Every year NFL draft analysts try and figure out who will be the sleepers in the draft.
The sleeper is often the holy grail in the fantasy community. Last year it was Jaguars running back James Robinson, who was considered “The Sleeper” as he came in on 67% of fantasy playoff rosters.
Second, was Chiefs all-world tight end Travis Kelce, and no he wasn’t a sleeper just picked by most fantasy owners to produce at a high clip.
This year’s draft has quite a few sleeper possibilities. Guys who you need to get familiar with because they will most likely be playing on Sundays in the Fall.
First is quarterback Jamie Newman of Georgia, although he never played a game for Bulldogs after transferring from Wake Forest. He instead opted out of the 2020 season due to the pandemic. He had an uneven performance in a pressure-packed Senior Bowl, which in turn hurt his draft stock.
When you dive into his 2019 stats they were solid with over 2800 passing yards, 26 TDs, 574 rushing yards, 6 TDs. Newman stands 6’3 and 235 lbs. He really resembles Dak Prescott, who also used his legs a lot early until he became a better passer. A healthy, strong-arm kid who can play but needs some sound QB tutelage.
Next up is Ole Miss tight end Kenny Yeboah who transferred in from Temple, and shows some real pass-catching skills. He can also boogie after the catch. No, we’re not saying he’s even in the stratosphere as Florida’s Kyle Pitts, but who is? Yeboah can play and he fits today’s NFL seamlessly as a hybrid tight end.
Yeboah was a former WR like Raiders talented tight end Darren Waller. He has good hands, a great catch radius and he can run. Things NFL GMs love to see and hear. And he’s also got good basketball type size, which seems to be a necessity for that position in the NFL today.
Iowa State running back Kene Nwangwu has so much potential, that we didn’t get to see much of at Iowa State as he was sandwiched around Bears starter David Montgomery and future NFL draft pick Breece Hall in Ames, IA.
But when he did get his chance, the flashes were very bright, as the physically imposing back averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry in his collegiate career. He also ran a 4.31 at his pro-day which created a buzz around the draft world. Not bad for a guy who goes 6’1 and 210 lbs., while maintaining a 3.76 GPA and getting his degree in mechanical engineering. He’s an INTELLIGENT specimen.
Western Michigan football was limited to six games in 2020, but that was more than enough for wide receiver D’Wayne Eskridge to make a name for himself. At 5’10 and 190 lbs, with 4.35 speed, Eskridge has NFL slot size and quickness written all over him. But he’s not just fast he’s also versatile as evidenced by his lining up at cornerback, kick returner and gunner for the Broncos. He’s extremely physical as a blocker as well.
Somehow Robert Rochell slipped through the cracks of recruiting in the talent-laden state of Louisiana. Maybe it was his 160 lb frame that landed him at Central Arkansas.
He dominated in the Southland conference with 38 pass breakups and 10 interceptions over his career. He’s also beefed up to a solid 195 lbs with sub 4.4 speed. He was elite at the Senior Bowl practices all week while erasing any doubt about his ability to match up against top talent. He should be the first defensive sleeper taken in the draft.
Jaelon Dardon – North Texas slot receiver who could slip to the third day but may still start at the position for whomever drafts the ultra-quick-sure-handed pass catcher.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette – Iowa wide receiver who on production alone wouldn’t be getting mentioned. But that’s where film comes in and turn on any film of the freakishly athletic Marsette and you see a pass-catcher able to get separation against any cornerback downfield.
David Moore – Grambling State guard who can really play. COVID-19 took his senior season but he was a three-year starter in the Bayou who displayed great strength and technique at the Senior Bowl.
Moore dominated interior pass rushers all week and even showed an ability to play center as well. Versatility is huge for the SWAC draftee.
Side note: He loves to run block as well and is nasty with it.
Darius Stills – West Virginia’s downright physical defensive lineman is strong, quick and mean. He’s a legacy player, son of former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Gary Stills.
Tarpon Jackson – Coastal Carolina pass rusher who jumps off the screen on film, despite the competition maybe not always being up to par. A very solid prospect who’d fit nicely in the pass rush rotation for many franchises.
In the past some of the defensive sleepers who’ve become household names or in some cases all-pros are Bobby Wagner (Utah State, 2012), Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana, 2013), Larry Ogunjobi (Charlotte – 2017), Max Crosby (Eastern Michigan – 2019).
My top outside-the-box sleeper prediction is Stanford quarterback Davis Mills will be an adequate starter to pro-bowler in his career.