NFL

Project Players Who Are Bound To Payoff: Offense

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A big misconception about the NFL draft is that teams are expecting their picks to be productive right away. While that may be true for a select few of the top picks, most of the players selected are done with a mindset toward the future. It is unrealistic to believe that a player fresh out of college will be able to step right in and contribute at a high level on day one.

Instead, teams will put these players in situations where they can grow and develop so that two or three years down the road, they can contribute to the team’s successes in a major way. Nevertheless, this isn’t a perfect science as most players selected in the draft don’t amount to much. They struggle to find playing time and they can’t seem to develop the requisite skills to make a large impact for their team.

The players that do develop into great contributors are ones that have specific skill sets, which lend themselves to the NFL. Furthermore, the places that they are lacking in their skill sets are areas that are easier to develop.

In the 2015 NFL draft, there were a plethora of players selected who have little chance to make a big impact for their team right away; however, they have skill sets that will allow them to develop and grow into very good players. With that being said, let’s take a look at the offensive players who will be projects initially, but will pay off in the end.

T.J. Clemmings, Minnesota Vikings

T.J. Clemmings fell to the fourth round because of injury concerns, but even if he was selected earlier he would have been a big project. Clemmings has all the physical and athletic traits you want from an offensive tackle. He’s long with quick feet and incredible strength, but he has only played offensive tackle for two years.

Therefore, Clemmings leaves a lot to be desired with his footwork and hand placement. Clemmings doesn’t gain ground with his steps in the run game and he struggles to hit his landmarks in pass protection. Luckily for him, both of those issues can be fixed with hard work and repetition.

Those issues will manifest themselves quickly if Clemmings is asked to play early. He will likely get beat a lot, which will lead to the Vikings sending help his way. However, two or three years in the future, after he has put in the necessary repetitions, Clemmings can be a top-10 type of tackle in the NFL.

Kenny Bell, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Unlike the other players on this list, Kenny Bell has a means to make an initial contribution to his team. Bell has the ability to step in right away and be an impact special teams player through his return and coverage abilities. Nonetheless, if we are speaking purely as a wide receiver, Bell still needs to develop quite a bit before he makes any impact.

Bell is a tough, rugged and athletic wide receiver who is not afraid to make the tough plays that are necessary throughout a game. However, Bell struggles to gain any separation in his routes. This is because Bell doesn’t understand how to set up his opponents with his stem and he struggles to get off press coverage.

Bell will need to continue to work and refine his ability to get off the line of scrimmage and the nuances of route running. We have seen many receivers come into the league without a clue of how to run a full route tree, only to develop great route running down the road. Therefore, it is no stretch to believe that Bell can do the same and become a legitimate No. 2 wide receiver.

Blake Bell, San Francisco 49ers

Blake Bell is a converted quarterback with only one year of tight end experience under his belt. Despite this fact, Bell has shown a surprising adeptness at the point of attack as a blocker to go along with his athleticism in the passing game. Bell has a long ways to go, but his athleticism and toughness are traits that are worth developing.

Bell’s rawness is on display with the angles he takes as a blocker and anytime he has to run an intermediate or deep route where he can’t just use his athleticism to win. This is why Bell will struggle mightily early on in his career.

We have seen a number of players who come into the NFL with great athletic traits and little experience thrive at tight end after they learn the subtle nuances of playing the position. Because of this, Bell should be able to develop into a solid receiver and very good blocker at tight end in a couple years.

Andrew Donnal, St. Louis Rams

Andrew Donnal didn’t receive much praise during the college football season because he played on the opposite side of top-five pick, Brandon Scherff. That shouldn’t take away how well Donnal played through the season. Donnal is an extremely sound technician who understands angles and how to use his hands and length.

What Donnal doesn’t have is good athleticism or strength. He will likely never become a better athlete, but what he can get much stronger through the Rams’ strength and conditioning program. Donnal’s technical savvy is enough to make up for his lack of athleticsm; therefore, if he can get stronger, he can become a very good offensive tackle for the Rams down the road.

Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks

The last player on this list wasn’t even picked in the 2015 NFL draft, but he looks to have a bright future in the NFL ahead of him. Thomas Rawls is an athletic and powerful running back who was brought on as an undrafted free agent by the Seahawks.

Rawls has a long road ahead of him to just make the team, but if he does, he could become the starter when Marshawn Lynch retires. Rawls has the speed, elusiveness and power to be a fantastic running back in the NFL. However, he struggles in pass protection and catching the ball out of the backfield.

If Rawls becomes more well-rounded, there’s no doubt that he will become a great running back in the NFL.


About John Owning

John Owning

John Owning is a NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has years of experience covering the NFL, NFL draft and NCAA football. John's work has been featured on the Bleacher Report and DraftBreakdown.com