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To knock a draft out of the park, a team needs to find value in their late-round picks. With the salary cap as important as ever (especially for the Vikings), getting 3-4 years from a mid-round pick while they make less than a million dollars is invaluable. Often times, though, fourth-round picks and later (Day 3 picks) are dart throws, rarely depended on to become a significant part of the team. The good news: there are future All-Pros in almost every round of the draft. The bad news: trying to figure out who they are is nearly impossible.

Currently on the Vikings roster, there are two Day 3 picks that have significantly outplayed their draft slot: Everson Griffen (4th round) and Stefon Diggs (5th round). One thing that these two have in common is that they were both five-star recruits coming out of high school, begging the question, is this a good way to find sleepers?

If you go to 247Sports recruiting classes, you will recognize that a lot of five-star recruits that stayed true to their reputations in college, turning their-five-star status into first-round picks. However, for every Adrian Peterson who went on to have a HOF career (#1 overall recruit), there’s a Ronald Powell (some guy that is playing in the AAF, who was also a #1 overall recruit). On the flipside, there’s also the example of 2-star recruits, like JJ Watt becoming the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. This is an imperfect system, and obviously, it’s difficult to project who will become an NFL star when they are 16-years old.

We can conclude NFL success based on high school rankings is random to an extent. At the very least the ‘five-star’ label indicates a player was once considered to be on a path to superstardom (for frame of reference, there are about 25-40 five-star recruits each year). Once they get off that path, it is difficult to return. Despite the examples of Diggs and Griffen, it is rare for a Day 3 or undrafted five-star to have NFL success. Here are the examples of similar five-stars with NFL success since 2005 and where they were drafted:

  • OG Alex Boone – Undrafted
  • QB Tyrod Taylor – 6th round
  • DE Everson Griffen – 4th round
  • LB Nigel Bradham – 4th round
  • RB Isaiah Crowell – 4th round
  • WR Stefon Diggs – 5th round
  • OT La’el Collins – Undrafted
  • RB Alex Collins – 5th round
  • DT Da’Shawn Hand – 4th round
  • (Bonus* – WR Keenan Allen – 3rd round)

This averages to a little over one NFL success per year. We’re also not talking about All-Pros, as Griffen and Diggs (and Keenan Allen) are the players I’d consider to be stars. The next best player is probably Nigel Bradham, a solid linebacker for the Eagles, but nothing extraordinary. Suffice to say, the success, and a five-star is not a common way to find a sleeper.

This year, the list of five-star recruits that are sure fire first-round picks consist of Kyler Murray, Rashan Gary, Ed Oliver, Nick Bosa and Jonah Williams, among others. The ones who followed the paths of Griffen, Diggs and company are below, along with where they are ranked overall by The Draft Network:

  • DT Daylon Mack, TDN Ranking: 88
  • OG Chuma Edoga, TDN Ranking: 103
  • WR Mecole Hardman, TDN Ranking: 128
  • TE Isaac Nauta, TD Ranking: 134
  • WT Terry Godwin, TDN Ranking: 138
  • DT Terry Beckner, TDN Ranking: 206
  • CB Kendall Sheffield, TDN Ranking: 209
  • DE Byron Cowart, TDN Ranking: 231
  • OT Mitch Hyatt, TDN Ranking: 253
  • WR Tyron Johnson, TDN Ranking: 274
  • DE Cece Jefferson, TDN Ranking: 275
  • CB Iman Marshall, TDN Ranking: 295
  • OT Martez Ivey, TDN Ranking: 308

At the end of the day, a five-star taken late in the draft is probably no more likely to make an impact at the NFL level than the next guy. However, with Griffen and Diggs being the Vikings’ diamonds in the rough, a dice roll on the above players might make sense, and at the very least, it’d excite me to see the Vikings take a chance on one. At one point, each of these players were considered the top football players in their class. In order to regain that label, they might just need the right coaching.

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Kevin is a Purple PTSD writer and recurring guest on Vikings on the Clock. He also has his own blog:
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