Sunday, March 02, 2008

2008 NFL Draft: Sleeper Picks

Following up Thursday’s Positional Rankings and Saturday’s Impact Underclassmen, now we take a look at the Sleepers of the 2008 NFL Draft.

We see them every year: Players that get drafted out of nowhere, causing the average NFL fan to say “Who?” However, within a couple of years (even as soon as their rookie years) the player is having a great impact on his team. Vincent Jackson, Nick Collins, Jahri Evans and Greg Jennings come to mind from recent drafts. Whether it is great scouting by a front office, or just dumb luck, these kind of picks can be what makes or breaks a good team. I have identified 10 players as Sleepers. While some are better known than others, it’s safe to say that many football fans did not know who they were while these players were in college. In some cases, many football fans have never heard of the college where the sleeper played.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB – Tennessee State
No longer a true sleeper, Rodgers-Cromartie will most likely be drafted in the 1st round. A track star in the 60 yard dash, high jump and long jump, he put his name on the map at the Senior Bowl. He solidified his position near the top of the CB rankings with a great combine performance, running a 4.33 forty and putting up an NBA-like 38” vertical. He is prototypical in his height and athletic ability at the CB position. He can also play safety. Look for the Packers to possibly nab him with their 1st round pick.

Joe Flacco
Credit: University of Delaware

Joe Flacco, QB – Delaware
A big QB with one of the strongest arms in the draft, Flacco enjoyed an exceptional senior campaign where he threw 23 TDs and 5 INTs. He’s not quite a finished product, as he needs work with his mechanics and his feet, but he’s the type of player that teams will have a hard time passing on as it gets close to the mid-2nd round. However, he seems to be on the rise on many draft charts, and on some, has even passed Andre Woodson.

Heath Benedict, OT – Newberry
The true sleeper of the draft. Has anyone ever heard of Newberry? The last two players picked out of Newberry were in 1939 and 1946 (17th and 29th rounds respectively). One would not be going far out on the limb to say that Benedict will be the highest drafted player ever to come out of Newberry. Benedict is arguably the best athlete among the offensive tackles available in this draft and also boasts decent strength. He’s a little on the raw side, obviously due to the level of competition, however he’s also not a project. He can play relatively soon. He has great size and a long frame. He should not drop out of the first day (which is only rounds 1 & 2 now), but some team could reach due to his vast potential.

Chad Simpson, RB – Morgan State
While his stature (5’8”) is not ideal, Simpson more than makes up with his explosiveness. At 216 pounds, Simpson ran in the low 4.4s and had an excellent broad jump in ratio to his height. He was the MEAC player of the year as the focal point of Morgan State’s offense. One of the top high school players out of Miami, he started at South Florida, but eventually transferred to Morgan State. His height naturally drops him to the 2nd day, but look for him to make an impact as a RB2.

Kendall Langford, DE – Hampton
At the combines, Langford measured 6’5” 287. While some may call him a tweener, he will fit in at one position depending on where he ends up. On a team like the Buccaneers or the Colts, he could easily fit into that 3-technique DT spot. On a 3/4 team, he fits right in as a DE. Langford is one of those high-motor players who’s value lies in his intangibles. He was one of the leaders of the Hampton defense last year, and is the type of player who made the players around him better. He’s a wild card pick who could rise up the charts if the right team is making the pick.

Dexter Jackson, WR – Appalachian State
One of the WRs at the draft that ran a blazing forty time (4.37), Jackson makes up for his stature (5’9”) with his ability to stretch the field. He plays a similar game to DeSean Jackson, just on a smaller level. While averaging nearly 23 yards per catch his senior year, more than 25% of his catches went to the house (8 TDs on 30 catches). He’s the prototypical Home-Run Threat that teams can throw out there as a 3rd WR. His lack of production, as far as catches, will come into question. However, some team will be looking for that deep speed receiver, and Jackson can help as a kick returner too.

Curtis Johnson, DE – Clark-Atlanta
A deep sleeper, Johnson will be moved from a down lineman position to the OLB position. He has the frame to add more weight, but is too smallish at 6’2” 242 to play DE on the NFL level. Johnson played all over the field his senior season, posting 112 tackles and 13.5 sacks. The other knock on Johnson is the level of competition he played against. However, his impact was notable enough to receive an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. His natural pass rush skills were noted by scouts during the practices, however his techniques need a little work.

Antwaun Molden, CB – Eastern Kentucky
Molden brings a lot of tools to the table. He has great size at 6’ 198 pounds. He runs a forty timed in the high 4.3s and the low 4.4s. His vertical went over 37 inches. All great numbers. However, Molden’s strength lies in his physical style of play at the CB position and the fact that he did 23 reps on the bench press at the combines. He hails from the same conference as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and claims to be the better prospect of the two. He could go as high as the 2nd round or as low as the 4th round. Regardless, Molden could turn out to be a steal.

Pierre Garcon
Credit: D3CollegeFootball

Pierre Garcon, WR – Mount Union
One of the most productive receivers in the draft, Garcon had career numbers of 246 catches, 4,380 yards and 60 TDs. He measured out at nearly 6’ and 210 pounds. His combine numbers were 4.48 in the forty, 20 bench press reps and a 36” vertical. He was at or near the top 10 in every statistical category amongst WRs at the Combine. Garcon plays for a dominant DIII team, and seems to have caught the scouts’ eyes. It could take him a little time to adjust to the speed of the NFL, but he could be one of those needle in a haystack players who comes out of nowhere and surprises everyone.

Chad Rinehart, G – Northern Iowa
A four-year starter at left tackle, Rinehart has the ability and the demeanor, making him a good candidate to play guard in the NFL and do well. He’s as tough as they come and has good burst off the line. He needs to get a little stronger to make the move inside unless he steps into a zone-blocking scheme where his mobility will be his best asset. Because of his experience at tackle, he could be an attractive pick in the middle rounds, as he could start his career off backing up several positions.


Clement said...

FANTASTIC work. You have been on Flacco well before anyone else.

With Trent Edwards living up to a ton of the hype, it'll help Flacco (similar situation).

Todd McShay is calling out Andre Woodson for not working out at the combine (remember, the crappy Senior Bowl with the ill-fitted Mike Martz offense...OUCH!). Ditto for Manningham with his 4.60-40 at only 180 lbs.

Two guys who will slip (maybe both to Day Two), but I think are STEALS outside of picks 40 and 60 respectively.

Armin said...

Agreed. Two guys who will fall, but will probably be steals, because they can still do it on the field.

Manningham reminds me so much of Peter Warrick though. It scares me.