Steals in the middle rounds don't happen very often, but when they pay off, it can mean the difference between a team simply making the playoffs and one contending for a chance to make the Super Bowl.
Need a recent example? The two quarterbacks competing against one another in the NFC Championship this Sunday were heralded college quarterbacks, but Colin Kaepernick was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft and Russell Wilson was taken in the third round in 2012.
Peyton Manning might have been a No. 1 overall pick back in 1998, but his opponent Tom Brady has famously risen from being a sixth-round pick in 2000 to a three-time Super Bowl champion.
With a draft class that is deep with talent at the quarterback position that has been dissected from every angle with Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel being shifted around inside the top five, the middle rounds could produce players that will make an immediate splash at the next level.
Here are three players that are in line to be picked in the middle rounds but are primed to be effective next season.
Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
Let's start with a player that might be the biggest stretch on this list. Though Devin Street has had a history of injuries this past season, his talent as a pass-catcher is undeniable.
Much like another former Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver by the name of Larry Fitzgerald—what ever happened to that guy?—Street is a guy who high-points the ball and has hands to pull it away from defenders at will.
If a team with depth at the position takes Street, he might not see the field as much as other first- and second-round picks. But with the potential that Street brings to an NFL team, he certainly has the skill set to make an impact in his rookie season.
According to CBS Sports' prospect rankings, Street is projected to go in the fifth round. Though his speed and playmaking ability don't match up well with other talented receivers in the draft, Street's 6'3" frame projects well as a receiver at the next level.
Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson
Being on the other side of Sammy Watkins makes any wide receiver look subpar. But what Martavis Bryant did during his last two seasons with the Clemson Tigers is prove that he is every bit the home run threat that DeAndre Hopkins and Watkins were during their time.
In his career at Clemson, Bryant averaged over 22 yards per catch and along with seven touchdowns in his final season. Though he only had three receptions for 28 yards in the Sugar Bowl, a low average for Bryant, he did have two touchdowns.
Showing off his athletic ability, Bryant hauled in one of the finest catches of his career for the go-ahead touchdown:
After making the decision to forego his senior season, Bryant will finally be able to prove that he's talented enough to emerge from the shadows of both Hopkins and Watkins. At 6'5", 200 pounds, Bryant will likely need to add a little more girth before being effective at the next level.
But with talent as a vertical threat for teams that will be looking for it in the second or third round, Bryant could open up the field for other wide receivers like he did for Watkins at Clemson.
Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
Hardly one of the most talked about prospects in the draft or even among other top running backs, Carlos Hyde has simply been a model of consistency this past college season and has shown that he can dominate defenders.
Hyde broke out during his senior season, totaling nine straight 100-yard rushing games to close out the season and 17 total touchdowns over that stretch. While he may not be a great pass-catching running back, his physical style of running projects well at the next level, much like Eddie Lacy did this past season.
Aside from the comparison to Lacy, Hyde has also been given praise by former Buckeyes running back Eddie George, according to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune:
Sometimes you have an awakening. And I think Carlos had that. What he has learned he can apply to any setback or situation in life. He has a blueprint.
He can be a monster, a superstar on the next level. [...] I've seen him change as a total person.
Much like Bryant putting together a memorable performance in his final game, Hyde torched the Tigers for 113 yards and two total touchdowns. With a receiving touchdown in the game, Hyde did show off his hands with a 25-yard reception.
With other players like Tre Mason, Lache Seastrunk and Ka'Deem Carey all being debated as the No. 1 back in the draft, Hyde could be the best running back to emerge from this class.
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