NFL Draft 2013: Late-Round Sleepers Who Will Be Impact Players

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2013

NFL Draft 2013: Late-Round Sleepers Who Will Be Impact Players

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    This year's NFL draft is full of players who could be considered late-round sleepers. 

    Some of the best players of all-time who were drafted in the later rounds include Steve Largent, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe and Tom Brady

    Often, these late-round gems are what can propel a team into success. 

    Here are some of this year's potential late-round sleepers. 

Onterio McCalebb, RB

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    While Onterio McCalebb is primarily being overlooked by scouts due to his size, his blazing speed and elusiveness could make him an impact player immediately on an NFL roster. 

    At the NFL combine, he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash, one of the top performers among all backs. He is only 5'10" and 168 pounds, but he put up impressive numbers while sharing the load at Auburn. 

    During his sophomore campaign with the Tigers in 2010, McCalebb broke the school's yards-per-carry record by averaging 8.5 yards on 95 carries. He totaled an impressive 810 yards that season in fewer than 100 carries.

    His numbers dipped slightly during his junior and senior seasons, but he returned a kickoff for a touchdown in both of those seasons. 

    Speed like McCalebb's simply cannot be taught. Whoever picks him up in the late rounds not only will bolster their kick-return game, but also could give their main running back an excellent complement. 

Montori Hughes, DT

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    Had it not been for his off-the-field troubles, Montori Hughes may be considered a higher-round pick. Instead, because he was kicked off the Tennessee Volunteers in June 2011, he had to transfer to Tennessee-Martin, an FCS school. 

    Had he kept his composure off the field, Hughes could have developed into a top-round pick for the Volunteers. Still, his size is something to note. He stands at a massive 6'4" and 329 pounds—a good size for a defensive tackle in the NFL. 

    His senior season at Tennessee-Martin included 31 tackles, four sacks and 13 QB-hurries. 

    Hughes may be a volatile pick due to his attitude, but if he can prove to NFL teams that he has a quality work ethic, he could be a huge pickup in the late rounds.

Collin Klein, QB

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    Collin Klein, the reigning Big 12 champion quarterback from Kansas State, has had a low draft stock due a perceived inability to make NFL throws.

    His throwing mechanics are unconventional and his release time is not as fast as most NFL scouts would like. 

    However, Klein didn't finish third in last year's Heisman Trophy race for nothing. He put up gaudy numbers at Kansas State last season, including 2,641 yards passing, 16 touchdowns and a completion rate of nearly 65 percent.

    As more NFL teams are adopting offenses that incorporate QBs who can run the ball, Klein's running ability could prove make him a valuable late-round pick. In his last two seasons, he has racked up 2,061 yards rushing and 50 rushing touchdowns. 

    Klein also has many of the intangibles that make up a quality NFL player, including tremendous size at 6'5" and 226 pounds, as well as great character. 

    Klein is a virtual no-risk player. You know what you are getting when you draft him. In the right system, however, Klein could make a huge impact for an NFL squad. 

Ace Sanders, WR

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    While Ace Sanders is undersized at the WR spot, standing only at 5'7" and 173 pounds, his speed and playmaking ability could allow him to have an immediate impact in the NFL. 

    During his time at South Carolina, he returned three punts for touchdowns. Last season, he started all 13 games for the Gamecocks and set the school record for punt-return yardage with 429. 

    He ran a 4.58 40-yard dash at the NFL combine—not too fast, but not too slow either for a receiver. However, his 11.29-second time in the 60-yard shuttle was impressive. 

    His time in the 40-yard dash at the combine hurt Sanders' draft stock, but his numbers and consistency in the punt-return game speak for themselves. Whichever team burns a late-round pick on Sanders will get an immediate return threat for its special teams unit. 

Tanner Hawkinson, OT

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    Tanner Hawkinson was one of the most consistent offensive lineman in all of college football while with the Kansas Jayhawks.

    Hawkinson started every game for the Jayhawks during his career, was named a freshman All-American and finished his senior season with second-team honors on the All-Big 12. 

    Had the Kansas Jayhawks not won only 11 games during Hawkinson's career, he may have gotten significantly more publicity from NFL scouts. 

    Hawkinson possesses good size for an NFL offensive tackle, standing at 6'5" and weighing nearly 300 pounds. He also had a good combine, posting a 4.51 time in the 20-yard shuttle and a 112-inch broad jump. 

    His biggest weakness is his strength to hold off more-powerful defenders. If he can prove to teams that he can improve on that, Hawkinson could be a terrific late-round pickup for a team looking to bolster its offensive line. 

Travis Long, OLB

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    Travis Long was one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 last season, and could make an immediate impact at the NFL level. 

    During his senior campaign at Washington State, he recorded three games of multiple sacks, finishing the season with 61 tackles and 9.5 sacks. 

    He has an impressive stature as well, standing 6'4" and weighing 245 pounds. 

    Long may be getting overlooked due to the lack of success last year of the Cougars, who only won three games. However, Long was one of the lone bright spots for the team and his instincts on the field could allow him to make a big-time impact on Sundays.