Every year, the NFL draft features prospects whose values may differ greatly from team to team based on each team’s needs, schemes, and philosophies. A prospect may carry a third-round grade with one team while another team grades him out as a first-rounder. Sometimes, this is a result of poor scouting but most of the time grade variance is a result of teams’ unique needs. The most successful drafting teams have a keen awareness of the types of players that suit their system best and are willing to take some players earlier than other teams would based on their potential to thrive in their scheme.
Last year, West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin was considered a second or third round prospect by most, but Seattle took him with the 15th overall pick. Why? He fit perfectly in Pete Carroll’s defense as a “joker” pass rusher. He’s now a vital cog for Seattle’s defensive line, making them one of the most dynamic pass-rushing units in the NFL.
There are even a handful of NFL superstars who many consider “scheme specific” players. Arian Foster, undrafted out of Tennessee in 2009, went on to become the best zone running back in the NFL. Mike Wallace came into the league as a 3rd round speedster who specialized in taking tops off defenses on extended plays while outrunning defenses on quick hit plays. So who are this year’s top “niche” players in the 2013 NFL draft crop? Here is a list of players who have outstanding skill sets for specific schemes.