What Late Picks (Or Non-Picks) Can Be NFL Stars?


The NFL Draft consists of seven rounds and depending on how many compensatory picks are giving out annually to each team that reaches the secret formula for extra picks. With roughly 250-plus picks every year entering the league it is no wonder why we get lost on knowing what later round picks may eventually pan out and turn into the NFL’s next Tom Brady or Richard Sherman.


Blake Bell, TE, San Francisco 49ers

Draft Entry – Fourth Round

Fifth Tight End Selected (117th overall)

Vernon Davis was close to invisible last season having careers lows in both yards (245) and touchdown receptions (2). Davis enters his last year of his six-year, $42.705 million dollar contract leaving the door wide open for Bell to emerge as the receiving target at tight end in the Niners’ offense. The team drafted Vance McDonald in the second round in 2013, but he is more adept at blocking leading to the emergence of Bell. The former Oklahoma Sooners’ tight end (Bell) is a converted quarterback but has the skill set to become a valuable resource in the San Francisco.


Za’Darius Smith, OLB, Baltimore Ravens

Draft Entry – Fourth Round

Ninth Defensive End Selected (122nd overall)

Smith will be converting to rush outside linebacker in Baltimore, learning the position from Pro-Bowler Terrell Suggs. Smith raised up draft boards after the season ended by standing out at the East-West Shine Game which led to a Senior Bowl invitation. Suggs turns 33 in October and GM Ozzie Newsome could possibly view Smith as a player with the potential to eventually step up into Suggs’ role on defense. Smith began his collegiate career East Mississippi Community College prior to his arrival at Kentucky and each of the schools used him at defensive end. The Ravens are banking on Smith being able to play standing up and apply the same pressure he showed with his hand in the dirt at Kentucky.


Julian Howsare, DE, New York Jets

Draft Entry – College Free Agent

It may possibly take a year on the practice squad of the Jets or another NFL team, but Julian Howsare is an interesting hybrid defensive end/linebacker who could stick and contribute. Howsare has an exceptional first step allowing him to be disruptive in the backfield. His pass rush ability, along with his size and speed make him a very interesting prospect. He possesses the know-how to use his hand in the dirt or come off the edge as a 4-3 outside linebacker.


Ibraheim Campbell, S, Cleveland Browns

Draft Entry – Fourth Round

Seventh Safety Selected (115th overall)

There were 13 safeties drafted in 2015 and Campbell was the seventh off the board. He currently is tucked away on the depth chart behind starter Donte Whitner and back-up Bademosi Johnson. Once training camp is in full-swing, expect Campbell to move up and begin his development of learning the game behind Whitner. The Senior Bowl invitee converted to cornerback his senior season from safety and brings a very physical presence to the position. He plays bigger than his size and should benefit greatly under Whitner and serve as his possible replacement a year or two down the road.


Ross Scheuerman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft Entry – College Free Agent

Although the recognition of not hearing his name called did not unfold during the NFL Draft, don’t sleep on one of the more productive and versatile running backs in this draft class. Scheuerman signed with the Steelers after the draft and that may not be his final stop before settling into a role for another team in the NFL. Invited to both the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, he was simply too productive and durable in college to be overlooked. His final game at Lafayette he rushed for 304-yards on 45 carries scoring three touchdowns.


Ben Heeney, ILB, Oakland Raiders

Draft Entry – Fifth Round

Seventeenth Linebacker Selected (140th overall)

Heeney was a tackling machine at Kansas, leading the team in stops between 2012-14.  He plays with great speed along with a high-motor. Veteran Curtis Lofton is the likely starter but it can eventually be handed to Heeney if he proves himself in the coming months. Lofton has plenty left in the tank and Heeney should dramatically improve early in his career learning under the productive and savvy veteran.


Justin Hardy, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Draft Entry – Fourth Round

Fifteenth Receiver Selected (107th overall)

Hardy was one of the most underrated prospects entering the 2015 NFL Draft. A four-year starter at wide receiver, Hardy caught more passes (387) than any player in the NCAA (FBS) history. He set East Carolina career records for receiving yards (4,541) and touchdown catches (35), nabbed at least two catches in all 49 career games played, recorded 15 double-digit career reception games, 17 100-yard receiving contests and hauled down at least one TD pass in 31 contests. Roddy White will be 34 in November and his contract expires in 2018 in Atlanta. That is the perfect amount of time to allow Hardy to learn the game and step into the starter’s position opposite of Julio Jones.

About Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte

Bo Marchionte is an NFL writer for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade. His background includes being staff for the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star game as a talent evaluator for player personnel along with an internship scouting with the Toronto Argonauts and Winnipeg Blue Bombers for the Canadian Football League. Bo’s draft background includes working for the NFL Draft Bible and currently owns and operates He has done radio spots on NBC, Fox Sports and ESPN and their affiliates in different markets around the country. Bo covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Panthers along with other colleges in the northeast.