NFL Draft 2012: 5 Late-Round Gems That Will Be NFL Stars
In every single draft, there are booms and there are busts. JaMarcus Russell, a subpar quarterback, was drafted first overall. Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback to play the beautiful game of football, was drafted 199th overall.
Scouts are constantly searching for the answers of whom to draft and whom not to draft. They browse through categories—skills, intangibles, statistics, team production, etc.—but still can mess up a high draft pick. Diamonds are found in the later rounds, however.
Brady is just one example of what great scouting can do to a team. In this year's draft, there is no shortage of late-round steals.
Steal No. 5: Cliff Harris
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Cliff Harris, Cornerback/Return Specialist, Oregon*, 5'11" 168 lbs
You're probably asking why an asterisk looms over his introduction.
After numerous suspensions, Harris was booted off the team.
Anyhow, on the playing field, Harris was a ball hawk. He lacks size, but possesses a special knack to go up and fetch the ball. He is also extremely strong for his size.
The only red flag on Harris is his off-the-field reputation. Harris has to keep his nose clean if he wants to succeed in the NFL. If you take a look at Pacman Jones' situation, he had significant problems early on in his career that sidelined him for a long, long time.
However, Pacman has improved drastically and is slowly making a comeback.
Harris has all the potential. Whichever team drafts him needs to keep an eye on him for his first few years in the league. If Harris improves his reputation, he will be a top-tier defensive back in no time.
Steal No. 4: Kirk Cousins
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Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Michigan State, 6'2" 209 lbs
Cousins is a stellar quarterback with exceptional leadership. He makes the throws he needs to win, and he is extremely athletic.
The only reason he will slide in the draft is because there are so many other great quarterbacks in this draft. Normally, Cousins would have the possibility of cracking the first round. But with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill leading this fantastic draft class of quarterbacks, one team will get to steal Cousins in a later round.
Whichever team scoops him up will benefit short term and long term. He is ready to be an NFL starter right now, but could back up a quarterback for a while and then emerge as a starter down the road.
Steal No. 3: Chris Rainey
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Chris Rainey, Running Back/Wide Receiver/Return Specialist, Florida, 5'8" 178 lbs
Like Harris, Rainey has had off-the-field issues overshadow his football success. He is lightning fast and mimics Saints RB/WR Darren Sproles. Rainey fills up the stadium because of his electrifying playing style.
Rainey will slide in the draft because of his off-the-field problems. He is projected to be a fourth-rounder, but he won't be drafted that high.
Whoever gets to select Rainey will get an explosive, ankle-breaking monster. His versatility can shred a defense in half, and his special teams play can give his team extra momentum and points in every single game.
Steal No. 2: Travis Lewis
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Travis Lewis, Outside Linebacker, Oklahoma, 6'2" 228 lbs
Travis Lewis is an absolute beast on defense. He is always around the ball-carrier and sheds blocks in a short periods of time. A large reason Lewis will slide in the draft is because the linebacker came off a foot injury.
Lewis has a phenomenal pursuit of getting to the ball-carrier. Quite frankly, he looks like a defensive back on the football field. The speed that Lewis possesses is not linebacker-esque.
The former Sooner is blazing fast for a player as big as he is.
He is the type of player that teams build defenses around. Lewis would easily be a solid nucleus for any team in the NFL.
Steal No. 1: LaMichael James
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LaMichael James, Running Back/Return Specialist, Oregon, 5'9" 195 lbs
On the football field, LaMichael James is absolutely dirty. This track star has electrifying speed and incredible elusiveness.
LaMichael had an illustrious career for the Ducks. His résumé boasts with a long, long list of significant awards.
James, however, could take a big slide in the draft. He frequently plays the important role of scatback—take a look at how Darren Sproles changed the Saints' offense—but this sub-position normally gets overlooked in the draft. James is a fantastic back; however his playing style will cause him to slide.
Buccaneers DE Da'Quan Bowers, once viewed as the 2011 first overall pick, suffered from a drastic slide just a few short weeks before the draft. James will definitely not go that high, but he could be headed in the same direction.