The NFL Draft is upon us. By now, everyone knows the marquee names and experts across the board swear by their predictions as to where they will land. Another aspect of the draft that intrigues us is the guys flying under the radar. These players are the darkhorses who may pan out to be the next great NFL superstars. Who will that next “Tom Brady” be? It’s an annual, fun investigation that keeps us interested rounds 5-7. The question is, who will those players be in the 2019 edition of the NFL Draft?
Jordan Scarlett, RB, University of Florida: This former Florida Gator is a physical specimen. He possesses an incredible combination of speed, strength, and quickness. In 2018, he rushed for 776 yards and 5 touchdowns while sharing carries with Lamical Perine. Jordan maxed out on benchpress at 465lbs. So, if his NFL dream doesn’t pan out, he will find success on the powerlifting circuit. He timed at a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash, which will turn some heads. He’s also impressive in the agility side as well. Scarlett can make sudden jump-cuts, has quick burst acceleration of cuts, makes subtle but smooth changes of direction, and he needs to be squared up or he will break the tackle. He is a guy that keeps his feet moving and dares defenders to take him on. However, he will need to improve his pass catching skills to become an every-down back. Plus, some may still question his past off the field transgressions.
Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska: At 6-0, 202lbs, Stanley Morgan was a back-to-back second team All-BIG 10 Conference performer. He holds the all-time receiving yards record at Nebraska after breaking former Cornhusker legend and Heisman winner, Johnny Rodgers’ record of 942 yards. In 2017, he had 61 receptions for 986 yards and 10 touchdowns. Then, he broke his own record in 2018 after hauling in 70 receptions for 1,004 yards and 7 touchdowns. So, the stats are nice, but what about the intangibles? Well, he’s got a few. He has an excellent catch-focus inside congested areas, will “climb the ladder” to snag the ball at high points, isn’t afraid to attack the middle, more than willing to put in work as a perimeter blocker, and alters his speed for downfield ball adjustments. There are more strengths to his credit, but those alone make him worth a look in the later rounds. Some are comparing him to Davante Adams. Morgan could be a steal for a team.
Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern: In the BIG 10, the majority of the spotlight went to a guy that some of you may have heard of, Dwayne Haskins. However, no quarterback meant more to his team than Clayton Thorson. If you have trouble agreeing with this assessment, go back and review film of the 2018 season. More often times than not, Thorson willed his team to several victories. They don’t make it the conference championship, or a bowl game for that matter, without him. Unfortunately, the former Wildcats 4-year starter lost a lot of his draft luster due to sustaining a torn ACL at the end of his junior season. So, why take a chance on him? He’s got a great skill set, possesses a strong arm capable of throwing a hard fastball into tight windows, stands tall in the pocket, can throw receivers open, makes brilliant throws into tight windows, doesn’t miss open receivers, has great anticipation/timing, will put the team on his shoulders and carry them to comeback victories, and has a tremendous upside. Thorson took his program to new heights not seen since the days of Wildcats legend Darnell Autry. A lot of analysts see him as a backup quarterback who will eventually develop into a starter. The question is, can decision makers look past the ACL tear?
Jamey Mosley, LB, Alabama: His brother, CJ Mosley, was a star at Alabama and continues to be one in the NFL. However, Jamey has cemented his own legacy while at the Capstone. When joining the Crimson Tide, he arrived with little fanfare as a walk-on. The Theodore, Alabama native worked hard and earned a scholarship in 2016. In 2017, Jamey was called upon after the losses of Christian Miller, Anfernee Jennings, and Terrell Lewis. When most in his position would have struggled, he took the team on his back and carried them despite his lack of experience. He played brilliantly and helped his team earn another National Championship in 2017. How did he accomplish this feat? “It has everything to do with his preparation and desire to be great. Jamey Mosley has the respect of his teammates and the entire team because of the way he goes about every day,” said former defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi. He’s been referred to as a technician at his position. Mosley played both the SAM and JACK LB roles while at Alabama. He ran a 4.7 40 on his Pro day. Jamey Mosley impressed scouts by out-performing highly touted teammates Christian Miller and Isaiah Buggs in tracking the football during on-field drills.
Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon: Jalen Jelks was an extremely talented player for the Ducks. However, he was asked to play at a position that he no business playing. He was lined up on the interior defensive line, playing at a weight of 245lbs. This didn’t serve well when he was being double teamed. Despite playing this role, Jelks managed to produce on the field. During his junior campaign, he had 59 tackles, 15 for a loss, and 6.5 sacks. He followed that with 57 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks, and one forced fumble in 2018. If you want strengths, Jelks has them: possesses speed & burst around the edge, great pursuit player as a run defender, has great vision, and can swat down a lot of passes (7 in 2017). So, where do you put him? Jalen would best fit as a 3-4 LB or a DE in a 4-3 scheme. However, to play DE, he would need to bulk up. He would work well with the Giants, who need edge rushing talent.
Jarret Stidham, QB, Auburn: Stidham had a tremendous junior season in 2017, completing 67% of his passes for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also added 4 rushing touchdowns as well. Oh, and he also beat Georgia and Alabama, who played for the national championship that year. However, in 2018, after drawing high praise from draft analysts, Stidham regressed. He still completed 61% of his passes for 2,794 yards and 18 touchdowns. The regression cannot solely be placed on him. Auburn lost key players to the draft/graduation who were critical to that offense’s success; such as Kerryon Johnson. The Tigers never could establish a solid rushing attack and suffered often from inconsistent wide receiver play. What games they did win, one could say it was because of the efforts of Stidham. He allowed that team to be competitive and came away with some good wins. However, he couldn’t do it by himself. Stidham was a solid player that was not utilized or developed correctly under Gus Malzhan. A lot of fans, including those of college football as a whole, felt like they were robbed of seeing Stidham reach his full potential. Jarrett is good touch passer, throws a catchable ball, has good field vision, can throw on the run, and has the ability to extend plays with his feet. He would benefit well by learning under Tom Brady at New England or Nick Foles in Jacksonville.
Derrick Gore, RB, Louisiana Monroe: If you are not familiar with Derrick Gore, please go back and read my article, “Fields of Dreams”. Gore’s story is an inspirational one. His journey too him from being a virtual “no-name” to junior college, the University of Alabama, and finally at the University of Louisiana Monroe. He’s fought through adversity at every level and is ready to shine. While at ULM, he rushed for 1,247 total yards with 12 touchdowns while sharing yards with dual threat quarterback Caleb Evans. At the University of Louisiana Monroe’s Pro Day, Derrick Gore flat-out dominated. He erupted with 23 reps of 225lbs on benchpress; which is amongst the best for runningbacks vying for an opportunity in the NFL Draft. In the 40-yard dash, he blazed down the field with a time of 4.55 seconds. Gore also “wowed” scouts with a fantastic showing in position drills and did not drop a single pass out of the backfield. “I feel like my biggest attribute that I bring to the table is being able to catch the ball out of the backfield. It separates my game a lot from different backs, along with my size and speed. I’m able to do that along with getting the tough yards and being solid in pass protection. I can also contribute on special teams,” said Gore. If fans aren’t familiar with Derrick, it’s best to become familiar. NFL scouts have. His draft stock has increased greatly and will make him a sure-fire steal for an NFL team in need of a runningback. You may be asking yourself what a team would he getting from him. He’s quick to say, You’re going to get a work horse who’s willing to play any roll on a team, who’s a first guy off the field.”
These players highlighted here are just a small sampling of an extensive list of potential dark horses. There’s no doubt that I will have to revisit this topic before the end of the NFL Draft. However, the players listed here are worth taking a look at; especially since a few affected my collegiate team of choice in one way or another. Could they pan out? Possibly? Will they pan out? Time will tell. It’s still fun to speculate though.
I am a 2003 graduate from the University of Alabama with a degree in Exercise Science. While at the Capstone, I served as a student assistant with the head strength and conditioning coach of the Crimson Tide football team. I have competed in both powerlifting and bodybuilding for several years. In addition, I have served athletes and people through the arena of personal training. Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I am a passionate fan of Alabama, but do not make other fan bases miserable because of it. College football has my heart first, but I cover all areas of sports. Follow me on Twitter: @justinriley7!