While NFL teams look for immediate impacts from their early-round draft selections, there are always pleasant surprises from every draft class—players who come in as lesser-heralded prospects but quickly become productive at the professional level.
Building a successful NFL team is as much about finding those hidden gems as it is finding stars with first- and second-round picks.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, the No. 154 overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft, and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, famously the No. 199 overall pick in the 2000 draft, are just a couple of the many recent examples who emerged from meager expectations to become standouts and leaders of championship-winning teams.
The depth of talent in this year’s draft should lend itself to many pleasant surprises.
The following nine prospects are not projected to be early-round selections and do not stand out among their peers in this year’s draft class, but all of them have the skill sets to be very good players at the next level.