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.