While prospects who are taken in the first round of the NFL draft are expected to develop into elite players, they are often outperformed by those who are selected in the second and third rounds.
Expect that trend to continue in 2014.
There is so much depth of talent in the 2014 class that there are sure to be some diamonds in the rough that slip through the cracks. The early portion of the second round has almost become an extension of the first and it can be argued that there are two full rounds' worth of top-notch draftees available this year.
The NFL Scouting Combine certainly impacted the draft stock of some players, but it doesn't always tell the entire story. Not every player that performed well will jump into the first round and not every player that performed poorly is destined to fail at the NFL level.
With so many different things to take into account, it is no wonder that the draft is an inexact science.
Here are three players with first-round talent who will slip to the second day of the draft and ultimately make the teams that passed on them regret it.
Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that the days of running backs being taken in the first round of the NFL draft are over unless they happen to be a generational talent like Adrian Peterson.
Quality backs can be found in Rounds 2 through 7 and even in undrafted free agency, so there is no motivation to strike early. This year's draft is stacked with potential star running backs, but it would be a surprise to see any of them come off the board prior to the second round.
Arguably, the best among them is Auburn star Tre Mason. Few running backs combine power and speed like Mason, and that was on full display late last season.
Mason was the driving force behind the Tigers' No. 1 rushing offense and came through when it really counted. Mason ran for 304 yards against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game and followed that up with 195 yards against Florida State's top-ranked defense in the BCS National Championship Game.
Mason was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and will enter the NFL with a ton of momentum. It seems as though Mason can do no wrong after tearing up the combine as well.
Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage gushed over Mason's ability and work ethic following his combine dominance:
There may not be much emphasis on running backs in the draft, but they're still extremely important at the NFL level. Mason has all the makings of a player who will be taken in the second round and will start from opening day.
Teams may not be willing to spend a first-round pick on him, but he'll provide first-round value.
Despite unreal production at Oregon State in 2013, wide receiver Brandin Cooks entered the draft process as an afterthought. With exciting pass-catchers like Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Marqise Lee available to be taken, Cooks looked to be overshadowed.
Cooks refused to be outdone by his peers during the college football season, though, and the same attitude applied when he took the field at the combine.
One of the biggest knocks against Cooks is his diminutive size at 5'10", but that worked to his advantage in Indianapolis. According to NFL.com, Cooks ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds, which was tops among all receivers. Gil Brandt of NFL.com revealed that Cooks also set a combine record in the 60-yard shuttle:
That doesn't necessarily guarantee NFL success, but Cooks possesses the rare combination of raw talent and collegiate production. Cooks racked up 128 receptions for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns last year, and he also happens to be the draft's fastest receiver.
He may not be quite as dynamic as a guy like Philadelphia Eagles star DeSean Jackson, but he is a more polished all-around player.
Aside from Cooks' height, there is no reason for apprehension. Small receivers have had plenty of success in the NFL in recent years and it's possible that Cooks will be better than any of his predecessors.
Few players' draft stock took a bigger hit from one year to the next than Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
After catching 69 passes for 852 yards and a touchdown in 2012, Seferian-Jenkins seemed like a surefire first-round pick. The Huskies placed more emphasis on running the ball in 2013, though, and it resulted in Seferian-Jenkins going for just 36 catches and 450 yards—although he did reel in eight touchdowns.
In addition to that, there were some concerns regarding Seferian-Jenkins' character after a DUI arrest. According to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com, Seferian-Jenkins dismissed the event as a one-time mistake and doesn't view himself as a problem child:
I think it's pretty well-documented that I had a DUI. People might say I have character issues. It was one incident, you can look through my history. Last time I checked, no one is perfect. It was a learning lesson, I learned it. But it was one incident, and that doesn't change who I am. People in Seattle and Tacoma know who I am as a person, and I don't think I am a character risk or have a character issue at all.
The fact that Seferian-Jenkins couldn't work out at the combine due to a foot injury didn't help matters, but it has no bearing on his NFL prospects. He proved in 2012 that he can be a go-to receiver and flashed his blocking acumen as well as his ability in the red zone in 2013.
Seferian-Jenkins is a complete tight end, and they aren't easy to find.
He may not be as explosive as Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro, but he may end up being more valuable than either of them at the next level.
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