There will forever be late-round NFL draft prospects who make an immediate impact as rookies.
Alfred Morris of the Washington Redskins is a prime example from the 2012 class, and 2013 will be no exception.
For one, players taken deeper in the draft are a much smaller risk by comparison to a Round 1 or 2 prospect. By the time Rounds 4 or 5 begin, major weaknesses will have been addressed. Therefore, adding personnel depth is what occurs—at the very least—on the event's final day.
Nevertheless, the following athletes are certainly capable of shining in pro football this season.
Travis Johnson: LB, San Jose State
San Jose State's Travis Johnson collected 13 sacks last season, 21.5 tackles for loss and forced three fumbles.
He's clearly an established playmaker and has a nose for wreaking havoc in the backfield. Any team needing a 3-4 rush linebacker or 4-3 defensive end, Johnson brings the size at 6'3", 244 pounds to contribute.
Now, he must build a much quicker first step and improve his lateral movement to see playing time. Otherwise, the more balanced linemen and explosive running backs will dodge him. That said, Johnson's ability to get in position to make plays will draw attention on Day 3.
Daimion Stafford: Safety, Nebraska
In two seasons for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Daimion Stafford recorded 176 tackles and defended 21 passes.
Possessing the size frame of 6'0", 221 pounds, Stafford's instincts to shell in coverage underneath and help against the run warrants recognition. He also improved at generating turnovers by snagging four picks and forcing two fumbles last year.
Provided he continues to improve his short-area quickness, we'll see Stafford isolate slot receivers and tight ends down in man coverage. And that aspect will give him a competitive advantage versus spread formations and on third down in pro football.
Rodney Smith: WR, Florida State
Which later round will Rodney Smith get drafted?
Measuring at 6'4", 225 pounds at the combine, Florida State's Rodney Smith offers the size and athletic combo to really develop as a strong NFL receiver.
After all, he clocked 4.07 seconds on the 20-yard shuttle and 11.84 seconds on the 60-yard shuttle. This ability to immediately redirect and sustain explosive power will help his transition for route running and breaking off against the better defensive backs.
Even though he caught just 38 passes for 524 yards, the Seminoles weren't a pass-heavy offense either. A by-product of that, however, minimized Smith's knack for being consistent in traffic and getting off the line quicker.
Should he go to an offense with a true No. 1 target, the window of development lengthens: Smith won't constantly face double coverage or even a bracketed zone over the top.