Here are four players who could be late-round steals.
Photo by Alan Warren of the Ann Arbor News
If you don't know who is in the picture, that is Tom Brady. Before his ten Super Bowl appearances and seemingly ageless NFL career, Brady struggled his way up the depth chart at the University of Michigan, splitting time with Brian Griese in 1997 and Drew Henson in 1999. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper gave Brady a fifth-round grade ahead of the 2000 draft. Brady went in the sixth round to the Patriots, and the rest is history.
Over 20 years later, Brady is still proving people wrong. Brady is an example of a player who was evaluated accurately and defied the odds.
late-round gems are not as anomalous as Brady. Most late-round gems are players from small schools. NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe was drafted in the seventh round from Savannah State. Sharpe was going to transfer to Miami his last year. His coach famously told him, "If you are good enough, they will find you." The Broncos did in 1990.
These are two of many late-round gems in the NFL Draft. This season, some players might fall because of a bad final season or coming from a small school. That does not mean these young men can't play. Here are four players who could be late-round steals in this year's NFL Draft.
Antwan Collier: Defensive Back, Florida A&M
Collier's teammate in the secondary, Markese Bell, is getting most attention during the predraft process. However, Antwan Collier, a UCF transfer, is a heck of a football player. Collier is a sideline to sideline player who arrives at a ball carrier with bad intentions.
Collier is a classic in-the-box safety in the mold of a Bob Sanders or Leroy Butler. Let's be clear; however, Collier does have good coverage skills. What might turn off some scouts is the 4.90 forty-yard dash. However, watch his tape. Collier is fantastic with the ball in the air, and his play speed does not match the 40 time. A team looking for depth could look at Collier in the fifth or sixth draft round.
Dai'Jean Dixon: Wide Receiver Nicholls
Nicholls receiver Dai'Jean Dixon was on the NFL radar in 2021 and decided to go back to school. After a dominant 2019 where he had over 1,000 receiving yards. Dixon was solid in a COVID-shortened 2020 amassing 514 yards and seven touchdowns.
Dixon decided to return to school and had a career-high in receptions (71) and tied his career-high in receiving touchdowns (8). The New Orleans native continued to excel during the offseason pre-draft process. Dixon had a great NFLPA Bowl game and week of practice.
Dixon caught most everything thrown in his general direction during the game and had an argument for game MVP, won by quarterback Cole Kelley. Dixon had six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown.
Dixon is not a burner but can work the middle of the field. He is simply a receiver who knows how to get open. Dixon can contribute as a rookie as either a fourth or fifth possession receiver or work as a big slot receiver.
Aqeel Glass: quarterback, Alabama A&M
Much like Dai'Jean Dixon, Aqeel Glass has taken full advantage of the postseason predraft process. He put on 15 "good" pounds and had a great NFLPA bowl. Glass was not invited to the NFL Combine.
Scouts are intrigued by Glass for two reasons. First, Glass consistently improved at Alabama A&M from his freshman to his final season. Second, he has NFL-caliber tools. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Glass has ideal size to play quarterback in the NFL. He also has the arm to play quarterback in the NFL. Where Glass falls short is athleticism.
Glass struggles when forced to throw off platform. This issue could be due to Alabama A&M's offensive line struggles during his career. If a team is looking for a player with "tools" and want to develop either a trade commodity down the line or a solid backup, Glass is a late round choice who could pay dividends.
Jerry Garner: OLB/DE Mississippi Valley State
I will admit complete bias with this final late round gem. Jerry Garner is one of my absolute favorite players. He's been one of my favorite players to watch since he took the SWAC by storm with nine sacks as a sophomore.
College football talent evaluator Emory Hunt says, "size is not a skill." Garner fits the bill here. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, Garner played both outside linebacker and defensive end for the Delta Devils. His game is very reminiscent of Philadelphia (and Central State) great Hugh Douglas.
Garner does a great job of reading and reacting to what is around him. He never looks lost or out of place. He reads the tackle on RPO or Zone Read plays and attacks where he sees the ball. Garner has tremendous explosion off of the snap and gets off of the field.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Garner's game is his non-stop motor. He played on a team in the midst of a rebuild and was the focal point of most blocking schemes. Garner faced constant double and triple teams for two seasons and his motor never slowed down.
Garner is a sixth or seventh round pick but will be a value add to any team who decides to draft or bring him into camp as a priority free-agent.