With just under two weeks to go before draft day, you’ve likely been inundated with mock drafts, as you try to figure out who your favorite team is leaning towards taking. The top names have been discussed, debated, and scrutinized to the point where you likely have a Pavlovian response to simply hearing their name (ex: Josh Rosen- Does he really care about football though? or Saquon Barkley — beast, but he’s a running back not worth the top pick).
With that in mind, we’re not going to go over the top guys, or even really the second-tier names you may have heard of. Instead we’re reaching into the likely bin of 2nd, 3rd, and later-round guys whose names you may want to know come draft day, if for no other reason than to sound smart and informed around your friends at the party.
Parry Nickerson, DB, Tulane
Nickerson’s name may be vaguely familiar to those who were locked in on the Combine when the Green Wave star delivered the top time in the 40-yard dash at 4.32 seconds (tied with LSU’s Donte Jackson and Ohio State’s Denzel Ward). Beyond the 40, the 6-foot, 180-pound corner only did the bench press (15 reps), but his stats from college are impressive enough to have scouts’ attention regardless. In four years as a starter, Nickerson racked up 16 interceptions and 31 passes defended with 188 total tackles.
In terms of what he brings, let’s go to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein for an overview:
“Nickerson is a gritty, undersized cornerback who possesses some of the more impressive ball skills in this year’s draft. His lack of size and length will likely force him into the slot where his athletic ability and technique should allow him to make his mark. Nickerson is tough, smart and instinctive, but he needs to prove he can hold up as an NFL tackler. He should compete for a role as nickel cornerback early in his career.”
Zierlein has Nickerson projected to go somewhere in the 3rd or 4th round, so be on the lookout for his name late on Day 2 or at the beginning of Day 3.
Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
Gallup has taken a little more circuitous route to the NFL, starting his college career at Butler Community College in Kansas before transferring to Colorado State after two years. His two seasons with the Rams were prolific, to the tune of 176 catches for 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also performed well in some big games, putting up 5 catches for 81 yards against Alabama this year and 6 catches for 53 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota in 2016. His combine performance was solid, with a 4.51 in the 40, a 36-inch vertical and a 10-foot 1-inch broad jump.
“Natural athlete with good size who finds ways to get open through burst and athletic ability. Gallup has posted outstanding production during his two years in the Mountain West at Colorado State, but his level of play took a dip in his matchup against Alabama early in the season. Gallup is still a little raw, but is quickly fine-tuning his game and may have the ability to become a good WR2 in the league.”
Gallup is pegged as a 2-3 round guy by NFL.com, but he’s pegged as the 32nd best prospect in this class by CBSSports.com.
Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
If you read anything that I did during college football season, you are more than likely familiar with this name. Penny was the latest workhorse for the Aztecs, following Donnel Pumphrey into the 2K-yards-in-a-season club. He carried 289 times for 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns, as the Aztecs rolled to a 10-3 finish with a wild loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Unlike Pumphrey, Penny has the size of a traditional NFL running back, measuring 5’11” and weighing in at 220 pounds. He posted solid numbers at the combine, running a 4.46 40, with a 10-foot broad jump. He averaged over seven yards per carry his junior and senior seasons and was nearly impossible to bring down via arm tackles.
“Volume-carry running back who plays with an active running style that rarely sees him slow his feet. Penny has the short-area foot quickness to create yardage for himself, but he doesn’t really have the burst or long speed to be a home run hitter. His motor gives him a chance to be a productive NFL starter, but he may lack the explosiveness to be a great back.”
This draft is deep in the running back class, as evidenced by the fact that we have two on this list. CBSSports.com lists him as the 11th-best back in the class. Still, Penny can come in and immediately contribute to a team.
Nyheim Hines, RB, N.C. State
Hines is a guy that we plugged prior to the Combine as a name to watch. He’s a potential workout warrior and his numbers at the Combine — 4.38 in the 40, a 35.5-inch vertical leap and a 9’11” broad jump — back that up. Hines was a multi-purpose back in college, totaling 1,400 yards rushing, 900 receiving and over 2,000 on kick returns, with a 24.7 yards-per-return average.
He is on the smaller side for a back, coming in at 5’8″ and 197 pounds, but the speed and versatility he offers should allow him to find a spot on a team. With NFL offenses more often using two and three running backs, Hines has a chance to make an impact.
“Hines has dual-threat talent but doesn’t have the size for full-time work at running back and is in need of much more work as a receiver. Hines’ value to teams could rest upon how they envision using him. It is possible that he benefits from the success of Saints rookie Alvin Kamara with teams looking to plug him into that role, but he’s not on Kamara’s level. Hines is a linear runner whose ability to cut and burst would fit with teams looking for a change of pace back in an outside zone running scheme.”
Again, this is a deep draft for running backs, so there’s no telling when he will go. That said, Zierlein has him pegged for the 3rd-4th round, while CBSSports.com has him one spot behind Penny as the 12th-best back in the class.
Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers
Finally, we get to the football factory that is Rutgers University. Wait… (checks calendar)… sorry it’s 2018, not 2007-09. But, despite the team’s overall struggles (10-26 last three years), the Scarlet Knights have produced a draft prospect two of the last three seasons. Turay is the first edge rusher in awhile, though. He burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2014 with 7.5 sacks, when Rutgers went a surprising 8-5 in their first year in the Big Ten. He never matched that initial total, but he did struggle through injuries in his sophomore and junior seasons. Fully healthy this past season, he totaled 60 tackles, six for a loss and three sacks.
He ran well at the combine, posting a 4.65 in the 40, but didn’t participate in any of the other drills. He looks the part of a defensive end/OLB at 6’5″ and 252 pounds, but as Zierlein notes, he could use some work on the technical aspects of the game.
“Explosive edge defender with the coveted traits of an NFL pass rusher. Turay is still behind on feel and skill in that area and will need to develop a go-to move and a workable counter to beat NFL tackles. However, his ability to chase and tackle could translate right away. Turay splashed at Senior Bowl practices and certainly helped his cause to go on day two of the draft.”
Still, the athletic ability is there and will almost certainly get a team to take a flier on him in one of the middle rounds.