As a true NFL Draft fan, I know that there are more than just 32 impact players to be had at the event. Every single year there are multiple impact players selected beyond not only the first round but also the second and third rounds. The smart teams draft well in the early rounds, but the smartest teams draft well in the late rounds. It definitely is much harder to hit on picks in rounds four through seven but that doesn’t make it impossible. There are productive players to be had, you just got to wade through the muck to find them. That is where I come in. to all you NFL front office members reading this, you’re welcome because I am going to identify ten prospects that are projected to be selected on day three of the draft that will prove to be valuable players at the next level.
Jaylen Watson, CB WSU
First, let me say that this is not a homer pick. Yes, I am a WSU fan but I objectively believe in Watson. There are a few things that I feel are weighing down his draft stock. The first being that he only played 15 games at the D1 level because he started in junior college and got one of his seasons at WSU shortened due to the COVID pandemic. The other is that he went to a school in WSU that hasn’t produced a relevant corner since Marcus Trufant. All that aside, Watson has an incredible mix of size (6-foot-2, 197 pounds) and athleticism. He can play physical at the line and isn’t afraid to make tackles in the run game. Watson seems like the epitome of a prospect that suffers unnecessarily due to a lack of tape and will prove everyone wrong when he gets to the league.
James Cook, RB Georgia
Running backs are very easy to come by in the later rounds of the draft but not that many of them actually work out. If I had to pick one succeeding in the NFL it would be the brother of one of the best running backs in the league right now. Dalvin Cook’s younger brother just finished a national championship-winning season with the Bulldogs where he put up over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 11 touchdowns. Most of the running backs that break out from the late rounds are ones that can rely on pass-catching skills to carve out a role as a third-down back. Cook has those skills, catching 67 passes for 730 yards in his Georgia career. Cook will be able to take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself for his future NFL team and he will show that team how valuable he truly is.
Verone McKinley, S Oregon
Sometimes teams get fancy in the later rounds and pick players with upside that didn’t produce in college. Well, McKinely certainly produced at Oregon, yet is considered a day three pick. If I’m looking for an impact defender on the final day of the draft, give me the player that was an All-American this past year over any sort of project player. McKinley is a playmaker on the back end of the defense. He grabbed an NCAA-leading six interceptions in 2021 which proves he can produce in coverage. He also played in a very good program at Oregon so he will not be phased by the switch from college to pros, something he likely has been preparing for since he stepped onto the campus in Eugene.
Bailey Zappe, QB Western Kentucky
Quarterbacks are hard to evaluate at any point in the draft but it is especially difficult to judge them in the later rounds. Every quarterback that falls this far has some sort of flaw so the goal is to figure out which flaws will harm the player the least. Zappe is someone that probably never expected to be drafted at this point last year. He transferred to Western Kentucky from Houston Baptist University, neither of which are considered schools with pipelines to the NFL. But his one year at WKU was incredible and has resulted in him earning a selection in the later rounds. He doesn’t have a ton of experience playing at a high level and will be nothing more than a competent backup for his first few years but Zappe could end up being a solid quarterback in the league. Some players just seem to have what it takes to succeed at this sport and Zappe appears to be in that category.
Thomas Booker, DT Stanford
When you draft a guy that played at Stanford for four years you know you are at least getting a smart football player. Luckily for whatever team selects Booker, he is also pretty good at football too. He had 9.5 sacks in his four years playing defensive end for the Cardinal as well as compiling 20.5 tackles for loss. He will now attempt to move more to the inside of the defensive line and use his size and athleticism to make players there. Stanford d-linemen just seem to have a way of being useful at the next level and I think Booker could be the next player to have that sort of impact
Max Mitchell, OT Louisiana
Mitchell is one of my favorite lowkey prospects in this draft class and the fact that he plays such an important position makes him even more of a steal. Even though his combine performance took some wind out of his sails, I still believe that the on-field production will win out. Mitchell was named to the All-American Second team in 2021 along with receiving the highest grade of all tackles from PFF. He also was a part of a very good Louisiana team so his contribution was a valuable asset to a winning team. Mitchell is probably the best bet out of all the players on this list to go before day three because of the positional value he has as an offensive tackle. Wherever a team does end up taking him, they will get a future starting tackle which is incredibly valuable.
Nephi Sewell, LB Utah
Now for the later late rounds prospects. Sewell is from a family filled with NFL talent, his brother Penei was the seventh overall pick in last year’s draft and his other brother Noah is a stud linebacker at the University of Oregon. Nephi may not have gotten as much talent in his genetics as the other two Sewells but he is still a very good player. He played for two years at Nevada before transferring to Utah, where he played a very important part in the Utes’ defense. Fellow linebacker Devin Lloyd got all the credit on that side of the ball (deservedly so) but Sewell produced well. He racked up 143 tackles and grabbed three interceptions in his Utah career, even though one season was shortened due to the pandemic. He’s got a frame that can hold up in the run game as well as the ball skills to be competent in the passing game. He may be considered more of a project player but I could see him being a rotational linebacker for a team for a while.
Jalen Wydermyer, TE Texas A&M
At one point Wydermyer was the number one tight end in the class but now he is considered a seventh-round pick at best. He didn’t show the improvement that many expected from him in his junior year in 2021 but he still has all the skills that made him a potential first-round pick. He is 6-foot-4 with very good hands and athleticism but just hasn’t proven enough yet to be taken seriously as an NFL tight end. Maybe he suffered a but from poor quarterback play last year or maybe he truly did hit his ceiling as a player. But Wydermyer is a perfect player to take a flyer on with a late-round pick. He could unlock the most of his potential and be a starting tight end or he could be a serviceable backup that can catch passes when needed.
Sincere McCormick, RB UTSA
Taking extremely productive college players at the end of the draft is never a bad idea, which leads us to McCormick. Nothing about his game really screams ‘NFL caliber’ but he still managed to rush for 2,946 yards and 26 touchdowns in the last two seasons. He also proved to be a good enough pass-catcher (66 catches in three years) and has enough size (205 pounds) to potentially be a capable back on passing downs. Running back is probably the position that has the most late-round selections make it in the league so there is no reason to doubt McCormick’s ability to do just that.
Matt Araiza, P San Diego State
I am unapologetically a huge fan of punters. I think they are incredibly valuable weapons to a team that can impact the game in a major way if they are good enough. And when your nickname is the Punt God then you are certainly good enough. Araiza is a lock to be the first punter off the board, the only question is when that will be. Odds are it will be in the fourth or fifth round, but it wouldn’t shock me if he went earlier. Araiza has a cannon for a leg with the ability to boot the ball over 80 yards. Some team is going to value that ability and gain an essential special teams asset. Araiza is going to be impacting and influencing games for the next decade so whatever team selects him will be a very lucky one.