Day 3 of the 2013 NFL draft may not have had the fanfare and prime-time television appeal of the early rounds—especially Thursday’s Round 1—but a number of big-time prospects came off the board and found homes in the league.
Many of these young men will have chips on their shoulders and will enter the NFL looking to prove the doubters and teams that passed them over—numerous times—wrong.
Let’s take a look at three high-upside players who landed in perfect positions to become stars in the near future.
Alex Okafor, OLB, Texas—No. 103 Overall, Arizona Cardinals
Okafor was one of the best players available on Saturday, and it didn’t take long for him to get selected by the Cardinals, as they nabbed him with the sixth pick in the fourth round.
He lined up as a defensive end in the Longhorns’ 4-3 scheme but was announced as an outside linebacker and will be expected to play standing up in Arizona.
Because the team direly needs to get some pressure on the passer, there’s a good chance Okafor is thrown right into the fire and starts receiving a high number of snaps during his rookie year—even as he learns the new position.
He’s a candidate to platoon with Lorenzo Alexander and, if he lives up to his ability, should be able to quickly earn the majority of snaps.
With a stout defensive line that features Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett drawing doubles and the focus of opposing blockers, Okafor should start piling up sacks and tackles for losses early on in his career.
Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas—No. 112 Overall, Oakland Raiders
After trading down in the fourth round (via SF Gate), the Raiders decided it was the perfect time to bring in another quarterback to compete for the starting job this offseason.
General manager Reggie McKenzie selected Wilson, a player that—much like fellow fourth-rounder Matt Barkley—struggled during his senior campaign in 2012.
However, much of those issues can be attributed to Bobby Petrino’s dismissal and the Razorbacks having issues as a whole. His numbers didn’t sink that badly, either, dropping from 277-of-438 completions for 3,638 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions and 26 sacks taken to 249-of-401 passing for 3,387 yards, 21 TDs, 13 INTs and 14 sacks taken.
Who will win the starting job in Oakland?
It’s quite possible that scouts read too much into his final year in the “what have you done for me lately” culture of the NFL draft, as this young man clearly has top-tier skills—evidenced by his junior outing.
Wilson is going to have a fair shake at earning the QB1 gig, competing with Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor for the rights to it. He’s certainly capable of winning, as he has a nice combination of big arm strength, a gun-slinging mentality and crafty footwork to get the job done at the next level.
If he’s able to start in his rookie year and lead the Raiders to a respectable record, he could soon be the next great signal-caller to wear the Silver and Black.
Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama—No. 113 Overall, St. Louis Rams
Despite being an anchor on the offensive line for three Crimson Tide national-championship teams; making first-team All-SEC; being unanimously selected to the All-American squad the past two seasons; winning numerous positional awards; and possessing the versatility to play guard, tackle and center, Jones somehow didn’t come off the board until Day 3.
The 'Bama senior will prove just how big of a mistake that was now that he has a chance to protect for Sam Bradford and clear lanes for whoever winds up running out of the Rams backfield.
He projects as a guard—either left or right—a role for which the behemoth, at 6’4” and 306 pounds, is perfectly suited.
"I'll play anywhere they want me to play. I'm just looking to help the team." - Barrett Jones #RamsDraft— St. Louis Rams (@STLouisRams) April 27, 2013
While he’s not going to blow away observers with immense athleticism or superhuman strength, Jones is adequate in both departments. Where he separates himself from the rest of the field is his intelligence and consistency, as he’s able to pick up blitzes and maul the defensive linemen with equal efficiency.
This kid is going to stick around the league for a long time and may end up playing—and succeeding—at every position on the O-line during his career.