2012 NFL Draft Results: 6 Under-the-Radar Picks Who Will Be Studs
This year’s draft was headlined by quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, but there was plenty of talent to be had at other positions.
There were particularly deep classes of offensive and defensive linemen, wide receivers and corners. The more talent there is at a position, the more disagreement there is among teams as to who the best players really are.
These evaluations become especially important in the second and third rounds, where prospects often have great potential but are overlooked for a variety of reasons. The flashiest picks are not always the most productive, and the teams with the best drafts are often the teams who found impact players outside of the first round.
Here are six guys who did not make national headlines with their selections, but will all have long, successful NFL careers and provide great value to the teams that drafted them.
New York Giants, RB David Wilson
Pick: Round 1, Pick 32
School: Virginia Tech
Vitals: 5’10”, 206 pounds
Analysis: It’s unusual to describe a first-round pick as under-the-radar, but Wilson fits the bill. He was the third running back taken in this draft, but he is definitely in the best position to succeed immediately.
Wilson is one of the best all-around athletes in this draft, and was a top performer in several categories at the combine. He has a great burst and accelerates to his top speed very quickly. He is an excellent north-south runner who can make tacklers miss in the open field with short, quick cuts.
Wilson does not drive through tackles, but he will bounce off linemen and fight through arm tackles by keeping his feet moving. He has an excellent motor and he hits the hole with purpose. Though he is knocked for his size, Wilson is shifty enough to most big hits.
Finally, Wilson is entering a perfect situation in New York. He should split time with Ahmad Bradshaw right away and will be an excellent weapon for Eli Manning as a receiver out of the backfield.
Wilson is an explosive back who will thrive under head coach Tom Coughlin and help the Giants defend their Super Bowl title.
Miami Dolphins, OT Jonathan Martin
Pick: Round 2, Pick 10 (42nd overall)
Vitals: 6’5”, 312 pounds
Analysis: According to NFL.com, Martin is one of two elite tackles in this year’s draft class. He slipped down a lot of boards as the draft approached, however, falling behind other tackles like Ohio State’s Mike Adams, Georgia’s Cordy Glenn and Midwestern State’s Amini Silatolu.
While these other prospects might all be deserving of their pick, Martin was a steal at 42nd overall.
The Stanford left tackle has great size for the position, and passes the eye test on film. His footwork and technique are as polished as they come in this draft, and he successfully protected Andrew Luck in Stanford’s pro-style offense.
Martin is an NFL-ready prospect and should lock down one of the Dolphins' tackle positions for the next several years.
Seattle Seahawks, ILB Bobby Wagner
Pick: Round 2, Pick 15 (47th overall)
School: Utah State
Vitals: 6’0”, 233 pounds
Analysis: Pete Carroll and the Seahawks made a lot of noise with their selection of West Virginia OLB Bruce Irvin with the 15th pick in the first round, but their second-round pickup of middle linebacker Bobby Wagner may have quietly been their best pick of the draft.
Wagner is an all-around prospect who fell simply because of his size. He is a speedy inside linebacker who plays strong and consistently makes tackles. He called all the plays for Utah State’s defense last year and has the understanding of defensive concepts to quarterback a defense in the NFL.
Wagner may not be a flashy pass-rusher, but he does have the speed to shoot gaps and get into the backfield, making plenty of tackles for losses and affecting the quarterback’s pocket.
New York Giants, WR Rueben Randle
Pick: Round 2, Pick 31 (63rd overall)
Vitals: 6’4”, 210 pounds
Analysis: Randle is a big target and a great fit for the Giants at 63rd overall in the draft.
Randle was a dominant receiver at times for LSU, but suffered from inconsistencies at quarterback during his time there. He runs great routes for a receiver of his size, using his body to get separation and his quick feet to keep corners off-balance.
Randle is quick off the line and uses his long, strong arms to break free from press coverage with ease. He is fortunate to be playing with Eli Manning, who likes to spread the ball around, but will also benefit from practicing with accomplished receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz.
Not only will Randle improve his technique by spending time with these receivers, but they will attract plenty of attention from the defense themselves, giving Randle some good one-on-one opportunities to stretch the field and showcase his skills.
Arizona Cardinals, CB Jamell Fleming
Pick: Round 3, Pick 17 (80th overall)
Vitals: 5’11”, 206 pounds
Analysis: Fleming is a strong, talented player with the frame of an NFL cornerback.
Fleming’s strength is man-to-man coverage, an ability he consistently displayed while playing against the best receivers in the Big 12 over the past four years.
He is also a solid tackler and a particularly strong blitzer off the edge, so he plays close to the line on most plays. He occasionally struggles to break on the ball in soft man or zone coverage, but he has the athleticism to improve in that area and simply needs some more coaching and experience.
Fleming proved this athleticism at the combine and has the speed, quickness, strength and leaping ability to guard any type of receiver at the next level. Group that coverage ability with good hands and ball skills and you have another impact cornerback in Arizona.
Cincinnati Bengals, DT Brandon Thompson
Pick: Round 3, Pick 30 (93rd Overall)
Vitals: 6’2”, 314 pounds
Analysis: Thompson is a monster defensive tackle who excelled as a run-stopper at Clemson.
Thompson has a tremendous burst at the line and is very quick to penetrate the backfield. He plugs gaps very well and uses his hands to make plays on the ball carrier, excelling at pushing his blocker into the backfield and breaking up running plays before they can start.
Thompson shows the ability to affect the passer as well. He may not make many splash sacks, but he can physically dominate blockers and push them into the pocket—flushing the quarterback out and disrupting the play.
This year’s class of defensive linemen was as deep as they come, and Thompson slipped down to 93rd overall because of that. If he can improve his technique and learn to take on double-teams, Thompson will be a force on the inside for the Bengals.