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NFL teams might actually care about the supplemental draft this year

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Isaiah Battle, the athletic but flawed left tackle, could be the first player picked in the NFL Supplemental Draft since Josh Gordon in 2012.

There tends to be over-infatuation with the NFL Supplemental Draft. It typically features a handful of players, most of whom would classify as undrafted free agents in the regular draft. Since it's the deadest time of the non-stop NFL calendar, the analysis of fringe players gets overblown.

Take a step back and you'll see the league itself often has little interest in the supplemental draft. Since 2000, only 11 picks have been used in the supplemental draft. The last actual pick came in 2012 when the Cleveland Browns surrendered a second-round pick to take wide receiver Josh Gordon. In the last two years, 10 players have been eligible. None of them were picked, and it appears none of them are on an NFL roster.

There are a few reasons for the lack of interest. Players in the supplemental draft often come with off-field concerns. Teams also have their 90-man rosters set for training camp and may be reluctant to make a change at this point. More than either of those, teams put so much value on draft picks they may not want to risk one.

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On Thursday, the expectation is that a team will use a pick in the NFL's supplemental draft for the first time since 2012. The name to know is Clemson offensive tackle Isaiah Battle, an athletic senior-to-be and one of seven players eligible to be picked this week.

Evaluating Battle

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, a former league scout, thinks Battle could get picked in the third round, but added that he had no knowledge of character issues. Jeremiah noted Battle’s size (6’6 1/2, 326 pounds) and length (35 1/2-inch arms). Had Battle been in this year’s draft, he would have had the third-longest arms amongst offensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports corroborated the third round notion. Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman takes it further saying one of the NFL’s two scouting bureaus – likely the BLESTO or National services – ranked Battle as the second-best senior offensive tackle prospect. There was even a potential first-round projection in Battle’s future.

It’s a strangely high opinion for a player who is previously known more getting suspended a game for a Street Fighter uppercut than his play on the field. Battle started just 15 games in his career, but 11 came last season. Although he cited family reasons for entering the supplemental draft, Battle was reportedly caught with drugs and kicked off Clemson’s football team.

The intrigue with Battle is that he's a good athlete playing a premium position. In this year's draft, 24 offensive tackles were picked and teams always need blocking help. Battle gets by with his foot quickness and lateral agility. At this point, he comes across more as a big basketball player working at offensive tackle. He bulked up considerably heading into this season, a necessary step. On the field, the big knock on Battle is his playing strength. Bigger defenders were able to knock Battle around and push him backward into the quarterback. Battle also needs work on his technique. He’s a high-cut player who lets defenders get under him too much. When Battle does bend, it’s at the waist, further negating his strength. He’s by no means a dumb player. Battle doesn’t seem to miss on assignments and gives a good effort.

Whenever there is an athletic offensive tackle with limited starts and technique flaws, there is always assumed potential. With Battle, considering the lofty praise, maybe the potential is truly there. The speculation is that the Atlanta Falcons "are hot" after Battle. It would make sense considering the Falcons released Sam Baker last month and light in skill at the position after Jake Matthews. With the Denver Broncos (Ryan Clady) and the New York Giants (Will Beatty) down starting tackles due to injuries, they could be under consideration, as well. With those three teams you're almost assuming Battle would be brought in to start, and that doesn't seem like the best course of action early in his career.

After those three teams, another logical destination for Battle is the Detroit Lions. While Detroit has never taken a player in the supplemental draft, their tackle situation needs improving. The San Francisco 49ers already have two extra picks in the 2016 draft, so they may be a team that gambles one of their own picks on Battle. A developmental gamble is the best way to describe Battle. His talent is worth a risk, but anything higher than a fourth-round pick seems like too much.

This year's other prospects

Dalvon Stuckey, DT, West Georgia: The consistent theme of Stuckey’s college career is academics holding him back. He was meant to be part of the same 2012 recruiting class that sent quarterback Jameis Winston to Florida State, but Stuckey failed to qualify. He spent two years at Pearl River Community College and intended to go to Arizona State. He was rated as the No. 8 junior college player by ESPN in the 2014 class, but failed to qualify academically with the Sun Devils That sent him to Division II West Georgia where he had 40 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks last season.

"I feel like anywhere between a 1-tech or a 3-tech, I can play either one but a lot of scouts have been telling me I'd probably play better as a 1-tech," Stuckey told First Coast News.

Darrius Caldwell, DE, West Georgia: Caldwell was also expected to go from Pearl River to Arizona State, but like Stuckey academics forced him to West Georgia. He initially signed with Illinois out of high school. Caldwell had 12 sacks for West Georgia last season. Considering his production and positional value, Caldwell is fringe pickable. His pro day numbers last week – a 5.07 40-yard dash and six bench press reps – do him no favors.

Eric Eiland, LB, Houston: At Houston Eiland played as a stand-up pass end last season, starting 10 games. He had 44 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a half a sack. If he sticks in the NFL, it will likely be on special teams.

Sean McQuillan, TE, Connecticut: McQuillan, 6'3 and 247 pounds, finished last season with 16 receptions for 158 yards and a touchdown in 11 starts. In April, he was charged with assault for his involvement in a fight.

Kevin Short, CB, Kansas: Short may get some attention as a 6'2 cornerback, but it’s hard to get overly excited about someone who hasn’t played in a game since 2012. Short started his college career at Fort Scott Community College before committing to Kansas for the 2013 season. He redshirted that year and was academically ineligible in 2014. He had 10 interceptions in two seasons at Fort Scott.

Adrian Wilkins, WR, North Carolina Central: Wilkins has made his name as a return specialist. He averaged 24.7 on kick returns and 13.6 yards on punt returns.

It's unlikely a pick will be used on any of these six players, but the West Georgia pair could potentially get some late-round attention.

Supplemental draft rules

The rules of the supplemental draft are simple. The league’s 32 teams are placed into three tiers and ordered via a lottery. The first tier is teams with six or fewer wins the previous season. The second tier is teams with seven or more wins that didn’t make the playoffs. The final tier is the 12 playoff teams.

The team with the worst record has the best chance of winning their tier’s lottery. After the lottery the draft order is set. Teams then silently place a bid on a player with a round associated. If they have the highest bid, they’re awarded the player and forfeit the corresponding pick in the next year’s draft.

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