For many different reasons, some prospective NFL hopefuls fall through the cracks of the NFL Draft every single year; some never to be found or heard from again. There is so much talent in today’s football world that this is only natural. These players, therefore, could turn out to be the “gems” of the draft. This is where the result of hard work and good research done by GMs and coaching staffs can really pay off. I will just call them my bargain picks…
Omar Bolden – CB, Denver Broncos
Round 4, pick 6 (101)
Bolden was injured all of last season at Arizona State with a knee injury, but before that he was a dominant defensive back out of the Pac-12 for one of the best defensive units in the conference. All of the Sun Devils defensive players seemed to play with a bit of a mean streak in 2010 and Bolden was no exception. He is an exceptional athlete at the position and led Arizona State in 2010 in both interceptions, with three, and totaled seven passes broken up, which also led the team. Barring any major setbacks in his rehabilitation, Bolden is one of the biggest steals of the draft at the 101st overall selection.
Cam Johnson – DE, San Francisco 49ers
Round 7, pick 30 (237)
Johnson is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end with the size to get inside against the run and also possesses the pass-rushing ability to put pressure on QBs from the outside. Throughout his career at Virginia, Johnson tallied 30 tackles-for-loss to go along with 12 sacks and has the athleticism and size that are needed in the NFL. Jim Harbaugh will be a key figure in helping turn this seventh-round draft pick into one that eventually could more resemble a first or second-rounder.
Ryan Broyles – WR, Detroit Lions
Round 2, pick 22 (54)
Ok, so a second-rounder doesn’t seem like much of a steal, but if you can only imagine how good Broyles is going to be working alongside Calvin Johnson and with a QB like Matthew Stafford throwing him the ball all season long then this could be one of the bigger “value picks” of the entire draft. Broyles is quite possibly the most intelligent, productive and instinctive wide receiver in this draft in terms of his pure football skills. On top of that, he now has a ton of motivation after exiting last season early due to a knee injury.
Ronnie Hillman – RB, Denver Broncos
Round 3, pick 4 (67)
Hillman is an excellent change-of-pace back who will step in and help the Broncos offense immediately. Peyton Manning will especially love his ability as a receiver on check-downs, capable of gaining a nice chunk of yards on a regular basis. Hillman finished last season with a total of 1,981 yards combined rushing and receiving to go along with 20 total touchdowns. He is explosive and can make anyone miss in the open-field at any level.
Most NFL-Ready Draft Picks – 2012
Some players need some time for an “adjustment period” when entering the NFL level of play. The speed, ability to remember an extensive playbook and physicality of the NFL--compared to the college level-- is just at an entirely different level; a great majority of players just cannot handle all of that at first. I don’t think, however, that the following studs will need much, if any adjustment period whatsoever.
Mark Barron – S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 1, pick 7 (7)
This year’s class of safeties was not nearly as strong as some of the years past, but there was one sure bet in most people’s minds and that was Mark Barron out of Alabama. Barron possesses the size, straight-line speed and toughness of a solid NFL safety and should have no trouble transitioning to the position immediately for the Bucs. He also has the ability to completely clear his mind of any negativity play-after-play and is supremely confident which is hugely important for a defensive back at the NFL level. This defensive general was also coached by Nick Saban, one of the greatest minds in all of football, so you know that he is well prepared for all things that may come his way.
Alshon Jeffery – WR, Chicago Bears
Round 2, pick 13 (45)
There may be questions surrounding Jeffery’s ability (or inability) to control his weight and maintain a proper fitness level. However, I also believe that he helped answer those at the NFL Combine, coming in roughly 20 lbs slimmer than his playing weight at South Carolina in 2011. In terms of being prepared for the NFL from a physical and competitive standpoint there is no better receiver in the draft. At 6’4” and 225 lbs (roughly) Jeffery will be a matchup nightmare for any NFL defensive back, especially in the red zone where it really counts. Jeffery also amassed over 3,000 receiving yards and 23 TDs in his college career in arguably the best conference in all of college football: the SEC. With Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall now playing opposite of Jeffery, expect a lot of one-on-one matchups and a lot of production immediately in Chicago.
Fletcher Cox – DT, Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1, pick 12 (12)
Fletcher Cox, by most accounts was one of the very best draft picks of the entire 2012 NFL Draft. Cox proved his worth at this year’s scouting combine and opened many eyes with his positional drills showing that he is an absolute freakish athlete for a man in a 6’4”, 295 lb frame. Cox proved he is NFL-ready throughout a stellar SEC career playing for Dan Mullen and the Mississippi State Bulldogs and going up against some of the best offensive lines in all of college football. He seemed to chew them up and spit them out with ease. Cox’s most favorable attribute is his versatility which will pay off big-time in the NFL playing for an Eagles team that already has what could quite possibly be the best overall defensive line in the entire league. Cox managed to block four kicks in his last two years with Mississippi State – three more than anyone else on the team in that span.
David DeCastro – OG, Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 1, pick 24 (24)
Kevin Zeitler – OG, Cincinnati Bengals
Round 1, pick 27 (27)
Guards like DeCastro and Zeitler are extremely important in the NFL, especially in the “Big Boy” division of the AFC North where rivalries exist at every angle and playing conditions become miserable at best in the winter months. Therefore, expect these two behemoths to start from the word “go” for their respective teams and anchor the trenches for years to come.
Photo Credit: AP