As the 2012 NFL scouting combine gets underway this week in Indianapolis, the spotlight will be focused squarely on some the players that are expected to be drafted in the first round of April's NFL draft, such as quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford, running back Trent Richardson of Alabama and offensive tackle Matt Kalil of USC.
However, sometimes the real story of the draft lies not in what happens in the draft's first round, but in what happens in its last, as teams that can unearth some hidden treasure such as New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston (who was selected with the 252nd pick in the 2006 draft) can often be put over the proverbial top by upgrading their roster for pennies on the dollar.
Bert Reed: WR, Florida State
Wide receiver Bert Reed of Florida State didn't post gaudy statistics while with the Seminoles. He never topped 750 receiving yards in a season in four years in Tallahassee, and at only 5'10" and 183 pounds, Reed doesn't bring a whole lot of size to the table either.
However, they say "you can't teach speed," and Reed has that and then some. Coupled with his good hands and blocking ability, that could combine to make a very viable slot receiver in the National Football League.
B.J. Coleman: QB, Chattanooga
At 6'3" and 235 pounds, Tennessee-Chattanooga quarterback B.J. Coleman possesses the sort of frame that NFL scouts covet at the position, and after throwing for nearly 3,000 yards in 2010, Coleman has displayed the ability to be productive and has a strong arm
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. doesn't expect Coleman to even last until the seventh round, projecting him as a fifth or sixth-round draft choice. Kiper said:
"I thought he ran a little hot and cold and had an accuracy issue here and there, but the long-range possibilities are evident."
"You could work to develop him like they did with Matt Flynn at Green Bay and maybe have something three or four years down the road."
Teams looking for a backup signal-caller with a significant amount of potential may want to take Kiper's advice and snag Coleman in the sixth, as that round has been known to spit out a quarterback from time to time who exceeds expectations, such as Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.
Olivier Vernon: DE, Miami (FL)
Although he only played half a season for the Miami Hurricanes, defensive end Olivier Vernon was able to make an impact once he returned to the lineup from suspension, tallying 18 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in six games.
The 6'4", 265-pound Vernon may project better as a 3-4 linebacker in the NFL than a 4-3 defensive end, but making the switch shouldn't be an issue according to what Vernon told the Palm Beach Sun-Sentinel:
"I want to show off my athletic ability. I want to show I'm versatile. I want to show I can play in any scheme, a 4-3 or a 3-4. I don't want to be looked at as a defensive end."
It was somewhat puzzling that Vernon chose to forgo his senior season after missing six games last year for receiving improper benefits, but the athletic youngster has reportedly looked very impressive in training and could see his draft stock boosted significantly by a strong showing at this week's combine.