First-round picks get all the attention both before and after the NFL Draft. Second-rounders and third-rounders also have some fairly high expectations placed on them, too.
Then there’s Day 3. Sure, the prospects who go in Rounds 4 to 7 more often than not are depth pieces behind established starters, or long-term projects who need several years to become starting-caliber. But every now and then, there are a few diamonds in the rough, players who get picked late and become stars within their first two years of entering the league – such as Dak Prescott (fourth round, 2016), Richard Sherman (fifth round, 2011), George Kittle (fifth round, 2017) and of course, Tom Brady (sixth round, 2000).
So who from the class of 2020 could be that late-round sleeper? Here’s one player from each position group that you might not hear much about until long after the draft:
Quarterback: James Morgan, FIU
Morgan, a Green Bay native who grew up watching Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers play for the Packers, had strong showings at the East-West Shrine Game (114 yards on 9 of 14 passing) and the Combine (he reportedly interviewed well with several teams). He doesn’t have the strongest or most accurate arm, but his size, smarts and pocket presence could make him an enticing project for a team with an imminent need for a QB.
Running back: J.J. Taylor, Arizona
Fifteen years ago, a 5-6, 190-pound running back went in the fourth round as a third-stringer behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner. That player retired just last year and ended his career fifth in NFL history in all-purpose yards. Now, we’re not saying that Taylor – all 5-5, 185 pounds of him – is the next Darren Sproles, but he has similar short-area quickness, vision and hands. His size obviously prevents him from being a three-down back in the NFL, but maybe there’s success for Taylor as an elusive third-down back and returner like Sproles was in his prime.
Wide receiver: Collin Johnson, Texas
Johnson's 6-6, 222-pound frame, physicality and ball skills make him a formidable red-zone target and outside receiver. He does have a bit of an injury history, though – a hip flexor forced him to skip drills at the Combine, and he missed four games last year with a hamstring – and not being able to run a 40-yard dash this offseason hasn’t helped allay concerns about his speed.
Tight end: Devin Asiasi, UCLA
Asiasi initially began his college career at Michigan but transferred home to UCLA after one season. He only has one year of starting experience, but he showed a well-rounded skillset with the consistency to get open and the athleticism to make plays in space.
Offensive line: Ben Bartch, St. John’s (Minn.)
Bartch arrived at Division III St. John’s as a tight end but gained 70 pounds and moved to left tackle in 2018. He has great size at 6-6, 309 pounds, but he still has the movement skills of a tight end. He still has a lot of room to grow in terms of technique and overall experience, but his other traits make him an intriguing developmental player.
Defensive line: McTelvin Agim, Arkansas
Agim was a defensive end for three seasons before shifting inside to defensive tackle in his final season with the Razorbacks. His rush talent is evident when he’s asked to shoot the gap, but he’s still learning how to fight off blockers with his hands and will need to get stronger to hold up against the run.
Edge rusher: Derrek Tuszka, North Dakota State
Tuszka was extremely productive at North Dakota State, racking up 29 1/2 sacks in three seasons and earning FCS first-team All-American honors. The 6-4, 251-pounder is a 4-3 end with a good mix of size, speed (4.79 in the 40), strength (24 bench press reps) and explosiveness (10-foot broad jump, 33 1/2-inch vertical). His arms are a little short for a defensive end (31 3/8), though, and he’ll face a steep jump in competition from the FCS to the NFL.
Linebacker: Logan Wilson, Wyoming
Wilson is as tough as they come at linebacker. A captain for three seasons, Wilson diagnoses plays lightning-quick, is a sure tackler (421 in four seasons) and has sideline-to-sideline range and zone coverage ability. He might have some issues when asked to play man, but he otherwise has the skillet to potentially become a three-down linebacker.
Cornerback: A.J. Green, Oklahoma State
The 6-1, 202-pound Green certainly has the size, length and strength to hold up in press coverage. However, with a 4.62-second 40 at the Combine, he doesn’t have the long speed to match up with receivers in man coverage, which may limit him to zone schemes at the next level.
Safety: Khaleke Hudson, Michigan
In a league where defenses ask players to do more, Hudson has done a little bit of everything. He was Michigan’s “viper” – the Wolverines’ term for a linebacker/safety hybrid – and made plays up in the box (237 tackles, 12 sacks in four seasons) and in the defensive backfield (16 passes defensed in four seasons). So what’s keeping Hudson from being mentioned alongside Isaiah Simmons, this class’s poster child for defensive versatility? At 5-11, 224 pounds, he’s small for an NFL linebacker, but he doesn’t quite have the overall athleticism or length for a safety, either.