With rookie mini-camps officially underway around the league and rumblings from the hype machine already starting to trickle in, I've decided to compile my list of players at each position that I believe are sure to outperform their draft spot when all is said and done.
Zac Dysert- Miami (OH)
Denver Broncos 7th round (234th overall)
With this years QB class being panned by pretty much everyone with some sort of football knowledge it's hard to believe that there might be a diamond in the rough, but the 6'3" 230lb Ben Roethlesberger clone piqued the interest of John Elway enough for Denver's FO to take a flier on him. After selecting Peyton Manning's back-up Brock Osweiler in the second round last year and the Broncos being in win now mode the need to spend a draft pick on a third QB was as non existent as any team in the league, but Dysert's talent made it impossible for Elway to resist. The circumstances couldn't be better for Zac, who should be able to kick back and learn under Peyton and will be given a shot to compete with Osweiler as the backup and eventual successor to Manning. If you saw Miami (OH) play last year you know that the kid was surrounded by arguably the worst protection and collection of skill players in NCAA yet he still managed to break a bunch of Big Ben's school records so you know he is used to working for everything and after coming back from a lacerated kidney dude showed he is tough as nails. Sorry Brock but my money is on Dysert.
Honorable Mention: Landry Jones
Joseph Randle- Oklahoma State
Dallas Cowboys 5th round (151st overall)
This year's crop of runners was as deep as I can remember with out a clear cut super star, but finding the back most slept on this year was easy. Randle was my top overall back in the class and I find it perplexing that he fell as far as he did, but with the way the pro game is shifting towards two headed back fields the need for a 3 down work horse that isn't a physical specimen like AP or a burner like CJ2K is almost extinct. The fall was a blessing in disguise however as Randle lands on a team desperate for someone to step up when the inevitable happens and lead back DeMarco Murray finds himself once again on IR. With long time underachiever Felix Jones gone and no one else on the roster to challenge for carries look for JoeRan to make a smooth transition from leading the NCAA Cowboys to leading his new NFL Cowboys team in rushing for years to come. He has the look of that special player that just gets it, always falls forward when tackled, hits the defender before the defender hits him, finds the seam and finishes off runs. With no holes in his game he should easily out perform every other back from his class by the time he hangs up his cleats.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Lattimore
Justin Hunter- Tennessee
Tennessee Titans 2nd round (34th overall)
Justin Hunter is the poster child for this team, and he has been laying in the cut for far too long. As deep as this years RB class was, the WR class was even deeper. In fact so deep that legitimate NFL #1 WR prospect Da'Rick Rodgers went undrafted. Rodgers was Hunter's teammate in Tennessee before falling out of favor with the Vols and transferring to Tennessee Tech prior to last season. While they were there, Rodgers was the flashier receiver of the two and garnered more media attention. Hunter ended up suffering an ACL tear and sat out most of 2011. In 2012 Rodgers was replaced by JuCo stud transfer Cordarelle Patterson who took the reigns and ran with them dominating secondaries and over shadowing Hunter's comeback campaign. Patterson a sure fire starting WR prospect in his own right was taken ahead of Hunter in this years draft. However it is Hunter, now 2 years removed from ACL surgery, that I believe will have a better NFL career. With 4.4 speed, soft hands, deceptively smooth route running and the ability to leap out of the building at 6'4" he should have no problem lining up alongside fellow 2011 ACL surgery survivor Kenny Britt and last years 1st round pick slot reciever Kendall Wright to complete what could end up being the most sneaky dynamic WR core in the league. Look for Hunter to eventually supplant Britt as the clear cut #1 WR in town and both he and Wright should be the 1,000 yard tandem that Locker can feed for years to come.
Honorable Mention: Stedman Bailey
Jordan Reed- Florida
Washington Redskins 3rd round (85th overall)
I really, REALLY like the top TE tier in the draft this year. There are several players that I feel will have a significant impact in the NFL and even though there were 5 Tight Ends taken before him, none of them have a higher ceiling than Reed. During his time as a Gator, Jordan lined up all over the field. Originally recruited as a run first QB he ended up settling in at the TE position last year and flashed amazing athleticism that reminded many of fellow UF alum Aaron Hernandez. He's best used as a Flex TE/Joker type and could fill a role similar to Hernandez in Washington when the dust settles, but with incumbent Fred Davis on the mend he may be asked to do a lot more than that early on in his career. I'm banking on him being up for the challenge and eventually taking over for Davis as RG3's primary target at the position. With plenty of room to grow Reed is just scratching the surface of what he can do and even with such a small sample size he has shown that he is a special player with the ball in his hands. Once he learns the ins and outs of the position at the NFL level he has the ability to be a perennial pro bowler if he and RG3 click.
Honorable Mention: Travis Kelce
Barrett Jones- Alabama
St. Louis Rams 4th round (113th overall)
Mark my words, "Jones will be the leader of the Rams offensive line unit for the next 10 years". His versatility alone should have had him taken higher than the 20th lineman off the board. He played all five positions on the line throughout his career at Bama and was damn good at all of them too. Throw in the fact that he won the Rimington trophy given to the nations best Center in 2012 as a four year starter on a team that won 3 national championships and it's pretty unbelievable that there were 19 other guys on the line perceived to be more valuable to an NFL team. After sustaining a foot injury and with priority being to protect the QBs blind side in the NFL Jones saw his stock plummet due to him projecting as an interior lineman in the NFL, but trust me when I say this "he could play LT in the NFL next season and he would be better than at least 10 opposing teams starting LT. That said, what Jones brings to the field is his ability to quickly identify and read defensive pressures and his understanding of the OL unit as a whole which is why most project him as a Center in the NFL. What he brings to the locker room is a winning mentality and the ability to motivate his teammates. The most overrated aspect of the draft process IMO is the weight of athletic ability on an interior lineman and that's the lone knock on Jones, however I believe he is more athletic than given credit for. He played through various injuries throughout his college career which also speaks volumes about his toughness. Assuming Barrett checks out physically he should slot in as the starting LG this year replacing an aging and expensive Harvey Dahl who is due $4mil and could be cut. However the Rams may decide he's more valuable as a swing G/C this season and groom him to eventually take over a starting position on the line once a spot opens up. Either way Jones is destined to be a mainstay and fan favorite in St. Louis for quite some time.
Honerable Mention: David Quessenberry