While the 2013 NFL draft seems to be a bit light on star power, it is fairly deep and offers plenty of value throughout the first round. Because of that, there are several players with the potential to do great things in the NFL who will slide in the first round and be selected later than expected.
Since so many players are graded similarly, there may not be much of a difference between someone taken in the top five and somebody taken at No. 20 or later. There is a ton of parity in this draft and that bodes well for teams that are picking later in the round. With such a broad base of talent to choose from, there could be some big-time steals.
Here are three players who are likely to be taken in the latter half of the first round or later than initially expected, but will develop into NFL stars in spite of that.
Star Lotulelei, DL, Utah
Early in the draft process there was a lot of talk about Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei being the No. 1 overall selection. He has fallen down draft boards in recent months, however, and a big reason for that is concern over a heart condition. According to Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, it was found at the NFL combine that Lotulelei's left ventricle was only working at 44 percent efficiency rather than the normal 55-70 percent efficiency.
This obviously concerned teams and caused them to reevaluate their boards, and while Young says that Lotulelei has since checked out and is 100 percent cleared, teams will probably still be wary. A first-round pick is a hugely important investment for NFL franchises and the main goal is to mitigate risk. Lotulelei may be fine, but he is obviously a much bigger health risk than most of the other players who will be taken early in the draft.
It's nearly impossible to predict where Lotulelei will land, but it probably won't be in the top five as initially thought. Some potential fits are the New York Jets at No. 9, Miami Dolphins at No. 12, Carolina Panthers at No. 14, or a number of different teams later in the round. Regardless of where he is taken, it will be much lower than he hoped. Provided Lotulelei is fine physically, though, he could be a dominant interior force in the NFL for years to come.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
The 2013 draft is rich with pass-rushing prospects and it's very difficult to say which ones will be the best of the bunch. One guy who has the potential to be an absolute stud at the next level is Georgia rush linebacker Jarvis Jones. There is a lot to like about him as he was ultra productive at Georgia in the difficult SEC. He totaled 13.5 sacks as a sophomore and 14.5 as a junior, so he has a track record of success that many of his counterparts simply don't possess.
One of the biggest knocks on Jones is his size. At just 6'2" and 242 lbs., there is definite concern about Jones being able to deal with mammoth offensive tackles. The concern is legitimate as he is much smaller than most of the NFL's successful pass-rushers. With that said, he is extremely quick and has a vast array of moves designed to beat tackles. He went up against some great offensive linemen in the SEC, but he managed to get the better of them most of the time.
Despite the fact that he did very little at the collegiate level, Ezekiel Ansah of BYU is now graded much higher than Jones. Teams are very much down on Jones and he will almost certainly fall out of the top 10. If that happens, then the New Orleans Saints at No. 15 and the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 17 would be great situations for him. If he ends up with the Steelers especially, Jones could be a very special player.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
Which potential first-round steal will have the best NFL career?
The wide receiver position is a microcosm of the entire 2013 draft class. There are several solid prospects with first-round talent and potential, but none of them are so dominant that they stand above the rest. It seems as though West Virginia wideout Tavon Austin is now occupying the top spot at the position with Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson not far behind, but Patterson's Volunteer teammate Justin Hunter could very well be the best receiver in the draft when it is all said and done.
Patterson burst onto the scene this season and put up huge numbers, so Hunter was overshadowed to some degree. He still racked up 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns, but he looked like the less explosive player. One of the biggest knocks against Hunter, though, is his durability. He was on track for a monster season in 2011, but an injury caused him to miss much of the year. Hunter's return effort in 2012 was great, but it hasn't resulted in an elite grade.
With that said, Hunter has some downfield ability and ideal size at 6'4". He seems to have all the tools necessary to be an NFL star and he is likely to generate interest among teams late in the first round as many of them need a pass-catcher. The Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens could all be in the market for him, and whoever gets him will be very happy.
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