2014 NFL Draft: Top 8 Late-Round Prospects Your Team Needs

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2014 NFL Draft: Top 8 Late-Round Prospects Your Team Needs
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

There is little debate about the importance of early draft picks on the success of NFL teams. It goes without saying that if you lose consistently with your first- and second-round picks, your franchise will struggle.

However, it has likewise become more and more of a given that teams who win late in the draft are also better for it. In fact, looking at the 2012 Week 1 rosters, the number of players who were drafted in the seventh round, or were signed as undrafted free agents, outnumbered the number of players selected in the first and second rounds combined by a count of 552-491.

Numbers like this further validate the importance of a team's scouting staff. They must be willing to put in the work and find these lesser-known prospects that other teams miss. But why do good players fall so far?

Playing at small schools is a part of the equation. Playing at a small college keeps prospects off the national radar and they are forced to go grassroots to get their name out there. However, even once they do some teams will devalue even great production because of the level of competition. How much of this is the case is a matter for debate, but it does hold some validity.

Another reason a player can slide down draft boards is injury. There is nothing more tragic than seeing a good player go down with a serious injury in their final college season. If they are not in a position to play, it is a case of out of sight, out of mind. And if they cannot get well in time to show it before the draft, teams aren't going to risk high picks on them.

This means a studious franchise can snatch up well-known prospects late in the draft. They can then stash them away for a year and hope they come back healthy in their second season and be ready to roll.

We've already talked about sure things early in the draft. Then we decided to delve into some mid-round sleepers. Now it is important to dig even deeper. These are sixth-round guys and beyond who can straight-up play. If your team is lucky enough to get a guy or two off this list, you could see them playing on Sundays sooner rather than later.

Unless specified, all stats courtesy of cfbstats

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