While it is easy to get excited about the early rounds of the draft, the best franchises find and develop talent in the later rounds in addition to the blue chip talent in the first couple rounds. Take the Arizona Cardinals for example – last season, Andre Ellington was selected in the sixth round and developed into one of Arizona’s best offensive contributors. The previous year, the Cardinals drafted Pro Bowler Justin Bethel in the sixth round.
It’s impossible to predict who will morph into these kinds of players, but it is definitely worth it to look into these late round sleepers. That is what all the NFL teams have been doing, after all.
Crockett Gillmore, Tight End, Colorado State (Round 4)
In past articles, I have been very glowing in praise of Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch. While I still like him, I also really like Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore. His package is very similar to Lynch’s, with a slight edge in the receiving game and a slightly higher ceiling. Gillmore was especially good at the Senior Bowl, with five receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown – all game highs. If that kind of talent translates to the NFL, selecting Gillmore in round four would be a steal for the Cardinals.
Ryan Grant, Wide Receiver, Tulane (Round 5)
Coming from Tulane in the AAC, wide receiver Ryan Grant also upped his stock at the Senior Bowl festivities. His alma mater combined with his lack of ideal size (6-0, 200 pounds) will almost certainly cause him to fall to the later rounds despite a very productive and accolade-laden career with the Green Wave. Even though Arizona signed Ted Ginn, a cheap option in the slot may still be on the shopping list for the Steve Keim and company. In his career, Grant has caught 196 receptions for 2,769 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Adrian Hubbard, Outside Linebacker, Alabama (Round 5)
Versatility is a word that describes the Alabama outside linebacker to a tee. Asked to do a lot in Kirby Smart’s system for the Crimson Tide, Adrian Hubbard will likely fall due to his lack of production in his junior season, notching only 33 tackles and three sacks. Nevertheless, the sky is the limit for Hubbard who has all the size, strength and speed to thrive in a Bowles system that will ask him to do a variety of things – just like at Alabama.
Alden Darby, Safety, Arizona State (7-FA)
A 2013 All-Pac 12 selection, safety Alden Darby would be perfect to bring in to compete for the contentious safety spot for the Arizona Cardinals. Personally, I really like Tony Jefferson, but Darby is some good coaching away from being a very impactful player. An aggressive playmaker, he has good closing speed for a safety, even if he is a little small. If nothing else, the Cardinals coaching staff is familiar with Darby, playing at nearby Arizona State for four years. Not that that makes it perfect, but it still is worth something.
Aaron Murray, Quarterback, Georgia (Round 4)
Although Derek Carr or Zach Mettenberger would be better fits in the second round range, Georgia’s Aaron Murray may be a decent value and likely fall due to his size and lack of “the golden arm”. Nevertheless, Murray is the all-time SEC leading passer and a master at the backshoulder fade. Such a skillset would fit nicely with a big-bodied receiving corps in Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald. If the Cardinals can’t get a quarterback in the early rounds, Murray may be a guy worth targeting to be Carson Palmer’s successor.
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