(This is the continuation of a series that refuses to abide by the Mel Kiper/Todd McShay exclusivity approach to the draft and is examining possible talent that won’t be taken in round one of the 2011 NFL Draft starting tonight at 8pm EST on ESPN. So far, I’ve covered rounds two, three and four and will continue until Saturday looking at rounds six and seven.)
As the fifth round begins and the draft sinks deeper and deeper into respective team's “big boards,” the various patterns become clearer. Many of the basic needs for a team stocked with a normal amount of draft picks are filled already.
At this point, the general goal for remaining draft picks is to be able to contribute to a team in some way, shape or form. That could mean a special teams player, or possibly someone with a specialized skill set (like kick returner).
Conversely, there is also the appeal of someone who can fulfill many different roles (a linebacker who can play inside or outside, or a lineman who can play at tackle or guard for example).
Yet the continued theme of later rounds has always been this: solid fifth round picks who become starters emerge from situations where their talent was obscured to most scouts. (And sometimes even the scouts who like them still don’t realize the extent of their find).
Look at players like Michael Turner (drafted in the fifth by San Diego), or Dwight Freeney’s partner in crime, Robert Mathis, in Indianapolis.
Both of those players (who any NFL team would covet), were left till the fifth round for a reason. Turner was considered too slow and Mathis too small.
Trust me when I say there are guys like that in this year’s draft.