Early impact from late rounds
Shamarko Thomas among Day 3 picks who could thrive
Last year, the star of the later rounds was clearly Alfred Morris. The 173rd pick in the 2012 NFL draft had 335 carries for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. That certainly qualifies as an outlier, but it's not much of a surprise at all to see major contributions -- even among rookies -- from down the draft board.
This year, we had an incredible amount of talent taken on the third day. In fact, the fourth round might have been the signature portion of the draft. We saw a QB run with Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson and Landry Jones all off the board, then one of the most productive wide receivers of last year, one of the most productive pass-rushers and one of the best safeties taken -- and it all happened within an hour. A few minutes later, Marcus Lattimore was drafted by the 49ers. The problem you often see with later-round draft picks isn't talent, it's the depth chart. Teams often look for high-ceiling players later, but those rookies often have veterans in the way. Need picks happened earlier.
So, to continue with this four-day series, I was asked to pick some first-year "impact" players from Rounds 4 through 7 for this piece. That means guys positioned to make a mark in 2013, as opposed to calling them better than other players in this draft. It's about talent, but also who has been drafted into a situation where they have a chance to succeed early on.
Here are possibilities from the later rounds.
More Kiper NFL draft content:Draft Grades | Impact players: Round 1 | Rounds 2 and 3 | Rds. 4-7
The 49ers depth chart at wide receiver already has seen Anquan Boldin added, and A.J. Jenkins, last year's first-round pick, is still ready to break into the rotation. But I think Patton could gain some early reps. In my draft guide I had him written up as, "a solid second-round range prospect." Well, the 49ers got him in the fourth. Patton isn't a burner, but is a good route runner and creates spaces, and where the 49ers will see his value is in his ability to win battles for contested throws. He's hugely productive because he can bring in anything. It might not be in Week 1, but I think he can break in.
To see the rest of Mel's impact late-rounders, plus to gain access to all of Insider's NFL draft content, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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