While most have focused on Jadeveon Clowney, and rightfully so, two other South Carolina Gamecocks have declared for the NFL Draft and could very well be day two draft selections.
As reported by GoGamecocks juniors Kelcy Quarles and Vic Hampton declared themselves eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. Both could look to be future Top 100 picks if they can perform well to end the season, and more importantly, in post-season workout circuit.
With Kelcy Quarles, NFL teams will love the versatility he provides upfront as a potential shade nose tackle or 3-technique across four man fronts. Doing an outstanding job of fitting his hands off the snap and bench-pressing blockers away from his frame, Quarles creates distance from the blocker to read and react at a high level. More importantly, Quarles showcases plus vision for the football and the instincts to be an every down playmaker on the defensive line.
As a backfield disruptor, it was Kelcy Quarles and not Jadeveon Clowney, who led the Gamecocks in tackles for loss (13.5) and sacks (9.5) this past season. Although big and lined up most often at the 1-technique position, Quarles can win in a multitude of ways as a pass rusher. As noted earlier, Quarles displays excellent quarterback vision and read-react skills due to his arm balance or ability to play with locked out arms. Whether he’s collapsing the interior with a bull rush or disengaging with a counter move, Quarles’ game is predicated on winning the initial hand positioning off the snap.
Quarles could stand to trim up his midsection and improve his stamina, as he does not often play more than two or three consecutive series. Still, even with his top-heavy frame, I’m impressed with the lateral movement skills and balance exhibited while working off blockers. Directing the action at the point of attack, Quarles active and powerful hands enable him to consistently win one-on-one situations against the run. As for facing double teams, Quarles routinely turned his shoulders and failed to prevent movement to the second level. In these instances, I question whether or not Quarles is a true 1-technique or if his quickness and playmaking skills are best suited at the 3-technique. Each draft grade is fluid, but at this preliminary stage I’d characterize Kelcy Quarles as a late 2nd round prospect.
Moving back to the secondary, Victor Hampton is himself another excellent draft prospect. As the Gamecocks’ boundary cornerback, Hampton executes a variety of coverage assignments in a cover 3-centric system. On tape, you’ll see Hampton line up in off-man coverage and spin down late into a press look, or vice versa from press to bail technique. Adept in both cover 2 and cover 3, Hampton plays with anticipation and aggressiveness, two traits that are tough to teach at this stage in a player’s development.
In addition to showing diverse cover skills to work outside or in the slot, Vic is also a strong run defender. Able to break free from blocks with active hand use, Hampton simply competes and is unafraid of throwing his body around. This reckless competitiveness sometimes hurts him on punt returns, where he often refuses to fair catch; however, as a defensive player, NFL teams will love his high level competitiveness.
Hampton does not have plus height at 5’10, but he does possess a sturdy and muscular frame to play a physical game on the outside. Again, he’s highly aggressive and will use his hands to both defeat blockers and direct patterns up the field. I’d like to see him redirect or bump receivers when in cover 2 zone, as he remains susceptible to “hole” throws along the sideline. With that being said, Hampton remains scheme versatile in that he’s shown himself to be productive in a variety of assignments on the outside. At his best in cover 3, Hampton really impressed with his ability to split multiple vertical patterns, track the throw and redirect to make a play. He isn’t a track superstar but it’s safe to assume Hampton will run in the mid to high 4.4 range.
As of now, I see both players as likely top 100 draft selections with solid day two grades (rounds 2 thru 3). For Kelcy Quarles, a trimmed up and lighter body type could lead to a position switch from the shade nose to the 3-technique in the NFL. Vic Hampton has a chance to contribute early as a slot corner and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him start as a rookie. Both prospects are potential starters and immediate contributors.