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5 Late-Round NFL Draft Picks Who Will Start in Week 1

James ChristensenContributor IOctober 8, 2016

5 Late-Round NFL Draft Picks Who Will Start in Week 1

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    Contrary to popular belief around draft time, the NFL isn't made up entirely of Top 100 draft picks. Each year, dozens of late-round draft picks turn into starters for their NFL team.

    Even more become productive role-players or eventual starters after a year or two of development. That said, relatively few late-round draft picks start on day one of their NFL careers.

    Here are five players that might be able to do just that.

Robert Blanton (SS, Vikings)

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    Mistral Raymond? Jamarca Sanford? Not going to happen. The Vikings knew they needed some talent at the safety position in the draft, and they went after it.

    Fifth-round pick Robert Blanton and first-rounder Harrison Smith, who both hail from Notre Dame, will be day-one starters for the Vikings, barring an injury.

Rishard Matthews (WR, Dolphins)

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    Rishard Mathews is not a dynamic athlete, but he is a target who knows how to use his body.

    With Davone Bess in the slot, I think this seventh-round selection has a legitimate shot of starting opposite Brian Hartline.

    If Matthews doesn't win the job, sixth-round choice B.J. Cunningham might do the trick as well. Incumbent Clyde Gates and free-agent acquisition Legedu Naanee aren't exactly Pro Bowlers.

Alfonzo Dennard (CB, Patriots)

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    If Dennard isn't in jail or Bill Belichick's dog house, there is a better-than-average chance he will be starting at the "star" cornerback position.

    Dennard's strength and press skills will serve him well there, whereas some of his deficiencies on the outside will be masked inside.

    If Ras-I Dowling and Devin McCourty start on the outside, Kyle Arrington would be the main competition for Dennard.

Marvin Jones (WR, Bengals)

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    Marvin Jones might have been a fifth-round selection, compared to fellow rookie Bengals receiver Mohamed Sanu, who was a third-round pick. However, I think Jones will see the field before Sanu.

    Jones' route running and consistency will endear him to Andy Dalton, enabling him to be the perfect "Z" receiver opposite A.J. Green's "X."

    I see Sanu and Jordan Shipley battling for the slot receiver position.

Nate Potter (OL, Cardinals)

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    Seventh-round pick Nate Potter couldn't have landed in a better situation. The Cardinals offensive line was abysmal last year, prompting the front office to draft three linemen: Potter, Senio Kelemete and Bobby Massie. All three were drafted in the fourth round or later.

    Potter's smarts and versatility could help him find a spot in the starting lineup on day one. He might not ever give it back.

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