With the NFL draft less than a week away, conversations have centered on the top prospects expected to be selected in the early rounds. But every year unknown players chosen in the late rounds or signed as free agents after the draft make rosters around the league and positively impact NFL squads. Here are 14 players, none of whom were invited to the combine, creating a buzz in NFL war rooms.
Dane Simoneau, QB, Washburn: The four-year starter threw for more than 4,000 yards as a senior and added 38 touchdowns. He's a big-armed passer who can make every throw and easily delivers strikes down the field. Simoneau has been receiving a lot of interest from the quarterback-needy Miami Dolphins.
Nate Eachus, RB, Colgate: Eachus was a record-setting running back at Colgate despite being limited to six games last season. He's a complete ball carrier who does the little things well, and Eachus projects as a complimentary fourth back on an NFL roster. He's getting long looks by the Seattle Seahawks and San Diego Chargers.
Derek Carrier, TE/WR, Beloit: The three-sport athlete could be the draft's biggest sleeper. He totaled 75 receptions for 1,250 yards and 12 touchdowns at receiver last season, and was the star of Wisconsin's pro day in March. He's a Division III player who was not deemed camp worthy by scouts at the start of the season, but Carrier has since received late-round grades from most teams around the league. The Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks are both considering using picks on the last day of the draft to acquire Carrier.
Dale Moss, WR, South Dakota State: Moss spent four seasons on the hardwood at South Dakota State before moving onto the gridiron, starting at receiver in 2011. He posted a team-leading 61 receptions and 949 yards his only year on the football field, then wowed coaches at his pro day with a phenomenal workout. Moss could be selected as early as the fifth round by either the New Orleans Saints or Cincinnati Bengals.
Jason Slowey, OL, Western Oregon: The small-school left tackle has steadily risen up draft boards by teams who project him to guard and center. He is one of the nastiest blockers in the draft, and Slowey only needs a bit of work on his fundamentals before he'll be NFL ready. He's likely to stay on the west coast, as both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have expressed interest in Slowey's services.
Kevin Murphy, T, Harvard: Considered camp fodder entering the season, Murphy is now ranked as a legitimate practice squad prospect. He's tall, athletic and possesses the skills necessary to protect the quarterback's blindside in the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions rank among the teams most interested in Murphy.
Brian McNally, DE, New Hampshire: McNally has consistently harassed opposing signal callers, registering a combined 21 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss since his junior campaign. He's a relentless defender who plays with a non-stop motor, which NFL coaches will love. Look for McNally to potentially end up with the Buffalo Bills or Philadelphia Eagles as a pass rush specialist.
Kadarron Anderson, MLB, Furman: Not the fastest linebacker, Anderson continually produces on the football field. He totaled at least 110 tackles each of the past three seasons and has been a relentless run defender for Furman. Anderson possesses terrific instincts and a great head for the ball. He looks like a solid fit as a backup linebacker/special teams player for the Atlanta Falcons or New Orleans Saints.
Ryan Davis, DE/OLB, Bethune-Cookman: Davis has watched his game take off the past two seasons, most recently totaling 21.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks last season. He's a natural pass rusher who is tough to stop off the edge, and offers the versatility to play several positions on the defensive front. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Arizona Cardinals are two teams intrigued by Davis' talents.
Adrian Hamilton, DE/OLB, Prairie View: The Texas Tech transfer quietly had one of the most dominant seasons of any defensive player on the college field in 2011. Hamilton totaled 81 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss plus an eye-popping 22 sacks. He's a forceful athlete who beats opponents around the edge with quickness or defeats blocks with brute strength. Hamilton still needs to fine tune his game, but his pass rushing skills have teams such as the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers on his trail.
Jeremy Lane, CB, Northwestern State: Lane was not on the scouting radar when the 2011 campaign began, but caught fire after shutting down the LSU receivers during an early-season contest. He offers next-level size/speed and his game is still developing. Lane is receiving late-round consideration from the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers.
Justin Haulcy-Bateman, CB, Cal-Lutheran: Scouts were anxious to see Haulcy-Bateman play last season after the opportunistic cornerback missed the 2010 campaign. He responded by picking off six passes and averaging 38 yards on six kick returns. Haulcy-Bateman possesses the ball skills to line up in dime packages on Sunday afternoons, and the ability to impact games as a return specialist. The Indianapolis Colts and Atlanta Falcons have shown the most interest in him to date.
Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion: Greenwood is a tremendous athlete with the size and skill to play in the NFL. He caught the attention of scouts during Shrine Game practices and has been on nine official visits the past month. Greenwood is getting late-round consideration from the Tennessee Titans, Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens.
Trevor Coston, S, Maine: Coston does not receive the same notoriety as his combine-invited teammate Jerron McMillian, but many in the scouting community feel he's the better NFL prospect. Coston is a terrific cover safety who easily goes sideline to sideline in centerfield. He also doubles as a return specialist, which only adds to his value. Coston is drawing a lot of interest from the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.