2012 NFL Draft: Predicting the 4 Biggest Late-Round Steals

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Predicting the 4 Biggest Late-Round Steals

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    The NFL draft is such a great event because it gives fans of bad teams hope that they can find the superstar to turn around their franchise, and fans of good teams are looking for that one piece to put them over the top.

    Once in a while a player from one of the lower rounds will come out of almost nowhere to help lead their team to a championship. Terrell Davis and Tom Brady are two extreme examples of this but players like Marques Colston and Brandon Jacobs can be key on a Super Bowl team.

    I'll take a look at the four guys who I think are a steal in the late rounds of the 2012 NFL draft and can be big contributors to a winning team. 

Jerry Franklin, ILB, Arkansas

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    Franklin stepped onto campus and started right away in Fayetteville and leaves as the Razorbacks' third all-time leading tackler.

    At 6'1" and 245 pounds, Franklin has enough size to stand up to playing middle linebacker and has the speed to meet runners at the edge.

    Franklin has had over 10 tackles for loss in each of the past two seasons and had 374 tackles during his four years at Arkansas.

    That kind of production in the SEC should not be overlooked but Franklin looks to be on the board in the fourth round and would be a good choice at that point.

Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

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    Another senior who has starred for four years is Ryan Broyles from Oklahoma. A first-round talent who suffered an ACL tear nine games into his senior season, Broyles grabbed 131 balls as a junior and was on his way to another huge year before the injury.

    Broyles reminds me of Percy Harvin in his ability to get free on short routes and can be a threat as a punt returner. At 5'10" and 188 pounds, Broyles probably fits better as a slot receiver and doesn't offer much as a blocker.

    With Broyles' injury happening late in the year it is doubtful he will be full speed at the beginning of the season. He may be available in the fourth or fifth round and a team like the Colts could take a chance on him to pair with Andrew Luck for the future.

Jaye Howard, DL, Florida

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    Teams looking to shore up their defensive lines may look to Jaye Howard later in the draft. Howard would have no trouble backing at least up three spots in a 4-3 and I think he would be better inside as his quickness would be a tough matchup for opposing guards.

    Howard became a starter in his junior year splitting eight starts between end and tackle and has had 10 tackles for loss in each of his last two years at Florida.

    At 6'2" and 300 pounds, Howard has enough size to set the edge in both a 4-3 and a 3-4. His versatility may pull him off the board a little sooner, but I expect he will still be available in the fifth round and would be a great value at that point. 

Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia

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    Tandy has the ability to step in right away for a team and be a solid nickel corner and develop into a starter within a couple of years.

    Slightly undersized but willing to throw his body around to make a big hit, Tandy provides an occasional big play but is also a sure tackler.

    His ball skills may be his best asset as he led the Big East in interceptions and passes defended as a junior.

    I would definitely take my chances on Tandy in the fifth round if I saw him there.