Nico Johnson enters the 2013 NFL draft with Nick Saban's business-like program under his belt.
The 2013 NFL draft class is top heavy and full of pass rushers and offensive linemen this year, therefore the first round should be exciting and laden with college stars. But once the first round is over, fans will start to see names they do not recognize. This year's draft is full of mid-round sleepers.
There are countless players not on many people's radars but will benefit whichever team selects them later this month. That's the real beauty of the NFL draft.
Players that worked hard and succeeded at the collegiate level without much media attention are now able to make a paycheck because of their underrated athletic abilities.
Here we highlight a few of the top mid-round sleepers.
Conner Vernon had an extremely successful senior season and career with the Duke Blue Devils. In 2012, he caught 85 passes for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns. For his career at Duke, he accumulated 3,749 receiving yards and 20 scores.
At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Vernon ran a 4.68 second 40-yard dash and recorded a 32.5-inch vertical jump. The ACC's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards managed those feats by using his 6'0" frame and quickness.
Vernon possesses strong hands and a fearlessness of contact that NFL teams want in a receiver, especially one that can line up in the slot. He may not be able to blaze by defenders, but he will go up and fight for the ball.
Any team that needs a reliable third receiver should look into drafting Vernon.
Nico Johnson has been on the field for Nick Saban's defense since he was a freshman in 2009, winning three national championships as a member of the Crimson Tide. His experience alone should garner him some attention from teams around the league.
At 6’2”, 248 pounds, Johnson can be a regular middle linebacker for any team in need of a defensive signal-caller. He knows how to clog running lanes, as well as string out running backs to the sideline with his hustle and speed.
The only question mark for him is his ability to cover backs and tight ends down the field, as the tight end is being used more and more in NFL offenses. If he can overcome this flaw, he will make one team extremely happy with their mid-round choice.
Zac Stacy had a very quiet, yet productive senior year at Vanderbilt. The senior running back carried the ball 207 times for 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns.
In his entire career as a Commodore, Stacy rushed for 3,143 yards and 30 touchdowns, and did so in the SEC. He earned Second Team All-SEC honors in both 2011 and 2012.
Although he is only 5'8", 216 pounds, Stacy is a strong runner. He displayed his strength at the combine by bench-pressing a position-best 27 reps.
He provides an offense with a balanced athlete that can consistently move the chains, as well as catch the ball out of the backfield, which is what teams like to see.
Stacy probably won't be drafted to be a starter for anybody, but he can be a nice second punch in any team's running game.