Reliable pipelines for NFL talent

Drew Brees has become one of the NFL's best quarterbacks since coming out of Purdue. Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

There are approximately 250 players selected each year in the seven-round NFL draft, but most of the emphasis, as you've probably noticed, is on the first 20 to 30 picks.

That's when the big names -- the players believed to be future faces of franchises -- are all taken. Of course, there are also a few players with first-round talent who slide into the second round, and a lot of fans still watch this part of the draft with interest, hoping their team will scoop one up and perhaps steal the next Drew Brees or Maurice Jones-Drew.

By the time the third round comes along, however, the television viewers are no longer hanging on every pick. Most of the selections aren't even being announced live for the broadcast audience, as the conversation on the TV set shifts to team needs, overall class evaluations and interviews with coaches.

While most people are paying little attention, this is when NFL teams are really being assembled. The bulk of a typical roster comes from Rounds 3-7 of the draft, and even though the occasional diamond in the rough can be found here, most coaches and general managers are simply looking for the less-celebrated gems. For some teams, the later rounds of the draft are the ideal time to take a chance on a guy who showed exceptional speed, quickness or strength at the combine. For others, it's an opportunity to roll the dice on a player from a smaller college program whose biggest question mark is quality of competition.

And then there's the school of thought that it's hard to go wrong with anyone who was productive at the highest level of college football.