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The 2013 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 good players, along with the Matriculator Six, who we think could eventually be late round Pro-Bowlers from this class.  

 

16.  Tavarres King- WR, Broncos (5th round)

All he does is catch long passes. And touchdowns.  King shows NFL readiness in every respect but he doesn't stand out anywhere.  At 6'0" and with 4.47 speed he has solid, if not spectacular, measureables.  He is third all-time at UGA in touchdown catches and fourth in receiving yards. He averaged a ridiculous 22.6 yards per catch in the SEC.  He probably won't see the field his rookie year with three stars ahead of him, but in year two or three we expect him to become a good NFL receiver.

15.  Eric Wolff- S, Eagles (5th Round)

Wolff was a reliable and highly productive safety at N.C State showing a nose for the ball.  He is a little on the short side at 5'11", but his instincts are great.  The Eagles have 4 experienced safeties but we expect Wolff to be a starter no later than 2014.

14.  Phillip Steward- LB, Rams (undrafted)

Steward is as good as any linebacker drafted in 2013, including Manti Te'o, but you may never know it.  UFA's have a hard time cracking NFL line-ups because GM's have staked their reputation on players they drafted. That's the only reason we don't have him in the top 5. Steward is on the small side but he has instincts and playmaking ability in line with undersized linebackers like Zach Thomas and London Fletcher, who was also undrafted.  He finished his career at Houston with 47 consecutive starts and better career stats than Manti Te'o in every category but tackles. In 2012 he finished 4th in the nation in forced fumbles, 9th in the nation in tackles for loss and led Conference USA in sacks with 11.  He also finished his career with 10 interceptions and 28 passes defensed.  We had a first round grade on him but it may be a few years before a team gives him a chance.

13.  Earl Watford- G, Cardinals (4th round)

Watford played at tiny James Madison so he may need some time to adjust to the speed and size of NFL players and the Cardinals aren't what you would call "world renowned" for developing offensive lineman.  Watford, however, has all of the tools to be a starter.  He tested well at the Combine and has the agility and arm length to be successful at the next level.

12.  Gerald Hodges- LB, Vikings (4th round)

Hodges was highly productive his final two years at "Linebacker U", tallying over 100 tackles in each of those seasons.  He won't inspire oohs and aahs but should develop into a reliable starter.

11.  Johnathan Franklin- RB, Packers (4th round)

We actually had Franklin ranked higher than the Packers 2nd round selection Eddie Lacy and we expect Franklin to overtake Lacy as soon as Lacy joins the cornucopia of Alabama alum who are out with nagging injuries.

10.  Khaseem Greene- LB, Bears  (4th round)

He's a bit of a risk taker and can get caught out of position, but he makes big plays.  If he is paired with a disciplined, steady linebacking group he should become a playmaker at the next level.

9.    Phillip Thomas- S, Redskins (4th round)

Thomas had 13 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles during his career at Fresno State.  He's a playmaker and we expect that he and fellow draftee Baccari Rambo will wreak havoc in the next few years.

8.    Conner Vernon- WR, Raiders (undrafted)

Vernon is a taller version of Wes Welker.  He's a great route runner with excellent hands and while he won't do much after the catch, he should rack up first downs as a slot receiver.  No player in ACC history other than Vernon has had more than one 70 catch season, and Vernon had three.  He's the ACC's all-time leading receiver and didn't amass those numbers in a prolific passing attack at Duke. As with most guys who don't have elite measurables it may take him a few years to crack an NFL line-up, but we suspect his quarterbacks will love him.

7.    Jelani Jenkins- LB, Dolphins  (4th round)

Entering his junior season in 2012, Jenkins was slated to be a first rounder after being named a Freshman All-American and having a productive sophomore season; however, a series of nagging injuries kept him in check in 2012.  He's a great athlete and very intelligent and if he can stay healthy he should become a major contributor, particularly defending the pass.

THE MATRICULATOR SIX

6.  Terry Hawthorne- CB, Steelers (5th round)

Hawthorne is a big corner at 6'0", 195 and he also ran a 4.44 forty.  Had he not suffered a major concussion he might have been drafted as early as the 2nd round.  If he stays healthy we expect him to be a starter in 2014.

5.  Quanteras Smith- DE, Broncos  (5th round)

Smith will probably get a redshirt year his rookie season after tearing his ACL in November.  If he hadn't been injured we would have had him ranked as a top 10 pick.  He was leading Division I in sacks with 12.5 when he got hurt.  D.J. Fluker, the 11th overall pick, was torched by Smith for 3 sacks.  If he recovers from his knee injury he will be the steal of the draft.

4.  Zac Stacy- RB, Rams (5th round)

Stacy isn't flashy and he doesn't have home run speed, but we love his all around game.  He's our ideal size for an NFL back at 5'8", 215 and he benched more than any tailback at the Combine with 27 reps.  While he isn't fast, he's very quick and decisive.  At Vanderbilt he averaged 5.5 yards per carry his senior year and nearly 6 as a junior. We don't see much difference between him and Ray Rice coming out of college and expect Stacy to win the starting job in St. Louis, possibly during his rookie year.

3.  John Simon- LB, Ravens (4th round)

High motor and productivity define Simon's career at Ohio State where he was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2012.  He's a better athlete than he is given credit for as he ran a 4.62 forty with a 34 inch vertical at 257 pounds.  He can play end and linebacker and we expect him to force his way into the starting line-up by 2014.

2.  Trevardo Williams- DE, Texans  (4th round)

He's on the smaller side at 6'1", 240 and he will likely be converted to linebacker, but we had a higher grade on him than 3rd overall pick Dion Jordan.  His measurables are off the chart (4.57 with 30 reps and a 38" vertical) and he backs it up on tape, consistently pressuring the quarterback and making plays.  His senior year he had 11.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss and finished his career as UCONN's all-time sack leader with 30.5.

1.  Brian Schwenke- G, Titans  (4th round)

Schwenke is a mudder, but he's also a very good athlete. He will be one of those players who doesn't get much recognition until he becomes a free agent and then NFL teams will line up for him.