Veterans are highly regarded in the NFL. With age comes experience, and most of the league's elite players have grown from year to year to reach such a high level. Many NFL players enter the league as 21-, 22- or 23-year-olds and, by the time they reach their mid-20s, are already at the top of their game. This year, there are a handful of draftable players who will come into the league at the age of 24 and older. In the 24th installment of the Draft Dose series, PFW takes a look at 10 of this year's most talented overaged prospects, ordered by PFW draft analysis Nolan Nawrocki's draft rankings:
Baylor OG Danny Watkins
The oldest player to enter the 2011 draft, Watkins was a part-time firefighter before playing football for the first time upon his enrollment at Butte College (Calif.) in 2007. It didn't take long for Watkins to catch on at Baylor, as he replaced '09 first-round selection Jason Smith as a starting tackle. Watkins, now 26, projects as a guard in the NFL, and is projected to become a top-40 selection. He will turn 27 on Nov. 6.
Abilene Christian WR Edmond Gates
Gates followed in the footsteps of his cousin, Bengals RB Bernard Scott, by enrolling at Abilene Christian following two years of playing basketball at Tyler Junior College in Texas. After two seasons as a reliable option, Gates became the Wildcats' leading receiver following the departure of current Bears WR Johnny Knox, using his speed and explosiveness to the best of his ability. Gates, who turns 25 on June 13, is expected to be picked in the third or fourth round.
Wisconsin OG John Moffitt
The fifth-rated OG prospect by PFW, Moffitt is expected to come off the board in the fourth or fifth round. The former high school weightlifting champion redshirted his freshman year at Wisconsin before getting the chance to start in six games at left guard in '07 because of an injury to starter Andy Kemp. Moffitt moved to center in 2008 and returned to left guard for eight starts in 2009, with the other two coming at center. As a senior, he started all 13 games at left guard. The 24-year-old is known as a strong, positional blocker with the potential to become a starter at the next level.
Texas CB Chykie Brown
An experienced defensive back who saw his '10 campaign come to an early close after breaking his left forearm, Brown possesses good size and length for a cornerback. Brown, who will turn 25 on Dec. 26, excels in press coverage and is athletic enough to become a productive defender in the NFL. He projects as a fifth- to sixth-round pick.
Oregon DT Brandon Bair
As the only other player expected to be drafted at the age of 26, Bair's life is vastly different than that of the average college football player. Bair, who is both a father and a husband, graduated high school in 2003 before embarking on a Latter-day Saints mission. After redshirting in '06, Bair was able to take advantage of his 6-foot-5 frame to make a major impact in Eugene. Bair, who will turn 27 on Nov. 24, projects as a 3-4 defensive end and is expected to be a fifth- to sixth-round pick.
Other notable overaged prospects:
Fort Valley State WR Ricardo Lockette: The wideout turns 25 on May 21 and is a projected fifth- to sixth-rounder with explosive speed and the ability to return kicks.
Indiana WR Terrance Turner: A consistent possession receiver with long arms and reliable hands, the 24-year-old projects as a late-round pick.
Iowa State SS David Sims: Extremely strong at 5-9, 200 pounds, the high-intensity safety is expected to become a priority free agent. He will turn 25 on Oct. 20.
East Carolina OT Willie Smith: A converted tight end, Smith's 6-5, 310-pound build serves him well at the tackle position. The 24-year-old is considered to be a late-draftable prospect.
Fresno State QB Ryan Colburn: The left-hander has experience with a pro-style offense and is considered a smart, passionate player. He will turn 25 on Nov. 8 and is expected to become a priority free agent.