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NFL Draft Top 10: Players who could be late fallers

04.22.12 at 11:21 pm ET
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With the NFL draft this week, teams are finalizing their draft preparations, and there’s now a clearer picture of how this year’s draft will likely unfold. Each year, though, the draft sees once-highly touted players linger on the board, whether it’s due to injury concerns or teams simply valuing other players higher. Here are 10 players we expect to be drafted much later than expected.

1. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State Immediately after the season, Burfict looked like a talented, productive four-year starter with a mean streak that was compared to Ray Lewis. Now, crummy combine numbers, a bad attitude and the fact that not one NFL team has asked him to visit have completely flipped the book on Burfict, who has been referred to as “not-draftable.” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., who had Burfict going at No. 30 to the Ravens back in January, now also suggests that Burfict could go undrafted completely.

2. Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina As a sophomore, Jeffery pulled down 88 receptions for 1517 yards and seemed to be a lock for a top-15 pick in the 2012 draft. However, this past year has seen his stock plummet to a second-rounder at best, due to a regressing junior season and concerns over his top-end speed and weight. While his poor stats could be attributed to a quagmire at the South Carolina quarterback position and his performances at the combine and the South Carolina pro day answered questions about his weight and speed, respectively, the tentativeness that NFL GMs could have towards drafting Jeffery can be summed up in one picture. (He’s the one of the left.)

3. Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State – NFL teams have 28 reason to pass on Weeden. After he was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2002 MLB draft, Weeden played a few years of A-ball before “retiring” in 2006 and giving football another shot in 2007. Now, Weeden will turn 30 during the first half of the 2013 season, leaving little room for error for whatever team takes him. As of now, most mock drafts have Weeden going in the second round. If a team is going to jump on Weeden, it’s going to be a team who be willing to plug him in early and rate him much higher than comparative prospects, like Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler.

4. Jared Crick, DL, Nebraska Had he declared for the draft last year, Crick likely would’ve ended up as late first-round pick or early second-rounder at worst. Fast forward to this year: Crick missed almost all of the 2011 season with a torn pectoral muscle, has looked lackluster in pre-draft workouts and his size leaves questions as to where he’ll fit in an NFL defense. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound Crick has a great skill set inside, but only projects well as a 3-4 defensive end or a very light 4-3 tackle. If it was just the size, Crick is a talented enough player to overcome the issues. However, the free fall of at-one-time projected No. 1 overall pick DeQuan Bowers over the state of his knees shows just how much injury concerns can scare off NFL teams. A similar fate could befall Crick.

5. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North AlabamaGoing into pre-draft workouts, many scouts looked at Jenkins as one of, if not the most talented cornerbacks in the draft. He still might be. However, Jenkins, who was kicked off of Florida’s football team after multiple infractions, has spent the entire draft process trying to shake his bad image, but with mixed results. It also doesn’t help that other corner prospects such as Stephon Gilmore and Josh Robinson have steadily moved up boards throughout the offseason. Jenkins’ stock has already taken a hit, but the fact that so many other cornerbacks have risen may be his undoing on draft day.

6. Orson Charles, TE, Georgia – At one point, Charles was the top TE prospect in the draft, but has taken three major shots at his stock since then: an unimpressive workout after holding out some at the combine, the rise of taller TE prospects such as Coby Fleener and a DUI arrest last month. The 6-foot-2 Charles projects as an Aaron Hernandez-type pseudo-wide receiver rather than a pure tight end. And while they both have off-the-field issues, Hernandez didn’t skip out at the 40-yard dash at the combine only to run it in 4.75 seconds on his pro day.

7. David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech – In recent draft, Wilson would have been a sure-fire first round pick. A solid runner, who’s explosive, powerful and has great vision, Wilson is everything that, say, San Diego’s Ryan Matthews was a couple years ago. Recent, history, though, has shown that, unless it’s a can’t-miss back like Trent Richardson, teams are less willing to commit as much resources to a feature back in a league that sees so many day two picks (Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore) and longshots (Arian Foster, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Fred Jackson) achieve success, especially if they’re not well versed in the passing game like Wilson is. Wilson will likely be a solid NFL back. But he’s not going as early as a player with his talents would in the past.

8. Devon Still, DT, Penn State – In a draft class that features studs like Fletcher Cox, physical freaks like Dontari Poe and disruptive, high-ceiling prospects like Michael Brockers and Jerel Worthy, Still has been lost in the crowd. The 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the year is a unexciting, but solid prospect in a draft filled with rockstar talents at his position that simply hasn’t impressed scouts. It doesn’t help that he is in direct competition with players like UConn’s Kendall Reyes, who has a similar skill set to Still.

9. Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina – Zach Brown is fast — track-team, school-record breaking, unofficial 40-time in the 4.4s fast — which made him a fantastic college linebacker. Unfortunately, the rest of Brown’s skill set ranges from lackluster to red flags. He’s of average linebacker build, he routinely goes around blocks rather than through them, he doesn’t display good football instincts or recognition skills, he’s not a great open-field tackler, he lacks fluidity and he violated team rules during the 2011 season. He’s still fast, full of upside and a solid special teamer, but could see his stock drop out of the second round on draft day.

10. Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State – Adams’ stock has been strong and he looked to be one of the first tackles taken in the first round this year. However, recent reports that Adams tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine will force teams to reexamine him. The worst case scenario would be to see himself drop like Aaron Hernandez did due to his multiple failed drug tests. The best case scenario would be to somehow hang on in the first round, similar to Luis Castillo in 2005 when he admitted to using performance enhancing drugs at the combine.

(UPDATE: 11. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska – According to the Omaha World-Herald, Dennard reportedly punched a police officer in the face early Saturday morning. If there was a top 10 list of things not to do less than a week before the draft, that would probably be included on it.)

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