"Value" is a key word you'll hear and see a lot as the 2014 NFL draft approaches.
However, it's impossible to accurately define, because every team values prospects differently. Additionally, certain positions tend to hold more weight in the early part of the process, which often causes excellent players to slide into the second round.
Last year, we saw plenty of stars emerge after being selected in the second round: running back Giovani Bernard, linebacker Kiko Alonso and running back Eddie Lacy, just to name a few.
Here's a look at a few players that will likely fall into the second round of the 2014 NFL draft, even though they possess first-round talent.
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Tre Mason is this year's Lacy, as he's going to make a huge impact for his new team as a rookie.
Mason's quickness in and out of the hole is exciting, and with his vision, patience and open-field burst it's easy to see him as a starting NFL running back.
What I liked most about Mason, though, was the soft hands he showed in the passing game. His blend of speed and three-down skills makes him a back I'd want on my team.
At 5'10" and 210 pounds, Mason possesses enough size to withstand NFL punishment, and his production over the past two years at Auburn is undeniably tantalizing: 2,818 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns on 488 carries (5.77 yards per carry).
Against SEC competition, those are remarkable numbers, but they are still not as impressive as the ones he put up during the final stretch of this past season against some of the toughest competition in the nation: 1,063 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in his final six games.
Unfortunately for Mason's pocketbook, he's a running back—a position that has seen a precipitous decline in value in recent years. Like Lacy, Bernard and Le'Veon Bell from last year's draft class, he'll slip into the second round, where he'll be a steal.
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
After entering the season as one of college football's hottest pro prospects, BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy's draft stock took a hit while he failed to live up to the hype—much like Jadeveon Clowney.
He racked up 13 sacks as a junior in 2012 but could only manage four in 2013. While sacks never tell the entire story about how well or poorly someone plays, Van Noy's senior season wasn't the final sendoff he was hoping for when he decided to return to school last year.
However, the linebacker showed maturity and class after the season when he penned an open letter, as Jay Drew of The Salt Lake Tribune relayed, in which he clearly showed he has no regrets about his decision:
I have grown a great deal in the past four years. I have matured as a person. I have become a college graduate. I have developed as a football player. This growth is directly attributed to my time at, and the positive influence of, BYU.
Van Noy's mediocre 2013 campaign certainly hurt his draft stock. Meanwhile, pass-rushers like Khalil Mack, Anthony Barr and Kony Ealy have emerged as hot prospects who will likely be drafted in Round 1, which is why Van Noy will slide on draft day.
That doesn't mean he's not going to become a dynamic playmaker in the NFL, however. Possessing fluid athleticism, excellent quickness and elite speed, Van Noy has the potential to become a star in the NFL.
Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Mason will fall because he's a running back, Van Noy will slide because he struggled in his senior season, and Zach Mettenberger will tumble into Round 2 because he tore his ACL near the end of the season. If he had stayed healthy, then there is a good chance he would have been selected in Round 1.
Blessed with prototypical size (6'5" and 230 pounds), Mettenberger possesses a cannon for an arm. He can make all the throws on the route tree with ease, and he's adept at dropping dimes on deep passes.
His arm strength has always been evident, but after completing just 58.8 percent of his passes as a junior in 2013, questions remained about his accuracy.
However, under the tutelage of former NFL offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger blossomed into an efficient passer in 2013. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,082 yards with 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions before his knee was hurt in late November.
Mettenberger has the potential to develop into a top-notch NFL starting quarterback, and with proper coaching and a nice complement of playmakers surrounding him, he'll thrive.
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78
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