Late-Round Rookies We're Looking Forward to Watching During NFL Training Camps
Some teams may find their stars in the first few rounds, but Super Bowl champions find some of their best players at the end of the draft.
Every season, teams dig deep on draft day to try and round out their squads in hopes that some of the late-round guys can contribute and even star (a la Tom Brady).
This year was no different.
So let's see who we should be looking at during training camps this offseason.
Tank Carder-LB/Buffalo Bills (Round: 5, Pick: 147)
Regarded as undersized and faulted for playing against some weaker competition, Carder's name slid down draft boards heading into April.
But when you look at Carder's college numbers, he's clearly a special player.
At TCU, Carder accumulated 228 tackles in four years, 25 of them for a loss. He also had four interceptions and 5.5 sacks over the same span.
Carder was clearly the team's defensive leader and played his best in big games, including the 2011 Rose Bowl in which he was named Defensive Player of the Game after he batted down a two-point conversion pass and recorded three tackles for a loss, leading the Horned Frogs to victory.
The Bills are actually pretty set at all three linebacker positions with veterans Kirk Morrison and Nick Barnett flanking Kelvin Sheppard. But Barnett has a history of injuries and Carder could jump in his place.
Juron Criner-WR/Oakland Raiders (Round: 5, Pick: 168)
The Raiders wide receiving corps is kind of a mess right now.
They've seen flashes from former first round pick Darius Heyward-Bey and second year wide-out Denarius Moore, but nothing enough to set the depth chart in stone.
One guy that could shake up that depth chart is Criner.
The biggest reason Criner should see playing time in his rookie year is because he's a possession receiver, something the Raiders lack severely.
At Arizona, Criner compiled over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Wildcats.
Criner was probably the Raiders best pick in the 2012 draft and will look to climb his way up the depth chart ladder come Training Camp.
Ryan Lindley-QB/Arizona Cardinals (Round: 6, Pick: 185)
Just a few years ago, the Arizona Cardinals were competing for a Super Bowl title. Now, people are impressed with simply eight wins.
The difference...a quarterback.
During training camp, all eyes will be on the QB battle brewing between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, but I'll be watching rookie sixth-rounder Ryan Lindley.
Lindley has the size and arm strength every NFL quarterback coach looks for, but lapses in his accuracy and his average mobility saw him slide to the Cards.
At San Diego State, Lindley enjoyed three straight seasons of over 3,000 yards passing while throwing at least 20 touchdowns in the same span. His accuracy, however, was never really there and he completed just over 55 percent of his passes with the Aztecs.
Lindley is a project so it's doubtful whether he contributes this year, but if Skelton and Kolb both struggle, the Cards could look to Lindley as the QB of the future.
Billy Winn-DT/Cleveland Browns (Round: 6, Pick: 205)
Billy Winn just became a much more interesting name to Browns fans.
When it became clear that Phil Taylor's injury would cause him to miss significant time, Winn's name, not third round pick John Hughes, started being brought up as a possible replacement.
At Boise State, Winn started at both tackle and end while compiling 33 total tackles and three sacks.
Winn is getting the nod ahead of Hughes right now because he's quicker and was Taylor's backup going into minicamp. He'll have to continue fighting to convince the Browns he's the man for the job.
Alfonzo Dennard-CB/New England Patriots (Round: 7, Pick: 224)
The Patriots have been trying to fix their troubled cornerback situation for the past few drafts and all they had to show for it last year was Julian Edelman as their top cover guy.
Dennard was regarded by some to be a first round talent and most thought he'd be off the board by the end of the second round. But off the field issues pushed the former Cornhusker to the bottom of the draft where New England may have landed themselves a steal.
Dennard is a physical, in-your-face corner who could end up starting right away in New England.
First, he'll have to prove to Belichick and the rest of the Patriots staff that he's not going to be a problem for the team on or off the field.
Antonio Allen-S/New York Jets (Round: 7, Pick: 242)
Allen is another surprise to see in the 7th round and the Jets may have snagged themselves a real player here.
The team signed LaRon Landry to start at strong safety, but Allen is a much similar player in size and style.
The main reason he dropped so far is because teams really think he's going to struggle in coverage.
It will be interesting to see if Allen can improve his coverage skills in camp and allow the Jets to release a player like Eric Smith, who's been pretty much useless when on the field.
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