The 2012 NCAA football season is nearing its end, with many of the top-performing collegiate players looking forward to careers in the NFL.
Throughout the year, many college analysts will form their lists of favorite players and athletes whom they believe can make impacts at the next level. However, there are many players who fly under the radar, not gaining the respect they deserve. Such undervalued players unfortunately drop into the later rounds of the NFL draft and lose out on substantial amounts of money on their rookie contracts.
Defensive stud Matt Elam, a safety out of Florida, will most likely slide down in draft value more than he should because of his lack of height. On the other hand, tight end Tyler Eifert of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish may be overlooked in the upcoming draft because of the immense talent that this draft class possesses.
Both Elam and Eifert will be absolute steals in the 2013 NFL draft and will eventually be solid professional players, if not exhilarating stars in the league.
With the 2012-13 NFL regular season coming to a conclusion, it is time for fans of struggling teams to become familiar with potential future stars that may land on their favorite teams.
For some reason, no matter how effective or efficient a player may be in college, endless questions will still be raised because of the belief that the NFL game is an entirely different, vicious battle. Thus, there are quite a few incredibly talented aspiring NFL players whose stock values will drop for one reason or another.
The following five players eligible for the NFL draft will be absolute steals and will immediately improve the franchises that decide to select them.
Le'Veon Bell has put in his work at Michigan State the past two years and finally got his shot at the starting role in his junior season.
Bell ran for over 100 yards in seven games this past season for the Spartans and also scored at least two touchdowns in four games. He has incredible size at the running-back position and also has fascinating speed and athleticism to go along with his bulldog rushing style.
If Bell declares for the 2013 NFL draft and is still available in the late second round, he will be one of the biggest steals of the draft, especially if a team is in need of a RB.
Bell's excellent play this season is quite obvious with the honors and nominations that he has earned. Bell is a first-team All-Big Ten selection, one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award and ranks first in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (137.3).
Bell will be a dominant rusher in the NFL once he establishes himself and adjusts to the professional game.
And with his seemingly NFL-ready body, I wouldn't be surprised if he makes an impact his rookie season for whichever team he ends up playing for.
Weight: 244 pounds
2012 Season Stats: 350 rushing attempts for 1,648 yards and 11 touchdowns; 30 receptions for 154 yards and one touchdown
Current Draft Projection: Late second to early third round
Alex Okafor is absolutely one of the most electrifying defensive ends in the upcoming NFL draft. The 6'4", 265-pound nightmare off the edge will be a spectacular NFL player; however, his draft stock isn't currently as high as his skill and play may suggest. The true draft projections don't really develop until a few weeks before the actual draft because of the talent that teams discover in players during rookie workouts.
Okafor's draft stock will most likely rise by the time the NFL draft comes around. Either way, with his durability, toughness, work ethic and tireless insistence on getting to the opposing quarterback, Alex Okafor is going to be a very special player.
Weight: 265 pounds
2012 Season Stats: 52 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, 8.0 sacks, and three forced fumbles
Current Draft Projection: Mid to Late Second Round
Tyler Eifert is going to become one of the most dominant tight ends in the NFL for years to come. Currently it seems as if he will not be looked at by any teams until the late first round at the earliest, which means Eifert should be a complete steal.
Making a total of 107 receptions for 1,427 yards and nine touchdowns in his past two seasons at Notre Dame, it is clear that this 6'6" animal is ready for the NFL. Eifert made at least one reception in every game last season except one, which shows solid consistency. In a league that has become obsessed with playmaking tight ends, Tyler Eifert can be a terrific add to any team in need of the offensive production and versatility which he brings game in and game out.
Weight: 250 pounds
2012 Season Stats: 44 receptions for 624 yards and four touchdowns
Current Draft Projection: late first / mid-to-late second round
Sure, Tavarres King has had quite an impressive quarterback in Aaron Murray, but the 6'1" receiver has undoubtedly made his case the past two seasons that he belongs at the next level. With back-to-back seasons of over 700 yards receiving and eight touchdowns in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football, King at least deserves a chance to play for some team.
Saturday, December 1st (against Alabama) will be a crucial day for Tavarres King to prove to NFL scouts not only that he is NFL-worthy, but also that he has the potential to be a dominant receiver for multiple years. King has a lot of raw talent that will only develop into great things once he reaches the National Football League.
I could see teams such as the New England Patriots, New York Giants or Detroit Lions going after King if he is available for the steal in the third or fourth round.
Weight: 200 pounds
2012 Season Stats: 34 receptions for 704 yards and eight touchdowns
Current Draft Projection: Early third to late fourth round
There is absolutely no doubt that Matt Elam has been one of the most electrifying defensive players in college football this season. From the leadership that he possesses to his contagious intensity, Elam is easily one of the top safeties in the FBS.
His stats don't stand out, but his presence and continuous playmaking ability would make him a valuable asset to any NFL team that is dire need of a safety. Elam could start as soon as he is drafted and should perform impressively depending on which team drafts him.
In recent years, many defensive Gators have had some success on the field in the NFL, including DE Carlos Dunlap, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Brandon Spikes and S Reggie Nelson. High-profile defenders from Florida seem to be able to contribute right away, and nothing indicates that Elam will not be able to do the same thing. His passion and love for the game are evident as soon as he takes the field, constantly pumping up teammates and making crowd-soaring tackles.
There may be teams that will ponder moving Elam to cornerback because of his 5'10" stature, which will be pretty interesting. Nowadays, teams like to use taller safeties so they can contend with high-flying receivers when a deep ball is thrown.
No matter which position he plays in the NFL, Elam will be a valuable option right away and may be one of the best defensive rookies next season.
Weight: 202 pounds
2012 Season Stats: 65 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, five pass deflections, one sack, and four interceptions
Current Draft Projection: Early second to mid-third round