Diamonds on the fringe

The first round gets all the attention, but good football teams get better with their drafting from the third round on. When I was the scouting director with the Chicago Bears, we had some great picks in those rounds. Defensive End Alex Brown was drafted in the fourth round of the 2002 draft. He was a core defensive player for us for years. The 2003 draft brought us Lance Briggs in the third round. He has been a multiple Pro Bowl selection and, for years, the best Will linebacker in the game.

In 2004, we were lucky to have corner Nate Vasher still available in the fourth round. He also become a Pro Bowl selection. In 2005, quarterback Kyle Orton was our pick in the fourth round. While he hasn’t become a top starter, he is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL. In 2009, a little receiver (Johnny Knox) out of Abilene Christian was our fifth round pick. He went to the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season. He career was cut short with a very serious back injury in 2011.

So as you can see, there are plenty of good players available in the mid-rounds with which to build your team. Here are some third round and beyond targets for this year:

Jarvis Landry – Wide Receiver – LSU

Until he ran poorly at both the combine and his pro day, Landry was looked at as a late-first rounder. The talent level of the player hasn’t changed, but receiver is a stop watch driven position when it comes to drafting.

Landry is your consummate “possession” receiver. He will do all the dirty work. He runs great routes, has quickness out of his cuts, and if the ball is near him, he catches it. While not fast, he is a consistent runner after the catch. He runs hard and has good run instincts.

While Landry could very well go in the second round, I have seen how guys who don’t run well drop come draft day. If a club can get him at the top of the third round, they found themselves a hell of a receiver.

C.J. Fiedorowicz – Tight End – Iowa

Fiedorowicz is another player who may find his way into the second round. I have him graded as a solid second round pick. The problem is, many teams aren’t looking for the old fashioned “Y” tight end. Teams want the flexed guy who is more of a big wide receiver.

At 6054 – 265, Fiedorowicz can play as a flexed type, but with his size and strength, he is best suited to play in tight. The way the position is used in college, these guys are hard to find. Fiedorowicz is a strong blocker who can get movement with his blocks. He easily gets out to the second level to make productive blocks on linebackers.

In the pass game, he is a good route runner who can breakdown and gets out of cuts quickly. He has huge hands and snatches the ball. After the catch, he isn’t going to make a lot of defenders miss, but he is a powerful runner who gets yards after contact.

Fiedorowicz is going to come in and play right away as a “Y” tight end. While he may not catch 50 - 55 passes as a rookie, it’s safe to assume he gets 35 – 40 receptions and helps the ground game with his blocking.

James Hurst – Offensive Lineman – North Carolina

North Carolina opened the season against South Carolina, and Hurst played very well against a guy named Jadeveon Clowney. That was not his only strong game. Week after week, Hurst played a consistent, tough brand of football.

At 6050 – 300, Hurst has size and strength and can get bigger. His frame can easily hold 310 to 315.
Hurst fractured a bone in his lower leg in their Bowl game and was unable to work at the combine. While still not 100%, he did work at the Tar Heels pro day late in March. He is 100% now and will be ready for OTA’s in late May and early June.

While Hurst played left tackle at North Carolina, I see him as a guard or right tackle in the NFL. He is tough, strong, and well coached. He can stay low, play with bend, and use his hands. He is a consistent run and pass blocker and plays a very physical game. I can see him coming in and starting for a team with a need as a rookie.

Lamin Barrow – Linebacker – LSU

The nice thing about Barrow is that he can play in any scheme. In a 3-4 he will be an inside linebacker, and in a 4-3, he can play Mike, Will, or Sam.

He has size (6010 – 240) as well as strength, speed, and athleticism. Linebackers need to be instinctive, and Barrow has top instincts. He is consistently around the ball and makes plays. He is a good run defender who can shed and tackle and plays a physical brand of football. In coverage, he gets depth with his drops and is very aware in zone coverage. He has the athleticism to play man on a back or tight end. This is another player who can come in and start as a rookie for most teams.

Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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