by Dave Syvertsen, Ourlads’ Draft Analyst
While we inch closer to Draft Day, we will be briefly discussing and possibly introducing 5 names per week that you should get to know. These are not necessarily the top players of the class, but instead the lesser known prospects who will become known more and more as the 2016 NFL Draft approaches.
1 – TE David Morgan – Texas-San Antonio – 6040/260
The toughness over the middle and in traffic is something you can find pretty easily. But a tight end with this kind of size and soft hands makes Morgan a prospect worth watching a few more times. He is by far the most valuable player on that offense and despite all the attention he gets from opposing defenses, Morgan has been taking over drives and outplaying his opponents on a weekly basis. He has the athletic ability to get himself open against man coverage and the strength to out muscle anyone who tries to get between him and the ball. A competitive blocker as well, Morgan has the making of a starting tight end in the NFL.
2 – OG Cody Whitehair – Kansas State – 6040/309
The fifth year senior has been starting for four straight seasons now. He has played RT, LG, and is currently manning the heralded LT spot. Considering his length, he best projects to the inside in the NFL. He has the ideal thickness to his lower body to derive natural and easy power from the ground up. He can stifle powerful DTs with a strong punch and he can finish the block as he rolls his hips and sticks to his man. Whitehair is effective in space and in traffic against any kind of defender.
3 – DE Romeo Okwara – Notre Dame – 6040/270
Okwara wasn’t on anyone’s radar prior to 2015, as he only had 3.5 career sacks over his first three seasons. But one look at the fourth year senior and it’s hard not to notice the NFL-ready frame. He is functionally thick; plenty of muscle mass but not to a point where it hinders his movement and ability to react. His burst off the line isn’t quite enough to grab my attention but it is what he does after the engagement with a blocker that does. He can out-power most college linemen and his relentless motor goes a long way considering the untapped talent that resides within that frame. He has broken out over the second half of the season, totaling 8 sacks since October 10th. Oklahoma State junior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah is widely considered a top 15 pick for the 2016 Draft. If you like him, you have to like Okwara, as they are very similar players.
4 – OLB Perez Ford – Northern Illinois – 6000/227
Just a two year starter from the MAC who is undersized and hasn’t shown a ton of production, right? Those things are true but after seeing Ford four times, I think there is some high-ceiling potential here. He may not be the ideal fit for a 3-4 OLB role, but Ford has the natural burst off the line and the easy bend-ability to make him a handful for blockers to direct. Ford has a sack in each of his last 5 games and it appears the light is coming on. There is more than athletic ability here. Ford shows the know-how when it comes to pass rush moves and disengaging from blockers who have a 60+ pound advantage on him.
5 – QB Brandon Allen – Arkansas – 6020/210
The three year starter almost lost his job after a rough start to the 2015 season. He was always a solid player in the SEC but he never quite got over the hump that many were expecting to see. Rewind back to November 7, where he led the Razorbacks to a 53-52 win over Ole Miss. It was a career game as he went 33/45 for 442 yards, 6 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. This past weekend he did everything he could in a 51-50 loss to Mississippi State where he went 30/43 for 406 yards, 7 touchdowns, and again zero interceptions. Stats aside, Allen put this overmatched team on his back in those two contests in a way I haven’t seen yet this year in college football. He made NFL throws up and down the field in high pressure situations. He was savvy and reacted with precision and confidence. I don’t think Allen is a first round quarterback, but he showed me there is reason to talk about him as a day two prospect.