NFL Draft 2013: Best Mid-Round Value Picks
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Hitting a home run on a first-round pick is great, but nothing beats finding a hidden gem in the middle rounds of the NFL draft.
So while teams are debating about whether to take Matt Barkley or Geno Smith in the first round, other quality prospects will quietly slip into the mid rounds and become terrific value picks.
Most often this happens with positions that aren't as highly coveted—think offensive guard—or positions that don't annually produce many first-rounders—non-pass-rushing linebackers—but that just ensures teams can find starting-caliber players later in the draft.
Let's take a look at the best mid-round value picks this April.
Jelani Jenkins, LB, Florida
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Despite having another year of eligibility, red-shirt junior Jelani Jenkins opted to declare for the 2013 NFL draft.
The former five-star recruit looked well on his way to a second-round grade after racking up 151 tackles, four sacks and two picks from 2010-2011, but an injury-plagued season has caused Jenkins' draft stock to take a turn for the worst.
Once considered one of the premier outside linebacker prospects in the country, Jenkins checks in as the 107th-best prospect in the draft and just the No. 10 outside linebacker, according to CBSSports.com's rankings.
While thumb, hamstring and foot injuries limited Jenkins to just nine games and eight starts, the 6'0", 237-pounder still has the one trait that every NFL defensive coordinator covets: speed.
With 4.5 wheels, Jenkins possesses elite speed for the position. That trademark sideline-to-sideline range allows him to cover tight ends and running backs with ease, and that's probably where he'll make his mark early in his NFL career.
Regarded as an intelligent player with high character, Jenkins could prove to be a steal if he's able to stay healthy at the next level.
Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
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Running backs tend to be the best value picks on draft day, as the depth at the position can often cause starting-caliber backs to be available on the second or third day of the draft.
In the case of Ray Graham, the Pittsburgh star won't be taken within the first two rounds, but he can be a game-breaker at the next level.
Despite his small frame (5'9", 192 pounds), the senior tailback plays like a bigger back while possessing terrific agility and burst. Before tearing his ACL midway through the 2011 season, Graham was well on his way to earning some Heisman Trophy votes.
After a slowish start, he rebounded with a very solid senior season, breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.
Graham's versatility—he caught 98 passes in his career and returned kicks as a freshman and sophomore—should help him carve out a role as a very solid No. 2 back at the next level.
Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia
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Stuck behind senior starter John Jenkins, massive nose tackle Kwame Geathers decided to forgo his senior season and enter the draft.
Another year at Georgia and a starting job probably could have led to a bigger pay day for the 6'6", 355-pound beast, but Geathers could very well turn out to be a steal for a team on Day two.
According to 247Sports.com, Geathers received a third-to-sixth round grade from the NFL draft advisory board, but those projections are typically conservative and don't actually reflect the player's true ability.
With Jenkins manning the nose, Geathers was often asked to play defensive end in Georgia's 3-4 front, but the junior projects best as an interior player in the NFL. His strong hands, ability to anchor and shed blocks makes Geathers an intriguing prospect who will likely go in the mid-rounds but could become one of the league's better nose tackles after refining his technique and improving his conditioning.
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