2015 NFL Draft: Top 13 Offensive Diamonds in the Rough

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With the exception of the 2013 NFL Draft, this Diamonds in the Rough series has been a staple in my draft evaluations, including 2014 with Buckeye State Sports, 2012 and 2011 with End Zone News.  The premise for the column evaluates players who are projected to go in the later rounds whom I believe could have upside with game-changing potential in the NFL.

Players featured in the past columns have included house-hold names such as Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Julius Thomas, Jarius Wright, Rob Housler and Andre Williams, so what late round gems this year could be future stars of the NFL on the offensive side of the ball?

Chris Bonner, QB, Colorado State-Pueblo: 

At 6’6″ and 237 pounds, Bonner has all the size and intangibles an NFL team looks for in a developmental prospect. With above-average arm strength, Bonner can drive the ball through all types of weather, and excels throwing down the field. Despite a lower level of competition, Bonner has excellent height for the position and exudes confidence, allowing him to survey the field and manipulate defenders with his eyes, while stepping up in the pocket. Coming from a Pro Style offense, Bonner has a leg-up on most quarterbacks in this draft class, and he should catch on in the late rounds inside draft war rooms.

Projected round: 6th-7th 

Video of Bonner: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApwSXmkow6g

 

Taylor Heinicke, QB, Old Dominion:

A touch under-sized at 6’1″ Heinicke plays larger when on the field with his ability to pick apart a defense in his head. Watching film of Heinicke will show you a highly intelligent passer with a quick release and accurate throws. Some things you simply cannot coach, and in those areas such as football IQ and play anticipation, Heinicke excels. His mobility is an added bonus, but it is his ability to work the pocket to buy time that will make scouts sit up and take notice. Not afraid to stand in and take the hit, Heinicke’s decision-making is among the top in the class, and for a team that exhibits the same type of patience, he could be a starter for them in two or three seasons.

Projected round: PFA

Video of Heinicke: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJWVwSTYYX4

While a lot of attention is on the RBs at the top of the draft, Langford could be a steal.
While a lot of attention is on the RBs at the top of the draft, Langford could be a steal.

 

Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State:

Langford is the type of running back that will make old school football purists salivate. A hard-nosed, bruising back, Langford utilizes all of his 5’11” and 208 frame, and breaks arm-tackles on a regular basis. While overshadowed by the likes of MSU-alumni, Le’Veon Bell, it should not discount what he has been able to do with the Spartans. A tough pass-protector, Langford isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty in the blocking game, displaying as much physicality when the ball isn’t in his hands as when he’s running with it.

Projected round: 5th 

Video of Langford: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYwZ3QeAwW0

 

Tyler Varga, RB, Yale: 

A workout warrior, Varga is chiseled out of granite and has a running style to match. Extremely physical at the point of attack, Varga sheds tackles and always falls forward when finally brought down. With dependable hands, he could carve out a long career for himself in an H-back role like that of Oakland’s Marcel Reece. Coaches will love his intelligence and work ethic, and his tough, do-it-all mentality will quickly earn his teammates’ respect.

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Projected round: 5th-6th

Video of Varga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtVK42KJil8

 

Chris Harper, WR, California:

Everyone knows Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker and Kevin White in this draft class, but let’s face it, if you aren’t picking in the Top 15, you’re likely out of luck on those three potential game changers. Digging a little deeper, however, reveals a few gems in the later rounds that didn’t see the accolades and targets that players like Cooper did, such as Harper of the California Bears. A move-the-chains possession receiver with a quick first-step, Harper excels on screen routes and always knows where the first-down marker is.

Projected round: 6th-7th

Video of Harper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSBokem1ucU

 

Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor:

Originally this pick was Tyler Lockett of Kansas State, but the latest consensus is that he will be a second to third-round pick, disqualifying him from this exercise. In his place comes Baylor wideout Antwan Goodley. Coming from Baylor’s offense, his ability to run a proper route-tree will be highly suspect, but his playmaking ability is one that can’t be questioned. The learning curve will surely be there, but if a team can rein in Goodley’s explosive talents to fit their scheme, he could be a dangerous slot weapon for years to come.

Projected round: 4th-5th

Video of Goodley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc8en_VS4oY 

 

Gerald Christian, TE, Louisville

An underrated part of the Louisville program, Christian displayed above-average blocking skills and quietly did a consistent job on the receiving end as well. After originally committing to the University of Florida under Urban Meyer, Christian found that the new staff under Will Muschamp used him primarily as a blocker, forcing his decision in a transfer to Louisville to show off his hands more. After sitting out 2012 due to NCAA transfer rules, Christian became a security blanket to Teddy Bridgewater in 2013, before setting career highs in 2014. Christian has only begun to scratch the surface of his potential, and it appears that his best days are ahead of him in the NFL.

Projected round: 6th-7th

Video of Christian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aZ1GMZHtKM

Tomlinson is a TE prospect to watch that nobody is talking about.
Tomlinson is a TE prospect to watch that nobody is talking about.

 

Eric Tomlinson, TE, UTEP:

Primarily a blocking tight end that saw limited passes while at UTEP, the 6’6″ tight end displayed consistent hands while at the NFL combine. On tape, scouts won’t find much in the way of highlights, but his blocking is amid the top tight ends in the class. With good size and height, Tomlinson’s build will remind some of Jason Witten in Dallas, but his hands will need to be tested in the NFL. In a weak class, Tomlinson will quickly find a home during the post-draft UDFA scramble on a team that utilizes power running schemes, but the upside is there when it comes to receiving.

Projected round: PFA

Video of Tomlinson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqmmYYOe7JM

 

Andrew Donnal, OT, Iowa:

Often overshadowed by the offensive linemen factory that is the University of Iowa, Donnal won’t draw the attention like that of first-round projection, Brandon Scherff, but both are linked very closely. Both suffered significant injuries during the 2012 season, but Donnal was not able to bounce back as quickly as Scherff did, not receiving his chance to start again until this past season. After winning the job this season at right tackle, Donnal displayed the traits that made him a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school, including a quick burst off the snap, and technician skills that make him one of the most savvy linemen in the class. Donnal will go late in the draft, but his attention to detail and ability to be coached will have him starting on an NFL offensive line sooner than later.

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Projected round: 5th-6th

Video of Donnal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RV3NjD4-ds

 

Takoby Cofield, OT, Duke:

Another lineman overshadowed by a higher profile teammate, Cofield thrived at left tackle at Duke, next to high-round projection, Laken Tomlinson. The jury is still out on whether Cofield could be a starter at the NFL level, but his versatility and ability to be a team’s top swing tackle is a very possible future for him. With good size and athleticism, Cofield started 42 straight games for the Blue Devils, resulting in some of the best football the Duke program has seen in years. Cofield’s football intelligence should ease his transition to the NFL, and he could be in the mix during NFL training camps to start for teams that have line issues.

Projected round: PFA

Video of Cofield: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG_ez_oL81c

Shead could be a solid depth addition to the Browns line.
Shead could be a solid depth addition to the Browns line.

 

Adam Shead, OG, Oklahoma:

With a solid frame and good size for a lineman, Shead was a steady left guard at Oklahoma throughout the duration of his collegiate career. A rock in the interior of the line, Shead plays with aggression that allows him to drive through his opponent, opening up massive holes for the run game. While Shead plays a little on edge, he misses blocks at the second level from time to time, and his overall technical skills need refinement. Shead projects best as a depth lineman that could push for starting reps once entrenched in a system.

Projected round: 6th-7th 

Video of Shead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXhGywZOeIc

 

Brett Boyko, OG, UNLV:

The Canadian invasion has begun, as the second Canadian citizen (Varga, the other) graces this column. A former defensive end and quarterback, Boyko didn’t see a snap on an offensive line until he joined the team at UNLV. To say Boyko is raw would be an understatement, but he has all the size and potential that a team covets at the guard position. A coach’s player, Boyko responds well to education on the position, and plays with great instincts in the blocking game. While he has a ways to go in development, in the late rounds, Boyko makes an excellent prospect with very high upside to the right coaching staff.

Projected round: 7th

Video of Boyko: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hi4_Dm6u488

 

Shaq Mason, C, Georgia Tech:

With the versatility to play both guard spots and center, Mason will find the most value for him will come at the center position in the NFL. Georgia Tech’s system relies heavily on cut-blocks, so a review of the tape will see Mason on the ground a lot, but it’s by design and not performance. That said, Mason displayed lateral quickness and above-average agility in GT’s offense, and he could truly excel in a zone-blocking scheme at the next level. Mason’s low center of gravity will make him an early candidate to compete with most teams’ incumbent centers in camp.

Projected round: 4th-5th

Video of Mason: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-SoK5-s3Ao

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Sam has been actively involved in the writing community since 2008. After debuting on Bleacher Report, he has gone on to have his work referenced on sites such as NFL.com, ESPN, CBS Sports, Cleveland.com, Yahoo Sports, and many others. Sam became featured on Dawg Scooper, the Internet’s leading independent source for Cleveland Browns news, in 2010. With his departure, he took up the position of Director of Copy Editing with an upstart football company, National Football Authority. In NFA’s run of just over one year, the site generated millions of reads and featured interview’s with many of the NFL’s hottest stars. In the past, his work has generated thousands of reads.

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