2013 NFL Draft: 5 Day 2 Prospects Likely to Make Early Pro Bowl Appearances

Al BruceContributor IApril 12, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: 5 Day 2 Prospects Likely to Make Early Pro Bowl Appearances

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    NFL teams often find starters on the second day of the draft, but in recent years a few teams have managed reap an even larger return on their initial investment of a second- or third-round pick.

    Nineteen prospects selected in the second or third round of the draft since 2008 have already become Pro Bowl players. LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Ray Rice, Russell Wilson and NaVorro Bowman can all count themselves amongst this group.

    As we look ahead to the start of the second day of the 2013 NFL draft in two weeks, let's take a shot at projecting which prospects that currently carry second- or third-round grades have the best shot at becoming Pro Bowl players early on in their careers.

    An analysis of the 19 Day 2 draftees who have become Pro Bowlers in the last five years suggest that projecting a Day 2 draft prospect's early Pro Bowl potential requires an evaluation of three practical considerations in addition to more obvious factors such as the prospect's potential to be an NFL starter, and whether the team that drafts the prospect is the best fit for the player:

    1) Given the role that name recognition plays in the Pro Bowl selection process, the prospect should be in position to have a highly-visible, positive impact on the team that drafts him;

    2) The prospect should play a position where there is a greater opportunity to make the Pro Bowl because of the lack of elite, Pro Bowl-caliber players currently playing the prospect's position in the NFL (this factor tends to benefit linemen more than skill players); and

    3) The perceived value at the prospect's position in the draft should be highest in the second and third round. This makes it more likely that the player is still one of the best prospects in the draft at his position even though he's being selected in the second or third round and not the first. (For example, the fifth best offensive tackle in a draft class will often be drafted ahead of the highest-rated center, lower-rated cornerback over higher-rated safety, etc.)

    Based on the aforementioned criteria, here are the five Day 2 prospects from the 2013 NFL draft class that are most likely to become Pro Bowlers early in their NFL careers.

    Note: All current round projections are from CBSSports.com (via NFLDraftScout). All historical draft data is from ProFootballReference.com.

Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA

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    Current Projection: Second Round


    1) Potential to Have a Highly-Visible, Positive Impact on the Team that Drafts Him

    Four of the 19 Pro Bowl players selected in the second and third round in the last five years have been running backs (Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles and LeSean McCoy). Johnathan Franklin should get every opportunity to start as a rookie because he is a legitimate receiving threat out of the backfield who can play all three downs.

    If he becomes a starter for the right team (ideally a team that plays a few national television games), Franklin should quickly become a household name because he will touch the ball a lot and be popular in fantasy football drafts.

     

    2) Number of Elite, Pro Bowl-Caliber Players at the His Position Currently Playing in the NFL

    If you're being generous, there are probably close to a dozen running backs in the NFL who would merit some Pro Bowl consideration for the four or five roster spots set aside for running backs in each conference if we took a vote right now.

    However, as we've seen recently with guys like Tampa Bay's Doug Martin, there is almost always room for a new back to burst onto the NFL scene and make a name for himself.

    Also, since running backs frequently get injured, the number of quality backs already playing in the league shouldn't stop a rookie like Franklin from getting Pro Bowl consideration early in his career if he produces.

     

    3) Perceived Value of the His Position on NFL Draft Boards

    Due in large part to the success teams have had with players like Forte, Rice, Charles and McCoy and the fact that the NFL has become a passing league, NFL teams are waiting a little longer to draft running backs. Cleveland's decision to draft Trent Richardson in the top five last year went against the recent trend that saw the first running back come of the board at pick 28 in 2011.

    This year Eddie Lacy is widely thought to be the only first-round caliber running back in this draft, and even he's considered to be on the border between the late-first and early-second round. If Franklin is drafted in the second round, he could easily be the second back off the board.

     

    Honorable Mention: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

    Montee Ball deserves a mention here too because much of the same logic applies to him, but Franklin edges Ball out for the feature because of his superior receiving skills out of the backfield.

Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State

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    Current Projection: Third Round


    1) Potential to Have a Highly-Visible, Positive Impact on the Team that Drafts Him

    Gavin Escobar has size (6'6", 255lbs), reliable hands and the ability to get open out of the slot or coming off the line scrimmage. If he can improve his blocking, he will probably start as a rookie and become a favorite third-down and red-zone target for his quarterback. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are recent examples of Day 2 tight ends who turned into Pro Bowl players, and Escobar is capable of emulating their success in the right system.

     

    2) Number of Elite, Pro Bowl-Caliber Players at the His Position Currently Playing in the NFL

    If NFL positions were personified by stereotypical middle school students, athletic, receiving tight ends who create matchup problems would be the newest "popular" kids eating in the cafeteria. In addition to Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, Jermaine Gresham, Aaron Hernandez, Kyle Rudolph and Brandon Pettigrew all appear set to merit Pro Bowl consideration for the foreseeable future. Moreover, veterans like Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten and Antonio Gates are still in the mix. 

    Since only four tight ends usually make the Pro Bowl, Escobar would have his work cut out for him to beat out some of players named above for a spot on the AFC or NFC roster. 

    However, since tight ends generally make an easier transition to the NFL than wide receivers, Escobar gets the nod on this list as the pass-catcher that's most likely to make an early Pro Bowl appearance over Day 2 wide receiver prospects like Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and Terrence Williams.

     

    3) Perceived Value of the His Position on NFL Draft Boards

    Recently there has been great value at the tight end position on the second day of the draft because no tight ends were drafted in the first round in 2011 and 2012. That led to top-rated tight end prospects like Kyle Rudolph (2013 Pro Bowler) and Coby Fleener still being available at the top of the second round.

    Even though potential first-round prospects Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz headline the tight end group in this year's class, a team that drafts Escobar in the second or third round will be able to make a strong argument that it's landed the third best tight end prospect in the draft.

Larry Warford, G, Kentucky

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    Current Projection: Second Round


    1) Potential to Have a Highly-Visible, Positive Impact on the Team that Drafts Him

    Larry Warford will have a great opportunity to have a positive impact on the team that drafts him because he's a battle-hardened SEC starter who won't take long to adjust to the athleticism that he will see from NFL defensive linemen. Warford has prototypical size for an NFL guard (6'3", 332 lbs) and he's surprisingly effective as a pass-blocker.

    However, the "highly-visible" part of this analysis works against Warford because he will be playing on the interior offensive line. 

     

    2) Number of Elite, Pro Bowl-Caliber Players at the His Position Currently Playing in the NFL

    This factor is probably the biggest reason that Warford's name is on this list. There are plenty of "good" guards in the NFL, but few are able to distinguish themselves from the pack the way Saints guard Jahri Evans has because of the relative anonymity that comes along with playing guard in the NFL.

    If Warford gets drafted by a high-profile team with a lot of star power and becomes a quality starter, he will get strong Pro Bowl consideration early in his career.

     

    3) Perceived Value of the His Position on NFL Draft Boards

    The irony with Larry Warford is that even if he succeeds at becoming a strong starter for an elite team, his stiffest competition to make the Pro Bowl could come from the two guards that are consistently rated ahead of him in this year's draft class. Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper are both projected to be first-round picks, and Kevin Zeitler and David DeCastro were first-round selections at guard last year. 

    Even still, NFL teams don't typically select more than one or two guards in the first round of the draft.  If Warford is still on the board in the second round, it has less to do with his ability and more to do with the higher value that NFL teams place on offensive tackles in the first round.

Brian Schwenke, C, California

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    Current Projection: Second or Third Round


    1) Potential to Have a Highly-Visible, Positive Impact on the Team that Drafts Him

    Schwenke will face some of the same issues that Larry Warford faced as to the "highly-visible" portion of this analysis, but it applies to a lesser extent here because Schwenke will touch the football on every offensive play for the team that drafts him.

    Schwenke has a high ceiling at center because he only played the position for one season in college.  However, he did start 36 games along the offensive line during his time at Cal and his familiarity with the responsbilities of the other players along the line will make him even better as a center. 

    Like Warford, Schwenke can negate the lack of visibility that comes with being an interior offensive linemen by getting drafted by a high-profile team in a larger media market.

     

    2) Number of Elite, Pro Bowl-Caliber Players at the His Position Currently Playing in the NFL

    Schwenke scored even higher marks than Larry Warford did here. Jeff Saturday recently retired, but a youth movement was already underway at the center position as Maurkice Pouncey (First Round, 2010) and Max Unger (Second Round, 2009) were the starting centers in last year's Pro Bowl. 

    Nick Mangold and Ryan Kalil will also be competitive, but if Schwenke lives up to his potential he may have the best shot of anyone on this list at getting to the Pro Bowl during his first couple of seasons in the league.

     

    3) Perceived Value of the His Position on NFL Draft Boards

    Like their brethren on the interior of the offensive line, the best that the highly-rated center prospects can typically hope for is to be selected in the second half of the first round. Schwenke is battling Wisconsin's Travis Frederick and Alabama's Barrett Jones to be the first center off of the board in this year's class, but all three players are considered to be second-round prospects. 

    Unlike a second-round offensive tackle, a second round center like Schwenke could be the highest-rated player at his position in the entire draft.

     

    Honorable Mention: Travis Frederick, Wisconsin and Barrett Jones, Alabama. 

    Schwenke's athleticism pushed him ahead of Frederick and Jones for this list, but both Frederick and Jones have decent shots at making the Pro Bowl early in their careers if they land a starting gig with the right team.

Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International

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    Current Projection: Second Round


    1) Potential to Have a Highly-Visible, Positive Impact on the Team that Drafts Him

    Cyprien scores high marks in this area because of his aggressive, attacking style of play. It will be tough to keep him off SportsCenter if he gets the opportunity to hit anyone in the open field. Moreover, his ability to run well and track the ball in the air should net him a good number of interceptions.

    In addition, given the rising popularity of tight ends, quality safeties are getting more attention because they're a big part of NFL defensive coordinator's counter punch to the offense coordinator's infatuation with exploiting matchups with the "Y" position.

    Cyprien is a very exciting safety prospect who reminds me a lot of Falcons safety William Moore, who's one of the 19 Day 2 draftees who have made the Pro Bowl since 2008.

     

    2) Number of Elite, Pro Bowl-Caliber Players at the His Position Currently Playing in the NFL

    Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed are the elder statesmen at the safety position, but there has been a bit of a recent youth movement here like there was a center. In addition to former first-round picks like Eric Berry (2009), LaRon Landry (2007), Earl Thomas (2010) and Donte Whitner (2006), second-round alums Thomas DeCoud (2008), William Moore (2009) and Jairus Bryd (2009) all create competition for a Pro Bowl spot at safety.

    Cyprien will also have to compete with Mark Barron (first round, 2012) and his fellow 2013 draft classmates Matt Elam, Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro.

     

    3) Perceived Value of the His Position on NFL Draft Boards

    As you can see from above, there is good precedent for finding Pro Bowl talent at safety on the second day of the draft. DaShon Goldson (fourth round, 2007) wasn't even mentioned. Kenny Vaccaro is projected to be a first-round safety in this year's class, while Cyprien is rated close to Matt Elam and Eric Reid as a borderline first- or second-round pick.

    At worst, Cyprien will probably be the fourth best safety off the board if he ends up getting drafted in the second round.

Which Day Two Prospects Do You Think Have The Highest Early Pro Bowl Odds?

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    Who else do you think belongs in this discussion? Which Day 2 prospects do you project as NFL stars?