Although we don’t like to admit it, devy analysts always let a few prospects slip under the radar. Whether its Josh Allen, Brandon Aiyuk or T.J Hockenson (pictured above), first-round caliber talent continues to slip through to our rookie drafts. Sometimes the recipe seems so simple in hindsight, but impossible to forecast.
Here, I take a look at a few under-the-radar names who don’t seem to get enough love in the devy community. These players are typically drafted low in devy drafts, if at all. Some of this is due to lack of national attention and some is due to a poor situation, but the talent is evident. My goal is to try and find an underdog amongst the group. Treat this as a “Watch List” of sorts, and we just might find ourselves a hidden early-round NFL talent.
QB: GRANT GUNNELL, ARIZONA WILDCATS
Arizona QB Grant Gunnell was never expected to see much playing time in 2019. As the No.15 ranked pro-style quarterback and 55th player out of Texas, Gunnell was somewhat of an afterthought in the 2019 recruiting class. That only makes what he did in his freshman season that much more impressive.
Gunnell saw action in 8 games while splitting time with former Arizona QB Khalil Tate. His 65% accuracy was impressive, but his 1 lone interception was eye-popping. His big arm, pocket presence and sneaky mobility gave Arizona fans hope amid a season of turmoil.
PFF went as far as to rank Gunnell as the #2 returning quarterback in the PAC-12 and gave him the highest freshman quarterback grade in 2019. Lofty praise for the sophomore quarterback, who now returns as the unquestioned starter for the Wildcats. With elite intangibles and a prototypical build, keeping tabs on Grant Gunnell over the next few years is a smart move.
RB1: JASHAUN CORBIN, FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
After spending his first two seasons with the Aggies, redshirt sophomore running back Jashaun Corbin transferred to Florida State for the upcoming season. He has an immediate opportunity to contribute with the departure of Cam Akers and dismissal of Khalan Laborn.
Although Corbin entered the 2019 as the Aggies starter, an injury in week 2 would end his opportunity early (opening the door for the #6 ranked Breakout Finder Devy RB). After spending most of his time as a kick returner and special teams ace in 2018, Corbin has been eagerly awaiting his opportunity.
The 4-star prospect recently tipped the scales at 220 pounds, 10 pounds higher then his listed weight last year. His body transformation is just one of the ways he continues to prepare for his shot. His versatility and athleticism are an ideal fit for Mike Norvell’s offense, who continues to help running backs make the leap to the NFL.
RB2: SARODORICK THOMPSON, TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
The outlook wasn’t particularly bright for SaRodorick Thompson to start 2019. Texas Tech was expected to deploy a three-man committee at the running back position with no clear starter of the bunch. SaRodorick had different plans.
Thompson was quickly able to cement himself as the top-option. Although some of his opportunity blossomed from injuries, he didn’t waste a second. He ran just shy of 800 yards and 12 touchdowns, while his fellow running-mates both failed to break 400 yards rushing or 3 touchdowns.
With fellow RB’s Armand Shyne and Ta’zahn Henry on the way out, SaRodorick enters 2020 as the clear-cut starter. His blend of elusiveness, power and athleticism has head coach Matt Wells excited for Thompson’s future with the Red Raiders.
“I think he’s a thousand-yard back,” Wells said of Thompson. “I think he’s a guy we can saddle up and ride him. I think he’s got a bright, bright future.”
WR1: TREYLON BURKS, ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Sometimes, you have to be able to bail out your quarterback. In Treylon Burks case, he had to bail out 5 of them. Although erratic QB play was the theme of the Razorbacks 2019 season, it didn’t stop Burks from making a name for himself.
Finishing with Arkansas second-most all-purpose yards as a true freshman, Treylon was a dynamic force for the Razorbacks. Whether he was returning kicks, rushing the ball, attempting a pass or making insane adjustments on the ball – Treylon gave Razorback fans a reason for excitement in 2020.
Did I mention he does all this at 6’3, 232 pounds?
Arkansas brought in QB Felipe Franks this year to try and bring a steady presence to the QB room. This should mean more consistency for Burks, who is still looking for his first collegiate touchdown. After being placed on the Paul Hornungs Award watch-list, expectations continue to rise for the exciting sophomore.
WR2: AHMAREAN BROWN, GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS
Speed, speed, and more speed. If the NFL is telling us anything with the recent high draft selections of Marquise Brown, Mecole Hardman or Henry Ruggs, its that speed kills. And they know it.
Although Georgia Tech WR Ahmaerean Brown is small in size, he plays big on the field. Not unlike the other names mentioned above, Ahmarean has effortless speed, split-second acceleration, and a surprisingly sharp set of hands. His 37% dominator rating in 2019 was outstanding as a true freshman, even if it didn’t equate to monster stats in Georgia Tech’s option-based offense.
Georgia Tech continues to praise Brown, and although he mostly excelled as a deep threat in 2019, look for Georgia Tech to find more creative ways to get the ball in the hands of their exciting sophomore WR in 2020.
TE: KYLEN GRANSON, SMU MUSTANGS
Looking at his stat line in 2019 or his numerous preseason accolades and watch-lists, it’s a mystery that SMU tight end Kyle Granson only achieved a 2-star ranking during the recruitment process.
After sitting out in 2018 following a transfer from Rice University, Granson quickly became a favorite of QB Shane Buchele. Kylen’s athleticism and fluidity proved too much to handle for defenders, as the two hooked up for 9 touchdowns in their first year together and made big plays all over the field to the tune of 16.8 yards per catch.
Heading into 2020, Granson will hope to improve on an impressive first season with the Mustangs. Although he is slightly smaller for the position, a similar year of production could make Kylen receive some legitimate attention for the 2021 draft.