For whatever reason, NFL prospects sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
While we are wowed with the efforts of guys at the Senior Bowl, NFL combine and pro days in the interim period between the end of the college football season and the start of the NFL draft, a lot can change when it comes to prospect rankings.
For example, the 2012 NFL draft featured prospects David DeCastro, Courtney Upshaw and Vontaze Burfict all going lower (Burfict's drop was a free-fall) than they were originally slated to be selected.
It's a phenomenon that doesn't bother NFL teams at all, since picking up starters well past the point at which players were expected to be selected is always a giddy experience in draft rooms.
That's why they call it the "value pick."
While the first round will be littered with prospects that will pan out and others that won't, these four steady guys have an excellent shot to both avoid first-round expectations while still carving out a nice role with their new NFL team.
Check out the prospects that have been forgotten about with regard to the 2013 draft—until now.
Alabama OL Barrett Jones
When it comes to versatility, Barrett Jones of Alabama is the best of the best.
Jones spent time at tackle, guard and center during his stint with the national champion Crimson Tide, showing he could handle speed rushers on the outside while still having the ability to move to center and handle the various duties that a captain of the line is responsible for.
His Lisfranc foot injury (via ESPN) has scared teams off enough to probably rule out the Tide star as a first-round prospect. However, you show me a team with offensive line needs that wouldn't want a healthy Jones and I'll show you an NFL team that is lying its butt off.
While he probably won't creep up into the first round because of his foot injury, there's a good chance teams will be chomping at the bit to make him their offensive line choice in the second round.
As reported by Andrew Gribble of AL.com, Jones has the attitude, work ethic and know-how to succeed, and has already informed NFL teams that he will play any position they ask him to in training camp.
Jones has sleeper star written all over him.
LSU S Eric Reid
If Eric Reid would have been drafted in 2012, there's a chance he would have been the first safety selected.
That's not the case, and he's back in the safety pool for 2013.
Overshadowed by Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, Reid still has the hitting ability and coverage skills to play with any team that selects him in the draft. He's played with top talent Morris Claiborne and the Honey Badger, Tyrann Mathieu, and LSU has been quite proficient in churning out top talent every year.
He finished modestly in 2012, totaling just 32 tackles on a loaded LSU defense—one that could send as many as five players to the pros in the first couple of rounds.
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of an uncertain safety class, Reid has the skills to jump in a starter in a place like St. Louis, San Francisco or Baltimore right away, since those three clubs are the most likely candidates to select secondary help in Round 1.
If he does fall to Round 2, don't expect him to stay there for long.
Baylor WR Terrance Williams
Many forget that Baylor's Terrance Williams led the nation in receiving yards in 2012, but the stat-check will prove just that.
Catching passes from both Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and upstart senior Nick Florence the past two seasons, Williams has emerged from Kendall Wright's shadow as a legitimate wideout option on the outside—even in the NFL. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com loves Williams as a deep threat, but notes he has work to do when he gets to the pro level:
Daniel Jeremiah @MoveTheSticks
I like Baylor WR Terrance Williams as a vertical threat. He needs more polish getting in/out of breaks but he's a weapon. Mid-Late 2nd rd3/26/2013, 3:36:54 PM
When this process started, some (including this writer) had Williams as a first-round lock. His ball skills and ability to get behind the defense are well documented, even if he ran a limited route tree at Baylor and never really had to go across the middle of the field.
Since then, other receivers have usurped Williams in the rankings. Keenan Allen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tavon Austin and Robert Woods are just a few of the names that could appear in the first round before Williams'.
However, Williams is still hovering around the bottom of the first round, and depending on what happens with some of the other talent, he might be a fit for a team like Houston or New England at the bottom of the first. Either way, Williams should push for a starting role right away next season—in the right system. He's caught passes from two NFL-caliber QBs, and won't mind being a value pick for a team with a need.
UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin
With a weak crop of running backs in the draft now coupled with a weak list of free agent ones, the potential to overlook some of the nation's top RB talent is going to be there.
Eddie Lacy and Giovani Bernard grabbed early headlines as college football's best backs heading into this process, as did Michigan State bruiser Le'Veon Bell. All three figure to be in play to be the first RB taken, but UCLA's Johnathan Franklin might have something to say about that.
Franklin completed a stellar season with the Bruins this year, in which he ran for over 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns. Franklin was an integral part of the Jim Mora Jr. attack, and the Bruins almost managed to claim the Pac-12 Rose Bowl bid before falling to Stanford in the conference championship.
As an NFL back, there are those that believe Franklin has the skill set and size to be an every-down back.
Tom Melton is among those who feels that way, and gives an excellent breakdown of Franklin's biggest strengths and weaknesses in his latest blog post. While not the biggest, fastest or most dynamic running back in the class, Franklin also has no holes in his game, and is a developing receiver out of the backfield.
Lacy will likely be the top back. Behind him, the pride of UCLA could turn out to be the best back in the 2013 class. Just like the names before him, the potential is there to complete throw off our pre-draft rankings when taking a look back in several years.
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