Bucs among teams with a late-round pick who could be a star

Published May 3, 2017

In 2016, it was Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Bears running back Jordan Howard. Two years ago, it was Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi, Patriots edge defender Trey Flowers, and Falcons interior defender Grady Jarrett.

Day 3 of the NFL draft can still provide long-term, quality starters, but teams just have to know the right places to look. The true value of Rounds 4 through 7 comes through plugging holes and finding competent players to fill needs. Every so often, though, a special talent falls only to eventually rise to superstardom.

Through Pro Football Focus's grading, we've identified Bucs defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu (Round 7) and four others as the most likely 2017 candidates to do just that with their new teams.

1. Carl Lawson, Edge, Bengals (Round 4, pick No. 116 overall)

Medical issues likely dropped former Auburn edge defender Carl Lawson all the way to the fourth round, but fully healthy, this is the steal of the draft. Lawson earned the fifth-highest pass-rushing grade in the country last year, despite playing only 65.1 percent of Auburn's defensive snaps. As a pass-rusher, he already has a myriad of moves in his toolbox, including a deadly bull-rush. Lawson's hands are arguably the strongest in this class, and his 35 bench reps at the combine were the most of any defensive lineman there. He might be limited to being a designated pass-rusher early on in his career, but there's little to suggest Lawson won't be extremely effective in that role.

2. George Kittle, TE, 49ers (Round 5, pick No. 146 overall)

George Kittle is everything Kyle Shanahan wants in a tight end. The Iowa product can block in-line, block in space, and has speed to stretch the field on crossing routes. That combination is going to be hard to keep off the field for long. In 2016, Kittle earned the fifth-highest run-blocking grade of any tight end in the country, and in 2015, finished 17th in a part-time role. Never featured heavily in the Hawkeyes' passing attack, Kittle went to the combine and turned heads with his 4.52-second 40-yard dash, 11-foot broad jump, and 35-inch vertical. As a fantastic blocker and explosive athlete, Kittle will fit in nicely with the 49ers.

3. Desmond King, CB, Chargers (Round 5, pick No. 151 overall)

Whether it's at cornerback or safety for Los Angeles, former Hawkeye defensive back Desmond King has an innate feel for coverage that can't be taught. While his athleticism and size is lacking at the NFL level, King consistently made up for it with other traits at Iowa. Back in 2015, he led the nation with 20 combined interceptions and pass breakups. Last year he took a slight step back, but still finished with 11. That sort of playmaking ability can't be taught, and will translate with King to the NFL. He may never be a lockdown man-to-man cornerback for the Chargers, but there's a good chance he'll still produce.

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4. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, DT, Bucs (Round 7, pick No. 223 overall)

While you'd be hard-pressed to find any nose tackle around the league currently classified as a "superstar," Tu'ikolovatu has all the skills to become a household name. In his final season at USC, Tu'ikolovatu was easily the highest-graded defensive lineman in run defense, trailing only Stanford's Solomon Thomas nationwide (Thomas was drafted No. 3 overall by the 49ers). At nose tackle, not losing is usually more important than making plays, and Tu'ikolovatu was downgraded only 19 times all season in run defense — fewer than two times per game. The only issue with him is his complete inability to rush the passer. He collected all of 13 pressures last season on 327 pass-rushing attempts. At the NFL level, that's far less of a concern, as he likely won't be seeing the field in any sort of pass-rushing situation.

5. Elijah Hood, RB, Raiders (Round 7, pick No. 242 overall)

With a 31-year-old Marshawn Lynch as the starter, there's likely a good deal of carries to be had behind the former Seahawk in Oakland. On top of that, there aren't many more favorable offensive lines for a back to run behind than the Raiders' current unit. With a running back stable that also includes DeAndre Washington, Taiwan Jones and Jalen Richard, there's reason to think the former North Carolina RB will be the man rising to the top. While his junior season was plagued with injury and likely dropped him to the seventh round, Hood's 2015 tape is that of an early-round back. That season, he earned the 13th-highest PFF rushing grade in the country. He also led all FBS backs with 4.1 yards after contact per attempt. The Tar Heel product has vision, balance, and power — a deadly combination for a 232-pound back.