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Published: Oct. 1, 2014 at 05:39 p.m.
Updated: Oct. 1, 2014 at 06:15 p.m.

Rookies who have outplayed their 2014 draft position

Every year, it quickly becomes apparent which NFL rookies were drafted too low. Four weeks into the 2014 season, it's becoming clear which ones have played above their draft position. Here are 10 rookies who have outperformed their draft position, along with where I'd draft them today.

10 Photos Total

  • I really liked Matthews, the SEC record-setting receiver, coming out of Vanderbilt. While bigger names like Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin came off the board in the first round, Matthews had to wait until the mid-portion of the second to hear his name called. As a slot receiver, he is third on the team with 15 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. I think he'd go at the back half of first round if the draft were held today. 10

    Paul Jasienski/Associated Press

    10. Eagles WR Jordan Matthews, Round 2 (42 overall)

    I really liked Matthews, the SEC record-setting receiver, coming out of Vanderbilt. While bigger names like Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin came off the board in the first round, Matthews had to wait until the mid-portion of the second to hear his name called. As a slot receiver, he is third on the team with 15 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. I think he'd go at the back half of first round if the draft were held today.

  • NFL teams don't spend a lot of time scouting at Tulane, which before Grant hadn't had a player drafted since 2009. Grant, however, isn't your typical Tulane player, or typical rookie, for that matter. In training camp, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Grant seemed like he had been in the league for a decade. He had an impressive preseason but hasn't played much in the first four games because of the depth Washington has at the position. He did catch five passes for 57 yards in Week 2. I think he's earned a second- or third-round draft grade in a do-over. 9

    G. Newman Lowrance/Associated Press

    9. Redskins WR Ryan Grant, Round 5 (142 overall)

    NFL teams don't spend a lot of time scouting at Tulane, which before Grant hadn't had a player drafted since 2009. Grant, however, isn't your typical Tulane player, or typical rookie, for that matter. In training camp, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Grant seemed like he had been in the league for a decade. He had an impressive preseason but hasn't played much in the first four games because of the depth Washington has at the position. He did catch five passes for 57 yards in Week 2. I think he's earned a second- or third-round draft grade in a do-over.

  • It didn't take long for the former San Jose State defensive back to make an impact in the NFL. He beat out Charles Godfrey for the starting nickel job in camp and preseason, then in his first NFL game returned a fumble for a touchdown. He could go as high as the second round today. The Panthers moved up in the fifth round to secure Benwikere. If the draft were held today, he'd have a chance to go in the second round. 8

    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    8. Panthers CB Bene Benwikere, Round 5 (148 overall)

    It didn't take long for the former San Jose State defensive back to make an impact in the NFL. He beat out Charles Godfrey for the starting nickel job in camp and preseason, then in his first NFL game returned a fumble for a touchdown. He could go as high as the second round today. The Panthers moved up in the fifth round to secure Benwikere. If the draft were held today, he'd have a chance to go in the second round.

  • I really liked Coyle coming out of Montana. He was hard-nosed player who always seemed to be around the ball. NFL teams were wary of his short arms and inability to consistenly shed blocks. He was also only a two-year starter at Montana. Those are the reasons he went undrafted. Pete Carroll convinced him Seattle was a good fit, and it has been. He started a preseason game for the Seahawks and when given a chance, has made plays. Might never be a star in the league, but he has a role. I'd take him in the fourth round today. 7

    Tom Hauck/Associated Press

    7. Seahawks LB Brock Coyle, undrafted

    I really liked Coyle coming out of Montana. He was hard-nosed player who always seemed to be around the ball. NFL teams were wary of his short arms and inability to consistenly shed blocks. He was also only a two-year starter at Montana. Those are the reasons he went undrafted. Pete Carroll convinced him Seattle was a good fit, and it has been. He started a preseason game for the Seahawks and when given a chance, has made plays. Might never be a star in the league, but he has a role. I'd take him in the fourth round today.

  • Gaines showed good quickness and was very smooth in his pro day workout, showing very good hands. He's only 5-foot-10, but if he were 6-foot, he would have been drafted a lot higher. It didn't seem to impact him covering much taller receivers like the Buccaneers' Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans while starting for the injured Trumaine Johnson in Week 2. With Johnson coming back, the Rams are looking for ways to keep Gaines on the field. Despite being taken in the sixth round, an argument could be made that he has played the best of the Rams' 11 draft picks. I think he'd go three rounds higher today. 6

    Scott A. Miller/Associated Press

    6. Rams CB E.J. Gaines, Round 6 (188 overall)

    Gaines showed good quickness and was very smooth in his pro day workout, showing very good hands. He's only 5-foot-10, but if he were 6-foot, he would have been drafted a lot higher. It didn't seem to impact him covering much taller receivers like the Buccaneers' Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans while starting for the injured Trumaine Johnson in Week 2. With Johnson coming back, the Rams are looking for ways to keep Gaines on the field. Despite being taken in the sixth round, an argument could be made that he has played the best of the Rams' 11 draft picks. I think he'd go three rounds higher today.

  • Brown came from a small school (Div. II Pittsburg State) and is small in stature (5-foot-10, 179 pounds) and lacks strength. Despite all that, he still went in the third round, and despite going at the back end of the third round, he's played well above that. He makes up for his deficiencies with blazing speed, strong hands and solid route running, especially for a player from such a small school. Picked today, he would have a chance at the first round. 5

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    5. Cardinals WR John Brown, Round 3 (91 overall)

    Brown came from a small school (Div. II Pittsburg State) and is small in stature (5-foot-10, 179 pounds) and lacks strength. Despite all that, he still went in the third round, and despite going at the back end of the third round, he's played well above that. He makes up for his deficiencies with blazing speed, strong hands and solid route running, especially for a player from such a small school. Picked today, he would have a chance at the first round.

  • Say what you want about the Raiders, but they drafted, in my opinion, three players worthy of the first round (LB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr and Jackson). Jackson reminds me a lot of Larry Warford, who was also taken in the third round (by the Lions in 2013) and has far outperformed his draft position. Strength is his strength. He lacks speed, but it doesn't show in his game. I like that he stayed in school; he was a five-year player, and it shows. He's a finished product and a bright spot on a spotty offense line in Oakland. I had him going 12th overall in my <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000403481/article/2014-nfl-draft-doover-blake-bortles-is-new-no-1">do-over of the 2014 draft</a>. 4

    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    4. Raiders OG Gabe Jackson, Round 3 (81 overall)

    Say what you want about the Raiders, but they drafted, in my opinion, three players worthy of the first round (LB Khalil Mack, QB Derek Carr and Jackson). Jackson reminds me a lot of Larry Warford, who was also taken in the third round (by the Lions in 2013) and has far outperformed his draft position. Strength is his strength. He lacks speed, but it doesn't show in his game. I like that he stayed in school; he was a five-year player, and it shows. He's a finished product and a bright spot on a spotty offense line in Oakland. I had him going 12th overall in my do-over of the 2014 draft.

  • Blue has dealt with his share of tragedy throughout his life. He has survived two houses burning down, his family being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the murder of his uncle, and a torn ACL as LSU's starting running back. If you drafted Blue today, he might go as high as the second round. 3

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    3. Texans RB Alfred Blue, Round 6 (181 overall)

    Blue has dealt with his share of tragedy throughout his life. He has survived two houses burning down, his family being displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the murder of his uncle, and a torn ACL as LSU's starting running back. If you drafted Blue today, he might go as high as the second round.

  • Hurns is probably the player in the 2014 draft class who has surprised scouts the most. I had him listed on my <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000349361/article/top-undrafted-free-agents-following-2014-nfl-draft">priority free agent list</a> after the draft but only 16th among the wide receivers. He has 12 catches for 254 yards and three touchdown, and is second in the NFL in average yards per catch (21.2). Done all over, he could be a third-round pick. 2

    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    2. Jaguars WR Allen Hurns, undrafted

    Hurns is probably the player in the 2014 draft class who has surprised scouts the most. I had him listed on my priority free agent list after the draft but only 16th among the wide receivers. He has 12 catches for 254 yards and three touchdown, and is second in the NFL in average yards per catch (21.2). Done all over, he could be a third-round pick.

  • Henderson slid to the seventh round because of off-the-field issues, not because of talent. The Bills took him and he outplayed second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio for the starting right tackle job. Credit Cordy Glenn for taking Henderson under his wing and helping him stay clean. Henderson didn't play well in Sunday's loss at Houston, but he played very well in the first three games. He could easily play left tackle if something ever happened to Glenn. I had him going in the first round, 15th overall, in my <a href="http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000403481/article/2014-nfl-draft-doover-blake-bortles-is-new-no-1">2014 draft do-over</a>. 1

    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    1. Bills OT Sentreal Henderson, Round 7 (237 overall)

    Henderson slid to the seventh round because of off-the-field issues, not because of talent. The Bills took him and he outplayed second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio for the starting right tackle job. Credit Cordy Glenn for taking Henderson under his wing and helping him stay clean. Henderson didn't play well in Sunday's loss at Houston, but he played very well in the first three games. He could easily play left tackle if something ever happened to Glenn. I had him going in the first round, 15th overall, in my 2014 draft do-over.

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