*Author’s Note: Yes, I know that this is being posted after the NFL Draft completed. However, I wrote this article before the draft, but due to spotty internet, and me being stupid, I forgot to/was unable to post it. I still wanted to share my thoughts. Also, all info is accurate as of April 25, 2016… when I actually wrote this article. Enjoy!
The “All-Lukas Team” is something I came up with a few years ago, and is basically a list of my favorite players in the NFL Draft. Again, these are personal favorites, and I attempt to avoid obvious guys and try to focus on guys that are looked at as more underrated, Day 2-3 projected picks. In terms of my NFL Draft qualifications, they are pretty straightforward. I absolutely LOVE the NFL Draft. I watch every minute of the East-West Shrine Game, every second of the Senior Bowl practices, and every positional drill and test at the NFL Combine. I also watch a lot of college football over the course of the season, but watch the sport more as a fan, and less of a “Draft analyst.” Also as a note of honesty, like most fans I am naturally more drawn to skill positions, so they tend to get a little more love in these lists. Below are some of my favorite players in the upcoming NFL Draft that I think do not receive enough media praise, and could become very productive NFL Players.
Honorable Mentions: Guys that I really liked, but couldn’t quite cut my top 5 (they also might be players that I really liked, but are projected as relatively high draft picks):
- Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
- Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
- Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
- Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
- Matt Ioannidis, DT, Temple
- Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
Now, onto the Top 5…
5. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Tough, feisty, competitor. These three words embody Sterling Shepard perfectly. The ultra productive WR at OU, has all the traits needed in becoming a very good NFL WR. While in the NFL, it would appear that he would mainly operate out of the slot, he has the overall speed and game to play all over the field. His ability to be great in space, enables him to be a tremendous return man, and a great player in terms of racking YAC. Pairing this, with his great work ethic, and incredibly reliable hands, and it would seem that Shepard is a very good bet to be a productive wide out at the next level. The only reason that he is not higher on this list, is that there are others with similar abilities, that are even more unknown.
4. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
I must admit, I have an NFL Draft man-crush on undersized and explosive DTs. In past installments of this list, I gushed greatly over Aaron Donald, which has only enabled my love for these short DTs to reach new levels. Quick is the first word that comes to mind, when I think of Rankins. Sheldon absolutely dominated the practice sessions of the Senior Bowl, and seemed that he was a completely different caliber of player, than the rest of the participants. He was very productive with the Cardinals, and has the powerful lower half, that is helpful in making a significant impact in the NFL. While he lacks prototypical size, his great versatility and instincts should make up for it. He is just so damn EXPLOSIVE. Again, the fact that he is almost unanimously projected as a 1st-round pick, limits his ability to rise the ranks of this specific list.
3. Daniel Braverman, WR, Western Michigan
Now we are REALLY talking about sleepers. The diminutive slot WR from the MAC is criminally underrated in this class. The fact that he was not invited to the NFL Combine is quite frankly, a joke. Braverman tallied 109 receptions in his last year at WMU, and tore up the MAC. Not only did he tear up his own smaller conference, he showed his abilities against bigger schools. In an early season match up, Braverman absolutely carved up the incredibly talented Ohio State defense, for 10 catches and over 120 yards. Braverman has absolutely mastered the ability to be a slot WR, as he has runs tremendous routes, and zigs and zags with ease. He is incredibly quick, which paired with his running of ultra-sharp and precise routes, and one has a great NFL slot WR. DB looks like an awesome Day 3 selection. ROW THE BOAT!!! (shoutout to PJ Fleck)
2. Steven Daniels, LB, Boston College
Full Disclosure, I am a huge BC fan (cue everybody making fun of me). I have watched just about every game of Daniels’ career, with a special eye on his Senior season when he anchored the nation’s best defense (too bad BC had the nation’s worst offense). While Steven Daniels lacks the ideal height, speed and athleticism for an NFL LB, he more than makes up for it. As a Senior, Daniels was remarkably productive, accumulating 82 total tackles, 6 sacks, and numerous tackles for loses. There were games where Daniels solely dominated the game and tormented offensive lineman. He absolutely terrorized opposing offensive lineman, and was just a great football player. He was so great, that Pro Football Focus rated him as the best LB in all of college football. Trust me, I know how great of a football Steven Daniels is. He is just a damn good football player. At the very least, I think he will make an NFL team and be a productive run stuffer. However, I believe that he can, and will be a starting caliber NFL LB. That offers tremendous value for someone who is projected as a late Day 3-to undrafted player.
1. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
I just love Tyler Boyd. I wrote an article about him, earlier, and I always tend to fall back to him as one of my favorite players. He is not super quick or fast. He does not have unbelievable size or athleticism. He is average in all of those categories (maybe above average in size), but just runs awesome routes and has great hands. He put up huge numbers ever since he walked through the doors at Pitt, and is just so steady. In a current era, where fans and the media are enamored with the great speed and athleticism of skill position players, I just cannot escape Boyd. I believe that WR is a position that is made much easier, if one is always in the right position, and capitalizes every time he gets an opportunity. Tyler Boyd is not sexy at all, but just possesses the skills of a guy that will put up consistently dependable and great numbers at the next level. On Day 2, this is a pick worth making.