By Russ Lande

Every year, a number of outstanding college players are selected later than players with superior measurables. And every year, the teams that win Super Bowls are loaded with those later-round picks who show more skill on the field than they did at the combine. Brandon Flowers, Keenan Allen, Geno Atkins, Ahtyba Rubin and James Laurinaitis were all exceptionally productive in college, were not first-round picks, and have still developed into quality NFL starters. Today we'll identify five players in the same boat as those players as they enter the NFL. Some players, like Johnny Manziel and Aaron Donald, will still be drafted in the first round despite lacking ideal measureables, so we need not focus on them here.  

Ricardo Allen, CB, Purdue, 5-foot-9, 187, 4.61

Projection: Fourth Round

Allen began making an impact for the Boilermakers as soon as he stepped on the field, and has been one of their best players the last three seasons. Obviously, at 5-foot-9 and without premier speed, he is not going to be a high selection, but on film he has consistently shown the ability to be a productive nickel cornerback at the next level. Allen's preparation and attention to detail shows itself in his quick backpedal, excellent transition footwork to close quickly and ball skills which allow him to make plays. Unlike many cornerbacks, Allen enjoys playing physically with receivers, is a hard hitter and has been a top special teams player at Purdue, which will give him a leg up gaining playing time as a rookie. I do not believe Allen has the elite physical tools to become a Pro Bowl cornerback, but he should become a valuable nickel/third/slot cornerback and an impact special teamer, especially as a gunner.

Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin, 5-foot-11½, 248, 4.83

Projection: Third Round

For many years, linebackers under six feet tall had a hard time making it in the NFL, but that has changed in recent years as a linebacker's ability in coverage has become more vital than his play against the run, which has led to many shorter linebackers succeeding. However, Borland not only has to deal with being short at 5-foot-11½, but a bigger red flag was raised when his arm length measured under 30 inches at the Senior Bowl, as NFL teams worry that linebackers with short arms will not be able to get off blocks quickly enough. To say Borland was an impact defender at Wisconsin would be an understatement, as he not only made a ton of tackles, but consistently stepped up and made big plays in the most important spots.

I believe his instincts, foot quickness and excellent playing speed will give him sideline range against the run in the NFL. While his lack of height will definitely hurt him at times covering tight ends in man coverage, I believe his explosive pass rush ability, especially off the edge, will lead to him rushing the passer more than dropping into coverage in the NFL. It may sound crazy, but when I evaluated Borland and saw his pass rush skills, I could not help thinking of former Steelers great James Harrison.

carey
Ka'Deem Carey's stock fell with a poor showing at the combine, though few are worried about his speed in the pros. (Getty)

Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona, 5-foot-9, 207, 4.66

Projection: Fourth Round

When Carey declared for the 2014 NFL draft, he was widely viewed as the most complete back available and had a chance to be a late first-round pick. However, after running a 4.70 at the combine and in the high 4.6's at his pro day, there is now talk of him falling all the way to day three of the draft. One phrase that never came to mind while evaluating Carey was "speed deficient," so although his timed speed is bad I am not concerned.

Anyone who has evaluated him closely and believed he was going to be a home run hitter in the NFL probably was watching the wrong player, as he never displayed the explosiveness and extra gear to out-run angles and score long touchdowns. He is, however, a patient runner who waits for holes to open, has the speed to get through the hole, and has the combination of playing strength and balance to run through attempted tackles to gain yards after contact. Not only productive on handoffs, Carey has natural hands catching the ball, as was evidenced by his 77 catches during three years playing at Arizona. I am confident in Carey's ability to become a solid three-down back in the NFL.

Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU, 5-foot-11½, 205, 4.61

Projection: Third Round

Although not as explosive as teammate and fellow receiver Odell Beckham, many NFL scouts I spoke to during the season felt that Landry was right there with Beckham as a prospect. However, after running a 4.77 at the combine, his draft stock fell, and even after running in the high 4.5's/low 4.6's at LSU's pro day he is not going to be a first-round pick. One of the most polished receivers in the 2014 draft, Landry runs sharp, precise routes, has a burst out of cuts and has rare hands to pluck the ball away from his body. I do not believe he is going to consistently be able to gain deep separation vs. NFL cornerbacks or out-run defenses to score long touchdowns, but I am confident in his ability to be a productive starting receiver. His playing style, hands and overall receiving skills remind me a lot of Keenan Allen, who similarly fell a season ago in the draft when he ran slower than expected in the 40, and I am confident he will be as productive as Allen in the NFL.  

Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia, 6-foot-5, 258, 4.82

Projection: Fourth Round

No tight end is going to break the stranglehold that Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro and Austin Seferian-Jenkins have on the top three spots, but Lynch has impressed me on film. When you see Lynch "on the hoof" he is impressive and definitely looks the part of an NFL tight end. Although he lacks explosiveness off the ball and the speed to stretch the field on seam routes, he is a smooth and fluid athlete with deceptive playing speed once he gets to full speed. He runs good routes, finds dead spots in coverage well and knows how to use his body to shield defenders from the ball. All of these combine with his soft, natural hands so he can be a productive receiving tight end.

He consistently made great catches seem routine at Georgia and was able to gain yards running after the catch. Although he is not a dominant blocker, he has the size and competitiveness to be a solid, positional blocker in the NFL. I am confident he will develop into a quality starting tight end within a few seasons despite likely being a day three selection this year.

* * *

Russ Lande writes about college scouting and the NFL draft for Sports on Earth. He is GM jr. scouting and college scouting director for the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and the Big Ten Network. He is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns and former scouting administrator for the St. Louis Rams. You can follow him @RUSSLANDE.