ORLANDO FL - DECEMBER 28: T.J. Graham #6 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack makes a catch during the Champs Sports Bowl against the West Virginia Mountineers at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium on December 28 2010 in Orlando Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
As I was going through my draft board and filling out rankings for the players, I realized that some of the lesser known prospects in this draft have caught my eye more than once. These players started to become some of my favorites for many of the same reasons. It turns out that I like high-caliber athletes, unexplainable traits in players and skills that can't be taught. The prospects that have these qualities end up on my Draft Man Crush List. Keep and eye out for these guys on Friday and Saturday during the NFL Draft.
QB: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin (Round 4-5)
Wilson would easily be a first round pick if he had prototypical height. I love his athleticism, intelligence and anticipation. He should for a starting role despite his size in a couple years.
RB: Bernard Pierce, Temple (Round 3-4)
Pierce was my most interesting evaluation. He's big and strong but runs with great elusiveness in the open field. He flashes so many dynamic traits but doesn't own anything special. He'll over-achieve and contribute in the NFL somehow.
WR: Marvin Jones, California (Round 2-3)
Jones has almost every attribute I look for in a WR; body control, quickness in and out of breaks, good hands, great ball skills and deceptive speed. He's one of the safest WR prospects in this draft.
WR: T.J. Graham, N.C. State (Round 4-5)
Graham is one of the most vertically explosive WRs in the draft. He accelerates very quickly and seems to never stop. You cannot overthrow him on vertical routes. He probably gets drafted in the middle rounds because of his smaller size.
WR: Lance Lewis, Eastern Carolina (Round 5-7)
When you think Lance Lewis, think body control and ball skills. He knows how to use his big body to position himself and box-out the defender, then he plays above the CB to make plays on the ball. He isn't very quick but Lance Lewis has starter potential late in the draft.
H-Back (TE): Evan Rodriguez, Temple (Round 4-6)
Rodriguez is somebody I noted while watching Bernard Pierce. He's athletic, has good hands and creates yards after the catch. He's that move-TE type that teams will be looking to draft as their Aaron Hernandez.
LT: Mitchell Schwartz, California (Round 2)
Schwartz looks like the smartest and most technically sound lineman in the draft. He has the ability to play four of the five positions on the line and when versatility is so big, Schwartz only become more valuable. He'll be a long time starter/contributor in the NFL.
C /G: Philip Blake, Baylor, (Round 3-4)
Blake is being overshadowed by RG3, Kendall Wright and even Terrance Ganaway on Baylor's high powered offense. He can play all three interior positions, plays low and strong, with great leverage and a wide base that allows him to recover from mistakes. If he wasn't 26-years old, he may be drafted higher.
G: Brandon Brooks, Ohio (Round 2-3)
Brooks is a monster; a freakish athlete for an offensive lineman. He looks like the perfect clay mold for a confident coach. He's all potential with a side of nastiness you look for in a lineman.
OT: Donald Stephenson, Oklahoma (Round 4-6)
Stephenson is one of the mid-late round offensive linemen who have starter potential. He had a crazy combine and his tape wasn't as bad as expected. He's much more than an athlete and flashes starter qualities. A couple seasons from now, I could see him holding down a spot.
LDE: Malik Jackson, Tennessee (Round 3)
Jackson doesn't look physically imposing but eh uses his length, arms and leverage like a veteran. He can start at LDE and slide inside in nickel packages where he's very dangerous as a pass rusher.
NT: Nick Jean Baptiste, Baylor (Round 5-7)
Baptiste is a short, squatty NT type that is very hard to move. I'm not sure if he's a potential starter but I'd love to sub him into running downs and let him control the point of attack.
DT/LDE: Trevor Guyton, California (Round 4-5)
Guyton played DE in a 3-4 defense and can play DE/DT in the NFL. He's active and athletic while adding some pass rush skills. Like Malik Jackson, Guyton will do his most damage pass rushing from the inside. He's a versatile player in the Jon Fanene mold.
DE: Olivier Vernon, Miami (Round 4-5)
Vernon is another rare athlete. He shows the speed and quickness to develop into not only a disruptive pass rusher, but maybe a starting DE. I think he provides some rush opportunities from day one.
SLB: Josh Kaddu, Oregon (Round 4-5)
Kaddu will make the transition to SLB in the NFL but he shows the ability to make a smooth transition. He doesn't stay blocked and will keep fighting on every play. I see more football player than athlete and that's not something you usually say for such an athletic player.
MLB: Mychal Kendricks, California (Round 2-3)
Kendricks is really everything you can ask for in a MLB. His overall size will hurt him on draft day but it rarely affected his play on Saturdays. He's very aware and a sure tackler. Kendricks has starter written all over him.
WLB: Demario Davis, LB, Arkansas State (Round 3-4)
If you haven't noticed, I like highly athletic player and Davis is no exception. His speed is his biggest asset as he uses it to make tackles sideline to sideline. He should develop into a solid coverage/nickel Lb also.
CB: Brandon Boykin, Georgia (Round 2)
Boykin is another high caliber athlete but he also provides a great return game advantage. He will be an elite return man and a upper-tier nickel CB with some starter abilities. His size/bulk is his biggest deficiency.
CB: Dwight "Bill" Bentley, La-Lafayette (Round 3-4)
There's just something about Bentley that jumped out to me every time I watched him. He's a gamer. He can play the slot, blitz and isn't afraid to play the run.
SS: Antonio Allen, SouthCarolina (Round 3-4)
There's a lot to like about Antonio Allen. He played a LB/S role in nickel and he blitzed, covered deep, and was a sure tackler vs. the run. Allen is a strong safety only and that will knock him in the draft, but his role can be expanded in nickel packages. I love that versatility.
FS: Phillip Thomas, Syracuse (Round 4-5)
Thomas is the opposite of my other safety, Antonio Allen. Thomas is a true free safety type. He can cover man to man, he has good ball skills, and he isn't going to be a physical presence in the run game. With teams looking for that CB/S hybrid type, Thomas could fit that role.