Every year, in the heat of the summer, the NFL holds their annual Supplemental Draft. Some years, it’s a lackluster crop that holds a few college misfits and really limited hope of finding an every day NFL contributor. Some years, baggage-filled yet talented prospects like Josh Gordon, Josh Brent or Ahmad Brooks enter the draft and provide some intriguing talent for teams to quickly gather information to see if they’re worth spending a draft pick on.
To “draft” a player in the supplemental draft is, in short, a silent auction. Each team “bids” on a player with a draft pick they’re willing to surrender in the following draft, with the team that bids the highest (previous year’s draft order is the tiebreaker) for a player owning his rights. If a player doesn’t get picked, he becomes a street free agent.
While this year doesn’t boast any locks to be drafted, there’s a powerfully built running back, an electric returner, a mammoth yet raw defensive lineman, and a former top recruit linebacker who may hold this Supplemental Draft’s best chance of being selected.
The teams listed are ones that make sense based on their scheme/current depth chart/draft pick situation. “Starred” team is my prediction.
4. Chase Clayton, WR, New Mexico (FA) – Chiefs*, Packers, 49ers, Panthers
After showcasing plus kick returning upside in 2012 (boasting two long kick returns, including one against the Texas Longhorns, Chase Clayton was forced to miss the 2013 season (and declare for the 2014 Supplemental Draft) because of academic issues. Clayton has bounced around positions during his tenure at New Mexico, playing defensive back, fullback, and then playing both receiver and running back in 2012, albeit neither for many touches. The 6’2, 200+ pound returner may have an NFL long-shot as a returner (if his forty numbers are up to snuff), but more likely he’ll have to earn his stripes in the CFL first.
3. LaKendrick Ross, DT, Virginia-Lynchburg (FA) – Browns*, Texans, Chiefs, Chargers, Seahawks
The most notable aspect of LaKendrick Ross in terms of his NFL potential is his shear size. The 6’5, 365 pound defensive lineman has a unique body type and, at least based on the limited film I’ve seen, doesn’t look tremendously out of place on the football field athletically. He transferred from Morgan State to Virginia-Lynchburg due to academics, and only played in college for one season (2012) due to academic issues. With awesome size, length and strength, Ross has the tools to work with. However, based on the two games in 2012 I watched, he’s very raw in most of his technique and was even pushed around at times despite being at a lower level and having 60+ pounds on most he played against. NFL teams reportedly have interest (likely due to his size and having very little film on him), but that may be moreso about covering their basis than draftable interest.
2. Traylon Shead, RB, SMU (7th-FA) – Bears*, Broncos, Steelers, Titans
SMU’s Traylon Shead was the first Supplemental Draft declaree, and he has a legitimate chance at being selected. The former four-star, All-American prospect out of Texas, Shead originally played for the Longhorns as a freshman before transferring to Navarro Junior College for two years and finally ending up at SMU this past season. Listed at 6’2, 230 pounds, Shead possesses a thicker build that leads to his power interior running style and natural ability as a pass blocker. As a runner, he seems very unpolished in his read steps, his balance and body control as he works through the hole in traffic and his development as a third down runner. It also doesn’t help that he lacks great speed to produce big plays. It’s rare to see such a well-built running back talent need so much development, but that’s likely the case for Shead. He flashes his athleticism based on his 2013 season, and he clearly has plus size, but with the high volume of running backs taken in the past two drafts and the position not highly valued in today’s NFL, he’s probably a long-shot still to be drafted.
1. Darius Lipford, OLB, North Carolina (6th-7th) – Cowboys*, Bucs, Vikings, Jaguars
After starting one game and playing in 11 as a freshman in 2010 and being the team’s full-time started in 2011 at strong side linebacker, Darius Lipford tore his ACL in the team’s bowl game in early 2012, forcing him to miss the entire 2012 season. Once he returned in 2013, he played in 10 games, mostly as the team’s “Bandit” linebacker, playing more defensive end/pass-rusher roles than a regular 4-3 strong side linebacker. Despite the injury concerns and somewhat out of place position, Lipford showed plus explosiveness on the edge and when stunting as a rusher, with the requisite bend and balance during his leg drive and while engaged. Also with plus length for an NFL strong side linebacker and plus in-space athleticism to breakdown and finish as a tackler, he has the upside to contribute situationally early in his NFL career and can certainly add a good, not elite, athlete to a team’s special teams unit. He’s the most likely draft pick of the class in my opinion, and I think a team like the Dallas Cowboys would love to scoop him up and battle in training camp.