Every year there are stars from the college ranks that make major splashes in the NFL from day one of minicamp. This year there are 10 players that will be steals during the coming NFL draft.
Some players had worse than expected stat lines their final year, others have had discipline issues. There are also the few players that are among the most talented in the draft that go unnoticed because their school of choice is not in a major conference.
NFL teams always find steals in the later rounds, and some payoff bigger than ever expected. This is a look at the 10 steals of the 2013 NFL draft.
Giovani Bernard was the best running back in the ACC this past year, putting up a 6.7 yards per carry average on 184 carries. He scored 17 total touchdowns on the year, and rushed for 1,228 yards.
Bernard has decided to forgo his junior year and enter the draft becoming one of the many early departures at the position.
The Tar Heels used Bernard in a number of roles from the backfield and that will help him land a spot on a squad looking for a running back contributor immediately. Bernard may finish as the best running back in the draft.
Cornellius Carradine may be slightly overshadowed in this draft by fellow Florida State star Bjoern Werner, but he will be one of the best players taken in this draft.
Carradine finished the year as an All-ACC first team selection and was a solid punch that helped the Florida State defense dominate a number of opponents this fall. He has solid pass rush skills and plays very well against the run.
There are a number of defensive ends in the coming draft, but Carradine stands out against the pack. He could be a second-round pick, or possibly a seventh-round pick. He is a great defensive end, but the need for defensive ends is tough to project.
Whichever team pulls the trigger on Carradine will be pleasantly surprised with his motor and production.
Dion Jordan is one of the rare tweener players that is in the draft this season. He played defensive end in college, but he may project as a defensive linemen in the pros.
Either position will suite him well. He’s aggressive and a speedster for his size—he is 6’6”, 243-pounds. Anytime that body gets moving downhill, it is bringing the pain train.
Jordan is projected as a linebacker at the next level, but given the right scheme he could end up as a hands-down defensive end. Either way, he will be a steal for his team this April.
Marcus Davis was a major playmaker for Virginia Tech this fall, catching 51 passes for 953 yards and five touchdowns. This year was huge for Davis as far as production, but he could have hurt his draft stock by his terrible blocking that became apparent against Florida State.
The Virginia Tech offense will miss Davis’ ability to go up and over defenders to haul in passes. Whenever the Hokies needed a playmaker, they turned to Davis.
As he enters the draft, Davis is not considered one of the top receivers. He is one of many. The separator will be his size.
Davis is 6’4”, 228-pounds and can make a play over any defender in the league. He will be a huge pickup during the late rounds this fall.
If not for Ray Graham, the Pitt Panthers would have struggled to move the football last year. The Panthers relied on the ground game often throughout the year, but the loss of Graham will hurt.
For Graham, it is a great time to leave with so few quality backs coming back. The loss of Sunseri hurts, the loss of Graham will hurt the team more.
Graham has a great blend of size and speed making defenders question angles and tackling technique. He would be able to provide a stable option to an offense from the backfield as a pass catcher and third down runner.
Rex Burkhead battled through injuries all year for Nebraska, greatly stunting his stat production midseason. He is still one of the premier players entering the draft, and he will get looks.
Expect Burkhead to be one of the first running backs taken in the draft. He has proven he can play injured and maintain effectiveness. NFL teams love a tenacious running back.
Burkhead is overlooked at this point because of his moderately successful 2012 campaign. It could let him slide into the middle rounds and provide a team with the steal of draft day. Burkhead is going to be a solid pro running back and any team will be wise to draft and sign him.
The linebackers that steal the show in this draft are Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree. Both are projected as first rounders and have the linebacker market cornered in the ACC.
Kenny Cain is making a push out of TCU, and he has the skills to become a solid player once in the league. He will be a likely second day selection, but that will make him a major bargain for the money.
His final three games were the best of the year as he tallied 38 total tackles in three weeks. He had a season high 14 against Texas to end November.
Cain is a prototypical TCU linebacker. He is serviceable and fast for his size, and plays with unique field vision. Cain is a steal for any team picking him up in the late rounds.
Cobi Hamilton is one of the country’s elite receivers, but he was overshadowed by all the bad in Arkansas this past year.
Hamilton has NFL talent and will be a big pickup for any team needing an offensive boost. He pulled down 90 catches for 1,335 yards and five touchdowns this past fall. In his career he has 175 catches for 2,854 yards.
When NFL teams are looking for talent they want it to produce sooner than later. Hamilton is that guy. He is as safe a bet as there is in college football.
Luke Marquardt is a 6’9”, 322-pound offensive tackle out of Azusa Pacific. He is one of the most athletic big men in the draft, and looks the part of giant starting offensive tackle.
Marquardt is very athletic and is solid at the point of attack until he faces speedy pass-rushers. When faced with athleticism that can beat him, Marquardt tends to lose technique, hurting his game a bit. That aside, he is one of the best offensive line sleepers in the draft.
Keep in mind that Marquardt did play NAIA for college, but his talent is undeniable. He could become an elite offensive linemen in the next few seasons.
Connor Vernon has become one of the best receivers in Duke history over the past four years. This season was Vernon’s best yet, catching 85 catches for 1,074 yards. He also hauled eight touchdowns.
Vernon is a Wes Welker type player. He can step into any offensive system and instantly become a go-to type player. Vernon will be a late round pick, but he will be a steal.
There aren’t a lot of receivers that are entering the draft with the solid reputation that Vernon carries. Drops are not a normal piece of his game, but big first down conversions are.
He will be a major pickup for any team in need of offensive help from the slot position.