NFL Draft 2013: Underrated Offensive Players Who Could Pay Big Dividends

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJanuary 3, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Underrated Offensive Players Who Could Pay Big Dividends

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    Looking at key players in the NFL this season, the differences are astounding.

    First-round picks Andrew Luck and RG3 were everything fans hoped they were, leading their respective teams to the playoffs.

    Then there's guys like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, who, despite a combined average draft pick of 55.5, have led their teams to the same playoffs.

    There's always a wealth of underrated talent in the middle rounds of the drafts. Names you may or may not know, but soon learn once they get to the NFL.

    Here's a look at some of the more interesting underrated offensive players lined up for the 2013 draft.

Markus Wheaton, WR

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    Markus Wheaton finished off his junior season a relative unknown outside of the Pac-12. After a strong senior season, his name's starting to get around.

    Wheaton had a prolific season for the OSU Beavers, leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, all-purpose yards and touchdowns.

    With his collegiate career come and gone, Wheaton has 227 total receptions, a university record. That's quite the feat at a school that's starred James Rodgers, Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

    Wheaton is a dynamic weapon who could make a great receiver at the next level. He has soft hands and blazing speed and can be used in plenty of ways. (He had 142 rushing yards this season on top of everything else.)

    Even with the short supply of wide receivers in this season's draft, Wheaton is overshadowed by players like Keenan Allen and Tavon Austin. He could fall anywhere from Round 3 to Round 4.

    But in reality, Wheaton has the skill set to be a fringe Round 2 talent. And it doesn't hurt that he's spent his entire time at Oregon State in a pro-style offense.

    Given the chance, Wheaton could blossom into a solid NFL receiver—and any team looking for receiving help late in the draft would be finding a steal.

Denard Robinson, WR/RB/PR

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    Denard Robinson isn't an underrated name. Many a college football fan knows who he is, and one could be sure that many an NFL scout knows him just as well.

    But Robinson is a virtual unknown as far as draft stock goes. The only thing that's clear is that he won't be a quarterback at the next level. As a man without a position, it's tough to predict where he'll go.

    Because of the unknowns, it probably won't be until the later rounds, but anyone willing to take a shot on Robinson could be ending up with a steal.

    He's a dynamic weapon. He possesses great speed and explosiveness. The only reason he can't be the next great dynamic quarterback is an arm that's far too streaky and inconsistent.

    But if nurtured in the right offensive scheme, Robinson could turn into a stud weapon. He has 4,419 all purpose yards at Michigan, and that includes 42 rushing touchdowns.

    Though slightly undersized at 5-11, Robinson has the speed and athleticism to make it as a wide receiver.

    Even if he never reaches his true athletic potential, Robinson could still make a great do-everything kind of third-down back. He's a guy to take a chance on in the third or fourth rounds.

Kenjon Barner, RB

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    Over the last few weeks, Kenjon Barner's potential has been rising—and it's not because of anything he's done.

    Due to injuries, the San Francisco 49ers have finally been playing running back LaMichael James. He's responded by averaging 4.6 yards per carry and 29.8 yards per kick return.

    So how does this impact Barner?

    Before James got playing time, no one knew what kind of NFL player he could be. He was electric at the collegiate level, but it was unknown if that was him or just the system he played in.

    Now he's proving that running backs from Oregon can succeed in the NFL.

    Barner has put together a solid senior season, rushing for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns. Having yet to play in the Fiesta Bowl, his season rushing total could come very close to the 2,000 mark.

    Just like James, Barner lacks the size to become an every-down back in the NFL. But his explosiveness can carry him to the next level and could make him a great specialty option for any team.

    Most likely headed for the fourth-round area, Barner could be a huge boon to any team.

Landry Jones, QB

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    After a great sophomore season, it looked like Landry Jones could be headed for the top of draft boards in 2012.

    However, the Oklahoma QB failed to take that great step forward. Jones tossed 15 interceptions in his junior season and failed to complete more than 64 percent of his passes.

    Instead of entering the draft, he decided to return to the Sooners for his senior season.

    Landry didn't regain all of his former draft stock this season—hence why he's on this list—but he did manage to restore some faith in his arm.

    As a senior, Landry has led Oklahoma to a 10-2 season. He's thrown for 3,989 yards, completing 65.5 percent of his passes with just 10 interceptions. With the Cotton Bowl yet to be played, his stats could get that much better.

    Landry profiles much like a Jay Cutler-caliber quarterback. He has all the right tools to proceed to the next level, but there are still issues that could keep him from ever achieving greatness.

    But seeing that he's a fringe second to third-round pick, Jones could be the difference-maker for a team looking for a QB, but not willing to spend high.