NFL Draft Predictions: Second- and Third-Round Steals
by Trevor Whenham - 4/13/2011
We spend a lot of time -- both here and everywhere else -- looking at the players that are likely to go in the first round of the NFL Draft. That’s where all the hype is. If you watch a lot of football, though, then you know that the second and third rounds of the draft are almost as good at producing viable NFL talent as the first round is. Here are my NFL Draft predictions for eight guys likely to go in the second and third rounds who have the potential to make a big splash:
Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh - A.J. Green and Julio Jones are the clear gems of the wide receiver class, but they aren’t the only exciting talents. Baldwin is big, he’s fast -- a sub 4.5 40 -- and he is magically gifted at tracking a deep ball and being in the right place for it. He has the same problem that a lot of hyper-talented young receivers have -- if he knows the play isn’t coming his way he doesn’t always play with intensity. If he can get past that, though, and he lands in the right spot, then he has a chance to make a real splash.
Titus Young, WR, Boise State - At under six feet tall Young might be considered a little undersized -- especially against bigger defensive backs. You have to love this guy, though -- he’s a pure winner. He’s fast, he runs routes very well, his footwork is excellent, and he raises his game when the stakes get high. He’s probably not a No. 1 receiver, but as a dynamic, dangerous complementary piece he could be impressive.
Andy Dalton, QB, TCU - What is there not to like about Dalton? Surrounded by a lower level of talent than a lot of guys at major conferences, he just kept winning. He is accurate and calm. He’s creative. He didn’t play a particularly pro-style offense, but he’s clearly not a gimmicky player who relies on a system, either. He has a presence, he’s confident, and he’s clearly a leader. He has a nice arm, too. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Dalton ended up being the best QB in this class.
Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State - This class is ridiculously deep in defensive line talent, so good guys are inevitably going to fall further than they would in other years. Paea is ridiculously tough -- the kind of guy who clearly loves making guys hurt. He’s a very strong leader, and by all reports a hard worker. He’s also clearly very determined -- he didn’t speak English until he turned 16, but got good grades in college. He plays above his measurements, and is going to be a producer.
Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech - I don’t think Williams is going to be an all-World type of back, but then neither is any other back in this weak class. I like Williams for the patience he shows -- a lot of young backs don’t naturally have that. He always works hard, and he learns and adapts -- fumbles were a problem two years ago, but weren’t nearly as much of an issue last year. He’s not likely to be great, but he could be an upgrade for a lot of teams.
Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada - Kaepernick is much more of a gamble than Dalton, and he probably requires more patience. However, he’s definitely intriguing. His skills are solid, and he seems to be smart enough to adapt to a pro-style offense. He’s a remarkably good leader -- he carried his team on his back and almost single-handedly led them past Boise State last year. He could be a very good backup option for a strong team.
Kendall Hunter, RB, Oklahoma State - Hunter is undersized -- there is no denying that. He’s just pure excitement to watch, though. He’s fearless in attacking the line, he’s elusive, he’s patient, and he’s surprisingly strong. He’s just a playmaker, and I expect him to make some plays on Sundays.
Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina - Austin has more baggage than a luggage store, but he has to be looked at closely nonetheless. His maturity is obviously a massive question after the debacle of the last year. Heading into last year, though, he had a chance to be a high first-round pick, and he didn’t face any wear and tear last year, so he’s certainly worth a risk in the second or third round. He’ incredibly quick for a guy his size, and he is impressive both against the run and the pass. When a lot of teams are going to be paying a lot for DTs in this draft Austin could be a real bargain -- certainly one worth a gamble.
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