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What are some of the biggest surprises we could see on the first night of the upcoming NFL draft?

Eric Stokes going in the first round could happen!

The NFL Draft is usually filled with a lot of surprises in terms of players chosen at certain spots or sudden trades that shake up proceedings for several teams involved. We are now less than a week away from this year’s draft and the tension is rising day by day as fans eagerly await the arrival of the next wave of top college players into the league. It’s a day when the 32 teams are finally able to piece together their rosters for the upcoming season after months of watching film and arranging their draft boards depending on who piques their interest.

By now, all teams will have settled on a strategy for addressing their main areas of weakness, but one thing is clear in this draft – nobody can expect to safely stick to their Plan A. For those with a strong hunch as to who’s going where, TheGameDay is an excellent resource for finding out what the bookies are predicting on Thursday night. It’s an award-winning sports entertainment network, interested in bringing you exciting news about American sports and sports betting. 

It’s the aforementioned draft boards that the different teams have, which is kept a secret to us fans, that can lead to major surprises being sprung as Team X may value a prospect much more than Team Y due to certain traits in their game or if they see them as a particularly good fit their scheme. Two years ago, the Seattle Seahawks chose pass rusher L.J. Collier with the 29th pick ahead of other more-coveted players by draft analysts. Last year, the Seahawks opted for linebacker Jordyn Brooks, with the 27thpick, over Patrick Queen who was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the very next pick and was touted as the more NFL-ready player.

With this mind, here are some names that might get called by the commissioner earlier than many mock drafts are expecting:

Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

Offensive tackles are expected to go like hot cakes this year with many quarterbacks in the league switching teams and therefore needing someone who can protect them in the pocket. While many experts are suggesting the likes of Teven Jenkins, Samuel Cosmi and Dillon Radunz (as well as consensus ‘blue chip’ talents Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater) might come off the board in the first round, talk about Leatherwood from Alabama as a day one prospect has died down somewhat.

He was among the most notable players from last year’s class to opt for another year at college, having met several general managers around the league. One year on, Leatherwood’s stock is still relatively high, but he now finds himself in a deep class at his position, especially in the first two rounds. The question that should be in the mind of GMs is whether this player will still realize the potential he was believed to have this time last year. 

He is able to protect the passer by disrupting incoming edge rushers and can apply his considerable strength to ensure that the quarterback can complete the play. He can smoothly shuffle along the line and has enviable footwork with exceptional lower-body mechanics that give him great balance – meaning he could also operate at guard. His strong track record of keeping Mac Jones, and previously Tua Tagovailoa, upright at Alabama might attract the Miami Dolphins early in the second round – purely for the familiarity and also because their o-line is still very much a work in progress. He might go earlier than that, however, as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers are among the teams also in the market for a tackle.

Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma

As a key part of the outstanding offensive line unit that won the prestigious Joe Moore Award in 2018, Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey has been touted as one of the best centers in college football over the last couple of seasons. While centers are not typically a position that are drafted in the first round,and they certainly aren’t valued as highly as offensive tackles, one or two teams should have Humphrey near the top of their wish lists.

Humphrey has had a great career so far having started for three seasons for the Sooners, two of which as a team captain. He’s been a consistent performer, with excellent strength thanks in part due to his wrestling background. However, he is also able to swing his hips to block interior rushers and re-position his hands should anyone get the better of him at the beginning of a play. He then backed this up with an excellent showing at the Senior Bowl,which surely cemented him as a potential first-round selection.

Humphrey would make for a great pick for several teams, although the most likely to take him on night one is probably the Pittsburgh Steelers, who saw their veteran center Maurkice Pouncey retire earlier this off-season.

Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

While most cornerback rankings will have his college teammate Eric Stokes above him, Tyson Campbell is not a prospect to be slept on either coming out of Georgia. He was a five-star recruit and has trained with Patrick Surtain II, who is expected to be taken very early on Thursday and has worked with his father, Patrick Surtain Sr, who was nominated an all-pro and selected in three pro bowls in a glittering career at the same position.

Campbell was also nominated as a finalist for the National Defensive Back of the Year Award back in high school and had several highlights during his time with the Georgia Bulldogs, including 11 tackles in a game against the star-studded LSU in 2018 and a 64-yard fumble return against Missouri in the same year. Anyone with a glaring need for a cornerback this year ought to be seriously considering Campbell, particularly the New Orleans Saints or Green Bay Packers who need to find a reliable partner for Marshon Lattimore and Jaire Alexander respectively.

The NFL Draft is never short of its “wow” moments and it will be intriguing to see if any of these players do indeed come off the board in the first 32 picks.

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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