Will LaMichael James be successful in San Francisco?
The 2012 NFL draft is now complete. Who are the hidden gems in this year's class?
Stars could emerge from any of the draft's seven rounds. Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was a sixth-round steal. Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears was selected in the third round. Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe was taken in the seventh.
Keep an eye out for these names that may have gone unnoticed at the draft last weekend. Here are five unheralded picks that will take the NFL by storm.
College: Ohio State
Herron will compete with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bernard Scott for playing time, which is not exactly stiff competition.
The Bengals enjoyed one of the better turnarounds in the NFL last season, with a solid defense and young players that will improve in 2012. Add Herron to that list of youth who will contribute.
His experience at Ohio State and the lack of competition in the backfield will force him into a key role immediately.
Herron will get his chance, and he should thrive for the improving Bengals.
Marvin McNutt is the all-time touchdown receptions leader in Iowa football history.
He had a fantastic senior season, and while he may not blow away NFL scouts with his speed and athleticism, he makes up for it with great hands and superb route-running.
The Eagles have plenty of speed and big playmakers on their offense. McNutt will bring a steady presence and could become an important option for QB Michael Vick in the short passing game.
McNutt will impress head coach Andy Reid with his ability to find holes in zone defenses and his catching skills.
He will find a way to fit into the offense, and when he does, Vick will be happy that Philadelphia snagged this receiver in the draft's later rounds.
Brandon Taylor will make his name known in the NFL as one the league's biggest hitters.
He may not have the closing speed to make interceptions, but you'd better believe that as soon as a receiver catches a ball, Taylor will lay a lick on him.
Taylor was one of the top defensive players in the SEC, the best college football league in the country, especially for grooming future NFL defensive players.
The Chargers need plenty of help on defense, but Taylor—alongside Eric Weddle—adds toughness to the middle of the field.
Wide receivers will know Taylor's name soon enough, and they will be watching their backs when they play against San Diego.
Here is an analogy to keep in mind: Aaron Hernandez is to the New England Patriots as Evan Rodriguez is to the Chicago Bears.
Hernandez was selected in the fourth round in the 2010 NFL draft. Last season, Hernandez had a breakout year as an unconventional tight end for the New England offense.
He is undersized but possesses tremendous speed, and the Patriots utilize him in screens and running plays.
Now, imagine Rodriguez in that type of role for quarterback Jay Cutler. The Bears should take a lesson from the Patriots and use Rodriguez in screens, running plays and in creating mismatches.
Chicago GM Phil Emery said that Rodriguez will play fullback as well as tight end, according to the team's website. Rodriguez's speed at the tight end position will stretch the middle of the field.
Why would the 49ers waste a second-round pick on a running back when they already have Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter?
Because LaMichael James is worth the hype.
James was one of the best playmakers in college football over the past two years, and his speed will translate into the NFL. He finished his college career with 5,082 rushing yards, which ranks second in Pac-12 Conference history.
The former Heisman Trophy finalist may get an opportunity on special teams and can turn into one of the NFL's most dynamic return men.
James has a unique ability to make guys miss, and when he does, he shifts so quickly into another gear to leave defenders in the dust.
No matter where James fits in with the defending NFC West champs, he will surely make a significant impact.