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Lower NFL draft rounds can produce gems

TAMPA — New CB Alterraun Verner has a message for players who have to wait until the third day of the draft to hear their names finally called: It's nothing you can't overcome.

"There are too many examples out there that guys have played well, being later draft picks," said Verner, who was part of the NFL's first three-day draft in 2010, waiting until the third day to go in the fourth round to Tennessee. "You have to work a little bit harder probably. You learn you may have to go through special teams. Most important, you have to work hard and seize the opportunity you have."

Verner had 101 tackles as a rookie, starting 12 games and intercepting three passes. He started all 32 games over the past two seasons with the Titans before landing with the Bucs this offseason. He points to another standout cornerback — Seattle's Richard Sherman — who went from a fifth-round pick to perhaps the best corner in the NFL and a leader on a Super Bowl champion.

New Bucs LT Anthony Collins was drafted in a similar position — in the fourth round in 2008 by the Bengals, where he started 13 games in his first two seasons. He remembers having friends and family over for a draft party, only to see the first two rounds come and go, waiting until the next day to hear the news he was waiting for.

"Ever since then, I've had a chip on my shoulder," he said. "(Today) I wouldn't even look at the TV. If I had advice for people, friends and family, enjoy the moment. Turn the TV off, wait for the call. Relax, get some food."

NOT WATCHING: Collins' TV will be off during the draft next week, even though the Bucs could very well take an offensive lineman — potentially a left guard to line up next to him. Collins said he has no curiosity as to who that will be.

"I'm not watching the draft. I'll find out who we take the next day," he said. "Until then, I'll probably be getting a massage, chilling and cooling out. … That doesn't have anything to do with me. The people we've got right now are good enough for me to play ball with."

Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week the league may consider stretching the draft to a fourth day. Collins said it was difficult to wait a single night in his draft six years ago.

"It's hard, when people are telling you you're going first, second round," he said. "It's hard as a 21-year-old. It's hard for people to be telling you this and you don't get taken first day. Always you keep that chip on your shoulder and use it to the best of your (ability)."

THIS AND THAT: GM Jason Licht credits the perceived depth of this draft to a record 98 underclassmen, 25 more than last year. "That's essentially adding almost two rounds," he said. "That affects the top." … Coach Lovie Smith won't guess how many hours he's spent scouting draft prospects: "I'll just say Blair, Jason's wife, and Mary Anne, my wife, neither one is in town, so we've gotten to know One Buc Place fairly well."

New Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner, center, had to wait until the third day to go in the fourth round to Tennessee in the 2010 draft.

JOSEPH GARNETT JR. | Times

New Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner, center, had to wait until the third day to go in the fourth round to Tennessee in the 2010 draft.

Lower NFL draft rounds can produce gems 04/29/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 9:57pm]
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