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The 2014 Matriculator Six

           The one hundred and forty or so players who will be drafted between the 4th and 7th round this year will be singing the Abba classic, Take a Chance on Me.  “Gonna do my very best and it ain’t no lie.  If you put me to the test, if you let me try.”  Dylanesque, really.  Between four and eight players drafted in the ass end of the draft will become Pro-Bowlers.  In all, between a dozen and twenty will become productive starters, which means only about half the teams will get one good player from the entirety of those four rounds.  Not great odds, but if you hit on Robert Mathis, Jared Allen, Michael Turner, Richard Sherman or Julius Thomas your team could be hoisting the Lombardi in a few years. 

            We did a little study from 2003 through 2012.  During that period (and we aren’t counting special teamers though they are certainly important) there were 38 Pro-Bowlers spread out across the board by position as follows:

 

OFFENSE

 

Quarterback:  Pro Bowlers-Derek Anderson (we know he’s not very good) and Matt Cassel.

Other nice picks-  Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kyle Orton. 

Running Back:  Pro Bowlers- Michael Turner, Alfred Morris and Marion Barber. 

Other nice picks: Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Michael Bush.

Fullback- Pro Bowler- Ovie Mughelli 

Guard/Center:  Pro Bowlers- Jahri Evans, Josh Sitton and Dan Koppen.

Other nice picks- Chris Komeatu, Eugene Amano, and Jason Brown. 

Tackle:  Pro Bowlers- Dave Diehl, Carl Nicks

 

Wide Receiver:  Pro Bowlers- Brandon Marshall, Antonio Brown, Johnny Knox and Brandon Lloyd.

Other nice picks- Marques Colston, Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery and Chris Givens.

 Tight End:  Pro Bowler- Owen Daniels, Aaron Hernandez, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron

Other nice picks- Brent Celek and Kevin Boss. 

DEFENSE   

Defensive End:  Pro Bowlers- Greg Hardy, Trent Cole, Elvis Dumervil, Jared Allen, Shaun Phillips and Robert Mathis.

Other nice picks- Chris Canty, Ray Edwards and Parys Haralson. 

Defensive Tackle:  Pro Bowlers- Henry Melton, Kyle Williams, Geno Atkins and Jay Ratliff.

Other nice picks- Kedrick Golston, Isaac Sapoaga, Aubrayo Franklin, and Paul Soliai.

 Linebacker:  Pro Bowler- Cato June.

Other nice picks- Michael Boley, Stephen Tulloch, Scott Shanle, and Hunter Hillenmeyer. 

Cornerback: Pro Bowlers- Cortland Finnegan, Alterraun Verner, Richard Sherman, Nathan Vasher, and Terrence McGee.

Other nice picks- Ike Taylor, Brandon Boykin and Chris Harris. 

Safety:  Pro Bowlers- Antoine Bethea, Kam Chancellor, Yeremiah Bell and Hanik Milligan.

Other nice picks- Dawan Landry, and Gerald Sensabaugh. 

          We were surprised at how few offensive lineman were hits, particularly at tackle, and how many good pass rushers slipped into the later rounds.  We were also surprised that there was only one Pro-Bowl linebacker during this stretch as the conventional wisdom has always been that you can find bargains on the offensive line and at linebacker in the ass end of the draft.  We’ve got 16 players who should be drafted from round four forward who we think will be productive players. 

 

16.  Rashaad Reynolds- CB, Jaguars  (UDFA)

Reynolds doesn't seem much different than first round pick Darqueze Dennard as a prospect.  He started 38 games at Oregon State and in 2013 he was among the nation's leaders in interceptions with 6 and he also returned two fumbles for touchdowns.  He's 5'10", 190 pounds and ran a sub-4.5 forty.

15.  Caraun Reid- DT, Lions (5th)

Reid came from Princeton which is probably why he dropped in the draft.  He has nice burst for a big man and dominated the lower level competition he faced.  He looked better than most of the big school prospects at the Senior Bowl and we think once the Lions move Ndamukong Suh along Reid will be the starter.

14.  Robert Herron- WR, Buccaneers (6th round)

Herron will have a shot to earn some playing time in the slot and while he probably won't be highly productive with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans out wide, he should ultimately become a good number two with a Steve Smith-type skill set.

13.  Storm Johnson- RB, Jaguars (7th round)

We're not huge fans of Toby Gerhart and wouldn't be surprised if Johnson pipped him for playing time by the end of 2014. Johnson was a transfer from "The U" and he had a breakout 2014 season at UCF running for over 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.  There isn't a lot of mileage on him which is one of the reasons we like him as a sleeper.

12.  Henry Josey- RB, Eagles (UDFA)

Josey is a spectacular talent but he suffered a significant knee injury and didn't play in 2012.  That might have scared some teams from drafting him, but it shouldn't have.  In 2013 he torched the SEC for over 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 6.7 yards per carry.  He should be groomed as Lesean McCoy's replacement even though he may start out on the practice squad.

11.  Tiny Richardson- OT, Vikings (UDFA)

Richardson could not have been very happy after watching two guys that he kept away from the left tackle position at Tennessee, Dallas Thomas (2013 3rd rounder) and Ju'Wuan James (2014 first rounder), get drafted while he sat at home waiting to hear his name called.  He's a mountain and he will either have a huge chip on shoulder and become a starter or lose his confidence and never make it.  We're flipping a coin here.

10.  Cameron Fleming- OT, Patriots (4th round)

Fleming was a first round prospect on our board.  He played right tackle at Stanford and he was their best lineman in spite of some of his peers receiving all of the awards.  Unless the Patriots kick him inside he won't start in 2014, but once he wins the job we expect him to be a fixture.

9.    Ross Cockrell- CB, Bills (4th round)

Cockrell has the size to play on the outside and he was highly productive at Duke.  He finished his career with 233 tackles, 12 interceptions and 50 passes defensed.

8.    Arthur Lynch- TE, Dolphins (5th round)

Lynch won't wow you with any one trait but he has a skill set reminiscent of Anthony Fasano who started for years for the Dolphins.  He's big with above average speed and above average hands and he's a willing blocker.

7.    Justin Ellis- DT, Raiders (4th round)

Ellis is a mountain who will have to make the leap in talent level after starring at Louisiana Tech.  He has the power and bulk teams look for in the interior, and he's sneaky quick for his size.

THE MATRICULATOR SIX

6.  Martavis Bryant- WR, Steelers (4th round)

Bryant has the skill set to be a star, but he's still a little raw as he was always the number two choice at Clemson behind first rounders Deandre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins.  He may take a year or two to develop but we wouldn't be surprised if he became the Steelers number one in a few years.

5.  E.J. Gaines- CB, Rams (6th round)

Gaines doesn't impress with his size or athletic ability, but he's just a good old fashioned football player.  He averaged 70 tackles a year for three years and also posted 8 interceptions and 34 passes defensed.

4.  Ben Benwikere- CB, Panthers (5th round)

Benwikere was a star at San Jose State and was projected as a first rounder heading into the 2013 season.  In 2013 he had 5 interceptions and 11 passes defensed and somehow disappeared from the first round radar. We're not sure why.  He ran a slow forty at 4.59, but he showed explosion with a 40 inch vertical and his 14 career interceptions should have drawn more early round interest.

3.  Kenny Ladler- S, Bills (UDFA)

Ladler was all over the field at Vanderbilt and he has proto type safety size at 6'0", 207.  He was an All-SEC performer and he had over 90 tackles each of the past two seasons.  He also forced 5 fumbles and had 5 interceptions as a senior.

2.  Devonta Freeman- RB, Falcons (4th round)

Location, location, location.  Freeman is a good runner and good receiver.  We like, we don't love, his overall game. But he's going to Atlanta where Steven Jackson might have one more year and Antone Smith is next on the depth chart.  He should have an opportunity to start in a high powered offense as soon as 2015.

1.  Jackson Jeffcoat- DE, Seahawks (UDFA)

You know you had a bad draft when the best rookie you have wasn't drafted.  Or maybe not.  We think Jeffcoat was a high first round talent and the only reason we can figure he slipped was because of major concerns with his two torn labrums.  If he fell for any other reason there are some sorry GMs.

 

2013 Matriculator Six

2011 and 2012 Matriculator Six