NFL Draft Rants: Best Sleepers at Each Position
Quarterback: Logan Woodside Toledo
- Everyone\'s favorite sleeper in this class is Kyle Lauletta so I am going to go a bit deeper with a name that could actually even go undrafted. At 6\'1 and 213 lbs he is a tad on the smaller end of the spectrum of starting quarterbacks. However, his arm is good enough to last in the NFL and get the ball out to the numbers with enough zip not to be hung out for a pick. He also has some sneaky mobility to move up and out of the pocket if need be. Throwing on the run can use some work, but so do many young quarterbacks. The thing he does not lack is his tenacity, IQ, and accuracy where he always makes the right throw. He is not a mainstream name in the slightest, but I have heard his name pop enough with people seeing him in a highly talked about light. Including some who have practiced with the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen where Woodside consistently sticks out among the group. That is high praise for a guy out of Toledo. Maybe he can turn into the next undrafted stud like Tony Romo or Kurt Warner.
Runningbacks: Mark Walton Miami, Royce Freeman Oregon & Martez Carter Grambling St
- I have regularly ripped the idea of drafting runningbacks in the first round for awhile now and I am going to make a point to why right here with multiple names that can pop. In this loaded class I can even name off a whole list including guys like John Kelly, Kalen Ballage, and Justin Jackson. However, I narrowed my list to three of my favorites who can really shine. First, is Mark Walton who is my Alvin Kamara in this class. He has had a similar path actually with an injury marred last season at Miami like Kamara had at Tennessee. Walton is of a similar size, skill set, and explosive quality to be a solid all around back. Much like Kamara I doubt he can handle a high workload, but in an equal partnership backfield he can do a lot of damage. He will probably be taken in the 4th round or later and turn into a very quality back. My second favorite back is Royce Freeman of Oregon who has had a similar path as a more highly regarded name in Nick Chubb. Both had catastrophic knee injuries that took about two years to fully return from. Both stuck around for their senior seasons, which is rare for good backs to prove he is healthy. Like Chubb he hit it out of the park on a less recognized team, which is why he is not as talked about. If you ask me though I think he is a faster big back than Chubb with more versatility as a pass catcher and blocker. Getting him after Chubb and most likely in the 3rd round or later is going to be a steal. He actually reminds me a lot of Zeke Elliott minus that extra gear and explosive quality that makes Zeke special. Lastly, my deep sleeper of the group is Martez Carter who is a small waterbug type back similar to Tarik Cohen. At just 5\'7" and 193 lbs he is never going to be a feature back much like Cohen. However, he has that same explosive quality to be a gadget back who can take the ball the distance any time he touches it. As a possible 7th round or undrafted player you can do a lot worst and could be pleasantly surprised with how productive he can be.
Wide Receiver: Daurice Fountain Northern Illinois & Jonah Trinnaman BYU
- I am not a huge fan of this receiver class and if you are really in need of one good luck with finding one. This class feels like an ice cream parlor of players where everyone has their own favorites and flavors who they would take over the other. Each makes a good argument who can convince someone to like theirs or not either way neither side is really wrong. My deep sleepers of the class are kind of out of left field on one and really out of nowhere with the other. Fountain has enjoyed a terrific East-West Shrine game, which earned him a lot of praise and made scouts check his tape twice. All along the way he has impressed with his raw talent and ability. His routes and hands need a lot of work, but his quickness and body control is a tantalizing combination to mold into a quality starter. The second is another deep deep sleeper who may go undrafed in Jonah Trinnaman. His stats are not great from BYU, but his previous numbers from his JUCO days and his fantastic Pro Day has given him some notice in the scouting community. He ran a 4.25 forty time according to sources, which would have been the fastest at the Combine. Trinnaman is just an all out athlete, but at just 5\'11" and 190 lbs he probably will never be a dominant number one. However, I can see him being a nice gadget player and returner like Tyreek Hill.
Tight End: Jaylen Samuels N.C. State
- I am never a huge proponent of drafting a tight end high in the draft. I consider them even more icing on a cake than I do receivers. A good tight end is not necessary to having a great offense it just makes it a little better. Guys like Gronk, Jordan Reed, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, and others have been some of the most talented athletes in the game. All have little playoff impact including Gronk since his team wins more Super Bowls without him than with. Even though I dislike the position I do know it helps out the guys outside and the quarterback having an option in the middle of the field for easy throws. This is generally a weak tight end class with a lot of high end projections on a lot of guys. Out of all of them I think a late round guy who can flourish is Jaylen Samuels. Samuels is a bit of tweener who can move around play some running back, stay on the line, or go out wide. He reminds me a lot of Trey Burton who has a lot of upside to develop and turn into a quality target in the middle of the field.
Offensive Lineman: Frank Ragnow C Arkansas
- I am a sucker for good line play where ever it is. This class\' tackles are a tad weak in my opinion, but the interior blockers are fantastic. There are a ton of guys to pick from who can turn into studs. However, I am going a little under the radar for a guy who was forced to miss a lot of the workouts in Frank Ragnow. Centers usually do not get a lot of love, but they are just as important if not more important than any other guy on the line. They are the first line of defense for the quarterback and call out the protection schemes if they are good to lighten the load of responsibilities for their quarterback. Prior to this season he was a steady contributor for the Razorbacks starting every game and rarely giving up any pressure. Which, is impressive in the talented defensive front country of the SEC where most of the teams have stout tackles to go against. He has the nastiness, and blue collar mentality you want in the interior of the line to go along with a strong leadership quality to him. Since he most likely will land in the 3rd round of later I think he is a steal and a possible perennial Pro Bowler moving forward. Bonus sleepers are Austin Corbett of Nevada and Braden Smith of Auburn.
Defensive Ends: Kentavius Street N.C. State & Breeland Speaks Ole Miss
- This is a weak edge rushing class so in general this I think may be my weaker sleepers of this list. I really liked Street and his high floor as a true power rusher on the edge. He has a mean streak with good size and pop that can knock blockers back. His length and explosiveness around the edge is less than desired. However, he is a hard worker and should be a consistent rotational piece on a solid line to a very steady starter on a less than stellar one. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL so it may take a year for him to prove me right. My other favorite sleeper is Breeland Speaks who can move either inside at tackle in a 4-3 front or as a five-technique end in a 3-4 front. He seemed to put it all together in his last year at Ole Miss looking very active and impactful in most of his tape. Speaks is a tad chippy to the point where it can be a detriment, but some coaches will love it. I think his versatility and ascending talent make him a possible great gem in the middle rounds.
Defensive Tackle: Nathan Shepherd Fort Hays St & Trenton Thompson Georgia
- This is a nice deep class of tackles where you can find some quality ones later in the draft, but even the top of the class is very talented. One I love in the middle rounds is Nathan Shepherd from all the way up in Canada. Of course, he will be a project, but he has compact strength, and a slippery ability to get past blockers with surprising ease. I can see him turning into a similar type of stud as Akiem Hicks in a few seasons or so with a similar size and skill set. My other favorite should be a bigger name coming from Georgia, but he seems to be given the bad attitude tag that can knock him down a lot. If he is motivated like he was at Georgia during their championship run he can be a real stud. During the match ups against Oklahoma and Alabama he was flying all over the field. I think if he is coached up he can turn into a true stud on a 4-3 front with his ability generate a solid pass rush from the inside.
- I am not as enamoured with this linebacker class as everyone else is. There are some good high end guys like Edmunds, Roquan Smith, Harold Landry, or Rashaan Evans. However, after them the talent level really drops off and in a league that kind of lessens the impact off ball linebackers a good impactful one is hard to find. There are a couple solid late round edge rushers, but that is the hardest position to predict and I really have no favorites outside of Dorance Armstrong who is not really a sleeper.
Corner: M.J. Stewart UNC, & Levi Wallace Alabama
- I really liked what I saw from Stewart at the Senior Bowl and then he followed it up with a solid Combine. He is certainly not the ideal size as a corner with shorter arms and height. However, he has good natural ball skills and a nose for the ball in general always making big plays on it. He has good versatility to move all across a secondary from corner to safety. His toughness will also endear him with a coaching staff and his ability to be coached in general that will have be a solid starter moving forward. However, a guy taken in the 2nd to 3rd round range is hardly a true sleeper right? Well, my deep sleeper is Levi Wallace who beat out numerous top prospects at Alabama to be a full time starter this season as they made their run to a championship. He is not the most athletic or biggest corner, but he has a very high IQ and impressive arm length. Wallace has a nose for batting passes out of the air and played at his best when the lights were their brightest at the Championship game. He could be a very good late round find as a number two or slot corner late in the draft.
Safety: Kameron Kelly San Diego St & Dane Cruikshank Arizona
- Safety is a bit of an undervalued position of late and with many good finds sliding later in the draft. So these last two are just ones I am pulling out of a hat really. I do like Kelly and his impressive athletic skill set to go along with nice arm length. He does have the skills to be a corner, but with limited time there it might take him a bit to make a real impact. On the flip side his ball skills and speed to flip the field may be more valuable at the safety spot. At the very least he should be a terrific returner. On the otherside of the spectrum Cruikshank is a bit of a throwback thumper type safety. He has enough speed and length to be a solid cover safety as well over time. I am not saying he is going to be a total All-Pro, but I can see him being a solid contributor all over on a defense in a variety of ways.