NFL Draft: Revisiting the sleepers

NFL Draft: Revisiting the sleepers

Every year, a bunch of 2-star and 3-star recruits get picked in the first round. This year, I did some research to find out: (1) why they were underrated, and (2) what we can learn from their evaluations. Before we go through each player, here are some themes that emerged:

Multiple positions: Almost all of the first round sleepers played multiple positions in high school, as well as special teams. The biggest revelation was how many of these guys played Wildcat QB. Vita Vea, both Edmunds brothers, Leighton Van Der Esch, DJ Moore and Mike Hughes all took snaps. It makes sense. If you have an NFL athlete, just put the ball in his hands and let him make plays.

Weight doesn’t matter: This wasn't much of a surprise. The key traits are height and movement skills. Weight can be added. The front seven players on this list gained an average of 50 pounds in college.

Pay attention to bloodlines: The Edmunds brothers were three stars, but their dad was a Pro Bowl TE. Bradley Chubb and Rashaad Penny both had brothers who made the league. Those two were late bloomers physically, but the bloodlines were there.

Motor is a must: Marcus Davenport and Taven Bryan had no idea what they were doing. But they played hard and tough. Those things aren’t always coachable. Davenport’s high school coach said he was shocked when Davenport (a converted basketball player) first participated in Oklahomas. He was always aggressive. The technique came later.

I can't help but notice that three-star Greg Roussseau checks a lot of these boxes.

DMoney

D-Moni
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#2
These are the 2-star and 3-star players who developed into first rounders. I left out the QBs (that’s a whole different analysis, maybe for @Roman Marciante ). All rankings are from 247 Composite.

Bradley Chubb- Hillgrove (Powder Springs, Georgia)- Classic late-bloomer. His hand use and motor were always there, but you could never tell he was a Top 10 physical talent based on his senior tape. Tore his ACL as a junior, which limited his hype. His coach described him as an average youth player before high school. Went from 6’2.5, 208, 4.83 as a HS junior to 6’4, 269, 4.65 as a college senior. Signed with NC State and was drafted as a DE by Denver.



Vita Vea- Milpitas (Milpitas, California)- Academic casualty who didn’t attend camps. Played RB and MLB. Makes some freaky runs with the ball in his hands. DE frame in high school. Gained over 80 pounds in the past four years. Signed with Washington and was drafted as DT by Tampa Bay.



Marcus Davenport- Stevens (San Antonio, Texas)- Converted basketball player. Lined up at WR and DE. Only 195 pounds in high school. Barely recruited and ended up at UTSA. Drafted as DE by New Orleans.



Kolton Miller- Roseville (Roseville, CA)- Tall, thin athlete who played OT and DE. High 3-star that got knocked down for his lack of girth and strength. Signed with UCLA and was drafted as OT by Oakland.



Tremaine Edmunds- Dan River (Ringgold, VA)- Basketball player, Wildcat QB, RB. WR, LB, PR. Made a ton of explosive plays in his clips but did not attend camps. 11.29 PR in the 100M. Played lesser competition in 2A. Signed with Virginia Tech and was drafted by Buffalo as LB.



Jaire Alexander- Rocky River (Charlotte, NC)- One of the best senior clips you will see. His coach said he did not know how to run until he took up track. Went from 4.7 as a HS junior to 4.38 at the NFL combine. 11.54 PR. Scored TDs on punt return, kickoff return, defense, catching, running and throwing. Signed with Louisville and was drafted by Green Bay as a corner.

2 easy !

Leighton Vander Esch- Salmon River (Riggins, Idaho)- The ultimate sleeper. Played 8-man football in an Idaho canyon before walking on to Boise State. Played QB and dominated horrible competition. Despite his dominance, you don’t necessarily see first round physical tools. Made major gains during his redshirt year. Drafted by Dallas as a LB.

Leighton Vander Esch 2013 Football Highlights Salmon River

DJ Moore- Imhotep Charter (Philadelphia, PA)- Do-it-all player from a small charter school. Played CB, WR, RB, QB, PR, S, punter and kicker. High three-star recruit (four-star on Rivals) who rose throughout the process. Drafted by Carolina as a WR.

Closing Remarks

Hayden Hurst- Bolles (Jacksonville, FL)- Elite high school pitcher who turned down a two-sport scholarship from FSU to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Developed a case of the yips, quit baseball after two years and walked on at South Carolina. Mostly a WR in high school with exceptional ball skills. Drafted by Baltimore as a TE.

Hayden Hurst #81

Rashaad Penny- Norwalk (Norwalk, CA)- Primarily a baseball player until his sophomore year of high school. Brother Elijhaa is a fullback for the Cardinals. 11.24 in the 100M. Went from 181 pounds and 4.68 in high school to 220 pounds and 4.46 at the NFL combine. Recruited by Pac-10 schools as a safety. Signed with San Diego State and was drafted by Seattle as a RB.

Post-Season Highlights

Terrell Edmunds- Dan River (Ringgold, VA)- Like his brother, a do-it-all athlete who played RB, QB, WR, PR, KR, CB and S. More of an offensive player in high school who made All-State as a RB. 11.47 in the 100M and 22.25 in the 200M. Signed with Virginia Tech and was drafted by Pittsburgh as a S.

Senior Season highlights!

Taven Bryan- Natrona County (Casper, WY)- Played mostly OT with some snaps at DE. State champion at discuss with throw of 155’. Also ran the 100M and 200M. Earned an offer from Florida by sending the coaches a video of him hitting a 40-inch box jump. Son of former Navy Seal. High school wrestler. Raw skillset and poor competition (Wyoming) kept him as a three-star despite big school interest. Signed with Florida and was drafted by Jacksonville as a DT.

Taven Bryan's Highlights

Mike Hughes- New Bern (New Berns, NC)- Running QB who saw limited snaps at CB. High 3-star who was well known in North Carolina. Signed with North Carolina, transferred to UCF due to off-field issues and drafted by Minnesota as a CB.

Senior Season #1
 
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#3
This is awesome, with the way early offers roll out now more and more, and not for the completely cant miss guys because only a hand full do you see more schools becoming texas like from a few years ago (they were one of first schools to start early offers and it bit them)..

Also will more of these late bloomers fall to the secondary type schools (NCST, VT, etc.) not too many big time schools on that list, besides UF.. Tho some schools have had a good season or two
 

LuCane

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Some of your very best work. Appreciate it. There's an art to evaluation, too. The ability to envision what a player might look like in a different context than he played in or has been seen. We have to win at this aspect because we won't ever win at resources and our competitive advantage is our geography.
 
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#6
Great insight. That's in depth right there.
 

DMoney

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#9
Watch out for Nigel Bethel.
Multiple positions, check. Height and speed, check.

I want to see how tough and competitive he is. His intangibles looked good when I watched him at MNW, let’s see how they translate to the Greentree competition.
 
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#12
Yeah, Deejay is the first player of ours I thought of as I reading this, but he was pretty highly rated.
I am curious about DJ's future in the NFL. Everything you think of about the kid is a positive, but I wonder if he will almost be pigeonholed because of his physical stature and non-traditional RB role.
 
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#13
I am curious about DJ's future in the NFL. Everything you think of about the kid is a positive, but I wonder if he will almost be pigeonholed because of his physical stature and non-traditional RB role.
He will be the perfect pass catching running back if I had to guess, with the ability to line up in the slot and also pound it in short yardage.

He definitely has the most intriguing skill set of all of our current running backs...honestly wouldn't surprise me if he ended up like Sony.
 
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#14
Very interesting. Can we truly say that D1 staffs "missed" these guys or didn't evaluate good enough? I ask cause many times low-rated prospects from down here go to lesser schools and ball out and many fans blame our coaches for not seeing recruiting them. How could any college evaluator have possibly projected Bradley Chubb's or Vita Vea's development?
 

RiDLer80

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I am curious about DJ's future in the NFL. Everything you think of about the kid is a positive, but I wonder if he will almost be pigeonholed because of his physical stature and non-traditional RB role.
The NFL has been more adaptive to using athletes in various roles. Percy Harvin, Curtis Samuel and Tavon Austin all come to mind as players who weren't solely receivers or running backs, but played multiple positions in college and are being used similarly in the NFL.

I just hope Richt takes better advantage of Deejay's skillset and playmaking ability this season.
 
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#16
Very interesting. Can we truly say that D1 staffs "missed" these guys or didn't evaluate good enough? I ask cause many times low-rated prospects from down here go to lesser schools and ball out and many fans blame our coaches for not seeing recruiting them. How could any college evaluator have possibly projected Bradley Chubb's or Vita Vea's development?
I don't think anyone is suggesting that NC State though they were getting a first rounder when they signed Chubb.

I think about it this way: there are probably 200-300 kids that are easy evals every year that every school wants and they will get fairly predictably divided up among the Top 10-15 schools.

After that, it becomes about finding impact guys among the kids that are harder to evaluate and have much lower odds of actually hitting. So you look at an analysis like this to find the traits you would try to filter for, rather than assign blame.

Also might help explain why our staff made the decision to offer a kid like Bethel as opposed to a different local corner who might have been more productive in high school.
 
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#17
Everyone reacts differently to trenbolone.
Seriously though not every kid gains 50lbs and it’s hard to take one of these kids when you got kids that can start right away. Rousseau is just a freak and if you remember Jeudy’s tape his highlights as a dB were just as disgusting as his receiver clips.
We also have Pierre that also plays rb. I think this staff is doing a way better job in not only evaluating but also projecting.
 

RiDLer80

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#19
I know it's hard to project these players, that's why they're sleepers; but who do you see from the 2019 class @DMoney that fits these traits?
 

DMoney

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#20
I know it's hard to project these players, that's why they're sleepers; but who do you see from the 2019 class @DMoney that fits these traits?
Good question. These guys aren’t sleepers but Mark-Anthony Richards and Avery Huff fit the profile.
 

2019 Commits

WR
6'1"
186
Neptune Beach, FL
OT
6'5"
290
Belleview, FL
OLB
6'0"
200
Fort Lauderdale, FL
OLB
6'3"
200
Fort Lauderdale, FL
S
5'11"
195
Hollywood, FL
OLB
6'2"
195
Miami, FL
DT
6'5"
310
West Palm Beach, FL
RB
6'1"
200
Jacksonville, FL
TE
6'2"
234
Tampa, FL
C
6'3"
293
Jacksonville, FL

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