2013 NFL Draft Sleepers: Potential Late-Round Picks Who Will Shine at Next Level
With so much uncertainty regarding the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, it's easy to forget that there are six additional rounds that are even more unpredictable. In a draft with very few slam-dunk selections, it seems quite likely that some diamonds in the rough will be available late in the proceedings.
It's incredibly difficult to predict which unheralded players will go on to have NFL success, but it's guaranteed that some guys will slip through the cracks this year just like they do every year. Provided they land in an ideal situation, they could very well deliver first- or second-round production as a pick in the fifth round or later.
Here are three late sleepers who will shock the world by becoming quality NFL players.
Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan
Which sleeper will have the best NFL career?
Denard Robinson is easily one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire 2013 draft class. Robinson did some special things as a quarterback at Michigan in 2010 and 2011, but due to injuries and ineffective play at times, he was replaced by Devin Gardner during his senior season. This led to Robinson playing some running back and wide receiver, and while he was obviously raw, he showed some flashes of brilliance as a non-quarterback.
Robinson simply isn't proficient enough as a passer to play quarterback in the NFL, so he has tried his hand at converting to receiver. Robinson still has a long way to go in that regard; however, there is a lot to like about his transition thus far. He has to continue working on his route running as well as his hands, but he is extremely fast and athletic and could be a capable slot receiver.
Luckily for Robinson, there is a history of former college quarterbacks successfully making the switch to receiver in the NFL. Antwaan Randle El did it for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Randall Cobb is doing it currently for the Green Bay Packers. Robinson has the natural ability to transition as well. Plus, he can be a great return man if all else fails.
Brad Wing, P, LSU
Picking a kicker or punter in the NFL draft is often viewed as a wasted selection, but specialists are a lot more important than they may seem. Field position is at a premium in the NFL, so a good punter can be a major weapon at times. Arguably the best punter in this year's class is LSU's Brad Wing. The Aussie essentially became a household name among college football fans for his power and impressive accuracy as a punter.
Wing is a rare case as he is just a redshirt sophomore, so he decided to enter the draft two years early. His decision probably stems from the fact that he was suspended for the Chick-fil-A Bowl last season after a positive drug test. Wing was also arrested for battery in 2011, so he has a lot of baggage that teams might shy away from. Teams are wary of taking players with character issues, and it's doubtful that they want to deal with a problematic punter.
With that said, Wing was fantastic in his two years at LSU as he averaged 44.6 yards per kick and was well-known for his ability to pin opposing offense deep in their own territory. Wing also has a vast array of punts that allow him to excel in almost any situation. There are several teams who could use a punter, and one of them will probably take a chance on Wing. Provided he stays on the straight and narrow path, he'll pay big dividends.
Michael Mauti, ILB, Penn State
Penn State is often referred to as "Linebacker U" and it is for good reason. NaVorro Bowman, Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny, LaVar Arrington, Shane Conlan, Jack Ham and Matt Millen are just a few of the Nittany Lion linebackers who have gone on to have great success at the NFL level. While he isn't as highly touted as some of his predecessors, Michael Mauti definitely has a chance to follow in their footsteps in the near future.
Mauti was extremely productive at Penn State when healthy, but he has suffered three ACL tears, so there are obvious durability concerns. In one respect it can be viewed as a negative since he is so susceptible to injuries, but the fact that he continues to battle back should be admired. Mauti always gives maximum effort and actually has decent speed at the position, so he has the tools to succeed when he isn't dealing with any ailments.
Mauti may have been a second-day pick without the injuries, but he figures to go off the board no earlier than the fifth round. In the draft's final few rounds, however, every player has red flags that caused them to fall. Mauti's red flags relate to his injury history, but there is no doubt that he can produce. Some team is bound to take a risk by selecting Mauti in the latter stages of the draft, and as long as he avoids significant injuries, he can be a starter in the league.
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