This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Premier Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The 2014 NFL Draft is in the bag, which means now everyone is looking at their favorite team or rookie and wondering if all the hype is going to be worth it.
Jadeveon Clowney and Johnny Manziel are certainly two of the first players you think of, but what about the guys who floated under the radar? And what about the value some teams got by landing underrated talent later in the draft?
To give credit where credit is due, we’re digging back into the draft to see who the best steals were through all seven rounds. We’ll cap it at two players max per round, and see who the top-10 steals were in the 2014 NFL Draft:
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh (Round 1 – St. Louis Rams)
The Rams didn’t even really need a defensive tackle. That’s how much of a steal this was. Donald is undersized for the defensive tackle position, but that’s the only legit knock on a guy who is strong in pursuit up the middle and has potential against the run, as well. He could have easily been a top-10 pick.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (Round 2 – Atlanta Falcons)
Hageman showed inconsistent motor and overall tape, which is why he dipped from a mid to late first round pick to here in round two where the Falcons snatched him up. While Atlanta will need to figure out how to get the best Hageman as often as they can, the tools they need to work with are certainly there. Hageman is a brute with excellent size, strength and athleticism for the defensive tackle position. They already made some moves on their defensive line in free agency, and adding this mass in the middle is simply the icing on the cake.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (Round 2 – Carolina Panthers)
Ealy’s stock took a hit due to some mild character concerns, while some weren’t sure if he’d be right for a 3-4 system. He’ll be out to prove himself after sliding into round two, while the system concerns are a moot point with Carolina playing him as a 4-3 defensive end. Ealy was a mid-round first round talent just a few weeks ago, so he’s easily one of the top steals of the 2014 draft.
Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame (Round 3 – Houston Texans)
Other steals are sexier, but few might end up being more important than Houston snagging Nix in round three. A legit round one talent, Nix slid mostly due to a lack of need for elite nose tackles in 3-4 systems. Several other teams certainly could have used Nix and likely considered him, but his lack of versatility likely dropped him down some boards. He’ll slide in the middle of the line in Houston’s 3-4 system and destroy running plays as soon as the Texans let him.
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (Round 4 – Chicago Bears)
The Bears land a top backup and future franchise running back in Carey in round four, making him easily one of the top steals of the 2014 NFL Draft. Forte is sticking around for a while yet, but he’s still 28 and could always break down. Chicago also parted ways with Michael Bush, so they needed fresh legs in the backfield. Here is Carey, who has the size, build and long speed to be a key factor in their offense down the road. For now, he’s a low risk mid-round guy who can come in and spell Forte as needed.
Carl Bradford, ILB, Arizona State (Round 4 – Green Bay Packers)
Green Bay needed some extra help at inside linebacker for their 3-4 defensive system and they hopefully got it with fourth round pick, Carl Bradford. Bradford is probably best suited for a pass rushing role when you first look at his college role and skill-set, but his size limitations and solid athleticism should kick him inside. He’s a ferocious tackler and play-maker, so he could be a force over the middle once he nails down the nuances of the position.
Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh (Round 4 – Houston Texans)
The Texans nabbed their potential franchise quarterback in the fourth round. It wasn’t Johnny Football or another big name, but Savage will do. He’s still quite raw, but he has enticing size and arguably the best arm of anyone in the draft. There is work to be done to have this pick pay off, but there is little risk involved and he could develop into a mid-round gem.
David Yankey, OG, Stanford (Round 5 – Minnesota Vikings)
Yankey isn’t a great athlete and struggles with recovery, but is probably one of the most well-rounded offensive lineman in this draft class. He boasts great size and strength, has great experience and can play at guard or tackle. That versatility should land him a spot on the roster in Minnesota and in due time he should be able to prove that he’s more valuable than where he was drafted.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU (Round 6 – Tennessee Titans)
The Titans knew they had to get the often injured Jake Locker some competition at quarterback. They just didn’t know who or when. Mettenberger fell into their laps in the sixth round thanks to back and knee concerns, but has the prototypical size, pocket presence and arm strength scouts covet. He has legit first round talent and could easily go down as the steal of this draft.
Trevor Reilly, DE, Utah (Round 7 – Jacksonville Jaguars)
Reilly took an unnecessary fall to round seven thanks to less than elite athleticism, but he really should have stopped at round three, at the very latest. Blessed with excellent size, a high motor and solid versatility, Reilly brings elite pass rushing skills to a team that desperately needs youth at depth at defensive end. Don’t be shocked if Reilly works his way up the ranks and is a key piece of the Jags’ pass rushing rotation at some point in his rookie season.