Remember last season? Round Four was full of calculated gambles. Some of them even paid off.
It happened right away. It makes sense. At this point in the draft, there are talented players, but talented players with a measure of risk to their game — be it injury, character of talent concerns.
Mardy Gilyard, Everson Griffen and Mike Williams were the first three picks of Round Four in 2010. Risk, risk and risk. They were followed shortly afterward by guys such as Bruce Campbell, Jacoby Ford, Joe McKnight and Aaron Hernandez.
Half of them worked out in Year One. Half of them didn't.
In fact, Williams, Ford and Hernandez look like inspired picks based on their rookie returns. Gilyard, Griffen and McKnight might never get it.
Rounds One and Two seem to be about talent. Round Three is a mix of talent that has slid with safer, more need-based choices. But Round Four tends to be frought with gambles, especially with the new three-day format.
I am guessing a lot of teams went to bed last night saying, "You know what? We can gamble a little here. We have a few good players already in the hopper."
The Panthers might not have had a full draft till — and they might have taken the draft's biggest risk of all in Cam Newton — but they gambled on a first-round type of talent in CB Brandon Hogan, character be damned. If they hit on Newton and Hogan, it might have made up for the lack of a second-round pick.
The Vikings took a sliding Christian Ballard, who tested positive for marijuana at the Combine, and it mirrored the character-risk pick of Griffen last year. Ballard also hasn't played up to his immense talent yet, and some wonder if he ever will.
The next pick, WR Kris Durham, wasn't on a lot of teams' boards at this level until he tested terrifically at his pro day, which was heavily attended because of A.J. Green. Durham clearly was overshadowed by Green in his career, but the Seahawks might have unearthed a nice sleeper there.
Now don't get me started on the picks of PK Alex Henery (by the Eagles) and FB Owen Marecic (by the Browns), because I believe taking part-time specialists in the low hundreds is silly. But I suppose you could call those risks, too.
And talk about big risks — and reaches — the Jaguars went deep when they took Wyoming S Chris Prosinski. In one sense, he's safe, smart and you know what you're getting. But on the other, it's still quite a stretch for a player who earned a lot of priority free-agent grades before testing well at his pro day.
You can see the trend in this round in different forms, but it's clear that teams loosen up at this point of the draft. If they have not filled needs, they fill needs. But if they have already, they can roll the dice a little. It's not a bad place to do it.