2012 NFL Draft: 10 Late-Round Prospects Who Will Make Other Teams Pay
The draft is fast approaching, and as is the custom, there will undoubtedly have been a number of late-round surprises once the 2012 NFL season is done.
These sleepers will be overlooked on draft day, whether it be due to poor senior years, character concerns or a general feeling that they are not "NFL-ready."
However, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a late-round player find success, and this year's draft class has a number of guys waiting to do just that.
Overlook them at your peril, they might just be ready to break out.
Chris Rainey RB Florida
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Chris Rainey enters the draft with a suitcase full of question marks.
Standing at 5'9" and weighing 180 lbs, Rainey is by no means a power back.
His size will be a concern for NFL teams, but with the success of Darren Sproles and Reggie Bush, there is potential for Rainey as a situational pace-changing back.
He was arrested for aggravated stalking in 2010, which will immediately see him crossed off of a lot of draft boards, but for those who are willing to overlook that, there are a number of potential upsides to Rainey.
He is likely to run one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at this year's combine, having astounding speed and agility. Speed might not be everything in the NFL, but it will certainly get you noticed. Rainey has said that he is aiming for 4.1, a number that is sure to turn heads.
Rainey could use his speed to become a big threat on special teams. Add to that that he is the SEC's all-time leader in kick and punt blocks, and he starts to look like a late-round steal.
He was a First-Team All SEC talent in 2011, leading Florida in rushing, receiving and punt-return yardage.
Derek Wolfe DT Cincinnati
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The Cincinnati Bearcats led the nation in tackles for a loss in 2011, 21.5 of which can be attributed to defensive tackle Derek Wolfe.
With tackles for a loss worth a grand total of 96 yards, as well as 9.5 sacks, Wolfe proved invaluable to the Bearcats this year.
The big gripe regarding Wolfe is that he runs a Rich Eisen-esque 40-yard time.
However, this does not show up on film, with Wolfe displaying enough explosiveness to get to the QB consistently.
He's a big guy at 6'5" and 286 lbs and would thrive in a defensive line rotation. He has good instincts and top competitiveness that sees him get the most out of his teammates.
He may not have played against top talent in Cincinnati, but Wolfe can be a solid starter in the NFL given time.
Kellen Moore QB Boise State
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Kellen Moore is an intelligent guy.
He has played some of the best college football in recent history, and his record proves it.
However, Moore is a classic example of a guy who has been referred to as "not an NFL quarterback."
He's not tall enough or big enough to play the position and is not likely to command an NFL huddle.
He has sketchy mechanics, bad arm strength and throws some soft passes, while having very little speed and mobility.
There is certainly a mountain to climb for Kellen Moore, but let's not forget the vocal number of "experts" arguing that Cam Newton could not play in the NFL—and hey, Tebow proved you don't even have to be good!
After an illustrious college career, only Moore can decide if he wants to call it a day. A team will give him an opportunity, and if he is willing to try to adapt his game, there might just be a spot for him.
Moore faces a lot of naysayers and a lot of physical obstacles on his route to the NFL. He may not clear the first hurdle, or he may just surprise us all.
Randy Bullock K Texas A&M
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Randy Bullock may look like a guy who enjoys a cake or three, but he has one mean right foot.
In 2011, Bullock was a First Team All-American and winner of the Lou Graza award after going 25-of-29 in field-goal attempts. His longest kick came from 52 yards out
He has broken almost all of Texas A&M's kicking records and has 349 career points under his belt.
You may scoff at the idea of drafting a kicker at all, but with the sixth- and seventh-round picks rarely taking flight, why not spend one of your picks locking down a top kicking prospect?
Michael Egnew TE Missouri
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The big tight-end trend is running wild through the NFL these days, and Michael Egnew will fancy his chances of continuing in that fashion.
Standing at a lofty 6'5" and weighing in at 250 lbs, Egnew will raise eyebrows before he even sets foot on the field.
Egnew is a solid blocker and as expected, he uses his frame well.
He played in a spread offense at Missouri, allowing him to make some serious strides in the passing game, with 140 receptions and eight touchdowns over the last two years and averaged 10.5 yards per catch in 2011.
The deal-breaker for Egnew is a lack of speed that comes with being such a big guy.
If teams think Egnew can work on his speed and endurance, they might get some pretty solid play out of this incredibly large target.
Tyler Nielsen LB Iowa
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Tyler Nielsen had his 2010 Hawkeye campaign cut short after breaking a vertebrae in his neck, clocking 22 tackles and 20 assists in eight games of what could have been a stellar year.
He was again struggling with injury in 2011 and saw his numbers deflate as a result, but he was still named an All-Big Ten Football honorable mention.
He's agile and outright fast for a linebacker, with his lowest recorded 40 time coming in at 4.46. Pretty impressive for a 6'3", 235-lb LB.
Before his injury, Nielsen was touted as a player to watch and a potential Butkus Award candidate.
Nielsen is characteristic of the hard-working linebackers that Iowa produces, and he has his head screwed on tight.
He has the athleticism needed to be a consistent NFL linebacker, but his durability will likely see teams wait on drafting him in the early rounds.
Robert Turbin RB Utah State
Utah State Aggies running back Robert Turbin had an impressive year in the backfield in 2011.
His ability to run the football is largely responsible for the Aggies' first bowl appearance in 14 years, carrying an otherwise fairly indistinct offense.
Turbin put up 19 touchdowns on his way to 1,517 yards rushing while snatching 171 yards and four touchdowns receiving.
With 6.9 yards per carry, he is tied with Trent Richardson in running backs who have had at least 100 carries.
A knee injury that wiped out his entire 2010 season will make teams question how much mileage he has left, but it shouldn't stop him being taken in the fourth/fifth.
Turbin could be one of the premier steals of the 2012 draft.
Winston Guy Jr S Kentucky
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At 6'1" and 216 lbs, Winston Guy Jr. is the perfect size to play the free safety position in the NFL, and he packs a variety of skills into that large frame.
Guy is a versatile player, having started at corner and safety during his time at Kentucky, as well as adopting a hybrid safety-linebacker role in 2011.
In the SEC this year, Guy clocked 120 tackles (14 for a loss), two passes broken up, two interceptions and one forced fumble.
Despite appearing to be "a big fish in a small pond" during his time in Kentucky, Guy has not carried himself in that manner, instead proving to be a stellar team leader and on-field presence.
He needs to clean up his footwork and react better when he gets blocked. He is a great wrap-up tackler but shares the common college safety trait of wanting to lay a big hit, something that he should snap out of once he gets burned at the next level.
He could work his way into the third round but is quite likely to fall to the fourth, where he would be a steal for whoever is willing to give him a shot.
Stephen Hill WR Georgia Tech
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Stephen Hill is likely to be a fourth-round pick in 2012, but with a strong showing at the combine he could sneak his way into the third.
Teams will be weary of lavishing too much attention on Hill, as interest in him is somewhat influenced by a little-known former Georgia Tech player by the name of Calvin Johnson.
With 820 receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2011, Hill has shown an ability to make the spectacular grab when necessary. Standing at 6'5", he is more than able to out-jump opponents.
He averaged a scarily good 29.3 yards per reception in 2011, a stat that will have most HCs taking notice.
He is not as good a prospect as Demaryius Thomas or Calvin Johnson right now, but he has the opportunity to get the benefit of the doubt from teams if he can post a fast 40 time and impress in the vertical leap.
Ryan Broyles WR Oklahoma
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A former consensus first-round pick, Ryan Broyles has seen his draft stock take a real tumble since tearing his ACL back in November.
While not career-ending, ACL tears have often seen players unable to regain their pre-injury abilities, which is why Broyles will be seen as such a gamble this offseason.
In 2010, Broyles had 131 receptions for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns, culminating in a 13-reception, 170-yard and one-touchdown performance in the Fiesta Bowl.
Broyles lit up one of the best divisions in the country when healthy, and he could well light up the NFL in the same manner.
He is fast, reliable and elusive with great character.
It is a shame to see a prospect with so much promise teetering on the edge of being almost forgotten, but if he can recover from his devastating knee injury, Broyles could someday be viewed as having been one of the top five receivers in this draft.