Watching late-round draft picks blossom into superstars is one the best parts of the NFL.
Though a majority of Day 3 selections don’t pan out, a few have paid dividends for the team that chose them.
Some of the best players in the game were overlooked and underestimated during the draft.
And, of course, Tom Brady went 199th in that fateful 2000 draft.
Tom Brady: 199th overall pick in 2000 ➡️ 7 Super Bowl Rings.
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) February 8, 2021
So while the later rounds might not get the pomp and circumstance of the first round, there are always a few players flying under the radar, ready to take the leap.
Here are three sleeper picks who could be stars in their rookie season.
1. Michael Carter, RB – NYJ
Micael Carter is one of the few late-round selections that could make an impact starting from Day 1.
The New York Jets took the Tar Heel with the 107th overall pick in the draft, adding him to a crowded yet unspectacular running back room.
While free-agent acquisition Tevin Coleman might get the first crack at the top of the depth chart, it wouldn’t be surprising if Carter found himself leading the backfield at some point during the season.
Carter built a reputation as an explosive home run hitter capable of ripping off big chunks at a time.
New York Jets RB Michael Carter has 29 runs of 20+ yards since 2019
1st among all RBs in CFB pic.twitter.com/FdVtSetkng
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 1, 2021
He steadily improved during his time at North Carolina, culminating in a career-best 1,512 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns his senior year.
He also demonstrated his ability to catch balls out of the backfield, recording at least 20 receptions in each of his last three years in college.
The Jets suddenly have what looks to be an exciting offense on paper, and getting Carter consistent touches would only add to the fireworks.
2. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR – DET
Amon-Ra St. Brown is another player who could find himself in the starting lineup as early as 2021.
The Detroit Lions entered the draft with one of the most talent-deficient rosters in the league.
Though they opted to allocate their early capital to rebuilding the trenches, they still managed to come away with a solid wide receiver in the fourth round.
While he doesn’t wow you with any single physical characteristic, St. Brown is as complete as it gets.
He is a fluid yet physical receiver who can attack all three levels of the field.
In his three years as a Trojan, St. Brown recorded 178 catches for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Had this receiver class not been so deep, St. Brown likely would have been selected a lot sooner.
He might not profile as a prototypical alpha WR at the next level, but he has plenty of craftiness and athleticism to succeed immediately.
And with so many vacancies at wide receiver, new quarterback Jared Goff might be targeting St. Brown early and often next season.
3. Daviyon Nixon, DT – CAR
Interior defensive linemen don’t carry the same name value as skill positions, making Daviyon Nixon the perfect sleeper to succeed his rookie year.
Nixon slipped to the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round, a surprise considering his production in college.
While he recorded solid numbers in his first year at Iowa, he turned into an absolute menace his second season.
He posted 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in just eight games, en route to a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award.
Nixon has the rare ability to collapse the pocket from the inside and can shoot the gap with the best of them.
He also is exceptionally fast for his size, which leads to highlight reels such as this one.
Like any prospect, Nixon has his flaws, but he has the chance to make a name for himself alongside a burgeoning Panthers defensive line.