by SI NFL
One hundred and seven picks down, another 146 to go before this year’s NFL draft is in the books. With three rounds already complete, most of the high-end talent has come off the board already.
But not all of it.
Here are 10 players who should be heavily targeted on Saturday, because of what they could bring to the table early in their careers.
Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn: Because of his size/strength capabilities and production last season (13.0 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks), Lawson looked to be a likely Day 2 pick headed into the draft. He should be one of the first players off the board on Day 3, if only because of how far along he is in his development as an edge defender. There are still a number of teams, particularly those utilizing four-man fronts as a base, that could use Lawson’s powerful game at DE.
Desmond King, CB/S, Iowa: Once thought to be a potential first-round pick, King’s stock just keeps sliding and sliding. The uncertainty over his exact position—some view him as a safety, as opposed to the cornerback spot he held at Iowa—has to be contributing to his draft-weekend fall. At this point, though, he offers as much value as a GM can hope to find. King can handle all types of coverages, and he is a ballhawk at corner.
Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M: Quite frankly, he is a better prospect than at least a handful of receivers that came off the board Friday night. Defensive backs that faced him at the Senior Bowl this year consistently named Reynolds as their toughest matchup. At 6′ 3″, with 4.5 speed, he has shown the ability to be, at minimum, a deep threat and red-zone favorite of his new QB.
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami: Six quarterbacks came off the board between picks No. 2 (Mitchell Trubisky) and 107 (C.J. Beathard). There are several waiting in the wings for Saturday, including Nathan Peterman, Josh Dobbs and Jerod Evans. Kaaya should be one of the first QBs to hear his name called on the draft’s final day, though. He doesn’t offer much in the way of flash, but he’s well-versed in a pro-style offense and mechanical (too mechanical?) in his footwork. There’s a base with which a coaching staff can work, for sure.
Howard Wilson, CB, Houston: There were 18 cornerbacks taken in the first three rounds, yet potential starters like Wilson, Corn Elder and Damontae Kazee remain. Those latter two names project as slot options; Wilson has the length and game to play on the outside. He always seemed undervalued in discussions about this cornerback class, perhaps because he had a 2015 ACL tear and doesn’t bring a lot of muscle. But he can flat-out play the position.
Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina: His 5′ 8″ size will pigeon-hole him as a slot-only option, and that likely is where he’ll wind up. But he found his way open from all over North Carolina’s offense. Switzer gets off the line in a hurry, runs quality routes and has an advanced understanding for how to find open spaces in a defense. Get him a coordinator that knows how to use him and a QB that trusts his game, and Switzer can be a high-volume receiver.
Isaac Asiata, G, Utah: The O-line class wasn’t all that deep to begin with, and with 10 big bodies off the board already, teams probably can forget about finding any surefire 2017 starters. Except, perhaps, in the cases of Asiata, Dorian Johnson and Nico Siragusa, three guards with games that translate to the NFL. Asiata is mean and tough—he put up 33 reps on the bench press at the combine and can flat-out move defenders.
Jaleel Johnson, DT, Iowa: If you had C.J. Beathard going before his Iowa teammates King and Johnson, you’re either a soothsayer or possibly San Francisco GM John Lynch—he traded up to land Beathard late Friday. Johnson did not test well at the combine in any area, but he nevertheless has enough talent as a penetrator to be a productive three-tech somewhere.
Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State: Although he rushed for an FBS-record 6,405 yards at San Diego State, it would have been an upset for Pumphrey to sneak into Day 2. The reason: He’s small. At 5′ 8″ 176 pounds, he’s viewed in similar fashion to Switzer: a specialist who needs to be schemed into space. That’s not entirely accurate or fair for either guy’s game. Still, Day 3 is where several teams likely will have their eyes on Pumphrey, who brings a Darren Sproles-like ability as both a runner and receiver.
Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin: The type of prospect who outplays his measurables (and his draft spot) in the NFL. Biegel can handle any responsibility outside, in either a 3–4 or 4–3, from pass rushing to coverage to flying downhill against the run. He just got the job done for Wisconsin, time and again, and whichever team winds up drafting him figures to uncover a similar level of production.