Every year, there are a number of prospects who seem to fly up draft boards during the postseason process and put themselves in position to get drafted late. The National Football Post takes a look at skill positions and breaks down which players are rising up draft boards and might hear their names called on draft weekend.
QB Mike Teel, Rutgers (6-foot-3, 225 pounds)
Teel entered the 2008 season with the hope of having a strong senior year and potentially pushing his draft stock toward the mid/early rounds. However, Teel and Rutgers fell flat on their faces as the Scarlet Knights lost five of their first six games and Teel threw seven interceptions and only three touchdowns in that span. But what impressed us most was his ability to dust himself off after a tough outing and rebound with a strong performance. He led Rutgers to seven consecutive wins following the 1-5 start, including a victory in the PapaJohns.com Bowl. During that span, Teel threw an astonishing 22 touchdown passes and showcased the type of determination and competitiveness scouts love to see from the quarterback position. He also had strong outings in the Texas vs. the Nation Bowl and at his pro day and looks to be surging into the latter portions of the NFL draft. He's a guy who lacks ideal arm strength, but he's a smart, efficient passer who has the mental toughness and intelligence to handle the rigors of being an NFL quarterback. We weren't huge fans of his to enter the year but have to admit his ability to rebound during the second half of the season has us intrigued about the kind of player he could mature into.
RB Antone Smith, Florida State (5-9, 190)
After back-to-back seasons of 700-plus yards carrying the rock, Smith looks to be working his way up draft boards as a possible late-round prospect. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season as the Seminoles' featured back and finished with 792 yards on 177 carries. However, Smith will no longer be making his living running between the tackles. He'll be asked to produce in the passing game and on special teams at the next level. He's being viewed primarily as a third-down back by NFL teams and has been doing a nice job proving he has the hands and explosion to create big plays in all phases of the game. Still, it wasn't until Florida State's pro day that Smith really started turning heads. He ran his 40 in 4.33 seconds, benched 225 pounds 31 times and posted times of 4.32 and 6.90 in the short shuttle and three-cone drill. Smith, who does a great job running behind his pads and bouncing off tacklers, now has a shot to hear his name called late. He's an intriguing running back who flashes impressive body control and power for his size, but it's his explosive burst and ability to help out in sub packages that will earn him a roster spot.
FB Chris Pressley, Wisconsin (5-11, 257)
Pressley is a big fullback with a thick trunk and good lower body strength. He was banged up most of his senior season but finally looks healthy and is starting to ascend draft boards. Pressley isn't the versatile type of fullback who can help out in a number of ways on offense. He didn't get his hands on the ball much at Wisconsin, and it doesn't look like he'll be getting many opportunities in the NFL either. However, if you want a powerful lead blocker who gets consistent movement in the run game and can handle linebackers in the hole, Pressley is your guy. He ran much better than anticipated at the Wisconsin pro day (4.80 in the 40) and really impressed with his 32 reps on the bench. He isn't a real glamour guy, and I doubt he even gets drafted late. However, he's a guy who has now moved himself into a position to likely get signed quickly after the draft and compete for a lead-blocking role in training camp. The traditional fullback position is a dying breed in the NFL, but every year guys like Pressley, who have the ability to lead block and pick up the blitz, get signed and make a roster right out of training camp.
TE Richard Quinn, North Carolina (6-4, 264)
It's becoming more and more difficult for NFL teams to find capable college tight ends who know how to block. As a result, even strictly blocking tight ends are now receiving a fair amount of interest from scouts. This seems to be the case with Quinn, who recorded only eight receptions last season for 97 yards. However, he showcased a skill set that's becoming rare among college tight ends – an ability to line up and be an efficient in-line blocker. Quinn is a physically strapping young man with a powerful upper and lower body. He does a great job firing off the snap low and not only has the strength to create some movement in the run game but also plays with natural leverage and good hand placement and understands proper blocking technique in the run and pass game. He also displays the coordination to get out to the second level and seal run lanes down the field. Quinn displayed better overall athleticism than anticipated at his pro day, clocking times in the mid-4.7 range. He does possess decent hands in the pass game but lacks the burst and fluidity to gain separation at the next level. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers have already brought him in for a personal visit, and he looks to be moving up draft boards everywhere. He's considered more of a mid-round pick at this stage, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him move into the third round.
WR Eron Riley, Duke (6-3, 206)
Riley hasn't received much attention as an NFL prospect coming from Duke, where the football team was 6-41 during his four years on campus. Despite that, he put up some impressive stats the past three years, catching 133 balls for 2,166 yards and 20 touchdowns. But it wasn't until the Duke pro day that Riley really started to create some noise. He blistered his 40 in a time of 4.29 seconds and recorded a 40-inch vertical and an 11-foot, 2-inch broad jump. Duke's struggling pass offense may have masked some of Riley's big-play capability, but considering he averaged over 20 yards a reception as a sophomore and junior, he definitely has an ability to create big plays at the next level. He's a solid route runner underneath and does a nice job sinking his hips and exploding into slants post routes. However, he struggles changing directions and has a tendency to get too high and lose his balance when asked to break off routes at 90 degrees. Still, no one can criticize the kid's athletic skill set and vast improvement last year under new head coach David Cutcliffe. Riley is a smart receiver who understands coverages and does a nice job using his big frame to gain initial separation. You can't teach his combination of size and speed, and I expect a team to take a shot on him during the back end of the draft in the hope of turning him into a big-play threat.
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- Mike Teel
- Chris Pressley