With the 2019 NFL draft over, evaluations of all 32's classes are predominantly centered on the top picks.
Yet while first-round selections frequently yield the top talent and carry the biggest opportunity cost, prospects from later on in the draft often can be the ones to shape a team's fortune. Look no further for examples than some of the recent rookie of the year winners, including the Colts' Darius Leonard (second round), Saints' Alvin Kamara (third round) and Cowboys' Dak Prescott (fifth round).
These 10 selections from this draft could prove to be significant steals in the coming seasons:
1. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Jaguars (second round, No. 35 overall): Once seen as the primary competition for Jonah Williams (No. 11 to the Bengals) and Andre Dillard (No. 22 to the Eagles) to be the first offensive tackle selected, Taylor instead was bypassed for the likes of Tytus Howard (No. 23 to the Texans) and Kaleb McGary (No. 31 to the Falcons). That shake-up in the pecking order might end up a boon for Jacksonville, which landed a mauling run blocker with the upside to become a promising pass protector.
2. Greedy Williams, CB, Browns (second round, No. 46): When it comes to making plays on the ball and blanketing receivers in man-to-man coverage with his length and speed, the consensus All-American is at the top of this draft's cornerback class. Bulking up and learning to play more physically with his opponents will be necessary steps for Williams to hold up in the NFL, but the Browns landed a first-round talent despite being lacking the Day 1 pick after trading for Odell Beckham Jr.
3. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Seahawks (second round, No. 64): When he spoke with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on the phone after being picked, Metcalf asked, "Why'd y'all wait this long, man?" Fair question. After building a buzz at the NFL scouting combine by running a 4.33-second 40-yard dash and posting a 40 1/2-inch vertical at 6-3, 228 pounds, Metcalf surprisingly lasted until the final pick of the second round. He should be an immediate threat for Russell Wilson on deep throws as he learns to become a more complete receiver.
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4. Jachai Polite, DE/OLB, Jets (third round, No. 68): At some point, Polite's explosiveness off the edge was going to be too enticing for a team to pass up, even though he raised several concerns at the combine with his measurables and combative stance toward teams he said criticized him. Gang Green doesn't have much juice off the edge, and the second-team All-American could seize a significant role at some point in his rookie year if he takes advantage of a fresh slate.
5. Justin Layne, CB, Steelers (third round, No. 83): With Joe Haden returning and Steven Nelson signed in the offseason to stabilize the other starting spot, cornerback might not be the pressing need for Pittsburgh that it has been in recent years. But Haden will be a 31-year-old free agent next offseason, and the Steelers don't have much in the way of depth. Layne, a former receiver who has a knack for diagnosing opponents' routes and breaking up passes, can polish his footwork this season in preparation for a starting role in the near future.
6. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Saints (fourth round, No. 105): Versatility is in vogue for NFL defenses, and Gardner-Johnson adeptly handles a variety of roles and responsibilities. He's at his best in the slot, though, as he can swing games with big plays by utilizing his recovery speed and relentless approach as a blitzer That skill set should come in heavy for a Saints team that overwhelmingly finds itself in nickel packages.
7. Deionte Thompson, S, Cardinals (fifth round, No. 139): Netting the likes of Washington CB Byron Murphy (second), Boston College DE Zach Allen (third) and Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler (fourth), Arizona used its position atop almost every round to extract extensive value. If Thompson can stay healthy — NFL Network reported that a degenerative knee issue removed him from consideration for several teams — the rangy safety could go down as one the group's key contributors.
8. Mack Wilson, LB, Browns: This wasn't the landing spot that many expected for Wilson, who had been projected be the next standout linebacker for the Crimson Tide. Still, if he can develop his instincts, Wilson has the physical tools to make his mark at the next level, particularly in coverage.
9. D'Andre Walker, OLB, Titans (fifth round, No. 168): Productive edge rushers in later rounds are typically few and far between, but Walker could be an exception. Five-time Pro Bowl selection Cameron Wake should be a fine mentor who can help him unlock his athleticism with a better assortment of moves.
10. Kelvin Harmon, WR, Redskins (sixth round, No. 206): A 4.60 40-yard-dash looks to have served as an anchor on the first-team all-ACC pick's stock. Yet the mark shouldn't preclude Harmon from becoming a reliable option in the passing game over time, as he creates separation with precise route running and boxes out defensive backs on jump balls.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
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