It takes only one player getting drafted at an unexpected position to completely shift the outcome of the entire draft. It’s how stars like Warren Sapp, Randy Moss and Aaron Rodgers became available to teams picking outside the top 10. Every year someone has an unexpected slide. Here are the players whose fates are hardest to predict.
Quarterback, West Virginia
Why to draft: He’s big and mobile and he put up huge numbers at West Virginia. In his senior season, he completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 4,205 yards and 42 touchdowns, while throwing only six interceptions. As a three-year starter, he never had a season in which he threw more than seven picks.
Why not to draft: Smith put up these numbers in a spread offense, mostly out of a shotgun formation. He completed a lot of screen passes, allowing his dynamic playmakers — Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey — to do most of the work.
Possible landing spots: Eagles (No. 4), Browns (No. 6), Cardinals (No. 7), Bills (No. 8), Jets (Nos. 9 and 13)
Wide Receiver, West Virginia
Why to draft: Speed is always nice to have, and Austin ran the 40 in 4.34 seconds at the combine. He has big-play ability and is versatile, rushing for 643 yards and returning a punt and kickoff for a touchdown last year. Against Oklahoma, he had 572 all-purpose yards — a Big 12 record.
Why not to draft: Size is the biggest concern with the 5-foot-8, 174-pound Austin. Will he be able to play on the outside or will he be limited to a role as a slot receiver? His size also may make whoever drafts him reluctant to use him on special teams.
Possible landing spots: Eagles (No. 4), Cardinals (No. 7), Jets (Nos. 9 and 13), Rams (Nos. 16 and 22)
Linebacker, Notre Dame
Why to draft: He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting after leading the Irish to the national championship game. Behind Te’o’s team-high 103 tackles and seven interceptions, Notre Dame had the top-ranked defense in the country, allowing 10.3 points a game.
Why not to draft: On top of the bizarre fake girlfriend saga, Te’o had underwhelming performances in the BCS title game against Alabama and at the NFL combine. He may not have the athleticism to play middle linebacker at the next level.
Possible landing spots: Giants (No. 19), Bears (No. 20), Vikings (Nos. 23 and 25), Ravens (No. 32)