Every year there are a handful of NFL draft prospects on both sides of the ball that emerge from the shadows during the draft process, allowing their stocks to skyrocket before draft day. It gives hope to players that aren't generating a lot of buzz right now.
Now that the season has ended for more than half of NFL teams and the college football campaign is winding down, the focus will begin to shift toward the late April spectacle. Players get just over three months to prove they can excel at the next level.
The outlook for most prospects will remain relatively stable between now and the Kansas City Chiefs going on the clock, but let's examine three players who will rise during that time period.
QB: Zac Dysert
A four-year starter out of Miami (Ohio), there will be constant comparisons between Dysert and former RedHawks star Ben Roethlisberger leading up to the draft. That will probably work in Dysert's favor, given Big Ben's track record.
More importantly, the 6'3'' senior looks the part of an NFL quarterback. He commands the pocket well, has illustrated more-than-adequate arm strength and his experience would allow him to make a quick impact for a desperate franchise.
Like Roethlisberger, Dysert features impressive physical traits, but can still escape the pocket and make plays with his legs, if necessary. He threw for nearly 7,000 yards over the past two seasons and should catch the eye of evaluators who didn't get a good look at him in the MAC.
RB: Stepfan Taylor
Taylor finished his senior season on a high note, totaling 105 total yards and a touchdown to help Stanford upend Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Now he begins the extended process of trying to sell himself to NFL teams.
The numbers speak for themselves. He rushed for nearly 4,000 yards during his final three seasons with the Cardinal and added 94 catches, as well. That type of dual-threat option is a coveted commodity in today's NFL, which is dominated by fast-paced offenses.
Based on those stats, he would seem like a top prospect, but he's not being rated that way. The main reason is a perceived lack of athleticism since he doesn't possess elite speed. But once he gets to show everything else he brings to the table, teams will become more intrigued by him.
WR: Quinton Patton
The wide receiver class for 2012 is on the weak side. Not only does it lack a true No. 1 option like A.J. Green or Justin Blackmon, but the depth just isn't there like previous classes, which means teams will be forced to dig deeper at the position.
One player that should stand out when they do that is Patton. He's been overlooked while playing for Louisiana Tech, but has racked up 183 catches for nearly 2,600 yards and 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
While he put up those numbers against lackluster competition, the sheer level of dominance shouldn't be ignored. His ability to consistently separate from defenders, even after teams started game planning to slow him down, was noteworthy. He will show he can do it at the next level, too.