2014 NFL Draft: Big Ten Conference Sleepers to Watch

Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith has huge upside, but he must improve his concentration to avoid drops. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)

Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern

Despite leading the Big Ten in sacks last season with nine (tied with Ohio State’s John Simon), Tyler Scott only earned an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection. Scott isn’t a flashy player, but he makes plays. In addition to his nine sacks, he batted down five balls and forced three fumbles.

Named a “workout warrior” by ESPN’s Brian Bennett, Scott has a great work ethic and frequents the weight room constantly, a practice he began after a shoulder injury ended his first season at Northwestern. Through his weight room dedication, he showcases great strength on the football field. He is able to bull rush offensive lineman who often have at least 50 pounds on him with relative ease.

Listed at 6’4″ and 265 pounds, Scott has a good build on his frame and he looks like he could even add more weight.

Scott needs to improve at getting off the line and getting in better position after the snap. He uses his hands well and fights to gain inside leverage, but he can play recklessly at times, seemingly just throwing his body around.

While his power moves are his forte, he needs to develop a greater repertoire of pass-rushing moves. Against the run, he is stout and takes on multiple blockers well for a defensive end of his size.

Scott is best suited to play left defensive end in a 4-3, but he may be able to bulk up and play end in a 3-4 defense, where his strength could be used and his lack of explosion could be less of a factor.

Scott goes into his senior season as a mid-round selection, but if he can show off greater explosiveness and keep his sack count up, he could see himself selected on day two.

Jeremiah Sirles, OT, Nebraska

The Cornhuskers have a pretty solid offensive line this season led by senior right guard Spencer Long, but senior left tackle Jeremiah Sirles should be receiving attention as well. A reliable offensive lineman for the past few seasons for Nebraska, Sirles has seen time at both left and right tackle.

He has good size, listed at 6’6″ and 310 pounds, but his apparent short arms stand out. He does get them out there and extends them consistently, but his lack of arm length gets him into trouble with edge rushers.

He’ll have issues in pass protection due to his short arms and lack of lateral quickness. He is a solid run blocker though, consistently creating holes and showing the ability to get to the second level.

He is a patient blocker, but perhaps too much so. He too often waits for his opponent to come to him, leaving too much space between him and the defender. His opponent can then exploit his lack of quickness and get to the quarterback.

Sirles may be able to find a fit at right tackle in the NFL, but likely projects inside at guard. If he can become a more aggressive blocker, he should see his draft stock go up.

As a tackle, Sirles is a late-round selection or priority free agent. If teams look at him as a guard though, he will stand a better chance of being drafted.

Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State (Jr.)

Devin Smith is a “Wow-What” player. He will have one play that makes you say “Wow!” and the very next play will leave you saying “What?” Sometimes, this happens even on the same play.

Smith has dropped easy receptions to end a drive one play only to catch a long bomb for a touchdown the next. He has outstanding speed and can get by a pack of defenders for a free path to the end zone, but he has drops even when he is wide open. Drops were a chronic issue for him in 2012.

It’s not so much his hands that cause the drops, but his lack of focus. He too often drops the ball because he’s already looking downfield before securing the catch.

He has big-play ability, but it seems he too often looks to make a big play that costs him a routine play.

Listed at 6’1″ and 198 with great athleticism, Smith has the measurables of an NFL receiver. He was a high school state long jump champion, and he is still a sprinter and jumper on the OSU track and field team.

Ohio State wide receivers coach Zach Smith told the media that Smith had an up-and-down spring, according to the Canton Repository.

“He’s doing things now I didn’t see in 12 months, but he needs to do those every day, every rep,” Zach Smith said. “Bradley Roby is one of the best corners in the country and he goes against him every day. I get that. Those two have a great competition because Roby knows Devin could be a great player, too.”

Devin Smith is getting better, but he needs to take the next step to being a great college football player. He needs to improve his concentration to reach his potential.

If Smith declared where his stock currently is, he’d likely be a mid-to-late round pick. If he can take his game to the next level in his junior season, he should be a Day 2 selection at least.

Other Names to Watch:

Ted Bolser, TE, Indiana

Listed at 6’6” and 254 pounds, Ted Bolser has NFL tight end size to go along with his solid hands. He’s not a big-play receiver, but could be solid contributor at the next level. 27 of his 41 receptions last season were either first downs or touchdowns.

Glenn Carson, LB, Penn State

Hard-nosed, instinctive linebacker Glenn Carson looks to follow 2013 draft picks Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti as the next NFL player to emerge out of “Linebacker U.”

Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State

A veteran offensive lineman who has played both left tackle and both guard spots for the Buckeyes, Jack Mewhort has the length and drive blocking ability to be an NFL tackle.

James Morris, LB, Iowa

James Morris has showcased his quickness and range with 223 tackles over the past two seasons. His lack of size and strength will hurt him at the next level, but he is still a solid middle linebacker with good all-around ability.

Michael Schofield, OT, Michigan

Overshadowed by fellow senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, right tackle Michael Schofield played well down the stretch last season. He won’t “wow” scouts, but he gets the job done.

Previous Sleeper Articles:

Atlantic Coast Conference

Big 12 Conference

Pac-12 Conference

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Big Ten, Christian Bryant, Devin Smith, Glenn Carson, Indiana, Iowa, James Morris, Jeremiah Sirles, Max Bullough, Michael Schofield, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Prspects to Watch, Ted Bolser, Tyler Scott

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