• Joshua Reed - Sports Editor

NFL Draft Talk Volume XXXI

As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level. Who are some under the radar prospects that are starting to generate some late buzz? Now that the Pro Days are coming to a close the next phase in the pre-draft process is the official visits in which teams are allowed to bring in 30 prospects for private workouts and interviews. There are several prospects in this year’s draft that are scheduled or have already taken some visits with teams across the league. Here are some of those prospects that are generating some late buzz now that the draft is less than a month away: • TE Jace Sternberger: His draft stock has been on a steady rise over the last month as the former Texas A&M Aggie is projected to be an excellent seam stretching target at the next level and is expected to come off the board in the early second round. He will be meeting with eight different teams this week that includes the Superbowl champion New England Patriots, who now have a glaring need at the tight position following Ron Gronkowski’s announcement that he’s hanging up his cleats. • DE Charles Omenihu: The former Texas Longhorn standout is extremely strong at the point of attack and uses his hands excellently to get off blocks and fight through blocks to make plays. He fires off the ball to knife into the backfield and has great backside pursuit to track down ball carriers and quarterbacks. He is expected to go in the second or third round after posting 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in his senior season. He is scheduled to meet with Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, and the Houston Texans this week. • S Juan Thornhill: It’s rare to find a safety that possesses ball skills, can make open field tackles and has a not only a willingness but even excels at playing the run at or behind the line of scrimmage. He is expected to come off the board as early as the mid second and no later than the early fourth round. He is scheduled to meet with five teams this week for a pre-draft visit which includes the Seattle Seahawks, who are in need of a playmaking safety after they let All-Pro Earl Thomas walk in free agency. • DE Shareef Miller: He is one of the most versatile pass rushers in this draft who at 6-4 and 254 pounds possesses rare athleticism that allows him to be a force off the edge as well as in the interior. He can beat a tackle off the ball with his speed and bulldoze guards and tackles with tremendous power coupled with swift inside moves. He’s projected to be a day three pick in either the fourth or fifth round. He is scheduled to meet with three teams this week that include the Baltimore Ravens, who are in need of more pass rushers after losing their two sack leaders from last season in free agency last month. • TE/FB Andrew Beck: He is viewed as the best fullback/U-back in the draft. His strong blocking in the running game coupled with his soft hands coming out of the backfield will make him a successful tight end/fullback hybrid at the next level. He ran an unofficial 4.57 in the 40-yard dash at Texas’ Pro Day and has already met with seven different teams on private visits last week. • WR Mecole Hardman: He didn’t come close to a 1,000-yard season last year for the Georgia Bulldogs, but he is a burner that can take a quick screen or shallow route the distance from anywhere on the field. He is also a threat as a returner who doesn’t waste a lot of time trying to make people miss but rather finds the lanes and takes off at full speed. His 15.5 yards per reception and 20.1 yards per punt return reflect his undeniable speed. • LB Gary Johnson: There’s no substitute great speed and tremendous lateral quickness at the linebacker position and Johnson has both of those traits in spades. He flies from sideline to sideline and shoots the gaps between blockers or the ones left by pulling lineman like he was just shot out of a cannon. He darts into the backfield for rack up tackles for loss and sacks in the blink of an eye. He led the Longhorns in tackles last season with 90 and finished his senior year with 16.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. He is projected to come off the board on day two and is scheduled to meet with the Steelers and Raiders this week. While the Oakland has already signed two veteran linebackers in the last two weeks, Pittsburgh is still looking for someone to fill the void that was left by the injured Ryan Shazier. • WR Deebo Samuel: The former South Carolina Gamecock’s receiver possesses the dynamic ability in the open field to make him a dangerous playmaker after the catch as well as in the return game. He is scheduled to meet with the Dallas on a pre-draft visit this week. • WR Emanuel Hall: Even though he only played in just eight games in his final year at Missouri, he was on an absolute tear before injuries cut his season short. He averaged over 100-yards receiving during that span and nearly 23 yards per catch as he finished his last year with Tigers with 828 yards on just 37 receptions. He will undoubtedly be a steal for whichever team selects him in the mid to later rounds with his proven playmaking ability.

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