It's clear that NFL teams find most of their game-breakers at wide receiver early in the NFL draft. A quick glance at this season's top 10 receivers in terms of total yards shows that seven of those players were taken in the first two rounds.
There are later-round success stories out there, though, and a trio of 2013 prospects appears poised to follow in their footsteps.
The players listed could all make an impact at the next level, though neither is an exact clone of the current NFL player he is compared to. They do, however, share some key skills and can contribute in similar ways.
Da'Rick Rogers*, Tennessee Tech (Grade: 69)
Rogers is one of the players who will use the pre-draft interview process to ease concerns about his character. He was dismissed by Tennessee for reportedly violating the school's substance abuse policy several times, and his overall maturity and ability to remain focused if not closely monitored are questions. On the field, Rogers isn't much of a big-play threat after the catch, and he has just average top-end speed.
If he can overcome his issues, Rogers (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) has the potential to develop into an effective and productive No. 2 receiver. He isn't a burner but has enough top-end speed, body control and ball skills to make plays downfield.
His 40-yard touchdown catch against Eastern Kentucky earlier this year came against subpar completion, but it's still an excellent illustration of his strong hands and ability to adjust to the ball in the air. He is a tough player who can get open underneath and over the middle, and he runs hard after the catch. That's enough to get him into the early part of Day 3. NFL comparison: Denver Broncos WR Eric Decker.
Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech (66)
Patton caught 21 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns against Texas A&M a few weeks ago, and he stood out even when the ball wasn't thrown to him. For example, his double move on the Louisiana Tech's second offensive play is impressive. Patton (6-0, 202) sells an out route and gets CB Tramain Jacobs to bite, to the point that Jacobs is unable to recover and slips when Patton transitions to a go route. His quarterback just didn't get enough time to find him downfield.
While Patton is not an elite vertical threat, there's a lot to like about his release. He is fast enough to make some plays downfield. Patton even drew a couple of flags on vertical routes against the Aggies. He caught the ball well and showed good quickness and the ability to make defenders miss after the catch.
Still, that game did little to quiet two concerns about Patton. The first is his strength. He gets pushed around at times and doesn't pick up many yards after contact. The second is the way scheme inflates his stats. The way the Texas A&M game unfolded played right into that.
Patton catches a lot of screens and quick-hitting routes, and with the Aggies jumping out to an early lead and playing soft coverage, he had had plenty of room to catch balls underneath and make something happen after the catch. NFL comparison: New York Jets WR Jeremy Kerley.
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (53)
Swope caught six passes for 140 yards and a touchdown against Auburn last week, but those numbers are misleading in terms of Swope's big-play ability. He doesn't have the size or speed NFL teams covet in the vertical passing game, and he is not as much of a threat after the catch as Patton.
There's also room for improvement when it comes to his route-running. Swope (6-0, 205) could be crisper planting his foot in the ground and changing directions. Like a lot of slot receivers who work in high-traffic areas of the field, he has had problems staying healthy and sustained some head injuries NFL teams are sure to investigate further.
However, Swope lands on this list because he has the ball skills, toughness and burst to develop into a productive slot receiver with sharper and more consistent routes. He does a nice job of snatching the ball out of the air and can make plays working against tight coverage.
There's no hesitation working the middle, and Swope is a hard runner after the catch. He is quick enough to separate from most safeties and sub-package defensive backs when his footwork is sound. NFL comparison: St. Louis Rams WR Danny Amendola.