Like everything else in an NFL draft, even the positions of players are never a given. And so it is before, during and after this week's 2018 draft.
For many prospects, the three days of the NFL draft are filled with excitement and anxiety about moving to a new city with mostly unfamiliar teammates and coaches.
For players like Stanford's Peter Kalambayi, there is the added challenge of a pending position switch.
The 6-foot-3, 252 pound Kalambayi lined up mostly as an edge rusher for Stanford, registering 18.5 sacks and 27 tackles for a loss over his career. With 33.5-inch arms and an explosive burst, some scouts do like him best screaming off the corner. Others feel that his athleticism demonstrated at the Combine and Pro Day suggest a future in the NFL might be in a more traditional off-ball linebacker role.
Kalambayi was clocked at 4.57 seconds in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, while showing smooth change of direction in drills, as well as explosiveness (34" vertical, 10-1" broad) to go along with 19 repetitions of 225 pounds.
If those are just numbers to you, check out the initial burst, transition and acceleration (not to mention, hands) Kalambayi shows in this video snippet from his Pro Day, where a number of traditional 4-3 and 3-4 clubs asked him to drop into coverage.
Kalambayi is currently rated by NFLDraftScout.com as a 7th round selection but sources indicate that he could come off the board two or three rounds earlier.
The Raleigh, North Carolina native and son of immigrant parents from Congo, Trinidad and Tobago, Kalambayi is thoughtful and articulate, showing the mental capacity to handle the switch from just rushing the quarterback to diagnosing the action and reacting accordingly.
As shown in our list (below), Kalambayi is one of a handful of position converts quietly being ranked higher by NFL teams than their media hype suggests, all the while hiding in plain sight and exciting scouts with their seemingly untapped potential.
Others potential position converts earning higher grades from scouts than the media include:
--Quinton Flowers, RB, South Florida, 5-10, 213, 4.64: Starring as a dual threat quarterback, Flowers left the Bulls as the owner of 37 school records and a 29-9 won-loss record, throwing three times as many touchdowns (71) as interceptions (23). With plenty of arm strength, some clubs are intrigued by his potential as a passer. Many others, however, point to the damage he did on the ground (3,612 yards and 41 scores) and wonder if his best fit in the NFL is at running back. Flowers doesn't wilt from contact, delivering blows to oncoming defenders and showing better elusiveness and the acceleration to gain yardage in chunks than his timed speed indicates. Other dual-threat quarterbacks have successfully made the transition to running back in the NFL, including Jerick McKinnon (Georgia Southern) and Michael Robinson (Penn State). Flowers is currently NFLDraftScout.com's 36th-rated running back and listed as a priority free agent.
--Matt Gono, OG, Wesley, 6-4, 316, 5.23: A four-year starting tackle with experience on both sides, Gono captured the attention of scouts at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, where he was named Offensive MVP for a terrific performance throughout the week of practice and the game, itself. While surprisingly quick for his square-ish frame, Gono projects better inside at guard due to his physical nature and lack of elite length. Gono dominated opponents at the D-III level but will obviously need time to adjust to the greater talent he'll face in the NFL, which is the biggest reason why he has not generated the media attention this Diamond in the Rough warrants. Gono is currently rated 13th among guards on NFLDraftScout.com's board and a 6th-7th round selection but the arrow on this young blocker is definitely pointing up.
--Cole Madison, OG, Washington State, 6-5, 308, 5.33: In a perfect example of how different WSU head coach Mike Leach views the world than most, Madison lined up at right tackle for the Cougars but projects best inside to guard in the NFL while his former teammate, Cody O'Connell (who was an All-American left guard) projects better to right tackle at the next level. Madison is the higher rated prospect of the duo in part because of the core strength and toughness he showed at the Senior Bowl when asked to make this conversion for the first time. Viewed then as a potential late round prospect if selected at all, Madison has since been one of the fastest-rising blockers on NFLDraftScout.com's board, checking in sixth among guards, No. 114 overall and a projected mid-round pick.
--Hercules Mata'afa, OLB, Washington State, 6-2, 254, 4.76: No list of potential position switchers would be complete without Mata'afa, who led the Pac-12 in both tackles for loss (22.5) and sacks (10.5) while playing all over the defensive line but, like Kalambayi, is being projected by some to make the switch to linebacker in the NFL, with some long-time scouts complimenting my year-long old comparison to former University of Arizona defensive tackle (and New England Patriots' great linebacker) Tedy Bruschi. Mata'afa's most intriguing trait is his initial get-off, which ranks among the best in the country. He is not simply a small guy out-quicking slow-footed linemen off the ball, however. For his compact, powerful frame, Mata'afa shows the body control to slither through past contact, as well as the closing speed and power to finish. His vision, awareness of passing lanes and high-revving motor suggest that he could may very outperform his current ranking as 14th among defensive ends on NFLDraftScout.com's board and a 5th round value.
--Chris Warren III, H-Back/TE, Texas, 6-2, 247, 4.69: When you are the son of a former Pro Bowl running back, the expectations are that you'll follow the family path. That is what Warren did at Texas, flashing the same combination of power and galloping strides that helped his father rush for 7,696 yards and 52 touchdowns over an 11-year career with the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Some believe his son can follow his footsteps in the NFL at running back. Others believe he projects best as a "move" tight end, where his frame and soft hands could make him an intriguing mismatch in space, similar to what his former Longhorns teammate (and former quarterback) Tyrone Swoopes is currently attempting at tight end in Seattle. Warren is currently ranked 23rd among running backs on NFLDraftScout.com's board and a potential 7th round selection.