It's not easy for anyone to make the transition from college football to the NFL. The difference in speed, strength, play-calling and overall talent makes for a difficult leap for even the highest draft picks.
That can make it even more difficult for late-round picks, who aren't given much benefit of the doubt. Thanks to financial and draft capital spent on each player, early-round picks are given every chance to succeed, and coaching staffs are far more inclined to direct their extra time and resources toward them.
Late-round picks have to pop early in order to be given a chance to stick around long enough to make an impact. But while late-rounders are thought of by fans as less talented in general - why else would they have fallen in the draft? - it can sometimes give them the attitude boost they need.
"That’s a testament to how good those players are and how overlooked they were," Washington Football Team defensive backs coach Chris Harris told NBC Sports Washington when asked about the slew of impressive late-round picks in the team's secondary. "They’re solid players. And when you’re a late-round pick, you normally have a chip on your shoulder. When you get taken in the later rounds you seem to have a different type of edge than maybe a first rounder has or a second rounder, because you feel you were overlooked, you feel you could play just as good as those guys. So you always feel you’ve got something to prove, and I think those guys have been doing a tremendous job."
While a number of players have jumped out, one in particular has found himself making splash play after splash play in recent weeks.
Kam Curl, a seventh-round safety out of Arkansas, has had a strong rookie season. Curl has started eight straight games for Washington since coming out of the Week 8 bye, making at least eight tackles in all but one of those games.
He's also made big plays with interceptions in two of the past three weeks, including a pick-six against San Francisco that helped seal an important win.
"I’m really excited about the play Kam’s been having, I don’t think any of us saw it coming," Harris said. "He's just a guy that studies, a guy that pays attention to detail. I think the special thing about Kam is he normally doesn’t make the same mistakes twice. And especially for a rookie coming in and playing, it’s a lot of things they haven’t seen at this level. And he sees them. He may get beat on something, but he doesn’t make the same mistakes. And so he’s getting those banked experiences that you need back there playing safety. And he’s only going to get better. He really takes to coaching, he’s extremely coachable. And when you’re coachable, that gives you a chance."
Curl, like many of Washington's defenders, does have a preferred nickname from the coaching staff.
"Kam-Bam," Harris said when asked about Curl's nickname. "He’s a physical player, and he loves to play the game. He looks like he has fun out there playing the game, and that’s what it’s all about. When it’s not a job for you, that’s when you’re really rolling."