With the 2013 NFL draft in the books, it's time to make an early list of the biggest steals from this year. While this is certain to change as young players outperform their draft position, this list will focus on the players who were taken one round or more later than when they should have.
Keep in mind that this list is presented in no particular order.
Quinton Patton (WR): Round 4 Pick 31 - San Francisco 49ers
Some people considered Patton as one of the best wide receivers coming into the draft. That makes his fall on draft day all the more surprising. He was not a great athlete, but his complete game will make him a consistent target and opening-day starter in the NFL. The only way I could've seen him falling this far would be because there is some red flag that the media didn't know about. Maybe that came from scheme, character or injury. Otherwise, there is simply no way teams would not have taken him.
I believe that Patton will go on to have a solid 10-plus year career in the NFL. He will probably never be a Pro Bowler, especially with the number of good receivers playing in San Francisco, but he will be a very good player nonetheless.
NFL Comparison: Brian Hartline
Larry Warford (OG): Round 3 Pick 3 - Detroit Lions
Warford was the third-best guard in this draft. For a man/power blocking team he was only slightly worse than Chance Warmack and a better fit at guard than Jonathan Cooper. He is a huge player who just mauls opponents in the run game and who can hold his own in pass protection due to surprising lateral quickness and long arms.
He has also fallen to the perfect team. The Lions are trying to create a running identity. Warford will be a big part of this as a probably opening-day starter at right guard. His ability to open lanes while not acting as a turnstile for defensive tackles in the passing game will make him a multiple-time Pro Bowler by the time his career is finished.
NFL Comparison: Carl Nicks
Arthur Brown (LB): Round 2 Pick 24 - Baltimore Ravens
Arthur Brown ended up exactly where most people were predicting when the Ravens drafted him. However, most of those predictions had him taken with the 32nd-overall pick, not the 56th. While not possessing ideal size for a linebacker, especially a 3-4 inside linebacker like what he will play in Baltimore, Brown has top-notch athleticism, instincts and run stopping ability, and he is also handy in coverage and as a blitzer.
Brown should have been drafted in the first round. It would not have been hard to argue that he should have been the first traditional linebacker to be selected. His game is equal parts athleticism and technique, and he should be able to start on any defense inside and out. As it happens, he is now the heir apparent to Ray Lewis. He certainly has the look of a poor man's Sugar Ray. A potential All-Pro.
NFL Comparison: Derrick Johnson
Geno Smith (QB): Round 2 Pick 7 - New York Jets
While this is still a fairly high pick, it is simply unbelievable that a quarterback with as much potential as Geno Smith could be taken in the second round. While Smith would have been a risky player to take high in the first round due to his shaky accuracy and limited experience running an NFL style offense, his availability in the second round was stunning.
Smith has an NFL arm, good mobility and a lot of experience running an offense in which his arm dictated their success. While I do not think he will supplant Mark Sanchez to start in Week 1, by the end of the season he will be the Jets' starter. In the future, I do not believe he will be a Pro Bowl quarterback, but he will be a good player who can win it all if he gets a good supporting cast around him.
NFL Comparison: Jake Locker
Jesse Williams (DT): Round 5 Pick 4 - Seattle Seahawks
Williams is a raw player, however, there are only so many men who possess his combination of size, length, power and quickness. They're never available this late. He also played at Alabama, which means he has been exposed to some of the best coaches that college football has to offer.
Williams is a perfect fit for the Seahawks, as he does fit best as a 4-3 nose tackle where his ability to penetrate gaps can be put to use. On a defensive line with a lot of speed, Williams has the ability to develop into a great rock in the middle of the line who can anchor against the run and provide some pass rush. Williams will probably never be a perennial Pro Bowl type player due to his likely role in the NFL, but he is the sort of player who can make a big difference on a team's ability to shut down running games.
NFL Comparison: Brodrick Bunkley