Experts seem to think they have everything figured out when it comes to the NFL draft on a yearly basis. However, every year talented players inevitably fall without explanation. Sometimes teams are proven right for passing them up, but there are times when those players go on to have great careers as well.
The draft is essentially a crap shoot and there is very little rhyme or reason involved. Players are routinely taken in the middle rounds only to provide first-round production over the course of their careers, so draft position doesn't mean much in terms of future success.
Here are three highly-touted prospects who are bound to fall in this year's draft, but they could certainly make some teams pay if they land in the right situation.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Which tumbling prospect will have the best NFL career?
Had USC quarterback Matt Barkley entered the NFL draft last year, it's possible that he would have been a top-10 pick. Although Barkley dealt with injuries as a senior, he had a strong season statistically. Even so, his stock has obviously dropped over the past year and he may no longer be a first-round prospect. If Barkley slips past the Buffalo Bills at No. 8, somebody would probably have to trade back up into the first round to prevent him from slipping into the second.
There are a lot of question marks surrounding Barkley, including his size, arm strength and mobility. At the same time, he proved to be an accurate passer while with the Trojans and is easily the most productive signal-caller in the draft. Production is often overlooked in favor of upside, though, so teams may be wary of selecting Barkley early.
If Barkley ends up going in the second round as expected, there are plenty of teams who could potentially take him. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Arizona Cardinals and Bills are all teams with quarterback question marks who might take the bait. It's possible that the concern regarding Barkley is justified, but he could easily be the best quarterback in this class.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Running backs used to be taken in the top five and top 10 at will in the NFL draft, but times have certainly changed. It is now primarily a passing league, and quality running backs can be found later in the draft and even in the form of undrafted free agents. At the same time, there isn't exactly an elite-level prospect at the position in the 2013 draft. Alabama running back Eddie Lacy is the best of the bunch, but he may not hear his name called until the second round.
Lacy was dominant in his first full season as a starter for the Crimson Tide as he rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns for the National Champions. Lacy hasn't looked great in pre-draft workouts, however, and when you couple that with decreased emphasis on running backs, it naturally impacts his draft status adversely. There are definitely some teams out there in need of a running back, but none of them will pay a first-round price.
The St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers are all teams that could benefit from a running back like Lacy, so he'll definitely have suitors. If Lacy is able to become a starter in the near future, he has a great chance to be an extremely productive NFL player and he could easily put up numbers befitting that of a first-round pick.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is among the best pass catchers in the draft at a very deep position, but his draft stock has certainly fluctuated. Hopkins broke out in 2012 with 82 catches for 1,405 yards and an incredible 18 touchdowns. He torched LSU for 192 yards in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and has proven to be a great route-runner. At the same time, there are concerns about his straight-line speed and his size.
In addition to that, character has suddenly become an issue. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Hopkins and Rutgers wide receiver Mark Harrison shared a hotel room in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine. The room was trashed upon further inspection, although both Hopkins and Harrison have denied any involvement. It remains to be seen if a definitive conclusion will be reached, but teams could potentially shy away from Hopkins if it is proven that he was involved. That type of behavior shows immaturity and NFL teams don't want that.
Also, with receivers like Cordarrelle Patterson, Tavon Austin and Keenan Allen in first-round territory, teams may decide to pass on Hopkins until the second round. His talent is undeniable, though, and there are plenty of teams picking late in the first round that could use a wideout. Regardless of where he is taken, Hopkins has a chance to be a star in the league. All it will take is the ideal situation.
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