With rookie minicamp season now upon us, it's worth remembering that someone somewhere will emerge as a Day 3 gem.
It seems to happen every year: A player selected in Round 4 or later will prove himself to be capable of taking on a big role on the field. Think of Redskins running back Alfred Morris (drafted in Round 6, No. 173 overall in 2012) or Steelers receiver Antonio Brown (Round 6, No. 195 overall in 2010) or even much of the Seahawks' Legion of Boom (Kam Chancellor was selected in Round 5, No. 133 overall, in 2010; Richard Sherman was picked in Round 5, No. 154 overall, in 2011).
Who will be this year's late-round star? Below are 10 players -- listed in alphabetical order -- who have what it takes to make an impact despite being selected on the last day of the draft:
Drafted out of Minnesota in Round 5, No. 138 overall.
Cobb (5-foot-11, 229 pounds) has excellent size for the position, along with very good instincts. He squares his shoulders and has great vision; he's an inside runner in the style of Emmitt Smith. I think he has a chance to make some noise in Tennessee's backfield and provide a real running threat for a Titans team that needs it. Cobb is starter material, capable of being a 1,000-yard back.
Drafted out of Arkansas in Round 6, No. 202 overall.
The former quarterback -- who started his college career at Iowa, then played for Coffeyville Community College before landing in Arkansas, where he converted to tight end last season -- will line up all over the field for New England. He will block, but he also has tons of upside, thanks to his athletic ability and speed. He's the kind of guy Bill Belichick likes to shift around and use as the H-back, as a wide receiver and as a tight end. Of course, Derby won't beat out Rob Gronkowski, but he could push Timothy Wright as a spot player this season. The Pats develop players pretty quickly, and Derby could be making a splash as soon as 2016.
Drafted out of Arizona State in Round 4, No. 135 overall.
I had Hardison ranked No. 101 heading into the draft, meaning I thought he was good enough to go around the end of the third round -- and I still think that's true. The former high school quarterback and junior college transfer broke out last season with 10 sacks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He's a strong (27 bench reps at the combine), well-built, outstanding athlete and has great quickness off the ball. Hardison is still learning to play his position, but he has a good future on a team that needs help rushing the passer.
Drafted out of East Carolina in Round 4, No. 107 overall.
This is a Steve Largent-type receiver -- he's not going to catch the ball 70 yards downfield, but he is going to make catches across the middle. He has soft hands, probably the best in the draft. He makes up for his lack of speed with his exceptional change-of-direction ability (he ran the three-cone drill in 6.63 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest among receivers and the second-fastest overall). He's very competitive and was well-coached, and I think he has a chance to catch a bunch of passes in Atlanta this year. He has a knack for going to the right spot on the field at the right time and will catch everything thrown his way.
Drafted out of Texas A&M in Round 5, No. 152 overall.
Part of a great Jets draft class, Harrison is an athletic, strong, wide-bodied player who can really move around. Some -- like the AFC scouting director quoted in his draft profile on NFL.com -- are worried about his work ethic, but I think his problem is that he doesn't realize how good he can be. I couldn't believe how well he blocks people. If his mind is straight, he can be a long-time starter for New York -- beginning in 2015.
Drafted out of Michigan State in Round 4, No. 106 overall.
Matt Forte is racking up the mileage, and new Chicago coach John Fox loves to run the ball, so there should be plenty of opportunity for Langford to make his mark. Working in Langford's favor is the fact that he did not have a lot of carries -- or absorb a lot of hits -- at Michigan State, with Le'Veon Bell dominating in Langford's first two seasons there. In fact, Langford was such a good athlete that the Spartans played him at defensive back and receiver during that time rather than waste him behind Bell. He's strong, tough and fast; he posted a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the combine, including an astounding 1.50-second 10-yard split. He can handle all three downs and should be a good fit in the Bears' offense.
Drafted out of Washington State in Round 4, No. 123 overall.
Mayle should get a chance to shine with the Browns, as the receiver depth chart in Cleveland is not especially imposing. The former junior college basketball player lacks experience -- but that didn't stop him from setting a single-season receiving record at Washington State with 1,483 yards in 2014. He doesn't have great speed, but he's an ascendant player who definitely has room to mature as a receiver. I hate to compare anyone to a Hall of Famer, but he reminds me of Michael Irvin, who was not the fastest but presented a great threat on the field.
Drafted out of William & Mary in Round 7, No. 245 overall.
He needs a lot of work, but he's very talented -- honestly, I thought he'd have been picked higher. McBride makes very good adjustments to the ball in the air. He has long arms but average-sized hands and must continue to learn the art of route running. He had a 1.49-second 10-yard split and posted a 6.96-second three-cone. McBride loves the game and will compete; he can also return kicks. He's also going to the ideal team; no Titans receiver even sniffed the 1,000-yard mark last season.
Drafted out of Baylor in Round 4, No. 103 overall.
Petty was one of the most talked-about players in the draft. Some observers questioned whether the quarterback would succeed in the NFL, while others raved about his athletic ability, arm strength and intelligence. Petty played hurt for much of 2014, but he showed what he could do in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State, racking up 550 yards and posting a 71 percent completion rate. He has tons of natural talent. That said, he must improve on some things -- he was sacked 22 times last season, and he needs to get more air under the ball for deep throws -- but he'll work on that. Petty has a great chance to succeed in New York, should he find himself on the field -- especially with Chan Gailey, who is a patient and effective teacher, as the Jets' offensive coordinator.
Drafted out of Michigan in Round 4, No. 129 overall.
The four-year starter and five-year player at Michigan is yet another solidly drafted player by the Packers. Ryan finished 2014 with 112 tackles. He's a guy who can play both inside linebacker -- where departed veteran A.J. Hawk played -- and strong-side 'backer for Green Bay. He's very tough, very competitive and has lots of upside. I think he could start for the Packers this season.