2021 NFL Draft: Trey Lance leads Top 10 under-the-radar high school players selected

Mitch Stephens | MaxPreps.com Monday, May 3, 2021 4:15pm

No stars, no college offers, no problem for these 10 late-blooming, overlooked players as preps.

Dozens of high school football players every year miss the attention of experts and recruiters and eventually go on to productive college careers. But those surprise kids or late bloomers making it all the way the the NFL are extremely rare.

Here are 10 of the biggest surprise under-the-radar recruits who were selected in last week's 2021 NFL Draft.

1. Trey Lance
Marshall (Minn.) | Quarterback
Third pick (first round) | San Francisco 49ers

Though clearly recognized as a top athlete, Lance was projected more of a running back or safety, or even basketball player, coming out of Marshall. He had a late growth spurt. He played in a run-oriented offense and once attempted more than 20 passes in a game. One Big Ten school even offered him a scholarship as a linebacker.

He was ranked the No. 49 dual-threat quarterback in the country as a senior by 247Sports composite after throwing for 3,026 career yards and 33 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,177 yards and 18 more scores. The then 6-foot-4, 195-pounder (he's now listed at 224) had seven college offers, the biggest one from Boise State, before signing at North Dakota State, which produced Carson Wentz and Easton Stick.



"We always thought he'd be a running back," Longtime Marshall coach Terry Bahlmann told CBS Sports. "But in terms of athletes I had over the years, he'll go right to the top. He played strong safety for us, returned punts, returned kicks. I remember his freshman year, I told my wife, Jan, he was a special athlete. I just didn't know what he was gonna do yet."

2. Zaven Collins
Hominy (Okla.) | Linebacker
16th pick (first round) | Cardinals

A three-star recruit, Collins had one college offer and took it at the University of Tulsa. From the Class of 2017, he ranked 2,142nd overall by 247Sports, and the 148th best athlete. He obviously leaped over many on the way to 16th overall selection.

3. Payton Turner

Westside (Houston) | Defensive end
28th pick (first round) | Saints

Like Collins, he had one offer and he took it at the University of Houston. A two-star recruit, Turner was ranked the 272nd best player out of Texas from the Class of 2017 and 117th best defensive end in the country. His overall national recruiting rank: 2,548.

4. Richie Grant
Choctawhatchee (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) | Safety
40th pick (second round) | Falcons

Another player with one offer, the two-star recruit signed at the University of Central Florida where he arrived as a wide receiver. From the Class of 2016, Grant's 247Sports Composite rankings: Florida (352), national receiver (357) and overall national (2,520).

5. Dillon Radunz
Becker (Minn.) | Offensive tackle
53rd pick (second round) | Titans

Without an FBS offer, Radunz instead attended FCS power North Dakota State where he starred with Lance. Radunz earned a national recruiting ranking, but it was at 3,828 and No. 165 as a defensive end. He found his calling on offensive side, plus he put on 36 pounds of muscle from high school.

6. Spencer Brown
Lenox (Iowa) | Offensive tackle
93rd pick (third round) | Bills

One of at least two who played 8-man football in high school, Brown did it all at Lenox, where he racked up 24 catches for 388 yards and seven touchdowns as a receiver. He also lettered in basketball and baseball, earning first-team all-conference in all sports. He had no stars or no offers out of high school, but grew to 6-9, 311 pounds by his third season at Northern Iowa. He entered at 6-8, 238.

7. Quinn Meinerz

Hartford (Wis.)| Offensive line
98th pick (third round) | Broncos

No recruiting stars as a prep, Meinzerz found his way to Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater. In high school, he earned All-State honors honorable mention, while also competing in wrestling, and track and field. He was attracted to Wisconsin-Whitewater's business program and glad they had a football squad.

8. Elerson Smith
Minneapolis South (Minneapolis) | Defensive end
116th pick (fourth round) | Giants
A teammate of Brown in college, Smith was a no-star recruit out of high school and Northern Iowa was his only offer. He entered at 6-6, 205 and left at 6-7, 245. He hasn't played since 2019.



9. Robert Rochell
Fair Park (Shreveport, La.) | Cornerback
130th pick (fourth round) | Rams

Another recruit with no stars, Rochell signed at the only FCS school that offered, Arkansas State. At Fair Park, he earned All-District and All-Shreveport honors in 2016 when he rushed for 922 yards and had 25 catches for 465 yards, but no interceptions (three pass breakups). He had speed, however, finishing third in the state 100 meters (10.8 seconds).

10. Jacob Harris
Palm Harbor University (Fla.) | Wide receiver
141st pick (fourth round) | Rams

The Rams went for back-to-back longshots, and a soccer player to boot. Harris didn't play football until his senior year at Palm Harbor and was recruited as a soccer player. He had five goals in 14 games as a senior. On the gridiron, he rushed for 231 yards, had 46 tackles at safety and 215 more yards as a returner. With no recruiting stars or offers, Harris walked on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF, where he didn't see significant playing time until he was a senior.