NFL draft: 2 supplemental draft prospects worth drafting this year

Yahoo Sports

Five players have received eligibility for the 2019 NFL supplemental draft, which will be conducted electronically on Wednesday.

Unlike the regular college draft each April, the supplemental draft is a different operation — one that’s not on TV — that is open to college prospects whose statuses (often academic- or eligibility-related) have changed in the late spring and early summer following the completion of the college draft.

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This year’s supplemental class is headlined by two players who could be drafted — Washington State safety Jalen Thompson and West Virginia wide receiver Marcus Simms.

(Players who are not selected can become free agents and sign with any team thereafter.)

The draft is conducted over email with the 32 NFL teams and monitored by the league office. Teams can bid on players by stating which players (if any) they want to draft and the round in which they would be willing to take them.

The order for each round is determined by a semi-lottery where teams are broken up into three groups — teams with six or fewer wins from the season before; non-playoff teams with more than six victories; and playoff teams. Within each group, head-to-head tiebreakers start with the number of victories each team has.

If a team is awarded a player, it loses a corresponding pick the following year. Example: The New York Giants chose Western Michigan CB Sam Beal in the third round of the 2018 supplemental draft and did not have a choice in Round 3 of the 2019 NFL draft. A team cannot attempt to draft a player unless it currently possesses a pick in that corresponding round — i.e. if they have not traded it away already.

(For a brief recent history of the supplemental draft, scroll down to the bottom of this story.)

Now that we know the rules for Wednesday’s supplemental draft, let’s take a look at the five prospects available — specifically, which ones are most likely to be chosen and which teams might be most interested:

Washington State safety Jalen Thompson pulls in an interception against Nevada in 2017. (Getty Images)
Washington State safety Jalen Thompson pulls in an interception against Nevada in 2017. (Getty Images)

Washington State DB Jalen Thompson

This is the best prospect available this year, and it might not be that close. Thompson started every game over the past three seasons for the Cougars, playing both safety spots as well as some cornerback in his college career. He was named All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season and was a freshman All-America pick in 2016, named second-team all-conference in 2017 and was almost unanimously listed to preseason publications’ first-team lists this summer before losing his eligibility.

Thompson lost his eligibility, according to the school, for “a violation of NCAA rules.” That violation stemmed from purchasing an over-the-counter supplement from a local nutrition store, per a Spokesman-Review report. It indicated that the illegal supplement was not any type of steroid.

Thompson issued a statement thanking his coaches, teammates and fans, and several of his teammates reciprocated with heartfelt tweets. According to people familiar with the program with whom we’ve spoken, Thompson is well-liked and respected there. His loss is considered a big one for the school, as he was a possible All-America candidate this coming season.

Thompson’s size (he reportedly weighed in at a shade over 5-10 and 186 pounds at his NFL workout Monday) is concerning on the NFL level considering he plays with an aggressive, hard-hitting style. Sometimes that quality works against him, as Thompson can be seen whiffing on some tackles while trying to deliver big blows. He also could have trouble defending bigger receivers for jump balls, as seen on this play vs. Iowa State’s 6-foot-6 receiver Hakeem Butler (the 5:08 mark of the video clip below), who was a fourth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in April:

But his athleticism absolutely is NFL-caliber, and Thompson’s versatility will make him an intriguing experiment. Can he handle nickel duties and play inside? It’s possible, even if he needs work. At worst, Thompson would add nice depth to a team at safety and carry the proper mentality to be a special-teams contributor (he forced a fumble on a kickoff return vs. Eastern Washington last season).

Thompson routinely was asked to cover tight ends, backs and slot receivers in man coverage, and he flashed some nice playmaking ability (six interceptions, 16 passes defended the past two seasons), quality makeup speed and good reaction skills and diagnostic ability. Over the past three seasons combined, Thompson has a combined 11 interceptions and fumbles recovered — tied for the most among Pac-12 defenders with Utah’s Chase Hansen.

NFL teams watching Thompson work out at his makeshift pro day on Monday at Downey (Calif.) High School saw the good (40 time as low as 4.46 seconds and a 6.98-second three-cone drill) and the bad (average to below-average numbers in other testing drills, plus the measurements, which put him on the lower end of the size spectrum).

Without the same prep time as draft prospects who spend months adding strength and shaving time off their drills, Thompson’s performance must be graded on a slight scale. He was considered one of the fastest Cougars players heading into this season before he left the program.

Possible draft range: Third to fifth round

Teams that could be interested: Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

West Virginia WR Marcus Simms

Simms originally entered the NCAA transfer portal after losing his eligibility at the school but opted to come out for the supplemental draft.

The 6-foot, 188-pound wideout started only 10 of his 33 games with the Mountaineers but still managed 87 catches for 1,457 yards and eight TDs in his career, including 46 catches for 699 yards and two touchdowns last season. He occasionally flashed some real high-end ability. In his best three-game stretch last season, Simms had more than 100 yards receiving against Youngstown State, Kansas State and Texas Tech.

Simms also has return ability. Although his numbers were modest in 2018 — 9.7 yards per punt return, 17.6 yards per kick return — he was named All-Big 12 second-team returner by the conference’s coaches with a 26.3-yard kickoff average and a long return of 80 yards against Delaware State in 2017.

With speed in the mid-4.4 range, Simms is a quality vertical threat. Some wide receivers coming from this type of Air Raid system have struggled in their early stages of the NFL, and Simms’ rawness makes this a strong first-year possibility. But his ability to separate and stretch defenses will be instantly translatable to the league.

Simms displays nice body control, easy fluidity and perhaps some underrated toughness. He was relegated to a complementary role the past two seasons with quality targets such as David Sills and Gary Jennings (both 2019 NFL draft picks), as well as rising junior T.J. Simmons. Simms did his best to make himself a reliable target — zero drops in the four games we watched — for QB Will Grier, who was a third-round pick of the Panthers this spring.

Still, there’s a rawness to Simms’ game that makes him an NFL redshirt candidate as a rookie if he cannot prove to be a reliable returner in Year 1. His route running must be crafted and expanded from what is considered a very streamlined system, and Simms doesn’t have the most natural hands, isn’t all that strong and doesn’t impact the game as a blocker.

West Virginia WR Marcus Simms makes a catch against Baylor in 2018. (Getty Images)
West Virginia WR Marcus Simms makes a catch against Baylor in 2018. (Getty Images)

There also are maturity concerns with Simms, who has two DUI arrests and a marijuana citation to his name. Early in his career, Simms was believed to have butted heads with some of the coaching staff, and he originally entered the transfer portal following an alleged violation of West Virginia’s school conduct code before applying for the supplemental draft.

According to Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline, there were 16 teams at his pro day last week, including Oakland Raiders GM Mike Mayock.

Possible draft range: Sixth to seventh round

Teams that could be interested: Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons

Syracuse LB Shyheim Cullen

Cullen was the Orangemen’s third linebacker, starting on the strong side in their base package last season. He made 31 tackles (three for losses), with three pressures, one pass defended and one sack.

His biggest contribution came on special teams, where Cullen thrived. He made a whopping 17 tackles in that phase of the game last season, recovered two fumbles in his career and led the team in that category in two of his three seasons in college.

With a small frame (6-foot, 224 pounds), Cullen likely will have to overcome his size to be a sub-package linebacker or box safety at the next level while making his early living on coverage and return teams. His athleticism is strong, reportedly registering a 39-inch vertical jump, a 4.51-second 40-yard dash, a 118-inch broad jump and 23 reps on the bench press in recent workouts, per Syracuse.com.

All those numbers would have placed him in the top 20 among linebackers at the 2019 NFL scouting combine. But his testing numbers at a pro day held for NFL scouts last Monday in Lowell, Massachusetts, which is close to where he grew up, were below that mark — except for a 125-inch broad jump, which was a major improvement. Three teams attended the pro day (New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Browns).

Academic issues led to Cullen declaring for the supplemental draft.

Possible draft range: Undrafted but could earn a camp invite or tryout

Northland (Minn.) TE Devonaire Clarington

Back in 2015, Clarington was a four-star Rivals recruit out of the Miami area who chose Texas over his local Hurricanes, Notre Dame, Michigan, USC and half of the SEC teams — including Alabama. He never suited up for the Longhorns following academic issues and transferred initially to Blinn (Texas) Junior College before ending up last season at Northland Community & Technical College in Minnesota.

In 11 games with Northland last season, Clarington registered team highs in catches (48), receiving yards (916) and TD catches (11). He also rushed three times for 24 yards (long of 18) and completed two of five passes for 20 yards.

Clarington is listed at 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds, but he’s believed to be just a bit smaller than that. His long road to this point — with very little football the past few seasons — makes him a tricky evaluation.

Clarington’s athleticism and large frame make him a fascinating project for an NFL team willing to invest with patience for something down the road.

Clarington was expected to work out for NFL scouts Monday at Miami’s Southridge High School, but it was moved instead to Bommarito Performance Systems, about an hour away.

Possible draft range: Undrafted, possible camp invite

St. Francis (Ill.) DB Bryant Perry

The Chicago-born corner and safety played two seasons at Mesabi Range (Minn.) College for two years, making 55 tackles (1.5 for loss), one forced fumble, one interception and six pass breakups in 13 total games. The 5-11, 180-pound Perry spent one year at St. Francis, making 24 tackles and three pass breakups last season in nine games (seven starts).

Perry is regarded as a versatile prospect with a good work ethic and some toughness. But he’s viewed as a developmental prospect at best who might lack the size or ball skills to make much of an impact in the NFL anytime soon.

Perry is expected to work out for NFL scouts at Simeon Career Center in Chicago on Monday.

Possible draft range: Undrafted, and he almost certainly will have to play in another pro league before the NFL’s interest rises

Supplemental draft history

Since the NFL instituted the supplemental draft in 1977, there have been a total of 45 players drafted. However, only eight have been selected in the past two years. The last first-round supplemental pick was Duke’s Dave Brown in 1992, and there have been only two second-round picks — Josh Gordon in 2012 and Tony Hollings in 2003 — since 1998.

The results of the supplemental draft are quite mixed. Only Gordon and LB Ahmad Brooks have made Pro Bowls among the past 15 players selected since 1999. Beal was the highest player selected with a third-round pick a year ago since Gordon, but shortly after joining the Giants in training camp as a rookie, Beal suffered a season-ending injury.

Four current franchises have never used a supplemental pick before in their histories — the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers. (The Tennessee Titans have not chosen a supplemental player, but the franchise’s predecessor, the Houston Oilers, selected Sam Houston State WR Johnnie Dirden in 1978.)

Here are the past eight selections over the previous 10 supplemental drafts:

2018 — Western Michigan CB Sam Beal (New York Giants, third round)
2018 — Virginia Tech CB Adonis Alexander (Washington Redskins, sixth round)
2015 — Clemson OT Isaiah Battle (St. Louis Rams, fifth round)
2012 —
ex-Baylor WR Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns, second round)
2011 — Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor (Oakland Raiders, third round)
2010 — BYU FB Harvey Unga (Chicago Bears, seventh round)
2010 — Illinois DT Josh Brent (Dallas Cowboys, seventh round)
2009 — Kentucky DL Jeremy Jarmon
(Redskins, third round)

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