2011 NFL Draft: 10 Late-Round Sleeper Picks
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the first overall pick in the draft this year, and that uncertainty continues all the way back.
While first-round picks find themselves under immense pressure to produce from day one, players selected in the later rounds are able to enter their rookie seasons without the same level of hype.
Look for several players selected in the fourth round or later to come into the league and have an impact on their new teams immediately.
Here are a few future rookies that have the ability to perform during their rookie seasons and have the potential to develop into the next batch of NFL superstars. Teams may be kicking themselves for passing up on these guys on day one.
Casey Matthews: ILB Oregon
Projected Pick: 100. Buffalo Bills
We know his pedigree. Casey Matthews definitely has the genetics to be an NFL superstar. He may not perform at the same level as his big brother Clay, but Casey has the ability to come in and make plays on defense.
The Bills are a team that needs help everywhere, and they would love to get a guy like Matthews that could be the general of the defense and bring some toughness to the team. The Bills have had bad luck drafting LBs in recent years, but maybe the Matthews bloodline will put them at ease.
Austin Pettis: WR Boise State
Projected Pick: 106. Minnesota Vikings
Pettis definitely has the explosive playmaking ability that NFL scouts like to see, and that usually translates to the next level.
The Vikings have a lot of uncertainties on the offensive side of the ball. It remains unknown whether or not Sidney Rice will return to the team, and if so, how effective he will be, and the biggest unknown is who will be under center for the Vikes once the season begins.
Pettis could be a good pickup to help take some of the pressure off Percy Harvin and provide another weapon down the field for whoever ends up taking snaps for Minnesota.
D.J. WIlliams: TE Arkansas
Projected Pick: 111. Miami Dolphins
Bill Parcels was a big fan of Anthony Fasano, but now that the Tuna has taken his talents out of South Beach, it remains to be seen if the Dolphins coaching staff will stick by Fasano as their starting TE.
Williams could provide some good playmaking at the position and provide a nice safety valve for Chad Henne, who is still a work in progress.
John Moffitt: G/C Wisconsin
Projected Pick: 112. St. Louis Rams
Moffitt was part of one of the nation's best front lines this past season at Wisconsin. The Badgers seemingly ran the ball at will, and Moffitt was one of the most dominant linemen in college football in the run game. At 6'5" and 323 lbs., he has the size to impose his will as a blocker at the next level.
Sam Bradford would love to have Moffitt blocking for him, and Steven Jackson probably wouldn't mind having him lead-block either.
Jacquizz Rodgers: RB Oregon State
Projected Pick: 115. San Francisco 49ers
Brian Westbrook's one-year contract is up, and there's not much pointing towards his return to the Bay. Jacquizz Rodgers gave Jim Harbaugh nightmares during his time at Stanford, so we know he respects his ability. Jacquizz could play in the return game and complement Frank Gore nicely on third downs.
Rodgers doesn't have the ideal size for an NFL running back, but he could fit into an NFL team's roster much the way Darren Sproles does for the San Diego Chargers and be just as effective.
DeMarco Murray: RB Oklahoma
Projected Pick: 116. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers running game got a major boost when LeGarrette Blount started getting the majority of carries; however, even if Blount takes over as the featured back, Cadillac Williams looks to be past his prime, and Blount has had some character issues off the field. Murray would add to the Buccaneers' stable of backs.
Projected Pick: 143. Dallas Cowboys
Helu could be used in a variety of ways by NFL teams. While I don't see Helu being an every-down back by any means, he could definitely have an impact running the ball and potentially lining up in the slot as a receiver. Helu could also be a valuable contributor on special teams.
The Cowboys are set at receiver and have a talented stable of backs, but Marion Barber was inconsistent at best last season, and Felix Jones has shown flashes of brilliance but has also shown that he can't be an every-down back. Helu would add an interesting element of versatility to the Cowboys' offense and special teams.
Stevan Ridley: RB LSU
Projected Pick: 153. Detroit Lions
Jahvid Best had a great rookie season, but being that Best is only 5'10", 200 lbs., he could use a running mate in the Lions backfield. LSU running back Stevan Ridley, who stands 6'0" and 225 lbs., would fill out the Lions backfield nicely.
Matt Stafford has been tremendous during the games that he has been able to play in, but he has suffered several injuries that sidelined him. The Lions will need a good stable of backs to help support Stafford, and Ridley will help bolster the Lions rushing attack.
Deunta Williams: FS UNC
Projected Pick: 161. New York Jets
Deunta Williams is regarded by many as one of the most skilled players in this year's draft. He has big-play ability in the secondary. Williams' man-to-man coverage could use some work, but he's a ball hawk that can play the zone well and come up in run support.
It's no secret that the Jets' bread and butter is their defense, and William's would be another great, young addition to the Jets' defensive secondary.
Mark Herzlich: ILB Boston College
Projected Pick: 163. Green Bay Packers
A strong linebacking corps was one of the reasons the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl last season. With Nick Barnett possibly on the way out, the Packers could use a replacement like Herzlich. At 6'4", 243, Herzlich is a load and would bring another fiery personality to the Packers defense.
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