Leading up to the draft, the bulk of the discussion focuses on the first-round and second-round prospects. In particular, the quarterback derby has been the story of the pre-draft season.
It makes sense as these are the players who are most likely to make an early impact. Yet did you know that this past season 17 percent of starters were first rounders, another 17 percent of starters were undrafted. It just goes to show that team's are not built on the first round alone.
With that in mind, here is a list of 10 players flying under the radar this draft season. These are not necessarily just late-round sleepers but players whom I expect to outperform their draft position and provide excellent values for their future teams.
Ultimately, it is sort of a"Plant My Flag" list of players who have caught my attention this draft season.
WR Vincent Brown, San Diego State
Brown has been a favorite receiver of mine prior to his breakout performance at the Senior Bowl. He may not be the biggest or fastest wideout in this year's class but has big natural hands and excellent receiver instincts. He has the "It" factor I look for in a wide receiver.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
For the past three seasons, the diminutive Rodgers has carried the Beavers offense on his back. His stock took a hit after a slow 40 at the combine, but he overcomes his lack of speed with tremendous agility, vision and receiving ability.
Pound for pound, there may not be a tougher back in the draft than Rodgers.
QB Adam Froman, Louisville
Quarterback has been the story of this draft season, but the drop-off after the top 6-8 quarterbacks is severe opening the door for some sleepers in the latter half of the draft.
Enter Adam Froman, an athletic quarterback with good size (6'4), accuracy (60 percent) and an above average arm. High upside quarterback who could be a nice value in the sixth or seventh round.
OT Willie Smith, East Carolina
Despite playing the offensive line for just two seasons, Smith was an All Conference USA left tackle this past season.
Lacks consistency but shows flashes of dominant play. Needs to refine his technique but has the athleticism to develop into a blindside protector.
C Brandon Fusco, Slippery Rock
The 2010 Division II Rimington Award winner is a four-year starter who outplayed the more highly regarded Kristopher O'Dowd at the Senior Bowl.
Needs to get stronger and may lack position versatility but gets a good push as a run blocker and anchors well in pass protection. Has the potential to develop into a starting-caliber center.
DE Bruce Miller, Central Florida
The best pass rusher in the draft no one is talking about. A lunch pail guy who lacks ideal measurables (6'1 250) but has a relentless motor and a nose for the quarterback (34.5 career sacks).
Two time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year who probably will fit best as a rush linebacker in a 3-4 or a situational pass rusher in a 4-3.
ILB Nate Irving, North Carolina State
Forced to sit out the 2009 season with multiple injuries including a compound fracture in his left leg stemming from a car accident, Irving made his second chance count this past season.
Demonstrated a tremendous passion for the game in his return with 21.5 TFL and 7 sacks. One of the most well-rounded linebackers in the draft as he can play inside or outside, get downhill or drop into coverage.
DT Martin Parker, Richmond
Parker proved he could play with the big boys with a standout performance at the East-West Shrine Game. A three technique with a knack for making plays in the backfield (29 TFL, an 12 sacks combined the past two seasons).
S Jaiquawn Jarrett, Temple
Big-hitting safety prospect who has been hidden by teammate Muhammed Wilkerson's large shadow but is a big time talent in his own right.
His range is merely average but has tremendous instincts and is an intimidator over the middle. In addition, he has great intangibles and excels supporting the run.
CB Josh Thomas, Buffalo
What Thomas lacks in size and speed, he makes up for in toughness. He is a physical corner with good ball skills and instincts who projects well in a cover-two scheme.
His aggressiveness can be a positive and a negative but someone who could blossom in the right situation. Will earn his roster spot with as a special teams menace but has the potential to develop into more.
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