Our Favorite Sleepers in the 2016 NFL Draft
Football fans all around the world are being faced with a long wait until the 2016 season finally gets underway. Fortunately, we do still have some big reasons to be excited as the next draft is only a couple of weeks away. At the end of April, all eyes will be drawn towards this grand occasion, where every NFL franchise will do what they can to lay claim to some of the best-rated young players in the nation.
This year’s edition of the draft already looks set to be rich in sleepers. While other people are preoccupying themselves with trying to decide who will be picked first, we’re going to go through ten names that might not yet be on your radar. These guys probably won’t get picked until the final day of the draft, but they have the potential to cause some big surprises next season.
Ok, so were not exactly starting with a true sleeper, but somebody is going to get Jaylon Smith in the second round… Jaylon Smith… arguably the most talented player in the draft. An outside linebacker that can play in the 3-4 or 4-3, can pressure the quarterback, and has elite cover skills. Year one will be a redshirt year as he comes back from an ACL/MCL injury, but, given today’s medicine and outside of Marcus Lattimore, doesn’t everyone come back from ACL injuries? Smith could be the steal of the draft as a second round pick, the only problem is that you redshirt him for a year, then only get 3 more years before he’s an unrestricted free agent. Still, worth a shot.
Again, we aren’t going too deep here… Boyd should be off the board sometime in round 2 or early round 3. This is one case of scouts just missing the point… Boyd got a DUI and followed it up with a horrendous combine, but is still a top-5 receiver in this draft. He is arguably the best route runner, has the best hands and would go toe-to-toe with Treadwell for the best ball skills. This is a guy that experts say often lacked separation, but it takes about one series to see that as Pitt’s only weapon, he got Megatron treatment, double teamed, all over the field. I think a lot of experts would agree that Iowa’s pass defense was amongst, if not the country’s best, with two NFL-caliber corners and a great scheme. Boyd had 10 catches for over 130 yards and a touchdown. Looking for big plays? How about 5/160/1 against North Carolina… Boyd will be a solid receiver at the next level and a steal in the late second – early third.
Jihad Ward, Illinois
This versatile DL also has the ability to play as an edge rusher, should the need arise. His versatility makes him very interesting, with some experts already anticipating that Ward could have the potential to become a very useful player for a team like the Patriots. His adaptable nature and strong physical presence could be a good fit for the New England squad.
Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
Ridgeway is one of several bright talents to currently be emerging from the Texan ranks. Current projections see him being drafted on day three, but it’s certainly possible he could get picked up sooner. Fans are already comparing him with Panthers’ tackle Kawann Short. If Ridgeway can live up to that name, he should have a fine career ahead of him. Unfortunately, some criticisms have been made about his level of commitment in games. He needs a motivating coach to get the best from him and could do well on a team like the Bears.
Tyvis Powell, Ohio State
Powell is a big, strong defensive back. He isn’t exactly flashy or explosive, but he’s the sort of player every NFL team needs. His tackling needs work, but he offers good coverage. With the right coaching and training program, there’s no telling how far Powell could rise. He reads the game well, predicting the actions of opposing signal callers with apparent ease. He’s a raw talent on the surface, but clearly has NFL-level potential. Powell could be well-suited to a team like the Redskins, in dire need of some defensive support.
Kerarris Garrett, Tulsa
A tall, fast wide receiver with big arms to catch the ball. In most cases, that description would apply to an early draft pick. Unfortunately, Garrett may have the physical attributes necessary for a solid NFL career, but his mind and technical ability don’t seem to match his outward appearance. Experts are concerned by his inconsistency, while his runs simply need to be smarter for him to survive in the big leagues. He needs a lot of work, but the foundations are all there for him to develop nicely. He’d fit well on a team like the Steelers who could dedicate some time and resources to helping him improve.
Paul Perkins, UCLA
Perkins is an exciting young RB who is exceptionally effective over short distances. He can duck and dive with the best of them, which is a great skill to have. He’s speedy and has more than one trick up his sleeve to confuse opposition defenders. He looks like the sort of place who seizes any opportunity he is given. If a weakness appears, he’ll exploit it. He’d therefore be ideal on a fast-moving team like the Seahawks.
Charone Peake, Clemson
Peake has been great for Clemson. This WR also seems to be a really nice guy off-the-field, which should help him integrate into any squad with ease. He’s a big guy and has the pace to get past defending players. Usually, a player like Peake would be an early pick in the draft. Sadly, he’s struggled a lot with injuries and also has a little bit of trouble with catching the ball. He’s a project, but could be a profitable one for the right time. We think he’d do well with the Chiefs, where head coach Andy Reid loves to work with guys like Peake over the long-term.
Matt Ioannidis, Temple
Ioannidis is a powerful defensive lineman who carries out his job in an effective manner. He’s not the most versatile player out there and shouldn’t be expected to do much more than the classic DL role. Any team in need of a strong run stopper would be wise to take a look at him. We could see him succeeding with the Texans, for example.
DeAndre Houston-Carson, William and Mary
Houston-Carson looks ready to hit the ground running and make an immediate impact to the NFL team he ends up joining, even if it’s only in the form of special teams. He’s a strong free safety who reads the game well and has excellent coverage. His tackling needs work and he’ll have to add a bit of muscle to hang with some of the tougher players in the NFL, but he’s got everything necessary to have a good career ahead of him. He’d fit in nicely and could progress well with the Ravens.
Aaron Green, TCU
Green is short, fast and moves with a certain elegance that is always enjoyable to see in a young player. His tape shows him darting in and out of situations with grace. If he could improve the other aspects of his game to match his footwork, the NFL team that picks him could have a great little RB on their hands. He’d do well at a team like the Eagles, where he could learn from a veteran who has done it all in the form of Darren Sproles.
Brandon Shell, South Carolina
Shell lacks versatility. He played left tackle in his senior year and failed to impress. As a right tackle, he feels much more at home. That’s the only position he should be allowed to play for the time being, but he plays it well. He lacks speed and flexibility, but could succeed in a team with a strong running game and a solid tight end to help him out. The Vikings would be a good match.