Everybody knows about the top prospects in each NFL draft.
This year is no different.
Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson are the top three quarterback prospects this year.
JaMarr Chase, DeVonta Smith, and Penei Sewell are all decorated collegiate athletes who many project to be talented pro’s as well.
Updated my Big Board and position rankings for the 2021 NFL draft. Top 25 prospects overall + the best prospects at every position. https://t.co/x3vBpc39PL
— Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) February 10, 2021
But these players are always gone after the first 10 to 15 picks in the draft.
That isn’t to say there isn’t talent to be found later in the draft.
Each year the top teams in the league find quality starters deep in the draft.
Both players ranked in the top 10 of PFF’s 2020 NFL Rookie Ranks and Sneed started in the Super Bowl for Kansas City.
And the most famous example of a late-round gem also started in the Super Bowl this year.
Tom Brady was the 199th pick of the 2000 NFL draft.
Tom Brady is really the GOAT. Pick 199! https://t.co/lEIeLAiZwT
— Jeremy Alexander (@KngAlexanderII) February 8, 2021
He has gone on to have the greatest career of any player in NFL history, bar none.
Knowing each draft has potential Pro Bowl, All-Pro, or even Hall of Fame-caliber talent in the late rounds, here are three prospects in the 2021 draft who could succeed in the NFL.
First up is a wide receiver from North Texas, Jaelon Darden.
The 5’9″, 174 lb. wideout is incredibly shifty and agile.
Darden finished his career at North Texas as the school leader in receptions (230), receiving yards (2,782), and touchdowns (38).
Jaelon was a semifinalist for the 2020 Biletnikoff Award and a First-Team All American, per PFF.
He was an explosive slot-receiver this year who could become an offensive weapon at the next level in a modern NFL offense.
Don't sleep on Jaelon Darden 😴 pic.twitter.com/9bkQRC4SIL
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 10, 2021
Darden also has experience returning punts and kicks, which means he can be used as more than just a receiver.
If he falls into the mid-rounds, teams could find a dynamic offensive talent that could provide a jolt to their offense.
Next, we have Paddy Fisher, a four-year starting linebacker for the Northwestern Wildcats.
Once considered a sure-fire first-round pick, his past two seasons have seen him slip down draft boards.
He is now projected to be a late-round pick.
If he falls to the 6th or 7th round, he could be worth taking a flier on.
He was named to the AP All Big-10 Defensive First Team in 2020.
He also finished with 100+ tackles in both 2017 and 2018.
Fisher is an intelligent player pre-snap who has been known to fly around the field and make plays.
Northwestern LT Rashawn Slater (@rdsl8r) is a name you’ll be hearing a lot between now and next April’s draft. The 4-year starter is an easy Day 2 projection. Instinctive LB Paddy Fisher is another Wildcats prospect that @seniorbowl scouts liked on tape. #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE pic.twitter.com/jG8Wh3iMUj
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) May 20, 2020
However, he lacks the top-tier athleticism desired in a modern-day backer and struggles some in pass coverage.
But finding a potential field general who can play the run effectively in the late rounds could be a solid value pick.
Finally, we have Walker Little from Stanford.
Little was once considered so highly, Bleacher Report listed him as the second overall pick in their way-too-early 2020 Mock Draft.
However, he suffered a knee injury in 2019 and sat out of the 2020 season, so he hasn’t played much at all since then.
PFF has him listed as one of their eight potential biggest sleepers in this draft.
Walker Little career at Stanford:
🔨 Pass block snaps: 680
🔨 QB hits allowed: 4 pic.twitter.com/oQw4FHNrzp
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 12, 2021
Walker has prototypical size and athleticism for an NFL left tackle.
He has long arms, a strong upper body, and a bit of a mean streak, which is needed at the next level.
And as with any lineman from Stanford, he is solid in run blocking.
As long as he recovers from his injuries, Little could be a draft steal.
Especially if he slips past the 2nd round.