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Ranking the Best Day 3 Picks in NFL Draft History

Jason MarcumCorrespondent IIIFebruary 8, 2014

Ranking the Best Day 3 Picks in NFL Draft History

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    Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    The NFL made a drastic change to its annual draft in 2010. The draft now consists of three days instead of just two, and Rounds 4-7 take place on the final day.

    Two rounds in two days as it was done before was just too much, but adding the extra day allowed the NFL to spread it out more and make those final four rounds easier to watch. 

    Since the change, the quality of a draft prospect is now often correlated with the day they're projected to be selected on.

    Day 1 picks are players expected to contribute immediately, while Day 3 picks are potential starters who may need a little development or don't have as high of a ceiling.

    Day 3 picks are often regarded as the projects. These players need a lot of work to become contributors to an NFL team, but that doesn't mean they can't eventually become "elite" players. 

    That being said, there have been a lot of great Day 3 picks since the draft was split into three days, and here is a look at the four best ones.

UCLA CB Alterraun Verner

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    The Tennessee Titans took Alterraun Verner with the No. 104 pick in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. You don't usually see shutdown corners on Day 3, but the Titans found just that in the former UCLA Bruin.

    He's slowly become one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL since then. According to Pro Football Focus (Subscription required), he was the 12th-best corner in the NFL in 2013 with a plus-9.5 grade. He tied for fifth in the NFL with five interceptions in 2013, and his 23 pass deflections led the league that year. 

    In early December, NFL.com writer Chris Wessling grouped the best CBs in the NFL into tiers. He put Verner in the "top shelf" tier reserved for the best in the league alongside Patrick Peterson and the Arizona Cardinals and Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks among others. 

    Verner is also set to be a free agent this offseason, and his hard work is about to get him a big payday. 

Virginia Tech SS Kam Chancellor

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    The Seahawks defense has become regarded as the "Legion of Boom", and the "boom" comes from the hard-hitting ability of Kam Chancellor.

    Credit for this image goes to CJ Zero

    Chancellor has put fear into any receiver willing to come over the middle of the field against the Seahawks defense, and you can see why.

    But as hard as he hits, his coverage skills are just as good, as he's become one of the NFL's elite strong safeties. 

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he was the No. 10 strong safety in the 2013 regular season and the No. 1 SS in the postseason. Chancellor was a big reason why the Seahawks suffocated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl and held the NFL's No. 1 offense to a mere eight points.

    Watching him play, you would have never guessed the former Virginia Tech Hokie was the 133rd pick in the 2010 draft, but it's true.

    He fell all the way to Day 3 of that draft, and the Seahawks were happy to end his slide and make him a key piece on a Super Bowl-winning team. 

Georgia DT Geno Atkins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Regarded by many as the best defensive tackle in the NFL, Geno Atkins fell all the way to pick No. 120 of the 2010 draft, when the Cincinnati Bengals finally ended his slide.

    He rewarded them with 20 sacks, six forced fumbles and 100 combined tackles combined in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he was the best defensive tackle in football in 2012 with his plus-80 grade, which was nearly 50 points higher than the next man, Gerald McCoy of the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. 

    The Bengals then rewarded him with a contract worth $55 million over five years this past summer. 

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gushed over Atkins prior his team's game against the Bengals in Week 5 of this past season, according to Christopher Price of WEEI:

    He’d probably be the first pick in the draft...He was an athletic guy that you saw maybe as a sub rusher, a nickel sub rusher, but he’s way more than that. He’s a good one too.

    Everybody has trouble with him. You look at all the games last year and all the games this year, it doesn’t matter because they flip him, he plays on both guards, the centers slide to him. He’s seen plenty of different combinations and matched up against plenty of different players: big guards, quick guards, strong guards, athletic, however you want to put him, he gives them a lot of trouble.

     

    Unfortunately for Atkins, he tore his ACL this year against the Miami Dolphins. Even if he never played another snap of football, the Bengals still got a tremendous steal in getting Atkins where they did.

     

Stanford CB Richard Sherman

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Richard Sherman was selected in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2011 NFL draft. Sherman remembers watching the draft with his family at home and the disappointment of falling that far in the draft. 

    He was the 34th defensive back drafted, and even his college head coach and current San Francisco 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, passed on him, according to Yahoo! Sports' Mike Silver

    But ultimately, it was a blessing in disguise for both he and the Seahawks.

    Sherman has become arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, and the Seahawks are now Super Bowl champions with him having been one of the best players on the NFL's best defense.

    According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Sherman graded out as the No. 6 CB in 2013 and allowed just 30 receptions, which tied for the fewest of any CB that played at least 60 percent of his team's defensive snaps. 

    In just three seasons, Sherman already has 20 career interceptions, and in 2013 he led the league with nine picks. At the rate he's going, he'll go down as one of the greatest steals of all time. 

    As you'll probably notice in this list, all of these players are from the 2011 draft. As great as these players are, even they needed at least one year to develop and earn a starting job. 

    In another year or two, this list could look different once players from the 2012 and 2013 draft are given more time to reach their full potential.

    That being said, all of the players on this list were huge steals at where they were drafted, and a few of them could go down as some of the biggest steals in NFL draft history. 

     

    Jason Marcum is a student in the B/R advanced sports media program. You can find more of his work at Stripe Hype and follow him on Twitter @UK_Fans

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