NFL Draft 2017: Projections for Elite Talent Sure to Slide to Later Rounds

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2017

Defensive back Teez Tabor (31) runs through a drill during Florida's NFL Pro Day in Gainesville, Fla., Tuesday, March 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

After much waiting and too many mock drafts to count, NFL draft week is finally upon us. 

While names such as Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas and Leonard Fournette have dominated draft chatter for months, part of the appeal of the whole spectacle is the unpredictability—even in Round 1. 

Prospects who deserve to be selected in the first round will always slide to the second or even beyond, whether it's due to character issues, lingering injuries, sub-par combine results or myriad other factors.

Sometimes it's simply due to the fact that there are just too many talented players and only 32 first-round spots—which is certainly an appealing proposition for NFL scouts and executives. 

Let's break down three such prospects who, despite coming in with elite talent levels, just may not hear their names called by the end of the night on Day 1. 

Elite Talent Sure to Slide

Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Gators cornerback Teez Tabor was a fixture in first-round mock drafts early on in the draft process, but now his name is nowhere to be found with three days remaining. 

Tabor and Quincy Wilson were one of the top corner duos in the country, but it's Tabor's teammate who seems more likely to be taken off the board in Round 1. 

Wilson finished his three-season college career with 81 tackles (4.5 for loss), one sack, six interceptions (one for a score), 14 passes defended and a forced fumble.

However, Tabor's numbers jump off the page a little bit more: 104 tackles (11 for loss), four sacks, eight interceptions (three for scores), 28 passes defended and a forced fumble.

So why might Tabor slip to Round 2? Chalk it up in part to his middling 40-yard dash times at both the NFL combine (4.62 seconds) and his pro day. 

By comparison, Wilson ran a 4.54-second 40 and also exhibits more play strength at 6'1" and 211 pounds than Tabor at 6'0" and 199 pounds. 

Make no mistake; whichever team selects Tabor will have a starting-caliber contributor at cornerback. But given all the talent available at the position in this year's class, Tabor may not make the cut for Day 1. 

Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama

Players from Alabama's front seven tend to dominate the first-round draft selections, but one who almost certainly won't hear his name called on Day 1 is Tim Williams, a senior who played in 34 games over his Crimson Tide career. 

There's no denying that Williams is a ferocious pass-rusher who stands out in this year's class. As NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote in Williams' draft profile:

Alabama has the type of talent and scheme on defense that can make life much easier for everyone along the front seven, but Williams has explosiveness and pass-rush talent to create his own havoc as a pass rusher regardless of what is around him.

Still, off-the-field issues have created question marks that will make Williams slide at least to Day 2. 

Williams told Michael Casagrande of AL.com he failed multiple drug tests in college, but he never received a suspension. However, he was benched for half a game in 2016 following an arrest on a misdemeanor gun charge.

The Crimson Tide player also saw some of his numbers drop slightly in 2016 from 2015 despite playing in 14 games as compared to 11. He had nine sacks last season, but 9.5 in 2015. However, he did force two fumbles for the first time in his career in his senior season. 

While Williams is also as ferocious as they come rushing the quarterback, he doesn't boast a varied skill set beyond that. For a rotational player, teams will be willing to wait until Round 2. 

Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, Auburn

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Yet another pass-rusher who could really upgrade a team's front seven but will probably not come off the board in Round 1 is Auburn's Carl Lawson. 

Lawson needed to put together a stellar season in 2016 to solidify his draft status, and he did, to the tune of 13.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks.

However, Lawson's extensive injury history has given NFL teams pause and almost guarantee that he'll slip past the first round, regardless of his talent level. He missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL and sat out of six games in 2015 with a hip injury.

Some of Lawson's physical attributes will also work against him, despite his motor. For instance, his 31 1/2" arms likely mean he'll be pigeonholed into a 3-4 outside linebacker role, which simply limits the number of teams who could look to draft him early.

"Lawson's ruffneck demeanor will appeal to teams looking for an aggressive edge-setter along a physical front, but his draft grade could vary quite a bit from team to team," Zierlein wrote

All statistics courtesy Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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