NFL Draft 2013: Projecting This Year's Top Hidden Gems

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2013

COLUMBIA, SC - SEPTEMBER 15: Ace Sanders #1 of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes up field after making a catch during the first half against Calvin James #11 of the UAB Blazers in their NCAA college football game on September 15, 2012 at Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo By Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images)
Mary Ann Chastain/Getty Images

Players selected in the first round of the NFL draft will get the most recognition right away, but there are plenty of other prospects set to make an impact at the next level.

These players have various faults that will keep them available until the second or third days of the draft. However, there is plenty of reason to believe they will all be able to overcome their weaknesses and turn themselves into solid football players.

While there aren't too many prospects like Tom Brady, who was taken in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, there are plenty of hidden gems in every class.

Here are the biggest sleepers of the 2013 NFL draft.


Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Connecticut

As bigger receivers continue to pop up around the league, teams must acquire big cornerbacks to match up with them. Blidi Wreh-Wilson has the size at 6'1" to stick with virtually anyone in the NFL.

He also has good athleticism and solid straight-line speed for his position.

The important thing for the cornerback is to find the right situation. His lack of fluidity might prevent him from excelling in man coverage, but he would be a fantastic addition to a team that primary plays zone defenses.

Wreh-Wilson is strong enough to play near the line in press coverage and can also help out against the run if needed.

While he probably will not be selected until at least the second or third round, he should quickly become a starter and an impact player in the defensive secondary.


Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

It is important not to put too much stock into the production of running backs at the college level. Players can benefit greatly by playing behind a strong offensive line and facing weaker competition.

However, you cannot completely discount what a guy like Stepfan Taylor was able to do over his career.

The Stanford running back totaled 3,997 yards over the last three seasons to go along with 38 touchdowns. He proved himself to be a durable runner who has great vision and knows how to hit the hole when it is there.

Since the end of the offseason, he has moved down draft boards due to a lack of elite speed and quickness. Still, his power and ability to break tackles will take him far at the next level.

Taylor is the type of player that will work hard for an opportunity somewhere around the league and will make the most of it when the time comes.


A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State

Size and speed are important for an inside linebacker, but instincts go a long way toward separate the good players from the great ones.

A.J. Klein has proven throughout his career that he has incredible instincts in the middle of the defense.

The linebacker finished with over 110 tackles in each of the past three seasons for Iowa State, and was named Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2011.

He has the toughness and tackling ability to make plays on the ball. Also, what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in the ability to read plays quickly and beat the runner to the spot.

Klein can line up at either middle linebacker or either outside spot in a 4-3 system, and this versatility will make him valuable in the NFL.


Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina

With Tavon Austin continually rising up draft boards, it is obvious that teams are able to look past size to find a big-time wide receiver.

This bodes well for the 5'7" Ace Sanders out of South Carolina.

The quick receiver is one of the top returners in the draft and he showed this past season the same type of elusiveness on offense. He finished with nine receiving touchdowns while often creating big plays out of nothing.

He profiles as a perfect slot receivers with the potential to be a huge playmaker all over the field. He can turn short passes into big gains while being a matchup nightmare.

Sanders does not have as much straight-line speed as Austin, but he is incredibly quick and will be able to simply make things happen in the pros.