A week removed from the NFL draft, plenty has been said about this year’s top prospects and how they’ll fit with their new teams. Now it’s time to assess some of the often overlooked late-round picks.
Hitting on those selections can change the direction of a franchise. Ravens tight end Mark Andrews and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. were third-round picks in 2018. San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle was taken in the fifth round in 2017. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott slipped to the fourth in 2016. Former Terps star Stefon Diggs — traded from the Minnesota Vikings to the Buffalo Bills this offseason for a first-round pick — lasted until pick No. 146 in 2015. The list goes on.
Here are the late-round picks (Round 3 or later) who have the best chance to turn into productive players — or perhaps even grow into stars:
Oregon State wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins (Round 6, No. 207 overall)
Hodgins will have a hard time getting snaps as a rookie with Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley and fellow rookie Gabriel Davis likely ahead of him on the depth chart, but he has a knack for making big plays. Hodgins scored 13 touchdowns last season for the Beavers, using his 6-foot-4 frame to shield defenders and track down deep passes. His hands are reliable, and he can make some acrobatic catches on the sideline.
Boise State edge rusher Curtis Weaver (Round 5, No. 164)
Scouting website Pro Football Focus rated Weaver the third-best edge rusher and No. 26 overall player in the draft, but he fell to the fifth round because of his lack of athleticism. He’s proven he can get pressure with his hands, length and power, winning more than 30% of his pass-rushing snaps in 2018, per PFF. With 18½ tackles for loss and 13½ sacks in 2019, he has the potential to be a productive player at the next level.
New England Patriots
UCLA tight end Devin Asiasi (Round 3, No. 91)
The Patriots were clearly eager to get another pass-catching tight end, drafting Asiasi and Virginia Tech’s Dalton Keene with back-to-back picks. While Keene projects more as an H-back/fullback type, Asiasi can stretch the field with his size and speed. Expect the Patriots and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to get the most out of their rookie tight ends.
New York Jets
Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall (Round 5, No. 158)
This time last year, Hall was thought to be a potential first-round pick. But after suffering a season-ending injury as a senior, he fell down draft boards. With ideal size (6-1, 202 pounds), long arms and good instincts, he’ll be an effective scheme-diverse corner with room to grow.
Fresno State guard Netane Muti (Round 6, No. 181)
After suffering season-ending injuries (Achilles and shoulder) in two straight seasons, teams understandably stayed away from the 6-3, 315-pound mauler. But when he’s healthy, Muti is a road grader with tremendous upper-body strength. He’s limited on the move, but when he’s able to get his hands on the man in front of him, it’s over. He might end up being the best interior lineman in this class.
Kansas City Chiefs
Louisiana Tech defensive back L’Jarius Sneed (Round 4, No. 138)
If you’re looking for play-making skills, Sneed has them. He had three pick-sixes with the Bulldogs after securing four in high school. His NFL future might be at corner rather than safety, but his versatility and athleticism will be a great fit in the Chiefs defense.
Las Vegas Raiders
Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson (Round 4, No. 139)
He’s only 5-8, but Robertson plays with the demeanor of a much bigger player. He’s not afraid to get in a receiver’s face in press coverage, projecting as a starting slot corner and nickel back. He and first-round corner Damon Arnette won’t be fun to play against.
Los Angeles Chargers
Ohio State wide receiver K.J. Hill (Round 7, No. 220)
Hill turned heads at the Senior Bowl with his ability to win one-on-one. He won’t be a starting slot receiver as long as Keenan Allen is on the team, but he’s a great route-runner with reliable hands. That should get him on the field soon enough.
Iowa safety Geno Stone (Round 7, No. 219)
Stone won’t blow people away with his athleticism, but he’s a smart and instinctive player who turned 21 in mid-April. According to PFF, Stone played over 600 snaps at free safety in his college career and was responsible for only 137 yards while intercepting three passes and forcing seven incompletions. He’ll get to learn from one of the best to ever play the position in Earl Thomas III.
Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither (Round 4, No. 107)
Although he’s a bit undersized at 6-1 and 224 pounds, Davis-Gaither has the athleticism to be an effective blitzer and sticky in coverage. He trusts his instincts, too, and can slip blocks. He’ll be an immediate upgrade in the middle.
Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant (Round 4, No. 115)
Even with Austin Hooper and David Njoku on the roster, this was a smart pick. Bryant can be a versatile weapon with his athleticism and ball skills, with room to grow as he adds bulk to his slender frame. He gives Baker Mayfield another weapon to work with in a stacked receiving corps.
Maryland safety Antoine Brooks Jr. (Round 6, No. 198)
A linebacker/safety hybrid, Brooks is a versatile defender with good instincts who can mix it up near the line of scrimmage or make plays as a split safety. By all accounts, he has the kind of personality and work ethic worth betting on.
Rhode Island wide receiver Isaiah Coulter (Round 5, No. 171)
The former Wilde Lake standout came into his own at Rhode Island, where he had 1,039 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. He showed his speed in the 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds) at the combine and uses his size well. He has plenty of room to improve, but he has the athletic traits to be a future starter.
UMass cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (Round 6, No. 211)
Rodgers, the cousin of former NFL cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, might not make an immediate impact at corner, but he probably will on special teams. He reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds, just .01 of a second behind top combine performer Henry Ruggs III, and averaged 23.6 yards per kick return and 7.4 yards per punt return at UMass.
St. John’s (Minn.) offensive lineman Ben Bartch (Round 4, No. 116)
Bartch played in Division III, but when he competed alongside some of the draft’s top prospects at the Senior Bowl, he more than held his own. The former tight end is still growing into his body (he gained some notoriety for a gut-churning smoothie recipe he used to gain weight in college), but he has the chance to be a starting lineman at tackle or guard
N.C. State defensive lineman Larrell Murchison (Round 5, No. 174)
Murchison isn’t an explosive athlete like some other mid-round interior linemen, but he’s consistent and hard to push around. With the Titans in need of some help on the defensive line, he could make an immediate impact with his non-stop motor and instincts.
Utah edge rusher Bradlee Anae (Round 5, No. 179)
Ranked at No. 81 on The Athletic’s consensus big board, which compiled rankings from analysts across media, Anae represents terrific value at pick No. 179. He’s not going to beat NFL offensive linemen with his athleticism, but he has a quick first step and strong hands and plays aggressively. He should contribute right away for a team in need of pass-rushing help.
Clemson safety K’Von Wallace (Round 4, No. 127)
Wallace doesn’t have the speed to be a deep safety, but his tenacity and athleticism make him a valuable player as a box defender or a small linebacker in sub packages. With just 18 missed tackles on 171 attempts in his college career, according to PFF, he’ll be effective near the line. At the least, he can be a slot defender from Day 1.
New York Giants
UCLA cornerback Darnay Holmes (Round 4, No. 110)
Once considered a weakness, the additions of Panthers corner James Bradberry, Alabama safety Xavier McKinney and Holmes give the Giants a much-improved secondary as they continue to rebuild their defense. Holmes can be beat by speedier receivers, but he’s strong and athletic with the potential to be a dynamic playmaker. That would be a steal in the fourth round.
Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden (Round 4, No. 142)
With his combination of size (6-4, 223 pounds), speed (40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds) and explosiveness (127-inch broad jump), Gandy-Golden is oozing with potential for a team in need of another receiving threat. His wide catch radius and ability to bully defenders — NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah compared him to “Billy Madison at recess” because he’s a man among boys — should be a big addition to the Redskins offense.
Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin (Round 7, No. 222)
Benjamin was considered the No. 122-rated prospect on the consensus board, and he almost fell out of the draft completely. Most seventh-round picks don’t amount to much, but Benjamin can be a valuable playmaker immediately in Arizona’s offense as both a runner and a pass-catcher because of his elusiveness.
Los Angeles Rams
Alabama edge rusher Terrell Lewis (Round 3, No. 84)
Lewis was considered a fringe first-round prospect by many analysts, but he likely fell down draft boards because of his injury history. His fall could be the Rams’ gain, as he has all the physical traits to grow into an outstanding edge defender. The question is whether he can stay healthy and turn that potential into production.
San Francisco 49ers
Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings (Round 7, No. 217)
Jennings was considered PFF’s No. 13 receiver and No. 70 overall player for a reason, and that’s because of his ability to break tackles. He shed 30 would-be tacklers in 2019, per PFF, the most in the nation, and has the physical tools to be a force as a catch-and-run threat. Expect coach Kyle Shanahan to make many wonder why Jennings fell so far.
Miami (Fla.) running back DeeJay Dallas (Round 4, No. 144)
There’s a path for Dallas to be the starting running back in Seattle this season if Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson continue to struggle with injuries. Dallas’ ability to break tackles is unquestioned, but he’ll have to improve his vision. He’s a tough runner and should earn the admiration of coaches for his special teams ability, too.
Tulsa edge rusher Trevis Gipson (Round 5, No. 155)
Gipson isn’t quite ready to play a meaningful role, but he could grow into a fearsome pass rusher as he adds more bulk and refines his technique. He’s a long-limbed athlete with an explosive first step who improved every season in college.
Wisconsin wide receiver Quintez Cephus (Round 5, No. 166)
Cephus isn’t going to scare anybody with his speed (4.73 40-yard dash), but he’s strong (scouting combine-best 23 bench press reps of 225 pounds) and a great leaper (38½-inch vertical jump, tied for sixth-best at combine). He’s a tough competitor with good hands who can work his way onto the field in no time.
Green Bay Packers
Miami edge rusher Jonathan Garvin (Round 7, No. 242)
It’s hard to find a sleeper in the Packers’ underwhelming draft class, with many of their late-round picks considered a reach. Garvin was considered a “Day 2 talent” by some because of his physical traits, but he slipped all the way to one of the final 15 picks after his inconsistent effort with the Hurricanes. If he can reach his potential, the Packers might have found a hidden gem.
Michigan State edge rusher Kenny Willekes (Round 7, No. 225)
Nobody questions Willekes’ drive or production, but the former walk-on fell to the seventh round because he lacks the athleticism to be a consistent edge rusher. Still, he’s a smart player who has a chance to vastly outperform his draft status as a rotational player.
Fresno State linebacker Mykal Walker (Round 4, No. 119)
There’s no question the Falcons believe in Walker more than most, taking him nearly 100 spots higher than his ranking on the consensus board (No. 204). He has the instincts, size and athleticism to be productive and offers versatility as an inside linebacker and stand-up edge rusher, but he’ll have to be more physical to live up to his draft spot.
West Virginia safety Kenny Robinson (Round 5, No. 152)
One of the draft’s most intriguing prospects, Robinson earned the attention of NFL scouts with his play for the St. Louis Battlehawks of the XFL after two standout seasons at West Virginia. He projects as a deep safety with above-average instincts and play-making ability, giving Carolina the freedom to use fellow draftee Jeremy Chinn all over the field.
New Orleans Saints
Dayton tight end Adam Trautman (Round 3, No. 105)
The Saints gave up a decent haul of picks to move up and pick Trautman, who might be the most complete tight end of this year’s bunch because of his ability to block, run routes and pick up yards after the catch. He’s not going to beat out Jared Cook for a starting spot this season, but he’ll find his way onto the field soon enough and gives New Orleans a long-term solution at the position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson (Round 5, No. 161)
Overshadowed by more explosive receivers in this year’s deep class, Johnson has the route-running skill and physicality to be a productive player from Day 1, especially with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans drawing most of the attention in Tampa Bay’s new-look offense. Tom Brady is going to love the way Johnson separates from defenders and his ability to make contested catches.