One would think that the conclusion of NFL draft weekend brings the end of a detailed, arduous process that typically lasts 10 months for most NFL scouting departments. Scouts spend the better part of four months (August-November) in obscure college towns across the United States in often less than ideal hotel accommodations, away from their families and office colleagues, gathering information. That information is ultimately used to make the draft-day decisions that the most successful and sustainable NFL programs are known for.
The reality is that, although the draft is in fact the "end" of the evaluation and selection process, it also signals the beginning of the third and most crucial phase of the player procurement process (whether it be the draft, unrestricted free agency or trades/waiver-wire acquisitions): the development and implementation phase. It is during this phase when the best teams separate themselves from the rest, especially when harnessing the talent of Day 3 drafted players (Rounds 4-7).
Taking a close look at the 2014 draft, I have identified five players from Day 3 who I believe are worth keeping an eye on both in the short term and in the long term (three to four years). These players have the physical skills and instincts that can be turned into "winning talent," provided that they themselves have the competitive staying power to see it through to completion, and the teams that drafted them maintain continuity and consistency over the next several years.
QB development can't take place at a sufficient pace without the benefit of both consistency and competency at the coaching level. In the case of Thomas, he couldn't have gone to a better place when it comes to matching his skill set with that of the coaching staff (head coach Bruce Arians in particular), in conjunction with being part of a situation where the potential for him to get meaningful game reps could happen sooner rather than later.