Sep 26, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats linebacker Scooby Wright III (33) during the fourth quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Arizona Stadium. UCLA won 56-30. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
In the 2016 NFL Draft, the final day has the potential to launch teams from mediocrity to the NFL Playoffs. It’s all about finding hidden gems that can immediately contribute once their number is called.
Realistically, the majority of the players drafted on Day 3 of the draft will probably never start a game and may not even make a final roster. That’s the beauty of it all as general managers and their scouting teams all across the NFL do tons of research to hopefully find those diamonds in the rough.
It’s not easy but some teams did just that as they drafted players with major upside and potential to not only make the final roster but add quality depth to key positions. The regular season is long and very unpredictable as sometimes it’s these very late-round picks that turn pretenders into contenders.
Without further ado, here are the top five late-round picks of this year’s draft.
Next: 5. Oakland Raiders find their backup of the future
Dec 31, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Connor Cook (18) before the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2015 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
5. Quarterback Connor Cook (Michigan State) | 100th overall by Raiders
No disrespect to the Raiders of course, but Connor Cook has a lot of work ahead of him before he’s considered starting material. Not that long ago, Cook had a legitimate chance to be a first round draft pick and is believed to have all of the physical tools to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
But concerns about leadership and attitude towards teammates caused him to fall. Both his skill-set and situation reminds many of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He understands how to read defenses and has solid arm strength but also has an unshakeable confidence when he is in the pocket.
His inconsistent accuracy and questions about his leadership may have scared some teams off, but his previous experience in a pro-style offense will make him a great backup for Derek Carr and perhaps a valuable trade chip down the road.
Next: 4. Tremendous production falls to Cleveland Browns
Dec 31, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats linebacker Scooby Wright III (33) against the Boise State Broncos in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl at Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
4. Inside Linebacker Scooby Wright III (Arizona) | 250th overall by Browns
Scooby Wright was one of the most productive linebackers not just in the PAC-12 but in all of college football in 2014. He won the Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik award and was heading for records and national attention. However, multiple injuries derailed his 2015 season but he did everything he could to salvage it in his final game as a Wildcat, racking up 15 tackles in the New Mexico Bowl.
He is a great competitor and has tremendous instincts and plays faster than his 4.87 40-yard combine time would suggest. He is undersized but that has fueled his fire to prove the doubters wrong. His tackling is inconsistent and needs to get stronger but in the seventh round, this is a great addition for a defense that needs playmakers.
Next: 3. Cincinnati Bengals land a powerhouse
Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears defensive tackle Andrew Billings (75) during the game against the Oklahoma Sooners at McLane Stadium. The Sooners defeat the Bears 44-34. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
3. Defensive Tackle Andrew Billings (Baylor) |122nd overall by Bengals
Andrew Billings is a beast, plain and simple. Billings is an unbelievable powerlifter. He squatted over 800 pounds, dead lifted over 700 pounds, and benched over 500 pounds with ease. Not only is he one of the strongest prospects ever, but he actually was an offensive lineman in high school before making the switch to defense. He was incredibly productive at Baylor and he’s only 21-years-old and will continue to get better.
He is raw and his technique is flawed but the sheer talent and athleticism he brings to the table more than justifies him as a great pick here for a Bengals team who doesn’t have an immediate need at defensive tackle but Domata Peko isn’t getting any younger. This was a solid pick by the Bengals to bolster their defense.
Next: 2. Raiders land versatile offensive lineman
Dec 30, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; LSU Tigers guard Vadal Alexander (74) takes the field prior to the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Music City Bowl at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
2. Offensive Lineman Vadal Alexander (LSU) | 234th overall by Oakland Raiders
The Raiders make this list again with Vadal Alexander. He is an exceptional talent from LSU who displays natural power and strength from his lower and upper body. He has great size and has experience as both a guard and a tackle. There is no such thing as too much depth on the offensive line and the Raiders want to protect their quarterback of the future at all costs.
He isn’t very quick or athletic which will probably force him to play guard in the NFL but Alexander has exceptional ability and will greatly help the Raiders’ offense. He excels as a run blocker which will help their ground attack nicely once he makes the transition to the pros.
Next: 1. Denver Broncos get a true steal in this year's draft
Nov 14, 2015; Tucson, AZ, USA; Utah Utes running back Devontae Booker (23) runs the ball against the Arizona Wildcats during the first quarter at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
1. Running Back Devontae Booker RB (Utah) | 136th overall by Broncos
After running back Ezekiel Elliott, there is much debate on who the best running back in this year’s draft is. While the popular pick was Heisman trophy winner Derrick Henry, Devontae Booker was a name that many scouts and analysts really liked. With his vision and acceleration, many feel Booker is a gifted running back who could be a huge steal in the fourth round.
Booker isn’t tremendously quick and needs to cut down on his fumbles (six in 2015) but he is arguably going to the best possible situation with the Broncos. If he stays healthy, he’s almost guaranteed his fair share of snaps in their run-oriented offense and it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Booker takes the starting job away from C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman.