Year after year in the NFL Draft cycle, great players are overlooked because of certain faults. Whether they are size outliers, have below-average athletic traits, or lack polish, talented players constantly fall through the cracks. This is where value can be found in the latter half of the draft. Moneyball put this concept best in this iconic scene.
Here are five underrated offensive prospects who could be diamonds in the rough.
Keaton Mitchell, Running Back, East Carolina
Where he’s an outlier: Height and weight
5’8, 179-pound Keaton Mitchell is a lightning bolt in the backfield. Obviously, he has a very poor size profile, but his speed and explosiveness limit those concerns. Mitchell ran a 4.37 40-yard dash, jumped 38 inches in the vertical, and had nearly an 11-foot broad jump. He is a true burner on tape and is tough to tackle because of his constant foot movement and elusiveness.
Watching East Carolina RB Keaton Mitchell, who had a top-30 visit with the #Packers.
Love how his feet don't stop moving, even when defenders are trying to bring him down. pic.twitter.com/eSDMMuagcd
— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) April 20, 2023
He is a big play waiting to happen, and averaged 0.21 explosive runs per attempt in his career. Mitchell can thrive in a wide zone blocking scheme where he can play to his strengths and bounce outside. He is also one of the top receiving backs in the class and could excel in a hybrid backfield/slot role.
Parker Washington, Wide Receiver, Penn State
Where he’s an outlier: Arm Length
The player on this list with the highest chance to be drafted on day two, Penn State wide receiver Parker Washington is a yards-after-catch machine. At 5’10, 206 pounds, he is built and moves like a running back. His biggest concern is his second-percentile 29-inch arm length. His 91st-percentile hand size helps him win at the catch point (71.4% contested catch rate in 2022), and he has excellent body control, but the short arms will be a concern against tighter NFL coverage.
📝🏈 Other than limited snaps out wide, there is no reason Parker Washington (@cpw_3) should not be regarded as a top 10 wide receiver in this 2023 NFL Draft class
Thieves in contested situations, has a large catch radius, and secure hands to haul in one-handed catches routinely pic.twitter.com/TfbwtRswbu
— Marissa Myers (@Marissa_M27) February 16, 2023
His measurables will keep him in the slot, but Washington can thrive in that role. His rocked-up frame makes him difficult to tackle in the open field and helps cushion his athletic limitations. Washington does not have the profile to become a dominant outside receiver, but he can come in for a team and contribute right away as a reliable middle-of-the-field target. He has one of the highest ceilings at slot receiver in the class, yet is a projected fourth-round pick.
Justin Shorter, Wide Receiver, Florida
Where he’s an outlier: Size (tweener) and production
The most ironic name in the draft class easily belongs to 6’4 Justin Shorter. His height and 230-pound frame have caused him to be labeled by some as a tweener and future tight-end convert. Unlike the rest of this list, Shorter is a “positive” outlier. However, without significant production at Penn State or Florida, it is tough for Shorter to shed the stigma of being a big-bodied target. He had just 1552 receiving yards over his five-season career, although he played in a trainwreck Florida offense for the past few seasons.
ANTHONY RICHARDSON TO JUSTIN SHORTER pic.twitter.com/akk6WaK4HG
— Mr Matthew CFB (@MrMatthewCFB) October 2, 2022
The number one wide receiver in the 2018 recruiting class (same class as Ja’Marr Chase, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Jaylen Waddle) is an ideal height/weight/speed prospect that can be selected very late in the draft. He pairs his largest catch radius with some of the steadiest hands in the class, as he had no drops in 2022.
Payne Durham, Tight End, Purdue
Where he’s an outlier: Speed
In a loaded tight-end class, Payne Durham is the most pro-ready day-three prospect. He was productive as a two-year starter at Purdue and is a solid blocker. He’d be in contention as a third-round pick if it wasn’t for his disappointing 4.87-second 40-yard dash. Speed is not his game, but it is not ideal for one of the most traits-based positions in the league.
May I present to you the best play of the Senior Bowl so far:
A @BoilerFootball TE Payne Durham TD 🔥 pic.twitter.com/U37PN0nMV2
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 2, 2023
Durham makes up for his average athleticism with a clean receiving and blocking profile. He was a consistent chain mover for the Boilermakers and had just a 3.4% drop rate in 2022. His acceleration is much better than his long speed, and his 10-yard split and explosiveness drills were the strongest of his tests. Durham played 473 snaps in-line and 357 snaps in the slot last year. He also shined at the Senior Bowl. His experience and well-rounded skill set make him an ideal tight-end two and one of the safer projections in the class.
Carter Warren, Offensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
Where he’s an outlier: Age
If it weren’t for a season-ending injury in week four, Carter Warren would be talked about as a consensus top-ten tackle prospect. He was off to a hot start to his sixth and final season at Pittsburgh and was a four-year starter at left tackle who improved each year. He has an ideal tackle build at 6’5 and 316 pounds with massive 35-inch arms. Warren uses that length to brush off edge rushers and thrives as a pass protector.
Good kick step and one-two punch from Carter Warren (LT, #77), shutting down the edge rusher’s momentum on the play. pic.twitter.com/BoMzn7rNQ6
— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) February 23, 2023
He projects as an immediate swing tackle, and with continued development as a run blocker could become a starter. His lack of testing hurt his chances to rise in the pre-draft process, and age will cause him to fall below younger offensive tackles. Someone will be getting a toolsy prospect at a discount on day three.