It’s no secret that Alabama receiver Amari Cooper has some fans. Much like Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams, fans of many NFL teams are hopeful Cooper will be around for next May’s draft.
But there are a few unknowns, largely overlooked players to this point, that should be rising up draft boards over the next few months.
Baylor defensive end Shawn Oakman tops the list at 6-foot-9, 300 pounds. If the size isn’t enough to turn heads, his speed and motor surely will. For Bay Area sports fans, think Draymond Green, with a mean streak and a penchant for penetrating through a defender.
It’s not often a player with Oakman’s size comes along, but there hasn’t been many in history as quick and agile as Oakman. He can spin and rip just as well as he can tackle, and throwing over him is a big-time challenge for any quarterback.
He’s still raw, to a point, which is why only a few know his name. But if he can develop … Wow.
Next man up, inside linebacker Denzel Perryman.
A senior out of Miami, Perryman put a strong finish in his final season with the ‘Canes: 102 tackles, two sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss and numerous hits that left opposing players weary of heading his way.
Perryman is an instinctual player and has a football IQ rarely seen in prospects. He’s arguably the most fundamentally sound defensive player in the draft and is primed to make an impact on day one.
His size, though, may cause some teams to pass. At 6-foot-1 and 242 pounds, Perryman’s frame might be maxed out. There have been plenty of awesome players in the NFL around his size — Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis being notable — and shouldn’t be a major issue.
Ty Montgomery, wide receiver out of Stanford, rounds out the list.
6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, this 2013 consensus All-American can take the top off the defense with no problem, and excels in the short and intermediate. In fact, against USC in September, Stanford coach David Shaw called a reverse to Montgomery on 4th and very long when the team was in field goal range.
The play didn’t go the full 20-something-yards necessary to pick up the first down. That’s not the point. Shaw was so confident in his playmaking receiver that he gave him the ball and was comfortable with Montgomery’s abilities in a conference game.
Once projected to go early in the first round, Montgomery tallied only 604 yards on 61 receptions, 144 yards on 23 rushing attempts, with four total touchdowns this season. Montgomery’s junior season held for 958 yards on 61 catches, with 10 receiving touchdowns, another two rushing scores.
Montgomery was called “inconsistent” by ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay recently, citing a few dropped passes and his lack of big plays this season. It’s not yet clear just how hobbled Montgomery has been this season, but it speaks to reason that he could have been playing through fairly significant injury.
If that’s the case, Montgomery could still be a first round draftee, though early second is also good at this point.