Alfred Morris was the biggest steal* of the 2012 NFL draft. The Redskins scooped up the unheralded running back out of Florida Atlantic in the 6th round (173rd overall) and all he did was rush for 1,613 yards, the 2nd most in the NFL.
Ty Hilton was probably the 2nd biggest offensive steal of the draft. The Colts grabbed him up in the 3rd round (92nd overall) and he caught 50 passes for 861 yards and seven touchdowns (and ran a punt back for a score). Unlike Morris, Hilton was actually something of a commodity in college, a burner from Florida International (nickname: “Goodbye“) who blew up against Louisville (201 yards, two scores) as a senior. Here’s video of that performance:
Mike Shanahan has a penchant for turning unknown backs into stars (see Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell), and Morris looks like a keeper. Hilton, too (though it helps to have Andrew Luck as your QB).
[RELATED: 2013 NFL Mock Draft]
The NFL draft is two months away – and the combine is next weekend – and here’s a quick glance at a few unheralded players who might fall into the mid-later rounds and have an outside shot of turning into the next Morris or Hilton:
Stefphon Jefferson, RB, Nevada – With the emergence of Colin Kaepernick in the pros, expect plenty of people to be aware of Jefferson come draft time. He exploded for 1,883 yards and 24 TDs last year. Drawback: Like Le’Veon Bell of Michigan State, Jefferson was a workhorse. Given his knowledge of the read-option and pistol, Washington, Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco all make sense.
Montel Harris, RB, Temple – Another Temple back, Bernard Pierce, had a nice season in Baltimore. Harris isn’t as acclaimed, but he had a very nice career with Boston College before getting kicked off the team. He resurfaced at Temple and had a good senior year. The off-the-field stuff probably will scare some teams off, but he’s got great balance and toughness.
Washaun Ealey, RB, Jacksonville State – SEC fans may remember Ealey – he spent two years at Georgia. He was suspended by Mark Richt twice. Ealey was a big-time recruit in high school, and remember, another former SEC player who transferred due to off-the-field issues had a pretty good rookie year in the NFL: Janoris Jenkins.
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU – Speedy, record-setting Horned Frog appears to be a solid mid-round pick, but if he tears up the combine, could he go higher? Watch him run away from WVU defensive backs – yes, I know that secondary sucked – on this long TD.
Emory Blake, WR, Auburn – I attempted to target small-school players in this post, and Auburn, three years removed from a title, obviously doesn’t quality. However, the Tigers were so bad in 2012 and Blake was so infrequently thrown to, that I tossed Blake on the list. Here’s his tape against Georgia. A lot to like. Solid No. 3 receiver in the NFL?
Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall – Big receiver who doesn’t have the stats, but looks great on tape. Todd McShay loves him! What hands! Impressed at the Senior Bowl. Might have a ceiling of the 2nd round.
* Before you say, “Russell Wilson was the steal of the draft!” remember that Wilson was a star at NC State, then a standout at Wisconsin, leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Everyone knew who he was.