Plenty of examples of value slipping through the cracks during draft

While the primetime slot for the 2010 NFL Draft put a different spin on the process, the hype surrounding the top talent remained.

Clearly, the blue-chip prospects who had their names called Thursday deserve attention. As do several of the players who will come off the board in the second and third round Friday. Still, it's important to remember the later stages of the draft build rosters.

Day 3 brings a close to the draft Saturday with rounds four through seven, and teams will be eager to bargain shop. Consider that both running back Terrell Davis and quarterback Tom Brady were taken in the sixth round in 1995 and 2000, respectively.

Nothing ruins a franchise like consistent misses in the first round, but when a team can find starters down in the draft, it provides a major boost. The last few years there have been several guys taken in the fourth round and beyond who've made a first-round impact.

Here are the best late-round steals in each of the last five drafts.

2009 draft

Chicago Bears WR Johnny Knox, fifth-round pick (140th overall)

The Bears netted themselves a second receiver and solid return man in this speedster from Abilene Christian. Drafted after Chicago took wideout Juaquin Iglesias in the third round, the diminutive Knox (6-foot, 185 pounds) came in with low expectations, but made his talent known early.

"I saw him in training camp. Size was an issue," former Bears receiver and current NFL Network contributor Tom Waddle said. "But you could tell his speed would compensate. In fact, I thought he looked more technically sound than Iglesias, even though he was a lower pick."

While Knox may not be a premier receiver, he has the speed to stretch the field, catching 45 passes with five touchdowns as a rookie. What puts Knox over the Colts' Austin Collie as the steal of 2009 is the return game, where Knox averaged 29.0 yards per kick return (second in the NFL among players with at least 20 attempts).

2008 draft

Indianapolis Colts WR Pierre Garcon, sixth-round pick (205th overall)

While he might sound like a fashion designer, the Mount Union product made a huge impact in his second season. Scouts could have dismissed the level of competition Garcon faced in college, but last season he raised eyebrows around the league by consistently making big plays (averaging 16.3 yards per catch).

More importantly, he earned Peyton Manning's trust in key situations. Exhibit A: His 11-catch, 151-yard performance in the AFC Championship Game.

Not only did the rest of the league overlook Garcon, the Colts drafted three other players in the sixth round before selecting Garcon with their fourth choice in the round.

How do players like Garcon and Knox fall so far in the draft?

"Late-round players are generally missing something ... that's why they're taken in the lower rounds," said NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, who has 16 years of general manager experience.

Casserly would know, as he plucked several great players in the latter part of the draft, including RB/KR Brian Mitchell (fifth-round pick in 1990), RB Stephen Davis (fourth-round choice in 1996) and TE Frank Wycheck (sixth-round selection in 1993).

"But there is at least one thing they can do really well," Casserly said. "With Frank Wycheck, the one thing he could really do was get separation ... and then of course, catch the ball."

2007 draft

Philadelphia Eagles TE Brent Celek, fifth-round pick (162nd overall)

Like Wycheck, Celek has the ability to separate from NFL-quality safeties. While the former Cincinnati Bearcat showed promise in his second season in Marty Mornhinweg's offense, 2009 is when opposing defensive coordinators were put on notice. Celek caught 76 balls for 971 yards and eight touchdowns.

In a conference rife with good tight ends like Jason Witten and Vernon Davis, Celek is among the best while being the most dependable receiver on the Eagles' roster.

2006 draft

Saints WR Marques Colston, seventh-round pick (252nd overall)

While not a football powerhouse, Hofstra had already produced a great receiver in Wayne Chrebet. But no one could have foreseen Colston becoming a No. 1 option in the passing game.

Despite nearly being Mr. Irrelevant, Colston bonded instantly with quarterback Drew Brees, who was also new to the franchise in 2006. Colston posted the first of three 1,000-yard receiving campaigns as a rookie and now has a Super Bowl ring, too.

2005 draft

Dallas Cowboys DL Jay Ratliff, seventh-round pick (224th overall)

The former Auburn defensive lineman got his big break in Dallas when nose tackle Jason Ferguson tore his triceps in the 2007 season opener. Ratliff has played at a high level ever since. Nose tackles are not expected to produce much of a pass rush, but Ratliff has 13.5 sacks in the last two seasons, and is integral to Wade Phillips' pressure-oriented 3-4 defense.

"He can play inside, but he can also rush the quarterback. That's the big thing," NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi said. "He's definitely a blue-chip player, and is one of the top overall defensive players in the NFL."

Ratliff is in the prime of his career and has made back-to-back Pro Bowls -- not bad for a seventh-round afterthought.

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