NFL Nation: Sleeper to star?

Our NFL Nation reporters find the hidden gem in each team's 2014 draft class.


Devin Street, WR: The Dallas Cowboys flipped fifth-round picks with the Detroit Lions and gave up one of their six seventh-round picks to get Street in the fifth round. Normally a fifth-round pick wouldn't have much of a chance to make an immediate impact, but Street will have a chance in 2014 because of the need for a wideout to play outside if something happened to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams. Street showed he can make contested catches in his time at Pittsburgh.

-- Todd Archer

Weston Richburg, C: He's not too well “hidden,” since he was a relatively early second-round pick. But the Giants' Saturday picks were all safe, low-ceiling special teams types who don't fit the bill. How could Andre Williams be “hidden” when he was at the Heisman ceremony? I think Richburg can be their starting center in Week 1 and for years to come -- smart and athletic enough to be an on-field leader in Ben McAdoo's offense.

-- Dan Graziano

Josh Huff, WR: Selected with the 86th pick, Huff is a dynamic, 5-foot-11 speedster who also thrived on special teams. Huff is the first former Oregon player selected by Eagles coach Chip Kelly, and it was a terrific pickup in the third round. The Eagles need depth at wide receiver and also covet help on special teams. Huff gives the Eagles assistance in both areas.

-- Andy Jasner

Bashaud Breeland, CB: The fourth-rounder should provide immediate help on special teams and could develop into a quality player for the Redskins. He's tough, physical and competes, and with his versatility, he could end up helping at corner and, perhaps at some point, safety.

-- John Keim


Logan Thomas, QB: Arizona used every trick in the book to distract attention from its interest in a quarterback, but picking Thomas in the fourth round (120th overall) could be the move the Cards need for the future. While he has the physical tools to play in the NFL, Thomas still needs plenty of grooming and polishing until he's ready to compete. Bruce Arians said Thomas will get plenty of playing time in the preseason but won't see the field when it counts until he's ready.

-- Josh Weinfuss

Bruce Ellington, WR: Ellington is the speed receiver this offense was lacking. I fully expect the 49ers to quickly exploit Ellington's ability to take the top off a defense. San Francisco has so many crafty veteran receiving options, but this blazer can be a game-changer right away. The fourth-round pick from South Carolina could be a huge steal.

-- Bill Williamson

E.J. Gaines, CB:: With the first of two sixth-round picks (No. 188 overall), the Rams added the former Missouri Tiger to a secondary in need of help. The team spent a second-round pick on a defensive back and a fourth-rounder on a safety, both of whom should contribute right away, but Gaines could also factor into the mix at some point. He helped shut down Mike Evans in a 2013 matchup, holding him to four catches for 8 yards.

-- Nick Wagoner

Kevin Pierre-Louis, OLB: Seahawks Northeast area scout Todd Brunner said Pierre-Lewis reminds him of a linebacker he scouted while working for the 49ers: Navorro Bowman. If Pierre-Louis, a four-year starter for Boston College, is anywhere close to that good, he's a huge steal. Brunner was practically giddy over Pierre-Louis: "He's my favorite kid in this whole draft just to watch.”

-- Terry Blount


Ka'Deem Carey, RB: Chicago landed what might be a steal in the fourth round, using the 117th overall pick to select Carey, regarded by some as the best running back in the draft. Carey provides a physical and violent running change of pace to the silky-smooth Matt Forte. Carey might also be one of the draft's best blocking backs, which is perhaps the most important attribute to have in Chicago's offense.

-- Michael C. Wright

Caraun Reid, DT: At some point, the Lions were going to have to draft someone as a depth player on the defensive line, and they did that in the fifth round, snagging an Ivy League prospect with high intelligence who can rush the passer. He might not be called on immediately, but he'll have at least a year to learn behind Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley. He should have enough quickness to be a potential sleeper pick who could become a special teams standout his rookie year and a rotational defensive tackle by his second season in the NFL. In college, he blocked seven kicks.

-- Michael Rothstein

Jared Abbrederis, WR: The fifth-round pick (No. 176 overall) was a former walk-on at Wisconsin. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder grew up 90 miles from Green Bay in Wautoma, Wisconsin. He was a late bloomer who played quarterback in high school and finally earned a scholarship in 2011. After the Packers lost Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones in the past two offseasons, Abbrederis and second-round pick Davante Adams of Fresno State have replenished the depth at receiver.

-- Rob Demovsky

David Yankey, G: The 6-foot-4 lineman was projected in some mock drafts to go in the first three rounds, but the Minnesota Vikings got him with the 145th overall pick, and he eventually could turn out to be a starter at left guard. Yankey was one of Stanford's captains, and comes from a school that has produced plenty of solid offensive linemen in recent years. Coach David Shaw raved about Yankey's smarts and toughness on Saturday, and he could be a steal for Minnesota.

-- Ben Goessling


Devonta Freeman, RB: With their first pick in the fourth round (103rd overall), the Falcons took Freeman, who is fresh off a national title at Florida State. He's a change-of-pace back alongside projected starter Steven Jackson and backups Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith. Freeman, who grew up through humble beginnings in Miami, seems to have a hunger inside him. He'll be asked a lot about one of his mentors, well-known rapper Luther Campbell, but Campbell kept him grounded.

-- Vaughn McClure

Bene' Benwikere, CB: His first name means "good" in French. The Panthers felt he was good enough that they traded their fifth- and seventh-round picks (168th and 225th overall) to Minnesota to move up 20 spots in the fifth round to get the San Jose State corner, who worked out for head coach Ron Rivera and secondary coach Steve Wilks before the draft. Benwikere is a smart player and a good pickup for value at a position where the Panthers need help after allowing the third-highest completion percentage (71.7) when they didn't pressure the quarterback.

-- David Newton

Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB: The Saints didn't go digging for any of those small-school gems they love so much. So I'll choose the player with the most potential to become a big-time steal. Their second-round pick, Jean-Baptiste is a 6-foot-3 corner who has drawn physical comparisons to Richard Sherman. He still has some developing to do, but the Saints love his length and his ball skills.

-- Mike Triplett

Charles Sims, RB:Taken in the third round, Sims is the hidden gem in this draft class. The Bucs didn't really need a running back because they already had depth at this position. But they took Sims anyway, and they're going to make use of his receiving skills out of the backfield.

-- Pat Yasinksas


Cyril Richardson, G: Doug Marrone loves huge linemen, and at 6-5, 329, Richardson fits the bill. Despite being selected in the fifth round, Richardson was a finalist for the Outland Trophy last season and has starting potential at left guard.

-- Mike Rodak

Billy Turner, OT:With their third-round pick (No. 67 overall), the Dolphins took the versatile offensive lineman out of North Dakota State. Turner's small-school status placed him in the middle rounds. But Turner held his own at the Senior Bowl against some of the top college players in the country. Turner has the versatility to play guard and offensive tackle. But Turner's best bet in Miami will be at guard, where the position is wide open.

-- James Walker

Zach Moore, DE/OLB: Coming from the Division II level (Concordia-St. Paul, Minn.), Moore will take time to develop and probably won't be a huge factor until 2015. But he has standout physical traits (6-foot-5½, 269 pounds, 33 5/8-inch arm length) and upside that often can fire up a coach to try to develop. Everyone is looking for tall, athletic pass-rushers, and maybe Moore -- selected in the sixth round (198th overall) after setting the Concordia school record for sacks (33) -- can develop into one as he makes the jump from Division II to the NFL.

-- Mike Reiss

Dakota Dozier, G: With a fourth-round pick (137th overall), the Jets took the fast-rising guard, who impressed scouts at the East-West Shrine Game. Dozier was a four-year starter at left tackle for Furman, but he made a smooth transition to guard late in his final season and for the all-star game. The Jets have questions at guard -- Brian Winters is developing and Willie Colon is 31 -- so Dozier's chance may not be far down the road. Fittingly, his nickname is "Bull." He received an endorsement from former longtime NFL center Kevin Mawae, who tweeted that Dozier impressed him last season against his alma mater, LSU.

-- Rich Cimini


Matt Paradis, C: With their sixth-round pick (207th overall), the Denver Broncos took a Bronco -- a Boise State Bronco -- who has gone from eight-man football in high school, to a walk-on defensive tackle at Boise, to becoming a two-year starter on offense, to now the NFL's highest-scoring offense. Paradis is a hard-nosed, get-after-it guy who has already proved he can make the most of every opportunity.

-- Jeff Legwold

De'Anthony Thomas, RB/KR:: The fourth-round draft pick has world-class speed and Andy Reid will have fun finding ways to utilize his talents. He will most likely wind up playing as a slot receiver. He is also a dynamic kick returner, something the Chiefs need after losing Dexter McCluster to free agency.

-- Adam Teicher

Derek Carr, QB: Standing pat with the fourth pick of the second round (No. 36 overall), the Raiders saw their QB of the future fall into their lap. If all goes according to plan, Carr will NOT play a down in 2014; rather, he will sit and learn at the knee of Matt Schaub, a la Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay with Brett Favre. If Carr does see significant action, that means something went terribly wrong with Schaub.

-- Paul Gutierrez

Ryan Carrethers, DT: Selected in the fifth round with the No. 165 overall pick, San Diego passed on more well-known defensive tackles in earlier rounds like Notre Dame's Louis Nix III and Penn State's DaQuan Jones to take Carrethers. A workout warrior who can squat 700 pounds, Carrethers finished with an impressive 93 tackles at Arkansas State in 2013. He should compete for the starting nose tackle job with Sean Lissemore in training camp.

-- Eric D. Williams


Terrence Brooks, FS: The Ravens needed a rangy, athletic safety, and the quarterback of the national champion Florida State defense fell to them in the middle of the third round. Brooks will start immediately and allow Matt Elam, last year's top pick, to move to strong safety. The fastest safety at the NFL combine, Brooks can cover a lot of ground for the Ravens' defense, which gave up a league-high 17 passes for more than 40 yards last year.

-- Jamison Hensley

Marquis Flowers, LB: There is no better definition of a “hidden gem” than what Bengals linebackers coach Matt Burke described while discussing Cincinnati's sixth-round selection Saturday afternoon. Burke said he was the only position coach in the league to attend Flowers' pro day. When he clocked the converted safety at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash, he became convinced that other teams were asleep at the wheel and that the Bengals were about to walk away with a steal. In Flowers, the Bengals get a special teams contributor and a versatile linebacker who could play either the “Sam” or “Will” -- positions of need in this draft.

-- Coley Harvey

Joel Bitonio, OT:Offensive linemen aren't sexy picks, and they rarely appear on TMZ, but they are vital to a team's success. Bitonio is a big, strong, aggressive, physical lineman who fits the NFL style. He's humble, willing to work, and willing to play anywhere, which is another plus. Coach Mike Pettine loves Bitonio's toughness, which mirrors the coach's image. Players like Bitonio are the building blocks for successful teams.

-- Pat McManamon

Martavis Bryant, WR: If the Steelers can coax a little more consistency out of Bryant -- and that applies to his effort as well as his hands -- they may have made another mid-to-late-round find at wide receiver. Bryant has the size the Steelers covet at wide receiver as well as the speed that allowed him to average 22.2 yards per catch at Clemson. The Steelers will be happy if they get the kind of return from Bryant that they received from recent mid-to-late-round picks such as Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.

-- Scott Brown


Jeoffrey Pagan, DE: The 6-foot-3, 310-pound player out of Alabama was the Texans' first of three sixth-round picks, 177th overall. Pagan was a backup on Alabama's national championship team in 2012. He moved into the starting lineup in 2013. He might have been drafted higher than he was with more starting experience and also were it not for shoulder surgery that prevented him from working out at the scouting combine. The Texans were light at defensive end.

-- Tania Ganguli

Jack Mewhort OL: Mewhort was selected in the second round, but has the best chance to play of the five players the Colts selected. He can play all five positions on the offensive line and handle long-snapping duties if need be. Questions with Hugh Thornton at one of the guard spots opens up the possibility of Mewhort having an opportunity to play next season. The other guard -- Donald Thomas-- missed most of last season with biceps and quad injuries.

-- Mike Wells

Aaron Colvin, CB: The Jaguars took Colvin in the fourth round (114th overall), which was a bit of a surprise because he suffered a torn right ACL on the second day of Senior Bowl practice. His rehab is on pace and Colvin said he'll likely be cleared for noncontact work by training camp. He'll more than likely begin the season on the PUP list but should be the starter opposite Dwayne Gratz in 2015.

-- Michael DiRocco

DaQuan Jones, DT. Jones is about 320 pounds and can give the Titans some real size up front in the new 3-4. He carries the weight well and looks to be athletic for a potential nose tackle. He should help stuff the run and has shown flashes as a pass-rusher.

-- Paul Kuharsky