In 2018 it was Taron Johnson, Genard Avery, and Avonte Maddox. The season before it was Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, and George Kittle. In 2016, the group consisted of Dak Prescott, Jordan Howard, and Tyreek Hill.
Those players were all Day 3 picks who surprised early on at the NFL ranks. The phenomenon happens every year.
While all the 2019 Day 3 selections listed below aren't guaranteed to flourish as rookies, they have the best chance to make an instant impact due to their refined skill, athleticism, and opportunity on their respective team.
Julian Love, CB, Giants
All Love did the past two seasons at Notre Dame was defended 36 -- yes, 36 -- passes and reel in four interceptions. He's not a burner -- 4.54 speed -- but has incredibly quick reactionary skills and clearly plays the ball aggressively as its approaching its target.
In New York, Love will step into a secondary that doesn't feature a lockdown corner in his prime. Sure, first-round pick Deandre Baker will get more opportunities early, but in all honesty, I don't believe he and Love are that different as players. Baker was my CB2 in this class. Love was my CB4.. Frankly, I was surprised Love made it to the fourth round. My pre-draft comparison for him was
The Notre Dame star has the instincts, coverage versatility, and ball skills to make a quick splash in the summer and the preseason and parlay that into a full-time, impact role as a rookie for the G-Men.
Christian Miller, EDGE, Panthers
Miller was the second edge rusher the Panthers selected, after they went Florida State's Brian Burns in Round 1. The group of pure outside rushers in Carolina is still relatively thin, which obviously bodes well for the fourth-round rookie from Alabama to be a major contributor in Year 1.
An explosive athlete with long arms -- 38.5-inch vertical and 35 and 1/8-inch arms -- the 6-3, 247-pound Miller was built to stand up on the outside and rush the passer. After years in a traditional 4-3 system, the Panthers are moving to a more hybrid look that'll incorporate 3-4 concepts.
As a rotational defender on the Crimson Tide's loaded defense, Miller racked up 11 tackles for loss and eight sacks. His bull rush is excellent and he can counter off it easily because his long arms allow him to control tackles at the point of attack. On the outside, Mario Addison is the most established -- and a very underrated -- pass rusher, but he's a movable chess piece. Miller isn't likely to draw any extra attention early with Addison and Burns the two alpha edge rushers in Carolina, but I expect him to chip with with a variety of splash plays in the backfield in Carolina.
Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Seahawks
Bobby Wagner played 999 defensive snaps (93.3%) for the Seahawks in 2018. Austin Calitro played 282 snaps (28.4%), the second-most snaps among true off-ball linebackers in Seattle. That should indicate three things; Wagner's importance to that defense, the way the league is trending toward fewer linebackers on the field, and a gigantic opportunity for Burr-Kirven to be Wagner's partner in crime this season.
Yes, K.J. Wright signed an extension in March, but he suffered a knee injury early then aggravated it later in the season and will be 30 in July.
Burr-Kirven was my LB1 in this draft class. Not Devin White. Not Devin Bush. The Washington star led college football with 176 tackles as a senior. He also defended six passes, snagged two picks, forced four fumbles, had 5.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. He does it all, and his combine wasn't too far off from the Devin's picked at No. 5 overall and No. 10 overall.
It may not happen instantly because of the presence of Wright. But BBK is a prime position to be the other linebacker in nickel looks for the Seahawks by, say, mid-October, and you'll see him making plays on all three downs all over the field.
Ty Johnson, RB, Lions
Johnson was one of the most devastating home run hitters I watched among the running backs in the 2019 class. His final season at Maryland was just cut short due to an injury.
In nine games he rushed for 506 yards on 66 carries (7.7 yards per attempt), and that stat line wasn't a fluke. In his four-year Terrapin career, Johnson averaged 7.6 yards per rush on 348 carries.
Of course Pro Day 40-yard dash times need to be taken with a grain of salt, but Johnson clocked as fast as 4.29 at 5-10 and 208 pounds. He enters a backfield led by second-year pro Kerryon Johnson, a springy between-the-tackles runner and Theo Riddick who's become essentially a slot receiver in Detroit. That's it, really, unless you're still clinging to hope for Zach Zenner. It's Opportunity City for Johnson.
And while he likely won't be a high volume back in the Lions offense, I can clearly envision a few six-carry, 45-yard performances in the first half of the season before he slowly gets more touches in the second half of the year because of his electric long speed.
Kelvin Harmon, WR, Redskins
Harmon's draft stock plummeted after a combine performance in which his broad jump in the 28th percentile among prospects at his position over the past 20 years was the highest percentile he managed in the athletic drills. At over 6-2 and 221 pounds, the NC State product was the go-to target for Ryan Finley over the past two seasons, and despite sub-optimal athletic traits, Harmon averaged nearly 15 yards per catch in 2017 and 2018. And he went over 1,000 yards in each campaign.
He's not flashy. I don't think I saw him create more than one or two chunk plays with yards-after-the-catch skills. But he understands how to utilize his big frame to box out, routinely wins in contested-catch situations, and has outstanding body control near the sideline and on back-shoulder tosses.
Washington drafted Dwayne Haskins in Round 1 then his teammate, receiver Terry McLaurin, in Round 3. But Harmon's real competition will be former first-rounder Josh Doctson, a lankier outside pass catcher who starred as a high-pointer at TCU but has failed to live up to expectations in his first three seasons. Harmon can run go routes and comebacks and work the occasional back-shoulder as a rookie to find playing time. I think he gets onto the field and becomes a reliable third-down target for whoever is throwing the football for Washington in 2019.
Rodney Anderson, RB, Bengals
While watching Baker Mayfield's 2017 film at Oklahoma, Anderson popped often. He ran for over 1,100 yards at 6.2 yards per rush with 13 touchdowns and also caught 17 passes for 281 yards with five more scores. He was on the fast track to being a top running back prospect in the 2019 class before a September injury derailed his final season in Norman.
At nearly 6-1 and 224 pounds, Anderson has smooth athleticism for a back his size and will fit perfectly into what I imagine will be more stretch runs in Cincinnati under new head coach Zach Taylor. After Joe Mixon, he has Gio Bernard standing in his way -- and fellow 2019 sixth-round selection Trayveon Williams -- but this is a Day 2 talent who fell deep into Day 3 simply due to an injury he suffered around eight months ago.
Mixon logged 237 carries last season. Bernard was second among backs with 56. Cincinnati needs another serviceable back to shoulder some of the load. Heck, I don't think theeither.
This precise situation is where talent meets opportunity.
Ty Summers, LB, Packers
Gigantic "if" here, but if Summers wasn't inconsistent as a tackler in 2018, he goes at least a few rounds earlier than Round 6 in this draft.
At a little over 6-1 and 241 pounds, he demonstrated crazy explosive figures at the combine with a 4.51 40-yard dash, a vertical in the 73rd percentile and a broad jump in the 85th.
And that power in his lower half is clear as day on film. He can click and close in a hurry on running plays and erupts toward the football on out-breaking routes in coverage. Ironically, the Packers used a third-round pick last year on a similar athlete, Oren Burks from Vanderbilt. While it's far to early to write him off completely, he was a major liability as a rookie, so there's a decent opportunity for Summers to land the gig next to Blake Martinez on the inside of Mike Pettine's base 3-4.
Dillon Mitchell, WR, Vikings
Mitchell accounted for 36.3% of Oregon's receiving yards and 32.1% of the team's receiving touchdowns in 2018, both above-average production figures for a wideout prospect.
Amazingly, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen combined to account for 55.7% of Minnesota's receiving yards last season, so the Vikings certainly need to diversify their passing attack beyond those two stars.
A slippery underneath target, Mitchell also proved his worth downfield with a variety of well-tracked catches from Justin Herbert, and he ran 4.46 at over 6-1 and 194 pounds at the combine. His vertical was in the 64th percentile and his broad jump was in the 62nd percentile, so he has above-average explosiveness for the receiver position. Former first-round pick Laquan Treadwell has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff after tallying just 56 receptions for 517 yards with one touchdown in his first three NFL seasons combined. Goodness gracious.
The opportunity is absolutely there for Mitchell, and he has the natural talent and versatile game to work the short portions of the field for Cousins while occasionally being found for a big play over the top.
Cortez Broughton, DT, Chargers
First-round pick Jerry Tillery is precisely the type of interior disruptor the Chargers have needed for a long time, particularly since Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa have established themselves as arguably the best outside pass-rushing duo in football.
However, Los Angeles' depth at defensive tackle is still lackluster. Brandon Mebane is into his 30s now and a niche space-eater. Justin Jones, who was picked in the third round of the 2018 Draft out of NC State, barely saw the field as a rookie, and Ty McGill has been deep depth his entire career.
That's it. Those are the defensive tackles currently on the Chargers' roster. Huge opening for Broughton up front. The Cincinnati star had an inauspicious career until he moved inside to what clearly is his natural position close to the football. As a senior he had 18.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks thanks to a ridiculous first step, low center-of-gravity pop, and a non-stop motor. He isn't a hand-use master but regularly wins the leverage battle and is typically the first defensive lineman into the backfield because of his acceleration off the snap. He wasn't invited to the combine yet tested extremely well at his pro day.
Broughton looks like the classic late-round pick who'll surprise in camp and the preseason, make the team, and make an impact in Year 1 as a rotational piece.