NFL Draft 2017: 5 Hidden Gems in Second and Third Rounds

The 2017 NFL Draft is stacked with tons of depth making day two a huge opportunity for teams. A few players may not have been publicized, but they will be contributors.

Although day one of the 2017 NFL Draft is over, there’s still plenty of talent available. Day two will contain multiple day one starters for teams this year. In a draft stacked with defensive talent, some big teams made nice selections. A lot of the casual NFL fans may not know their names.

Whether they are coming from a less relevant program or struggled with injuries, there are always players that didn’t get deserved attention. The “hidden gems” of the draft define the class and can get a GM a contract extension.

A gem isn’t the same as a steal in the draft. Cam Robinson going to the Jags despite being a first round talent isn’t a gem. Every franchise knew he could play. However, a guy like Cooper Kupp from Eastern Washington going in the third round to the Rams represents a hidden gem.

Now that the explanation is out of the way, let’s get to five players that flew under the radar Friday night.

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5

Zach Cunningham

Linebacker, Vanderbilt

The Houston Texans added another strong defensive player in Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham. Houston drafted the underclassman with the 57th overall pick in the second round of the NFL draft. He was expected to be a second round pick on boards. However, he wasn’t watched much in college. Vanderbilt went just 13-24 over his three years, so Cunningham didn’t get much air time.

Regardless of his team’s struggles, some big things stood out in his game. Cunningham started all three years for the Commodores, and he produced. He compiled 256 tackles, 36 tackles for loss and six sacks and six forced fumbles.

In the run game, he’s a ball hawk. He tracks the ball extremely well and is a straight-line attacker in the backfield. Most of his plays are made before blockers can put their hands on him. Luckily for him, he’ll join one of the NFL’s best defenses and front sevens.

With J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney up front, he’ll have loads of room to operate with fellow backers Brian Cushing, Benardrick McKinney and Whitney Mercilus.

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4

Tyus Bowser

Edge Rusher, Houston

If you watched the best game of week one this past college football season, you know Tyus Bowser. Houston football put itself into the national spotlight with a marquee 33-23 win over No. 3 Oklahoma. The senior pass rusher recorded one of team’s four sacks of Baker Mayfield.

The Baltimore Ravens took a bit of a flier on the late-blooming rusher in the second round. But when he’s healthy, he produced at a high level in 2016.

Bowser had a strong start to the season recording 3.5 sacks in the first four games. However, he suffered a broken orbital bone during a fight with a teammate. After missing five games, he came back and overwhelmed Louisville and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. He recorded five tackles and a sack against the talented Jackson (Video courtesy Matt Williams).

In all, he ended the season with 8.5 sacks in eight games and 22.5 sacks in his career. He’s a speedy hybrid linebacker/ defensive end running a 4.65, 40-yard dash at the combine.

Bowser isn’t just great at rushing the passer. He’s capable in pass coverage. He deflected nine passes and intercepted two while at Houston. Bowser is a freakish athlete that will work well in the Raven’s 3-4.

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3

Cooper Kupp

Wide Receiver, Eastern Washington

Cooper Kupp is the definition of production. The Los Angeles Rams needed a true No. 1 wideout and Kupp might be the answer. Los Angeles took him in the third round of the NFL draft. He stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 204-pounds instantly making him the biggest target amongst starting wideouts Tavon Austin and Robert Woods.

Kupp got some hype as one of the best players at the FCS level, but it’s doubtful many saw him play. He’s a stat sheet packer first and foremost. In Eastern Washington’s high-octane offense, Kupp set multiple FCS career all-time records in receptions (428), receiving yards (6,464) and touchdowns (73) (Video courtesy Hero Sports).

The four-year starter is an all-around talent. for his size, he still managed to run a 4.62, 40. He can high point the ball and climb the ladder. He’s a physical wide out that can bully a defensive back.

This pick certainly puts the Rams in better depth position at wide out. If he continues to put the work in, he’ll start in 2017.

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2

Obi Melifonwu

Safety, Connecticut

Connecticut isn’t usually known as a football factory, but they’ve produced some big-time defensive backs the last few years. Obi Melifonwu is their stud this season. The Raiders took him 56th overall in the second round, but he’s a hidden gem for sure.

Melifonwu has the size, production and surefire tackling to be a solid NFL starter. At 6-foot-4, 224-pounds, he can attack the line of scrimmage and thump running backs. In fact, he recorded 349 tackles and 11 tackles for loss over his four years.

Furthermore, his size allows him to tower over receivers in the back-end and matchup well with tight ends. Over his four years, he deflected 16 passes and intercepted eight. If a quarterback chooses to attack him deep, 50-50 balls aren’t nearly as effective, because he can climb the ladder. His 44-inch vertical has to terrify receivers attempting out jump him.

Pair Melifonwu with Karl Joseph and the Raiders have a young safety duo for the next 10 years.

Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Western Kentucky Hilltoppers offensive lineman Forrest Lamp (76) blocks Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Tim Williams (56) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

1

Forrest Lamp

Offensive Guard, Western Kentucky

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock let everyone know about Forrest Lamp many times throughout the NFL draft process because of his vaunted “Alabama film”. Mayock was right to let everyone in on the offensive line’s best kept secret.

Lamp kept his blocks well against one of the best defenses in college football. Whether it was Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen, etcetera, Lamp handled the Tide front well (Video Courtesy Charlie).

The Chargers needed helped at both guard and tackle and Lamp can play both. At 6-foot-4, 309-pounds, his physique fits at guard better, but he’s athletic enough to be a tackle in the NFL. Nevertheless, Lamp played at Western Kentucky and on the offensive line made him a virtual unknown until draft coverage started.

Lamp started all four years and helped the Hilltoppers to their best era in school history. The team went 39-14 during his tenure, so he didn’t play at a school lacking talent. He will likely see starting snaps this season.

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