25 Hidden Gems

Lamar CB Brendan Langley — Screen Shot courtesy of NFL Network (NFL Combine Coverage)
NFL DRAFT DAY IS FINALLY HERE!

But… for Minnesota Vikings fans, however, the excitement likely won’t begin until Friday — which inherently makes Thursday’s Round 1 show a bit underwhelming BUT also aids in helping Day 2 and Day 3 become as thrilling as ever in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

The following is a list of 2017 NFL draft prospects have not received the hype or overall media attention — good or bad — of a Myles Garrett or Jabrill Peppers, but each of them represent realistic options for the Vikings during Rounds 4 through 7 due to a variety of reasons. Check out our list of hidden gems after the jump!

The Hidden Gems

1. Gunner Kiel, Quarterback, Cincinnati
Screen Shot courtesy of 247 Sports

The 2017 class of prospects is filled with zany stories, off-field question marks and, as a whole, a mystique that has made projecting outcomes extremely difficult for even seasoned draft analysts — and Gunner Kiel may represent the embodiment of this roller coaster. Not long ago the Cincinnati gunslinger was widely-viewed as a likely first-round pick, but injuries and inconsistencies left the former 5* recruit without even an invite to the NFL combine.

I personally don’t view Kiel as a draftable prospect, but the Vikings — a team with an ever-growing headache at the quarterback position — could view his high-ceiling potential and decimated draft stock as an opportunity to add even more fuel to the fire.

2. Joe Williams, Running Back, Utah

Do you like running backs capable of fluidly reaching the outside of the formation and an unteachable “second gear” in the open field? This intended rhetorical question suggests that you may be fond of Utah product Joe Williams, who has garnered very little attention despite running a 4.41 40-yard dash and 35-inch vertical leap at the NFL combine.

Simply put, this likely late-round draft pick possesses as much open-field explosion as any running back prospect in the 2017 class.

3. Brian Hill, Running Back, Wyoming

If you listen to the About the Labor Podcast — and you should, I think — you have heard the name Brian Hill plenty of times before. There will always be question marks surrounding small-school prospects, but this kid from Wyoming (feels weird referring to prospects as kids at 25 years of age) has a well-rounded skill set and plenty of mojo, making him as strong of a priority undrafted free agent as there ever has been and, more likely, an excellent value in the 5th, 6th or 7th round.

4. Aaron Jones, Running Back, Texas-El Paso

“The most productive running back in college football last season,” was a statement made by Viking Territory’s Adam Warwas in reference to Texas-El Paso product Aaron Jones. His size (5’9″, 208 lbs) won’t scare anybody, but if you’re a fan of scat backs — like Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur — or a believer in (extremely) undersized rushers, this Darren Sproles clone should fit the bill.

5. TJ Logan, Running Back, North Carolina

North Carolina’s TJ Logan may be a bona fide change-of-pace, situational running back at the professional level, but his explosive gifts and open-field vision make him an appetizing late-round option nonetheless — especially for a team looking to add players geared toward a short throw, high-efficiency aerial attack.

6. Carlos Henderson, Wide Receiver (Split End/Slot), Louisiana Tech

Cordarrelle Patterson, if nothing else, produced a handful of absolutely electrifying plays during his tenure in a Vikings uniform. He failed to develop into a well-rounded, fundamentally-adequate pass-catcher in Minnesota, but the memories he created in Baltimore and as a game-breaking return man will live on forever. Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech’s do-it-all receiver, will earn double-takes in the NFL just as Patterson has thus far and will come at a much more reasonable price.

Expect him to receive a phone call during the third or fourth round — in which the Vikings own four selections.

7. Jonnu Smith, Tight End (Receiving Specialist), Florida International

Jonnu Smith’s stock has picked up steam as of late, but the Florida International prospect has gone most of draft season without receiving the praise he deserves. The 6’3″, 248-pound tight end tested well in the 40-yard dash (4.62), vertical jump (38 inches) and broad jump (127 inches), solidifying his status as a high-upside prospect with an Antonio Gates feel to him.

8. Adam Shaheen, Tight End (Receiving Specialist), Ashland

First, let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind: What is Ashland? Ashland University is an Ohio-based college and offers a Division II football program that participates in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Adam Thielen has taught Vikings fans that special athletes, while rare, can be found at the Division II level — and the Eagles’ prized offensive weapon, a big bodied (6’6″, 278 lbs) and gracefully athletic tight end named Adam Shaheen, could prove to be the latest of this prospect variety.

9. Gerald Everett, Tight End (Receiving Specialist), South Alabama

Speaking of under-the-radar tight end prospects; South Alabama’s Gerald Everett has the look of a mid-round gem based on his versatile pass-catching skill set alone. While Everett will have to either officially transition to wide receiver or improve his blocking, there is little doubt that the pride of South Alabama has the athletic gifts (4.62 40-yard dash; 37.5 inch vertical; 6.99 3-cone) to become an offensive weapon in the right offensive system.

10. Chase Roullier, Center, Wyoming

As an alumnus of Marquette University, my interest in University of Minnesota football is very low — but it would be considerably higher if the Gophers could figure out how to capitalize on in-state recruiting. Roullier, a graduate of Burnsville High School, not only paved the way for the aforementioned Brian Hill but also earned praise from scouts regarding his NFL potential as well.

The Wyoming offensive lineman is as deep of a hidden gem as there is in this class, but that doesn’t make him any less intriguing for a Vikings team that will have to come to terms on Joe Berger’s longevity sooner rather than later.

11. Julie’n Davenport, Offensive Tackle, Bucknell

Bucknell’s football program rarely produces intriguing NFL talent, but offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport certainly warrants this distinction. Honestly, I have more questions about the spelling of Davenport’s first name than I do about his NFL potential, as the FCS blind-side protector consistently mauled edge rushers en route to a likely fifth- or six-round selection.

12. Jessamen Dunker, Offensive Tackle, Tennessee State

“Slam-Dunk Pick!!!” Let’s just get that pun out of the way now.

Similar to Davenport, Jessamen Dunker represents an outlier with regard to his collegiate program’s production of NFL talent. Tennessee State is by no means a football factory, but the 6’4″, 318-pound Dunker has the physical tools and athleticism to succeed as an interior protector at the professional level.

13. DeMarcus Walker, Defensive Line (3-Tech/5-7 Tech), Florida State

The vast majority of the prospects on this list hail from small, relatively unknown football programs, but this certainly isn’t the case with Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker. So, how does a power conference standout make this list? He is a “tweener” prospect, which has hurt his draft stock, but his skill set likely remains very appealing to Mike Zimmer and the Vikings.

Walker worked out for Rick Spielman and Co. in early April, and it’s hard to imagine that a player with the ability to fluidly transition from a 43 defensive end alignment to 3-technique wouldn’t be memorable to a scouting department that recently learned of Brian Robison’s impending departure from football.

14. Davon Godchaux, Defensive Tackle (3-Tech), Louisiana State

News of Sharrif Floyd’s career potentially coming to an end opened up a glaring need at 3-technique in Minnesota. The Vikings, however, have more pressing needs to address with their Day 2 selections, creating the need to find impact defensive tackle talent on Day 3. Louisiana State’s Davon Godchaux is a low-ceiling defensive tackle with few refined tools, making him a nice sixth- or seventh-round option for the suddenly-needy Vikings.

15. Tarell Basham, 43 Defensive End, Ohio

At 6’4″, 269 pounds, Tarell Basham is one of the multiple 2017 small-school prospects that should have received more high profile Division I scholarship offers. He possesses an NFL frame and NFL athleticism but somehow ended up playing his college ball in the Mid-American Conference at Ohio University.

Basham will likely receive a phone call late on Day 2, and one has to wonder if Rick Spielman will look to add to his edge-rusher collection during the third or fourth round after his selections of Scott Crichton and Danielle Hunter in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

16. Daeshon Hall, 43 Defensive End, Texas A&M

Myles Garrett is almost universally recognized as the top prospect in the 2017 class, but isn’t the only Texas A&M edge rusher with NFL talent. Daeshon Hall, who has been a resident of Garrett’s shadow for a couple years now, isn’t the generational prospect that his pass-rushing partner is, but he represents excellent third- or fourth-round value for teams that base in a 4-3-4 alignment.

Spider Chart courtesy of Mockdraftable (.com)

Remember “the other” Texas A&M defensive end late on Day 2 and especially on Day 3.

17. Dawuane Smoot, 43 Defensive End, Illinois

The name “Smoot” already has a very special place in Vikings lore, and Illinois edge-rusher Dawuane Smoot could add to the surname’s legacy in Minnesota. He possesses the physical gifts and athletic traits of a productive pass-rusher at the NFL level, but Smoot’s film leaves much to be desired and his collegiate statistics won’t help his stock either.

Potential is the key word here; will Smoot be Scott Crichton or Danielle Hunter?

18. Derek Rivers, 43 Defensive End, Youngstown State

Physical gifts plus high motor tends to equal success for NFL prospects, and Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers is a personification of this hypothesis. The 6’4″, 248-pound Rivers lacks schematic versatility, but a solid combine and high marks for character will likely overshadow his limitations.

19. James Onwualu, “Mike” Linebacker, Notre Dame

Gritty, passionate athletes with a non-stop motor always seem to find a place in the NFL regardless of athletic deficiencies — Minnesota native and Notre Dame linebacker prospect James Onwualu is a likely candidate to continue this trend.

20. Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Hybrid Linebacker, Tennessee

Tennessee’s Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a projected Day-3 selection, but his limited game film argues him as a Day-2 prospect. The versatile linebacker prospect is a fundamental tackler with gifted coverage talent from a power conference school — so what gives?

Reeves-Maybin missed the majority of his senior campaign due to a shoulder injury and completely lacks a combine testing profile, effectively plummeting his draft stock. Threat of the unknown (or lesser-known) has a way of pushing talented athletes to Saturday selections, and Reeves-Maybin is no different.

21. Brendan Langley, Outside Cornerback, Lamar
Lamar CB Brendan Langley — Screen Shot Courtesy of Draft Breakdown

There are plenty of impressive under-the-radar players on this list, but, in my opinion, Lamar’s Brendan Langley is the most intriguing of the batch. Langley, who takes the field at 6’0″, 201 pounds, is one of the most naturally gifted defensive backs in a class filled to the brim with athletic freaks. His 4.42 40-yard dash time coupled with a 35.5 vertical leap and lanky 32-inch arms suggest that the Lamar product has an extremely high ceiling — a perfect development project for cornerback whisperer Mike Zimmer.

Note: Lamar is on offense in the above screen shot, as Langley often lined up at wide receiver in college; he did, however, frequently need to show his cornerbacking skills due to poor ball placement on his downfield targets.

22. Damontae Kazee, Nickel Cornerback, San Diego State

Textbook size is a key factor in projecting NFL potential, but this alone should never decide whether a prospect can perform at the professional level. At 5’10”, San Diego State’s Damontae Kazee likely is best-suited for a nickel cornerback role at the next level, which bodes well for a player that thrives on his instincts, preparation and fundamental coverage skills.

23. Jalen Myrick, Nickel Cornerback, Minnesota

The Gophers may not be known for their NFL athletes, but their 2017 class of prospects may have the potential to impact the universal opinion surrounding the University of Minnesota football program. Jalen Myrick, a 5’10”, 200-pound cornerback, will not raise any eyebrows with his size, but the Gopher defensive back shows developmental traits on film and possesses more than enough athleticism to find a home as a slot cornerback at the professional level.

Oh, and did I mention that Myrick ran a 4.28 40-yard dash without seemingly the entirety of the national media noticing?

24. Marcus Williams, Zone Safety, Utah

The 2017 defensive backs class is absolutely outstanding; there’s no way around it. In a class featuring Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, Louisiana State’s Jamaal Adams, Washington’s Budda Baker, Connecticut’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, Texas A&M’s Justin Evans and plenty more, it’s easy to see how prospects like Utah’s Marcus Williams fall through the cracks.

As vehemently noted on the About the Labor Podcast, Williams represents an excellent value option for a team still searching for a lethal complement to Harrison Smith.

25. Austin Rehkow, Place Kicker/Punter, Idaho

Look, I hate drafting special teams positions — this has been established — but it’s hard not to like Idaho’s Austin Rehkow due to his versatility. I will not act like I know a thing about evaluating special teams performance (these questions should be answered by coordinators and players), Rehkow may possess the talent to kick 50-plus yard field goals and coffin-corner punts in the NFL.

My friends, if there is indeed a special teams prospect worth spending a pick on, it is definitely the guy capable of filling two (Vikings) depth chart holes with just one late-round selection.


Final Notes: Candid and Free-Flowing Draft Takes
  • Lamar CB Brendan Langley could not fit the Mike Zimmer mold for outside cornerbacks better if he tried. His top-end, straight-line speed (4.43 40-yard dash) is outstanding, and his height-weight combination (6’0″, 206 lbs), arm length (32 inches) and physical physique mirrors Trae Waynes (6’0″, 186 lbs; 31-inch arms).
  • Minnesota S Damarius Travis (not listed above) has Vikings priority undrafted free-agent signing written all over him. Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris have failed to separate themselves from the pack of safety prospects on the Vikings’ depth chart; former Gopher Cedric Thompson (on active roster) and now Travis could fight for a spot on either the 53-man roster or Practice Squad.
  • Notre Dame LB James Onwualu is a Minnesota native hailing from my personal alma mater of Cretin-Derham Hall high school. His athletic testing suggests that he will have a short, lack-of-impact NFL career, but the Vikings could certainly use a special teams ace and strong work ethic on kick and punt sets following Audie Cole’s departure for Jacksonville. Note: If you thought I’d go all draft season without highlighting a guy I had the opportunity to take the field with, well, you just don’t know me well enough — Yet.
  • If Minnesota selects a kicker or a punter AT ANY POINT (P Worth Gregory, for example) I will be extremely disappointed both as a fan of the team and as potentially football’s most vocal analyst on how to approach acquiring special teams assets.
  • Draft Twitter Superstar Jordan Reid brought up a number of excellent points on the About the Labor Draft Day Special, a number of which yielded significant takeaways:
    1. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf will (almost certainly) have final say on drafting a prospect with “off-field issues” … Do you think the guy most in charge of generating revenue and the guy who benefits the most from ticket sales is interested in selling Joe Mixon as a Viking? Me neither.
    2. Utah safety Marcus Williams is an excellent fit next to Harrison Smith — and his cost won’t be nearly as high as Obi-Wan Kenobi or Marcus Maye.
    3. Nickel Cornerback is the most difficult position play and adapt to on the defensive side of the football — Football fans, particularly of the Vikings variety, desperately NEED to understand this.
    4. Every team should have psychopaths penciled in at offensive guard and Mike linebacker. The mauler, don’t-F-with-me mentality on offense is great for the huddle, and anyone who has played football at any level knows that the crazy guys are always the best defensive signal-callers. This means one thing: Clemson’s Ben Boulware will find a niche in professional football.
  • MAKE SURE to check out Jayson Brown‘s “Draft Commandments”, available for your viewing pleasure on I Don’t Hate Sam Bradford Dot Blogspot Dot CA … that website title alone is worth the click.
  • Not owning a first-round pick hurts. But, for the guys who are truly passionate about the NFL Draft and put in the immense effort required to not only know exactly what is going on but also produce reputable analysis and coverage from Thursday through Saturday, the Vikings’ situation is a boatload of fun. The inherent unknown of selecting at No. 48 overall coupled with the team’s desperate roster needs at offensive guard and weak-side (or inside) linebacker have made 2017 a banner year for Minnesota Draftniks — and I genuinely hope everyone has enjoyed our content at Vikings Territory cause I am very aware of the amount of effort that goes into the creation of each article, podcast and video here.
  • Every Draft Class — literally all of them — is never as good or as bad as you initially perceive. Don’t overreact; try to understand first because there is always a reason when a team, for example, drafts Mackensie Alexander over Von Bell with a need a safety … but you’ll just have to trust me on this.

MORE VIKINGS TERRITORY DRAFT CONTENT

Analysis: Sifting Through the Smoke of Joe Mixon

Analysis: Don’t Draft Kickers & Punters

Analysis: Fanspeak Mock Draft

Analysis: Mid-Round Sleepers

Big Board: The Vikings Territory Consensus Board

Draft Profile: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon

Draft Profile: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk

Draft Profile: Utah OT Garrett Bolles

Draft Profile: Alabama OT Cam Robinson

Draft Profile: Georgia Tech DT Patrick Gamble

Draft Profile: North Dakota State OG Zack Johnson

Draft Profile: Kentucky Christian LB Aaron Cooper

Engagement Tracker: All Contact Between Vikings & Prospects

Podcast: 2017 NFL Draft Preface & Historical Review

Podcast: Final Vikings Draft Review — RB, WR, & DT

Podcast: Final Vikings Draft Review — OL, LB & S

Podcast: Vikings Draft Resources Review & Mid-Round Studs

Poll: Would You Support Drafting Joe Mixon

Radio: NFC North Draft Overview (1500 KBGG)

Video: Draft Dreams & Nightmares

Video: What to do at Pick No. 48 Debate

Video: Fan Speak Simulation Mock Draft


Follow BJ Reidell on Twitter Dot Com @RobertReidell for live reporting from Winter Park throughout draft weekend, knee-jerk pick analysis and your fill of dumb draft jokes and puns relating to your favorite purple and gold football team. Skol Forever.

Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference; Combine Results courtesy of NFL.com; GIFs/Screen Shots courtesy of Draft Breakdown.

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