Today marks the first of a two-month Draft Guide that Levi and I will be launching. We have been reviewing film, and will be bringing you position-by-position draft rankings every Monday and Tuesday. We will end our Draft Guide with a mock draft the week leading up to the draft. This week we will be doing specialists and return men today and free safeties tomorrow.
1. De’Anthony Thomas 5’8.5” 174 Oregon
2. Dri Archer 5’8” 173 Kent State
3. Sammy Watkins 6’0.75” 211 Clemson
4. Jalen Saunders 5’9” 163 Oklahoma
5. Justin Gilbert 6’0” 195 Oklahoma State
6. Solomon Patton 5’8” 179 Florida
7. Bernard Reedy 5’8” 174 Toledo
8. Odell Beckham Jr. 5’11” 198 LSU
9. George Atkinson III 6’1” 218 Notre Dame
10. Chris Davis 5’10” 201 Auburn
11. Josh Stewart 5’10” 178 Oklahoma State
12. Travis Carrie 6’0” 210 Ohio
13. Bruce Ellington 5’9” 197 South Carolina
14. Marqise Lee 5’11.75” 192 USC
15. Jeremy Gallon 5’7” 185 Michigan
16. Tre Mason 5’8.4” 207 Auburn
17. Corey Brown 5’11” 178 Ohio State
1. Anthony Fera 6’1” 218 Texas
2. Cairo Santos 5’8” 155 Tulane
3. Zach Hocker 6’0” 194 Arkansas
4. Chris Boswell 6’0” 183 Rice
5. Cody Parkey 6’0” 189 Auburn
1. Tom Hornsey 6’3” 202 Memphis
2. Pat O’Donnell 6’4” 223 Miami
3. Cody Mandell 6’2” 216 Alabama
4. Steven Clark 6’6” 226 Auburn
5. Kirby Van Der Kamp 6’4” 202 Iowa State
6. Richie Leone 6’3” 207 Houston
1. Marcus Heit 6’3” 252 Kansas State
2. Tyler Ott 6’3” 252 Harvard
Best Returner-De’Anthony Thomas
Thomas may not be an every-down running back in the NFL, but he has everything an elite NFL returner needs. He is small and shifty, with elite speed. He also has the strength and balance to withstand hits and shake off arm tackles. If there is anything to knock about Thomas’ return game, it is that his juke moves and evasive maneuvers are unpolished. He frequently uses his elite speed to sprint around defenders rather than use an actual juke move. This will not continually work in the NFL, but over time “DAT” will figure this out and become the return man an NFL franchise needs.
Dri Archer is projected to be a 7th round pick, at best, but for any team looking for a return man, they need to take a look at Archer. He doesn’t quite have the ceiling of De’Anthony Thomas, but he is the most NFL-ready return man in this draft class. My first thought when watching film on him was that, “This guy can absolutely fly.” He has top-end speed, a good side-step move, has excellent vision, is exceptionally quick, and has a phenomenal center of gravity. Archer can be an above average NFL return man right now.
The player with the most returns for touchdowns in this draft is Justin Gilbert. His biggest asset as a returner is his size. He is big and strong and breaks tackles well. The thing that may set him back is that he doesn’t have the speed that most NFL teams want in a return man. He also may be so valuable as a cornerback that teams may be hesitant to let him return kicks and/or punts.
Reedy is not projected to be drafted, but he could be a potential value pick for someone who needs a return man. The biggest knock on the Toledo product is that he doesn’t possess the strength or balance to break tackles easily, but he makes up for it by hitting the hole quickly and has a solid side-step move.
Marqise Lee will likely be drafted in the first round for wide receiver, but if they are paying that price to get a return man as well, an NFL team should look elsewhere. Lee will likely be a high-level NFL receiver, but as a return man he leaves much to be desired. He doesn’t get north and south very well, and for his size he doesn’t break very many tackles. He has decent speed and juke moves, but not good enough to return kicks in the NFL at this point.
Top Kicker- Anthony Fera
Fera started his career at Penn State, but finished it at Texas. He was a Groza Award finalist this year, and one Groza Award voter that’s personal friends with one of the “4 Down” staff believes he should have won. NFL.com projects him to go in the 6th round as of now, and his college performance certainly warrants this.
Potential Value- Cody Parkey
As the Auburn kicker, Cody Parkey had a phenomenal career. He wasn’t as consistent as some other kickers in the draft; therefore he will likely not be drafted. He was elite at kickoffs though, booming touchback after touchback. Unfortunately, NFL teams need a kicker to kick field goals as well as kick the ball off. If he can display some consistency, he could sneak into the 7th round.
Top Punter- Tom Hornsey
The Ray Guy award winner in 2013, Hornsey is projected to be picked in the 6th round. In 2011, he led the NCAA in punts, which is more of an indictment on Memphis’ lackluster offense as his punting abilities. However, it is undeniable that in 4 years at one of the worst teams in the FBS, that Hornsey has gotten plenty of reps.
Potential Value-Steven Clark
Clark will not be drafted. Let me rephrase, as long as a team with a competent front office replaces the Jacksonville Jaguars, Clark will not be drafted. He will be signed as a free agent, and could be an excellent value. He lacks the leg strength to flip field position if punting deep in his own territory, but no one is better at pinning the ball inside the 5 from around midfield. Unfortunately for Clark, nobody carries two punters. Maybe if some unconventionally brilliant front office or particularly inept one decides to try something, then he will get drafted, but I don’t see New England or Seattle trying to set a trend and even Cleveland and Jacksonville have people of moderate intelligence calling the shots.