Former South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who some thought of as a potential Day 2 pick, surprisingly was not selected in the recent 2014 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-4, 294-pound Quarles landed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent.
Why did Quarles go undrafted? Can he prove the NFL teams who passed him up wrong by making the Giants' 53-man roster? Should Quarles impress the Giants is is possible he could challenge Markus Kuhn for a spot on the team. We asked SB Nation's 'Garnet and Black Attack,' which covers the South Carolina Gamecocks, for some thoughts about Quarles. Garnet and Black Attack's 'Gamecock Man' answered our questions.
Ed: Why do you think he went undrafted? I had seen him mentioned as a late-Day 2 or early-Day 3 possibility?
Gamecock Man: I'm honestly not completely sure. The two major knocks on him leading up to the draft were 1) his involvement in an incident at a nightclub, and 2) the widespread belief that his numbers were a result of the attention paid by opposing teams to limiting Jadeveon Clowney. However, he was cleared of wrongdoing in the nightclub incident, and since it was an isolated incident for him (unlike for teammate Victor Hampton, who had a history of getting involved in such situations and thus warranted more scrutiny), I wouldn't think NFL scouts blamed him too much. As far as the Clowney issue, I definitely think Quarles's numbers benefited, but only in the sense that he may not be the elite prospect suggested by the numbers, not in the sense that he's not a very good prospect. I saw it whispered on message boards that perhaps an undisclosed medical condition had been discovered by scouts, but I haven't seen anything conclusive on that. This was also a very deep draft with a record number of underclassmen, but when you look at some of the defensive tackles taken before Quarles, you see a lot of players who it was questionable to take over a very productive SEC tackle. So, I don't know. Honestly, unless there's an undisclosed medical condition, I think the Giants got a steal with Quarles as a free agent.
Ed: What kind player is he? Strengths? Weaknesses?
Gamecock Man: I broke this topic down at Garnet and Black Attack here. Main strength is combination of quickness and power off the snap, main weakness I always noticed is that for someone who was so frequently around the QB, he almost never batted down passes because he wasn't very active with getting his hands up when the QB released. He could also stand to lose a couple of pounds around the middle, but he showed decent conditioning by playing lots of snaps and rarely being injured.
Ed: Do you see him as a guy who should make an NFL roster?
Gamecock Man: Yes. I think he needs to refine his technique and work hard in the weight room to maximize his potential and challenge for significant playing time, but he's a talented prospect. With the coaching he should receive as part of a good NFL franchise, he should be on his way to a good career.
Ed: Any validity in your mind to the 'Quarles produced big numbers only because of the attention paid to Jadeveon Clowney' talk?
Gamecock Man: I think Clowney helped Quarles's numbers, but Quarles would have been a productive player even without Clowney. Quarles has been making plays since he arrived at Carolina in 2011. Granted, Clowney has been playing alongside him that whole time, and other good lineman such as Melvin Ingram and Devin Taylor have been there, too. However, if you watch his film, you can definitely see why many scouts saw him as a solid prospect before the draft. Moreover, he's frequently played well when Clowney has been hurt and Quarles has been asked to shoulder a bigger load. His best game last year might have been the Kentucky game, for instance, which Clowney missed.
Honestly, I wonder if we'd be having this conversation if Quarles didn't play for South Carolina and instead, say, played for Alabama. I think sometimes the media fixates on single players such as Clowney at the expense of the rest of the team with teams like South Carolina that aren't perceived as elite by the media. However, if Clowney were its only talented player, South Carolina's defense wouldn't have been as good as it's been in recent years.
Ed: I know there was an off-the-field incident from which he was cleared. What kind of person is he in the locker room and away from the field?
Gamecock Man: I had never heard talk of any character concerns with Quarles prior to the recent incident. By all accounts, he was considered a solid teammate by his fellow Gamecocks and he stayed out of trouble off the field. I wouldn't worry too much about the incident unless there's a repeat occurrence.