2013 NFL Draft Sleepers: Players Who Will Be Surprise 1st-Round Picks

Sean Frye@Sean_E_FryeFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2013

Alex Okafor may shoot up the draft boards late to become a first-round pick.
Alex Okafor may shoot up the draft boards late to become a first-round pick.Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

While some prospects are almost assured to be drafted in the first round, others may surprise fans and experts when their name is called during the first day of the draft. 

With the first round of the NFL draft set to start on Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, here are some players who could surprise everyone by walking across the stage on Day 1. 


Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

Currently, Okafor is projected as the 60th pick in the draft by Michael Schottey of Bleacher Report. According to CBS Sports, Okafor is the eighth-best defensive end available in the draft and a projected second-round pick as well. 

But Okafor could be the surprise of the draft by being taken in the first round. The defensive end out of Texas is a huge physical presence at 6'5" and 264 pounds. 

Okafor will be a tremendous 4-3 defensive end. According to Schottey's latest mock draft, both the New York Giants and New England Patriots select defensive ends in the later parts of the first round. 

Both those teams also use the 4-3 defense. 

Okafor is a typical athlete from Texas. He has a great build and athleticism. If a team is willing to reach for him in the first round, it could pay huge dividends in the long run. 


Matt Barkley, QB, USC

This year's draft is certainly not as quarterback heavy as last year's draft. However, many thought that Barkley could have been the top pick in the draft last year. 

The fact that USC, the preseason No. 1 team in the country last season, failed to meet even modest expectations is dragging down Barkley's stock. 

However, there are still teams that need a quarterback, and Barkley may be the way to go. 

There are teams toward the end of the first round that need a signal-caller. According to USA Today, the Minnesota Vikings are one of them. 

The Vikings have the 25th pick, so Geno Smith will likely be off the board by then. Barkley may be the best choice available at that point. 

Christian Ponder hasn't panned out for the Vikings, and Barkley could give him a run for his money as the starter in Minnesota. 


Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

Ertz is one of the best tight ends available in 2013. According to Schottey, he's the projected 34th pick overall by the San Francisco 49ers. However, the 49ers also have the 31st pick in the draft, and the team may use that pick to draft Ertz early. 

This 6'5", 249-pound monster of a tight end was a top performer at the combine in both the bench press and the three-cone drill. 

He also was a tremendous asset for the Cardinal last season. He led the team with 69 catches for 898 yards and six touchdowns in a year without Andrew Luck throwing him the ball. 

With his size, Ertz is also a capable blocker and can be a valuable asset to the 49ers, which are looking to give more receiving threats to QB Colin Kaepernick and to protect him in the pocket as well.