Good players are routinely selected in the late rounds of the NFL draft.
Usually, those players are unearthed in one of a few ways:
- They eventually emerged after having an opportunity to hone their skills.
- The team that drafted them had a need for a starter at their position, and they stepped up.
- They simply outperformed their competition in camp, earning a roster spot and making a big impact.
There are examples of players that fall into each category.
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson is a good example of No. 1. He didn't emerge until his third year in the NFL, but with three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons under his belt, he has quickly become one of the biggest steals for the Bills in recent draft memory.
Former 2009 "Mr. Irrelevant" Ryan Succop is a recent example of No. 2. The Chiefs had two kickers in 2008 and brought neither of them back, allowing Succop the opportunity to step right in as the starter. That's also an example of the Chiefs wisely picking a player they knew could contribute to the team as a rookie, milking every last bit of value out of the draft.
For an example of No. 3, look no further than Saints receiver Marques Colston, who was drafted to an offense which already featured Joe Horn and Devery Henderson and started 12 games.
Usually, players who are considered late-round steals before the draft fall into one of four categories as well:
- Injury history
- Small school
- Character concerns
- Insufficient measurables
You will see examples of all four in this list of players who may not have their name called until the final day of the draft but could still provide value to a team willing to take the chance.