There is a long history of late-round NFL draft picks becoming inexpensive core players, and sometimes even superstars. Players who go late in the draft often fall because of a lack of size, speed or college production. However, sometimes the size or speed deficiencies can be overcome by instincts, work ethic and competitive drive.
In other instances, players fall through the cracks due to playing at a small school, where they faced a lower level of competition, or not getting the best opportunities in college. Late-rounders can thrive when they find the perfect fit for what they do. Here are 5 late-round picks from this year's draft who could become contributors this year and NFL starters in the future.
Picked: Round 5, No. 146 overall
Kittle shares some similar traits with Owen Daniels when he was coming out of Wisconsin in 2006 and I doubt that is lost upon new head coach Kyle Shanahan, who was on the Texans' staff when Daniels was thriving. In fact, with Shanahan as a play-caller in 2009, Daniels was on pace for a 1,000-yard, 10-TD season before tearing his ACL after eight games. Kittle is a quality zone-scheme, in-line blocker with the athleticism to race off the line and uncover as a pass-receiving threat. Kittle could be an early contributor and should become a quality starter in Kyle Shanahan's offense.
Picked: Round 5, No. 151 overall
They say King can't run. They say he's too stocky and built like a running back. OK, he's not the fastest guy out there and he does have a more compact build rather than the long, limber look that teams covet outside. Let's talk about what he does have and what he can do. King's tape shows a player with outstanding instincts and even better ball skills. As a safety, his speed will be fine and his instincts will guide him to the throw earlier than others at that spot. And when he gets to the ball? Well, 29 high school and 14 college interceptions don't happen accidentally. Ballhawks will ballhawk.
Picked: Round 5, No. 179 overall
Logan is not only a talented running back, but he's also a "play-now" return man who should have a very good shot of finding field time for the Cardinals on special teams. Logan has outstanding hands out of the backfield and is a very willing blocker. Logan possesses many of the qualities that the Cardinals saw in Andre Ellington when they selected him in the sixth round of the 2013 draft. It wouldn't surprise me to see Logan in Ellington's role sooner rather than later.
Picked: Round 6, No. 198 overall
Jones' issue is that he is a little bit squatty and doesn't always play with consistency. There are also questions about how he will handle NFL power at the point of attack from a power standpoint. However, Jones is a quick, disruptive interior lineman with the type of foot quickness that can give offensive linemen problems when he's rushing the quarterback. I saw flashes against SEC competition that made him look more like a third-rounder than a sixth-rounder and if he plays to his ability, he could become an early contributor and eventual starter.
Picked: Round 7, No. 238 overall
Mays is stepping into a running back situation that couldn't benefit him more as a late-rounder. With Ty Montgomery as the lead back, the Packers clearly had to replenish their depth at the position and they did that by drafting Jamaal Williams (fourth round), Aaron Jones (fifth round) and Mays (seventh round). To me, Mays has the highest upside of the three backs. Mays is built like a truck and possesses a 40.5-inch vertical leap. He's more athletic than Williams and much more powerful than Jones. If Mays had made more than 37 carries this season (injury-riddled season), he might have gone ahead of both of his new teammates.