These late NFL picks could prove to be steals
In 2016, it was Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and Chicago running back Jordan Howard. Two years ago, it was Miami running back Jay Ajayi, New England defensive end Trey Flowers and Atlanta defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Day 3 of the NFL draft still can provide long-term, quality starters, but teams just have to know the right places to look.
Through Pro Football Focus’s grading, we have identified these five players as the most likely 2017 candidates to outperform their Day 3 draft status with their new teams.
1. Carl Lawson, OLB, Bengals (Round 4, 116th pick overall)
Medical issues likely dropped the Auburn edge defender to the fourth round, but fully healthy, this is the steal of the draft. Lawson earned the fifth-highest passrushing grade in the nation last year despite playing only 65.1 percent of the Tigers’ defensive snaps. He might be limited to being a designated pass rusher early in his career, but there’s little to suggest he won’t be extremely effective in that role.
2. George Kittle, TE, 49ers (Round 5, No. 146)
Kittle is everything San Francisco Coach Kyle Shanahan wants in a tight end. The Iowa product can block and has speed to stretch the field on crossing routes. That combination is going to be hard to keep off the field. In 2016, Kittle earned the fifth-highest run-blocking grade of any tight end in the country. As a fantastic blocker and explosive athlete, Kittle will fit in nicely with the 49ers.
3. Desmond King, CB, Chargers (Round 5, No. 151)
Whether it’s at cornerback or safety for Los Angeles, King has an innate feel for coverage that can’t be taught. While his athleticism and size are lacking at the NFL level, King made up for those shortcomings with other traits at Iowa. In 2015, he led the nation with 20 combined interceptions and pass breakups. That playmaking ability will translate to the NFL.
4. Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, DT, Buccaneers (Round 7, No. 223)
Tu’ikolovatu has all the skills necessary to become a rare NFL star at nose tackle. In his final season at Southern Cal, Tu’ikolovatu was easily the highestgraded defensive tackle in run defense.
5. Elijah Hood, RB, Raiders (Round 7, No. 242)
With Marshawn Lynch, 31, as the starter, there’s likely a good deal of carries to be had behind the former Seattle Seahawk in Oakland. An injury-hampered 2016 likely dropped Hood to the seventh round, but the North Carolina product’s 2015 tape is that of an early-round back.