Every year, scouts and analysts spend countless hours putting together their draft boards. They evaluate players down to the smallest detail.
The unfortunate thing for some players is that some of those small details can be the difference between a high pick and a pick severely lower than that, which ends up costing them a lot of money. Sometimes it's a poor showing at the combine, or a character issue that came up at some point, or a history of injuries that have hindered the health and performance of an athlete.
Every year, it seems there's at least one player who falls a little further than expected, and this year figures to be no different. Without further ado, here's my list of five players who could experience the gut-wrenching feeling of falling further and further down the draft.
Jimmy Clausen chose not to attend the draft, but that may have been because he's afraid of the attention that a draft day freefall would bring upon him. I, for one, can't say that I blame him. Ask Brady Quinn how that is for a sour note to start your career on.
The Donovan McNabb trade to Washington certainly didn't help his chances of being selected in the top 10, either, as Washington holds the fourth-overall selection.
Teams like the Browns and Bills both need a quarterback, but both have a handful of other holes to fill on their roster. The Browns haven't seemed confident in Clausen, looking to trade up to No. 1 to instead draft Sam Bradford. They're not strangers to trading back into the first round to grab a falling Notre Dame quarterback.
Bryant is projected as one of the top 16 players in the draft, but a recent spat of teams trading for receivers has many wondering where he'll go. The fact that Bryant's been (unfairly?) labeled with character issues may have him falling further than some would think.
Miami was projected as a potential landing spot for the former Ohio State Cowboy before they acquired Brandon Marshall via trade.
San Francisco needed a receiver as well, before they scooped up Dolphins WR Ted Ginn, Jr., the former ninth-overall selection of the draft. He was booed on draft day, and the booing never really stopped, as he never lived up to the billing.
It's possible that either of these teams could still draft Dez Bryant, and Denver head coach Josh McDaniels has also gushed over his physical attributes. But if those teams pass up on the pass-catcher, Bryant could fall all the way into the mid-20's of round 1.
A lot of mock drafts and big boards have Taylor Mays drafted in the first round as a low-first round grade.
There's always the odd team that is wowed into drafting a player by their combine performance. If Taylor Mays goes any earlier than the second half of the first round, I'd say it would be a serious case of that flawed system of analysis (and I've questioned the likelihood that the Oakland Raiders could be that team, though it seems unlikely).
If, however, teams are wary or leary of his susceptibility in coverage, or of his oft-questioned passion for football, Mays could fall out of the first round into the second, and could be a steal for a team who's willing to take a chance on him.
This is not the type of guy you want flying after you off the edge. He's excellent at rushing the passer, tallying nine sacks in each of his last two seasons in Gainesville.
He's effective in both the passing and running game, with a fascinating combination of size and speed for his position. He's versatile with his pass rush moves, and has a scary spin move.
He produced great numbers in the talented SEC, so you know he's ready to face tougher competition in the NFL. Despite a few questions about his work ethic and character issues, Dunlap should be off the board by the end of the first round, but could slip into the second round.
Jerry Hughes clearly knows how to get after the quarterback. He did most of his work in a 4-3 front at TCU, but he was a production machine for the Horned Frogs. He tallied 15 sacks in his junior year, followed by 11 in his senior season.
At 6'3" and 257 pounds, he's practically an ideal fit at outside linebacker. At the combine, he flashed the necessary quickness to translate well as a 3-4 outside linebacker with impressive performances in the agility drills. He even tallied two interceptions his junior season, proof positive that he should be comfortable fairly quickly at outside 'backer.
Hughes is a high-motor player with tremendous upside. He should be off the board very early in the second round at the latest.