This is a good year to be drafting in the second round.
That's because after the likely future stars are gone -- after pick No. 10 -- there are about 50 players who all look equally promising, meaning there is a preponderance of first-round-caliber talent that will be available in Round 2. There is unbelievable depth.
So as the draft approaches, I thought I'd look back over the past five drafts -- from 2012 to 2016 -- and highlight the 10 best second-round picks in that span. Below, you'll find a collection of players who, for a variety of reasons, fell to Day 2 before blossoming into top-notch pros.
1) Le'Veon Bell, running back
Drafted: 48th overall in 2013 by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Why he was available: Bell registered poor performances against Wisconsin (21 carries for 77 yards), Notre Dame (19 carries for 77 yards) and Ohio State (17 carries for 45 yards) in 2012. He also was too heavy. Though he caught a lot of passes at Michigan State (78 for 531 in three years), I think he was viewed as more of a power runner, and that perception hid signs of the versatility he'd eventually display in the NFL.
What he became: Former NFL and Michigan State running back Lorenzo White helped Bell slim down, and he became a much more fluid guy. In 47 regular-season games with the Steelers thus far, he's registered 227 catches for 2,005 receiving yards (second only to Matt Forte over the last four seasons) and 908 carries for 4,045 rushing yards with 26 rushing touchdowns. He has outstanding agility for his size and a great ability to change direction, as his time in the three-cone drill at the NFL Scouting Combine (6.75 seconds) hinted. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley should also get some credit for creating a system that takes full advantage of Bell's three-down skills. It's little wonder the Steelers kept Bell from hitting the free-agent market by applying the franchise tag to him in February.
2) Derek Carr, quarterback
Drafted: 36th overall in 2014 by the Oakland Raiders.
Why he was available: I thought he'd be picked about 25th overall and invited him to come to New York for the draft, but he declined. Carr was probably dinged for the level of competition he faced at Fresno State. He also didn't play well against USC in the Las Vegas Bowl, and I think that hurt him a little bit, leading to the slight drop from 25 to 36. I think sometimes in these situations we tend to focus on the bad rather than considering the broader picture of a player's entire career and ability.
What he became: Carr threw 53 touchdown passes in his first two seasons, the second most all-time in a player's first two NFL campaigns, behind only Dan Marino (68). He also elevated the Raiders from also-ran to contender and earned two Pro Bowl nods while showing he has the ability to get a team to the Super Bowl -- in fact, if not for a broken fibula in Week 16, he might've gotten Oakland there last season. He's a very good athlete with a quick release, a strong arm and great leadership skills. It's hard to ask for much more out of a young quarterback.
3) Janoris Jenkins, cornerback
Drafted: 39th overall in 2012 by the St. Louis Rams.
Why he was available: Jenkins would have been a first-round pick if not for the off-field issues that led him to finish his college career at North Alabama after being dismissed from Florida. He's one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL today, having posted the best burn rate (39 percent, meaning he allowed receptions on 39 percent of the passes that went his way) in the league last season.
What he became: Part of the Giants' big free-agent spending spree last offseason, Jenkins is an outstanding defender who has great coverage skills and tackling ability. He's posted 13 interceptions over the past five seasons, including three in 2016. He tied a rookie record by posting three pick-sixes in 2012.
4) Bobby Wagner, linebacker
Drafted: 47th overall in 2012 by the Seattle Seahawks.
Why he was available: Wagner was a very productive guy as a four-year starter at Utah State, and he was named the MVP of the Senior Bowl. But he was unable to attend the NFL Scouting Combine because of an illness, and I think he kind of slipped through the cracks.
What he became: As a five-year starter for the Seahawks, Wagner has earned three Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro nods. The 2016 league-leader in tackles (167) can play all three downs and cover in space; he's also a very competitive leader. When he's not on the field, the Seahawks' defense suffers.
5) Jarvis Landry, receiver
Drafted: 63rd overall in 2014 by the Miami Dolphins.
- 2017 NFL DRAFT
▹ Best and most worrisome picks
▹ Five Teams that improved the most
▹ Day 2 winners and losers
▹ Most intriguing pick of Round 1
▹ Day 1 winners and losers
▹ QB frenzy shakes up Round 1
▹ Draft Do-overs:
▸ 2008 | 2011 | 2014 | 2015
- MARSHAWN LYNCH TRADE
▹ Lynch, Raiders poised for run
▹ Raiders boast NFL's best offense?
Why he was available: Landry ran a 4.77-second 40-yard dash on a bad hamstring at the combine, leading him to perhaps be docked more for a lack of speed than he should have.
What he became: The big-handed receiver shook off the pre-draft low spot to record an astounding 288 catches thus far, tying his former LSU teammate Odell Beckham for the most by an NFL player in his first three pro seasons. He's a great route-runner, as well.
6) Michael Thomas, wide receiver
Drafted: 47th overall in 2016 by the New Orleans Saints.
Why he was available: Though he was productive at Ohio State, I think Thomas' potential was somewhat obscured by a run-heavy offense and quarterback play that was just OK. Thomas also ran a 4.57 40, which is kind of a suspect time for a receiver. I had him ranked in the lower half of Round 2.
What he became: With outstanding hands and route-running ability and a knack for bringing down 50-50 balls, Thomas caught the second-most passes (92) by any rookie in NFL history, behind only Anquan Boldin (101 in 2003). Playing faster than his timed speed, Thomas did well enough to make it possible for New Orleans to trade receiver Brandin Cooks to the Patriots for a first-round pick. Thomas will be a star in the future, provided he continues to have a steady, strong quarterback to work with.
7) Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver
Drafted: 45th overall in 2012 by the Chicago Bears.
Why he was available: Coming out of South Carolina, Jeffery lacked the ability to beat press coverage or separate, and he was drafted in accordance with my second-round grade.
What he became: Jeffery learned how to run routes and get off the press, solving the two issues I had with him heading into the draft. He's great at playing the ball in the air, makes catches in traffic and can run after the catch. Jeffry is kind of like Jerry Rice in that he doesn't have great speed but knows how to keep people from running him down from behind. When healthy, he's productive, as we saw with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Bears in 2013 and 2014. Chicago kept him around on the franchise tag in 2016 but allowed him to walk this offseason, and he was signed by Philadelphia to a one-year, $14 million pact. He has a history of injury troubles with his lower body, but I expect the Eagles will work on getting him stronger.
8) Landon Collins, safety
Drafted: 33rd overall in 2015 by the New York Giants
Why he was available: His drop out of Round 1 was a slight surprise, as I had him pegged to go about 25th overall (and brought him to Chicago for the draft). The Giants then traded up seven spots to grab him with the first pick of Round 2.
What he became: Collins wasn't very good as a rookie; he didn't look very quick, his instincts were a problem and he was burned too many times. And then, of course, he underwent about the most radical change I've ever seen a player undergo, earning Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors with what looked like a reworked body in 2016. The quickness and instincts were there, and he made himself look like a real steal for New York's revamped defense.
9) Kawann Short, defensive lineman
Drafted: 44th overall in 2013 by the Carolina Panthers.
Why he was available: Short took too many plays off at Purdue and had an up-and-down career there. It didn't help that the Boilermakers were a bad team during his time with them. He was also on the heavy side. Short was one of those guys you roll the dice on, someone who could either turn into a strong pro or flame out.
What he became: Short broke out in 2015 with 11 sacks, earning Pro Bowl honors. He can be a force because of his speed, strength and quickness, someone who can stay at the Pro Bowl level for some time. Panthers defensive line coach Eric Washington is one of the NFL's best, and he'll continue to get the most out of Short, who received the franchise tag from Carolina in February.
10) Kelechi Osemele, offensive lineman
Drafted: 60th overall in 2012 by the Baltimore Ravens
Why he was available: Osemele started four years at Iowa State, which is always a good sign. But there were doubts about his ability to play left tackle in the NFL, and when your perceived ceiling is as a right tackle, it's going to hurt your stock.
What he became: It took him awhile to learn the NFL, but Osemele eventually blossomed into a very good player. By the time his first four years with the Ravens were over, he'd advanced to the point that he landed a five-year deal from the Raiders last offseason worth up to $60 million. Osemele has long arms, big hands, power and strength, though he has to keep his weight down. In 2016, he was outstanding, earning Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors as part of a line that made Oakland the least-sacked team in the league.
Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.