The NFL Draft is unpredictable; no one really knows what all 32 GMs and their scouting departments are actually thinking when draft day comes. Every year, players widely regarded as Day 1 prospects slide and players that “have no chance” to get picked in the first round surprise the world when they hear their name called much earlier than anyone anticipated. We saw it 2014 when the Eagles and Patriots reached for Marcus Smith and Dominique Easley respectively. Both players were widely regarded as third rounders, maybe second rounders at best, yet somehow they were taken in round 1. We saw the same trend continue in 2015 when the Colts reached for Miami’s Phillip Dorsett and once again in 2016 when the Steelers took a chance on another player out of The U, Artie Burns. The draft remains unpredictable, but here are my under the radar prospects that many view as day 2/3 picks that could find their way in the 1st round:
1. D.J. Chark, WR, LSU
Chark began to see his stock rise after a strong Senior Bowl and with uncertainty at the WR position in the draft, in terms of who is and who isn’t a first round talent. Chark is widely regarded as a top 5 receiver in this class and could a surprise first rounder.
2. Lorenzo Carter, DE/LB, Georgia
Carter is another player that has seen his stock rise since the draft process began, overshadowed by his teammate and superstar LB Roquan Smith, Carter finally has had the ability to showcase his skill set. You can never have too many edge rushers and Carter’s ability to get to the QB could propel him into the 1st round.
3. Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
Tim Settle is one of the more ferocious interior defensive lineman in the draft, some would argue it’s a down year for DT’s in this draft, with a huge drop off after Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne, if a team is desperate for interior D-line help, Settle is a name that could fly up boards to help fill an immediate need for a contender.
4. Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
Phillips, another DT has a chance to become a surpise 1st rounder for the same reasons as Settle. Phillips is undervalued as it is but could follow in the footsteps of former Stanford OG Joshua Garnett who was a 3rd round prospect that the 49ers moved up to take in the 1st round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
5. Brian O’Neill, OT, Pitt
An athletic tackle, O’Neill is more of a project as he was converted into a tackle when he arrived at Pitt. His potential is intriguing to teams and though he projects to be as high as a 2nd round pick, he could be an ideal target for the Patriots, Eagles and other tackle-needy teams picking late in the first round.