It's no secret that plenty of Pro Bowlers can be unearthed in the later rounds of the draft. Which draft prospects will be the next Russell Wilson, Marques Colston, Tom Brady, etc., in 2014?
Whether it's a poor showing at the combine, bad pro day, wrong answer in an interview, or whatever, some offensive stars have seen their stock take a drop over the past few months.
That ends up costing them some money on that rookie contract, but it helps their teams in that the franchises end up getting great value.
Looking at the 2014 class, these four players offer a lot of bang for your buck in the later rounds.
Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
Some draft experts have shoehorned Jared Abbrederis into a certain mold simply because he's a white receiver. Obviously, that makes him the next (insert notable white WR).
One of the biggest knocks on Abbrederis is that he doesn't have blinding speed. Football Outsiders' Matt Waldman argued that Abbrederis' technique and route-running level the playing field against quicker corners:
At the same time, many will also believe Abbrederis’ upside is capped due to athleticism that is perceived as only meeting the basic expectations of an NFL performer. Abbrederis’ last 40 time was 4.52.
Jordy Nelson—one of the best receivers in the NFL—ran a 4.51. Nelson has more than enough athleticism to compete, but what makes him special is his technical polish. There’s also James Jones (4.59), Eric Decker (4.54) and Larry Fitzgerald (4.63)—all fine NFL receivers lacking that extra 'blink' of speed who win against 4.3-40 corners every week.
When I watched the (Bradley) Roby-Abbrederis matchup, I didn’t see a rusty cornerback; I saw a receiver with more technical polish than what Roby is accustomed to facing. I also saw a corner working in tighter man-to-man situations than Ohio State often asked him to perform. The result is a clinic on the value of technique over elite athleticism.
Abbrederis isn't the next Megatron or anything, but he should fill in nicely as a fringe No. 1/No. 2 starting wide receiver in the NFL.
Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
Having a limited skill set can obviously limit a player's draft potential, but it can also be a blessing because teams know exactly what they're getting.
Guys like Storm Johnson don't do a ton of things, but what they do, they do very well.
Johnson isn't going to get outside and run down the sideline. He's at his best in between the tackles, acting as a bowling ball. In a best-case scenario, the UCF star would be paired with somebody who's a more agile speedier counterpart.
Luke Easterling of The Draft Report thinks Johnson might represent one of the best value running backs in the draft:
Best value at RB in this draft? Charles Sims & Storm Johnson. I know I've been banging the drum for Storm, but Sims could have same impact.— Luke Easterling (@NFLDraftReport) April 7, 2014
Running back by committees are becoming more popular in the NFL, and Johnson fits into that trend very well.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
At one point in the 2013 season, Antonio Richardson looked like a first-rounder. One bad game against Jadeveon Clowney sent Richardson's stock tumbling.
Then came concerns, voiced by NFL.com's Charles Davis (via NFL.com's Chase Goodbread), that his problematic knees could force Richardson into a sort of "redshirt" rookie season.
CBSSports.com puts Richardson in the third or fourth rounds, while NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah graded him in the fifth round.
"Richardson's junior-year film, according to Jeremiah, carried the grade of a fifth-round draft pick," Goodbread wrote.
His former combatants in the SEC aren't in doubt about his ability, per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller:
Several of the college defensive ends I've talked with feel like Antonio Richardson was one of the best blockers in the SEC.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 16, 2014
Richardson also insisted at Tennessee's pro day that his knee isn't an issue any more, per The Associated Press' Steve Megargee:
That's why I felt I wasn't as productive. Now I'm healthy. If I was this healthy during the season, (I would have been a) first-team All-American.
Should Richardson fall into the third or possibly fourth round, he'd be a major steal. If healthy, he's very athletic for his size and a capable enough blocker against both the run and pass.
David Fales, QB, San Jose State
If you're not lucky enough to grab one of the top four or five quarterbacks in the draft, then you might as well bide your time. It's pretty much a crapshoot figuring out whether Zach Mettenberger, Aaron Murray, Tom Savage, AJ McCarron, etc. have the potential to be a starter in the league.
Bleacher Report's Ryan Lownes thinks David Fales may be the best option:
Once you get past the third and fourth rounds, you can't expect to be getting a surefire Pro Bowler at quarterback.
Fales has his flaws. He's only listed at 6'2", he sometimes struggles looking off his primary receiver, and his accuracy on deeper throws leaves something to be desired.
However, Fales reads the game well at the line of scrimmage and reacts accordingly. In addition, he's great on the shorter to mid-range throws. Andy Dalton's been to three straight postseasons with largely the same style.
In the fourth or fifth round, a team could do much worse than Fales.