The 2014 NFL draft class looks to be one of the most talented in recent memory. Not only does that mean that teams picking early in the first round will get franchise-changing players, but it is also likely to lead to great value throughout the round.
Every draft features highly touted prospects who slip through the cracks for one reason or another. They often end up getting selected much later than anticipated. While teams are sometimes proven right for passing on them, such prospects have been known to make them regret it from time to time as well.
Here is a breakdown of three potential NFL stars who are likely to be drafted later than their ranking suggests they should be.
With 23.5 sacks over his final two seasons at UCLA, Anthony Barr was unquestionably one of the best pass-rushers in college football. Despite his excellent production, it seems as though there may be some red flags regarding his ability to translate to the NFL.
Barr started his Bruins career as a wide receiver and running back, but he made the move to outside linebacker prior to his junior season. Barr was an instant success and seemed like a natural. With that said, his defensive experience is limited, and he isn't exactly an all-around linebacker in terms of excelling in pass coverage and reading running plays.
He is a pure pass-rusher, which makes him a good fit in a 3-4 defense, but he may not have much versatility. He isn't a 4-3 linebacker by any means, and he is probably too small to be a 4-3 defensive end at 255 pounds.
Barr has all the makings of a boom-or-bust pick, so it isn't particularly surprising that he is a polarizing figure among NFL scouts and general managers, according to Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com:
Tough to find evaluators with middle of the road opinions on Anthony Barr. Love or hate.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 3, 2014
Since Barr has almost certainly been usurped by Buffalo's Khalil Mack as far as draft-eligible linebackers are concerned, a precipitous fall is likely. Barr is definitely a top-10 prospect, although there aren't many landing spots for him in that range.
If Barr falls outside the top 10, then don't be surprised if the Pittsburgh Steelers reap the benefits at No. 15. Barr would be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh's defense, so falling a bit may ultimately be best for Barr's career.
North Carolina's Eric Ebron has separated himself from Jace Amaro and Austin Seferian-Jenkins as the No. 1 tight end in the 2014 draft class, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he is a slam-dunk pick in the top 10. Ebron is freakishly athletic and is basically a wide receiver in a tight end's body, so he could be a nightmare matchup at the next level.
At the same time, there aren't many teams picking early in the draft who have a need at tight end. The first sensible fit is the Buffalo Bills at No. 9; however, they re-signed tight end Scott Chandler and may very well be happy with him alone. Also, the Bills have a need at offensive right tackle, and there will almost certainly be a good option available at that point, whether it is Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews or both.
Which top NFL draft prospect is most likely to fall in the first round?
In addition to that, Ebron is far from a perfect tight end. He is speedy and explosive, but concentration issues led to some drops. He also has a lot of work to do when it comes to blocking. According to Mark Eckel of NJ.com, an anonymous AFC personnel executive is wary about Ebron's NFL prospects.
"He's OK. He's completely overrated, and he's a pain in the (butt)," the executive said. "And don't ask him to block anybody, because he's not going to do it."
Those concerns could hurt Ebron on draft day, but the No. 18 position feels like his safety net. That is where the New York Jets currently sit, and they are in desperate need of a playmaker at the tight end position. Whether Geno Smith or Michael Vick wins the starting quarterback job, they need as many weapons as they can get.
At this point, Ebron's fate essentially rests in the Bills' hands.
Inside linebackers are hugely important players in the NFL since they tend to be the quarterback of the defense. They're expected to be proficient against both the run and the pass, and they are basically the heart and soul of the team. Despite that, teams don't seem to place a ton of emphasis on taking inside linebackers early in the draft.
That fact could hurt Alabama's C.J. Mosley, who is far and away the best prospect at that position. Mosley racked up over 100 tackles in both 2012 and 2013 for the Crimson Tide, and he was the driving force behind one of the best teams in college football. He has all the intangibles as well as the physical tools necessary to succeed; however, a slide to the latter half of the first round is quite possible.
Mosley was somewhat injury prone at Alabama. While he insists that he is healthy leading up to the NFL draft, according to Andrew Gribble of AL.com, teams may still be apprehensive.
In fact, Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel believes that could lead to Mosley dropping to the Miami Dolphins at No. 19:
Hip and shoulder concerns should scare off enough teams to keep CJ Mosley on the board till Miami picks at No. 19.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) March 14, 2014
From a talent perspective, Mosley probably deserves to be taken in the top 10. There are several teams that could potentially take him from No. 10 through No. 19, but inside linebacker may not be viewed as a major need for any of them.
It's extremely difficult to imagine Mosley falling flat in the NFL, though, due to his work ethic alone. He'll do everything possible to be successful, and some team will end up with a fantastic leader and producer.
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