It has been two weeks since Tom Brady chucked a prayer into the end zone to end Super Bowl XLVI, and already NFL fans are craving some more football. Fortunately, for those desperate enough to enjoy watching Roger Goodell walk to and from a podium, the 2012 NFL Draft is just over two months away.
While the first round gets all the attention, it is the rest of the draft that really matters. If a franchise can consistently guess right in the later rounds, they will be rewarded with a talented and youthful roster that can take a team to the next level.
This slideshow will highlight the five steals of the second round: players who will exceed second-round expectations and be future stars in the NFL.
The 2012 NFL Draft class has good depth at the cornerback position. Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins are getting all of the attention, but it will be seldom-mentioned Stephon Gilmore who impresses the most as a rookie.
Gilmore never wowed while playing in South Carolina. In three years he only accumulated eight interceptions. However, Gilmore's ideal size (6'1", 193 pounds) matched with his natural athleticism will allow him to transition to the NFL with relative ease.
Gilmore will fall to the second round because he does not possess the straight-line speed necessary to cover the deep routes. He also lacks the acceleration necessary to blanket receivers when playing in man coverage.
Gilmore is at his best when asked to play in underneath zone coverage. His lengthy build and jumping ability allow him to cover more ground than quarterbacks would initially assume. Gilmore has severe closing speed, which allows him to hit receivers with enough force to lodge the ball loose.
Gilmore will be picked in the top of the second round by a team like the St. Louis Rams, Minnesota Vikings or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are in desperate need of a starting cornerback. He should see playing time early in his career and will earn kudos for his aggressive play against the run.
Expect Gilmore to establish himself as a starter by the end of his rookie season. If he plays in the right system, he could end the season with at least four interceptions and be in the running for defensive rookie of the year.
David Wilson has the potential to be the most explosive offensive weapon in the 2012 NFL Draft. In college, he consistently made huge plays both as a running back and kick returner. If he can prove to be more than a scat-back, he has the potential to be the best running back in the 2012 draft.
Wilson (5'10" and 205 pounds) will fall to the second round because he does not have the size to run the ball 20 times per game. Another factor working against him is that last season was his first as the No. 1 back for the Hokies. Due to his lack of girth, NFL scouts will wonder whether he is durable enough to carry the load on offense for an entire season.
Wilson is a slightly more compact version of Chris Johnson (5'11" 191 pounds). He is a slippery and determined runner who has a knack for staying on his feet after initial contact. This combined with his explosive acceleration and sprinter-quick stride will result in an impressive rookie season highlight tape.
Wilson will be selected in the first half of the second round to a team that needs to add a speedster to their backfield. Possible suitors are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cleveland Browns. Wilson will thrive in a complimentary scat-back role early in his career before eventually gaining enough trust to be the primary back.
Trent Richardson will live up to his hype as a rookie. However, once Wilson starts seeing more touches, he will establish himself as the most explosive running back in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Brandon Weeden is the second most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft after Andrew Luck. He has ideal size and great accuracy. The only thing holding him back from a first-round selection is his age. At 28 years old, NFL teams will be hesitant to invest in a quarterback who will be turning 30 halfway through his second season in the league.
Weeden is a steal in the second round because he will outperform Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as a rookie. Luck and Griffin will both be taken within the first five picks of the first round. Their development will be hindered because they will be playing for rebuilding teams that lack playmakers.
On the other hand, Weeden will be selected by a team like the Seattle Seahawks or Miami Dolphins, who are a quarterback away from making the playoffs.
Due to his age, Weeden will only have five to seven seasons of productive play. If he is able to capitalize on the opportunity to start for a decent team, he will win more playoff games than Luck and Griffin during his career.
Brandon Boykin is one of the most versatile players in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was all over the field in his last season at Georgia. He forced five turnovers (two fumbles and three interceptions) and scored four touchdowns (one punt return, one rushing and two receiving).
Boykin (5'9", 183 pounds) is one of the smaller cornerbacks in this year's draft. He will never be a shutdown corner in the NFL. However, he does possess enough talent to start in nickel packages as a rookie. Boykin relies on his speed to limit the amount of separation between him and the man he is covering.
Boykin will not be a steal because of his defensive abilities, but because of his all-round playmaking potential.
He will be targeted by a team like the New England Patriots or San Francisco 49ers in the second half of the second round. Both teams love versatile players who can contribute in more than one phase of the game. If he is fully utilized, Boykin could see time as a corner, a kick returner and a receiver running routes out of the backfield
Boykin has the potential to turn every play (offense, defense and special teams) into a touchdown. Given enough touches, Boykin will turn his potential into points and be one of the most exciting young players in 2012.
The tight end position has been revolutionized in the last few seasons. Because of this, there will be a higher demand for big bodied receivers who are too fast to be covered by linebackers and too big to be covered by defensive backs. Enter Ladarius Green.
At 6'6", Green is one of the tallest pass catchers in the 2012 draft. Green caught 22 touchdown passes in his four years playing for the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns. He finished his final year strong with at least five receptions in his last five starts.
Despite his production in college, Green is considered a borderline second-rounder. His biggest concerns are his hands and blocking ability. At 236 pounds, Green has the tendency to be overpowered when trying to block defensive ends in the running game.
However, for each negative, he has two positives. His long arms combined with his leaping ability will ensure that he has the advantage in every jump ball situation. He also possesses good speed once he builds momentum.
Green has a chance to be one of the next great tight ends. He will need time to develop before he reaches an All-Pro level, but once he gets there he will be unstoppable.