Hitting on first-round picks is essential for any team in order to sustain success—but having success on the second and third days of the draft is what separates the contenders from the pretenders.
Late-round picks are all flawed in some way or another. After all, if they were better prospects, they would have been drafted higher. The key to drafting in the late rounds is to find players that have a specific set of strengths that can fit a specific system where they can become role players or eventual starters.
Here are the top 2013 rookies from spring practices that look like late-round steals already.
With their gaping hole at the receiver position opposite Steve Johnson, the Bills are counting on their young prospects to adapt quickly to the NFL game.
Luckily for them, second-round pick Robert Woods is doing just that.
According Chris Brown of the Bills’ website, Woods has been impressive with his route running, which tends to be one of the most common areas of struggle for young receivers.
Being a polished route-runner is a unique trait for a player to have fresh out of college, as many of them do not have experience running an NFL route tree. However, Woods has the benefit of coming from a pro-style system at USC.
Inserting Robert Woods into the starting lineup would be very beneficial for the Bills, who will need as many solid pass-catchers as possible on their roster as they develop first-round quarterback EJ Manuel.
Without a first-round pick this year, the Redskins entered the 2013 draft very dependent on their ability to find quality players in the latter part of the draft—and it appears as if they did just that.
Based on ability alone, Bacarri Rambo should have been a second-round pick, at worst, due to his tremendous athleticism, instincts and ball skills.
However, off-field concerns—such as testing positive for a drug test before the 2012 season—caused Rambo to drop all they way to the sixth round, where the safety-needy Redskins could not pass up his talent.
According to Mike Jones of The Washington Post, Rambo was everything the coaches hoped he would be in minicamp. However, the real test for Rambo will be in regards to how he stays out of trouble over the long-term.
If Rambo does manage to stay available and away from suspensions, the Redskins may have landed one of the top steals of the draft.
Carrying the unwanted label of having the NFL’s most depleted roster, the Raiders are desperate for players to outperform their draft position, especially at the quarterback position.
Until this point, it has been assumed that Matt Flynn would be the starter headed into the season, but fourth-round Arkansas product Tyler Wilson is not going to make it easy for Flynn to win the job.
Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reports that Wilson is looking like a “seasoned veteran,” after showing off his great arm strength and accuracy in camp.
There was never much question about Wilson’s ability to throw a football in shorts with a red non-contact jersey on. The real test for Wilson will come in live game action when the bullets are flying and the physicality is real.
In any case, it appears as if the Raiders’ quarterback situation is far from being settled.
We knew Denard Robinson was going to be a unique player in the NFL because of his incredible athletic traits, but few predicted that he would invent an entirely new position.
The Jaguars have blurred the line between running back and wide receiver even further by listing him as an “OW” (short for “offensive weapon”) on the team's official website.
There is actually a lot to derive from this unique position label. For one, it indicates that Robinson is picking up the offense very well at multiple positions. Additionally, the fact that the Jaguars would choose to list him as an “OW” instead of a receiver or a running back indicates that they are excited for his potential in the Jaguars’ offense this season.
After all, if Robinson was stinking up the joint, I doubt they would attach the word “weapon” to his job title.
For a team that was so inept on offense last season, Robinson could be the final piece on the skill position front that would create huge mismatches for opposing defenses—that is, if they can find a quarterback to get Robinson the ball.
Based on what Jesse Williams did on the field at Alabama, he had no business being selected anywhere outside of the top-50 picks.
However, because of a lingering knee issue, Williams fell to the Seahawks in the fifth round, and the team may have landed themselves a steal.
According to Jayson Jenks of the Seattle Times, Williams was disruptive in practice, pushing the pile and making his presence felt.
This is certainly a good start for Williams, but talent was never the issue with him when teams began their draft evaluations. For Williams, the key for a long, successful career is to simply stay healthy.
If Williams can take care of himself and stay on the field, he could wind up as the best pick the Seahawks made in this draft, especially as they try to fill the void left behind by Alan Branch.
In today’s NFL, having players in the secondary who can play both cornerback and safety is becoming an invaluable asset when trying to match up with uniquely-sized tight ends and slot receivers.
For the Chiefs, it appears as if fifth-round pick Sanders Commings could be their jack-of-all-trades in the secondary.
Commings played safety at Georgia, but he has the athleticism to make the transition to cornerback, if needed. Head coach Andy Reid spoke about his versatility in a quote to the Associate Press (h/t RedandBlack.com):
He played a little bit of corner but was primarily at safety. It was nice to see the progress that he made as he went on. We feel like he can still play corner but that gives us the flexibility to play that free safety position.
The Chiefs have already made a concerted effort to bolster their secondary this offseason by adding players like Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, but it appears as if they have another toy to work with if Commings continues to impress.
No one is totally sure if the Buccaneers are conducting an open competition at quarterback or if Josh Freeman is the unquestioned starter, but we do know one thing: Mike Glennon looks very good in shorts and a non-contact jersey.
Dan Pompei of the National Football Post notes that head coach Greg Schiano believes that Mike Glennon has looked impressive enough to have a chance at taking the job and that he can “play quickly.” However, Schiano has continued to contradict himself, unable to make up his mind as to whether or not he wants a full-blown quarterback controversy on his team:
But our situation will be only if he’s needed. Or if he wins the job. Look, I’m not against that. We have a starting quarterback. It’s not like we’re looking to find a starter. But competition is competition.
The fact that Glennon has looked so good in a minicamp and OTA setting is no surprise. Glennon has tremendous talent, but he tends to falter under pressure in a live game situation. The real test for Glennon will happen when the pads come on and the green pinnie comes off.
Perhaps Glennon will fall back down to earth when the pads come on, but for now, Glennon appears to be well-worth the third-round pick the Buccaneers invested in him.
The Giants raised a lot of eyebrows when they traded up into the fourth round to grab Nassib—but it was equally as surprising that Nassib was even still available that late in the draft.
Despite already having one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league in Eli Manning (who is the active NFL consecutive starts leader among quarterbacks), the Giants realized that there will come a time when Eli is not able to suit up for gameday and that they were starting to push their luck.
So far, Nassib looks the part of a quality backup quarterback, according to Dave Hutcherson of The Star Ledger (h/t NewJersey.com). He is commanding the respect of his teammates and drawing the attention of head coach Tom Coughlin.
Even if Eli continues to be as reliable as he has always been and Nassib never sees meaningful action with a Giants helmet on, the latter could be converted into a valuable trade chip in the future. If Nassib can turn a fourth-round pick into a future first- or second-day pick, the investment in Nassib would be well worth it.
Despite being one of the most underwhelming players at the Senior Bowl (which played a role in him falling all the way to the seventh round), Dysert is looking more and more like a professional quarterback, as our own Cecil Lammey reported on May 11:
Dysert's passes came out of his hand cleaner and with proper velocity. He also had a commanding bark when calling for the football. His confidence showed throughout the media portion of practice.
Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Dysert was his ability to throw the ball from the pocket in a pro-style system. The fact that he is throwing the ball with velocity is a tremendous sign for the Miami of Ohio product.
Dysert faces an uphill battle to make the roster because of the presence of Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, but if he continues to improve his arm talent and adapt to a pro system, he will find himself on an NFL roster this season.
After gutting most of their personnel on the defensive front in their extensive rebuilding efforts, general manager Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders are desperate for some young players to step into big roles right away—and it appears as if Sio Moore is ready to do just that.
As Steve Corkran of the Contra-Costa Times reports, the Connecticut product has drawn the attention of head coach Dennis Allen, who is not known to throw praise around often. Allen said:
Sio’s a rookie, he makes some rookie mistakes. But he’s a big, powerful man. And he’s got a little bit of pass-rush ability to him. So, I like some of the flexibility that he gives us....His work ethic and his understanding of the game of football is what's going to allow him to be a good player for us.
Coming from a smaller program like UConn, it would have been expected that Moore would struggle a bit out of the gate, but he has broken every preconceived notion about small program prospects so far.
All signs point to the Raiders making the transition to a 3-4 defense next season, which is a system that fits Moore's body type and skill set perfectly as an outside linebacker. It is still early, but it appears as if the Raiders have themselves a much-needed piece on defense to build around.