots in an otherwise subpar offense, Taylor rushed for 1,035 yards in his first season as the Gators’ featured back. He got more than ample opportunity to display his abilities, carrying 259 times, second-most in a single season in school history. His 13 rushing touchdowns were also third-most in a single season in program history. His five 100-yard games in 2015 showed his consistency as a go-to player.
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of his father, Jacksonville Jaguars’ Fred Taylor, the younger Taylor decided to enter early into the NFL draft, following his highly-successful season at Florida. At 5-10, 207, the bulky back could provide some NFL team with a bruising back for years to come. Though not an overpowering runner and one that won’t bolt for many 40-yard dashes, Taylor still has a lot of upside and could become a very functional running back in the NFL.
3. Evan Boehm, C, Missouri: The Tigers’ senior captain in 2015, Boehm started 52 consecutive games, a school record. The anchor on the Missouri offensive line, Boehm looks to continue a long line of interior draft picks under head coach Gary Pinkel. A total of 11 Missouri linemen since 2009 have gone on to play in the NFL.
His biggest drawback could also be his biggest strength. The 6-2, 302-pounder plows open holes for the running game. His drive-blocking ability has him ranked among the top five at his position in this year’s NFL draft. However, with the shot-gun style passing game the NFL has become, Boehm has fallen to a middle-round projection in this year’s draft. Still, his leadership qualities and ability win at the point of attack is of value and could result in a long and meaningful career at the next level.
4. Cassanova McKinzy, LB, Auburn: Aside from having the best name in the SEC, this 6-3, 253-pounder tattooed more than his name on opposing players. A punishing hitter, McKinzy is a beast at inside linebacker. He has been moved to other positions; outside linebacker and then with his hand in the ground, came off the edge.
During his senior season, McKinzy recorded 74 tackles, including 10 for losses, and 5.0 sacks, after leading the Tigers in tackles the two previous seasons. That versatility should help in the NFL, but his stock is in plugging the middle.
A knee injury suffered in the Birmingham Bowl seemed to have dropped his status in the draft. Now projected to be a late-round pick or even an undrafted free agent, McKinzy has a place in the NFL and if a team can coach him up a little, he can become a steal.
5. Cody Core, WR, Ole Miss: Overshadowed by teammate Laquon Treadwell, Core was fifth in the SEC with an average of 17.4 yards per catch. He was second on the team, to Treadwell, with 644 receiving yards. At 6-3, 205, Core also excelled on special teams and over his career even played some defensive back, a versatility that could come in handy at the next level.
Core uses his height as an advantage. He can go up and get it. But he’ll need to use his hands more and clean up his route running. If he can do that, with his size and athleticism, he can be an attribute to the NFL team that takes a chance on him in the later rounds.