Last year, Georgia Tech guard Shaq Mason was left off the list and ended up starting 12 games for the New England Patriots as a fourth-round pick. Two years ago, Liberty’s Walt Aikens turned his loss into the Miami Dolphins’ gain as a fourth-round selection who has gained valuable starts the past two seasons as both a corner and a safety. Who are this year’s hidden gems left off the list? Let’s take a look at each position and find out.
QB Jake Coker, Alabama
I knew Coker would be a borderline selection for the Combine, but I was still surprised to see him left off the list. The Alabama signal-caller has NFL size (6-5, 236 pounds), a strong arm and in my opinion was one of the more consistent passers during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Coker has had trouble with inaccuracy at certain points throughout his career, but many will say he projects better to the league than some of the players who ended up accepting invites to Indianapolis.
Other notable quarterbacks: Everett Golson (Florida State), Mike Bercovici (Arizona State), Jake Rudock (Michigan), Matt Johnson (Bowling Green), Blake Frohnapfel (Massachusetts)
RB Aaron Green, TCU
Green is another player who I’m surprised didn’t get an invite after a solid week of work down at the Senior Bowl. An undersized (5-11, 203 pounds), but elusive runner with great third-down value, Green is built similarly to former second-round pick Ameer Abdullah, and can do some of the same things (though obviously not at the same quality of the current Detroit Lion). Green competed in Mobile, Alabama despite being physically overmatched against most of the linebackers in attendance. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him stick in the league when it’s all said and done.
Other notable running backs: Keenan Reynolds (Navy), Storm Woods (Oregon State), Russell Hansbrough (Missouri), Dwayne Washington (Washington)
WR Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
I was extremely shocked to see Braverman’s name left off the list. In my eyes, Braverman is one of the top slot receivers in the draft class. The undersized Bronco (5-10, 177 pounds) shows great separation quickness at the top of his routes and routinely made defenders in the MAC and in the Big Ten look silly for the past two seasons. Size will be a concern, but to see Braverman left off the list while other receivers from the same conference make it was surprising to say the least.
Other notable wide receivers: Robby Anderson (Temple), KJ Maye (Minnesota), Jordan Williams (Ball State), Paul McRoberts (Southeast Missouri State), Jay Lee (Baylor)
TE Henry Krieger-Coble, Iowa
I thought Krieger-Coble (known as "the law firm" on the Journey to the Draft Podcast presented by AAA down at the Senior Bowl) was one of the best players at his position in Mobile, Alabama. He’s a bit undersized (6-3, 248 pounds), but I think he offers the ability to be an effective Swiss army knife for an offense. He is a solid athlete, a very competitive blocker and he has solid hands at the catch point. Considering he recently made Mike Mayock’s Top 5 list at the tight end position, I would imagine I’m not the only one wondering why the former Hawkeye will be watching the event from home.
Other notable tight ends and fullbacks: Kyle Carter (Penn State), Derek Watt (Wisconsin), Darion Griswold (Arkansas State), Kivon Cartwright (Colorado State)
OL Lene Maiava, Arizona
Picking out offensive line snubs is always hard because it’s a position where talented players can be found at every level of competition around the country. There are always hidden gems who are relatively unknown by the media at this point in the process, but Maiava’s absence was certainly a surprise. He’s got the versatility to play tackle or guard at 6-5, 305 pounds, and I thought he had a solid week at the East-West Shrine Game, displaying quick feet and more of an anchor in person than I saw watching him last fall.
Other notable offensive linemen: Chase Farris (Ohio State), Donavon Clark (Michigan State), Robert Kugler (Purdue), Vi Teofilo (Arizona State)
DL Aziz Shittu, Stanford
There are a few players in this draft along the front seven who could potentially fill a number of roles on a defense. The 6-2, 284-pound Shittu is one of those guys. He’s a good athlete for his size. He is a disciplined run defender, and played hard each and every snap that I saw him this year for Stanford. He attacked tackles from a number of different ways, and whether he plays as a 4-3 defensive end or as a potential developmental 3-technique defensive tackle, he offers value. I was very surprised to see him snubbed from the event.
Other notable defensive linemen: Cory Johnson (Kentucky), Darren Lake (Alabama), Trevon Coley (FAU)
EP Corey Marshall, Virginia Tech
Like Shittu, Corey Marshall is another player who can play a couple of different roles potentially depending on what team he ends up with this summer. At just under 6-1 and 266 pounds, though, I think he’s more of a defensive end. He played defensive tackle the past two years which is why I think he’s flying under the radar a bit. Marshall has a motor that never stops, does a solid job with his hands and with his inside-outside versatility I will be anxious to watch his progress early in his career. I’m disappointed he won’t be able to show off his athleticism in Indy.
Other notable edge players: Ryan Brown (Mississippi State), Eddie Yarbrough (Wyoming), Mike Rose (N.C. State)
LB Antonio Longino, Arizona State
Of all the positions, I thought the committee that sends the invitations out did the best with the linebacking corps, but I was still a bit shocked to see Longino left off the list. At 6-1, 232 pounds, he’s a bit undersized but he’s an instinctive, aggressive player who has a knack for playing underneath zone coverage while also showing the speed to run down the seam with tight ends. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Ohio native make a team this summer.
Other notable linebackers: Zeek Bigger (East Carolina), Reggie Northrup (Florida State), James Ross III (Michigan), James Burgess (Louisville)
CB Michael Jordan, Missouri Western State
There were two major disappointments for me in the secondary, one at corner and one at safety. I was very sad to hear that Jordan wouldn’t be in attendance at the Combine, mainly because his test scores are going to be very important for him with his athleticism being the biggest question mark on his résumé. The 6-1, 200-pound Jordan has outstanding ball skills and is a natural playing receivers downfield, but with the biggest question being his long speed and quickness in and out of breaks, he’ll have to rely on his Pro Day to deliver the answer.
Other notable cornerbacks: Tracy Howard (Miami), Demetrious Nicholson (Virginia), Cre’von LeBlanc (FAU), Fabian Moreau (UCLA)
S Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee State
Byard is probably the best player on this list as one of my favorite safeties in the draft. Like Jordan, some have questioned his athletic ability and if it’s good enough to play in the league, but also like Jordan I think Byard makes up for it because he’s instinctive and plays the ball so well in the air. A strong run defender to boot, I am disappointed to see the 5-11, 216-pound Byard left off the list.
Other notable safeties: Blake Countess (Auburn), RJ Williamson (Michigan State), Andrew Williamson (Vanderbilt), Michael Caputo (Wisconsin)