In 2005, 2010, 2011, and 2012, I have sent e-mails to friends laying out some potential draft sleepers. The results so far have been pretty good. The way I measure it is as follows, and compiling the results of the past three years:
Great picks (Stars any round, Starters round 3+): 22
Solid picks (Starters in 1 & 2, Backups rounds 5-UDFA): 50
Mediocre Picks (Backups rounds 3 & 4, undrafted Washouts): 35
Busts (Backups rounds 1 & 2, drafted Washouts): 11 (8 of these were in 2010)
Great/Solid Percentage: 61%
Mediocre Percentage: 29%
Bust Percentage: 9%
The text of the e-mail sent to my friends (plus some images that I found via Google) for this draft follows...
It's that time of the year again. I'm going to pick 2 to 4 players for each position that fit a certain profile in measurables, because I think that the pros are mainly about being able to physically compete, and personality only really matters if it's an outlier in either direction. There are those with a will to win, where you can see that in their play (ex: Ray Rice), and there are those that will quit before they even make their money, but generally, players will see this as their one chance and as long as they avoid injury and aren't total turds (ex: Maurice Clarett), they can be productive as a professional player.
QBs: once again, I don't really believe in trying to pick sleeper QBs. Generally, there aren't enough quality guys to expect any to slip past the second round. While there are exceptions to the rule (i.e., Tom Brady, Joe Montana), I'd have to be clairvoyant to pick them.
RBs: compact, with decent top speeds, good agility, burst, and general athleticism. Preferably from the SEC. College productivity isn't overly important in the pros (in fact, fewer carries in college may allow for less wear & tear).
Michael Ford RB LSU - 5'9" 210 lbs 4.50 40-yard dash, 4.25 20-yard shuttle, 38.5" vertical, 25 reps, 6.87 3-cone drill; got only 71 carries last year, for 392 yards (5.5 average) and 3 TDs. Struggled in pass protection & receiving during his sophomore season, when he got 756 yards and 7 TDs. Still, he's a compact runner with good speed and impressive athleticism, so I think he could pan out if given the chance, and displays an ability to learn. 4rd-7th. UDFA signed by the Bears. On the Bears roster as a backup.
Zac Stacy RB Vanderbilt - 5'8" 216 lbs 4.55 40-yard dash, 4.17 20-yard shuttle, 33" vertical, 27 reps, 6.70 3-cone drill; a productive back in the SEC, albeit at relative backwater Vanderbilt (which in my mind makes this that much more impressive), Stacy had a combined 2,334 yards (5.72 average) and 24 TDs in his last two seasons, so he's durable, and he had runs of 77 and 90 yards in those seasons, respectively, so he's occasionally explosive. Also, the 4.55 was hand-timed at 4.50. He's being projected as a late pick. 4th-7th. Taken 160th overall (5th round) by the Rams. He's starting for the Rams but is dealing with some injury issues.
Christine Michael RB Texas A&M - 5'11" 220 lbs 4.54 40-yard dash (unofficial 4.40), 4.02 20-yard shuttle, 43" vertical (!), 27 reps, 6.69 3-cone drill...there's a good chance that Michael will fail due to a reported bad attitude (slept past two interviews at the combine), not giving enough effort in pass protection, etc. He also has a history of different injuries. So that alone has me considering taking him off my list. However, he scored 34 TDs in his college career with only 529 carries (once every 15.5 touches - which if he were a featured back would have him scoring at least once per game), and of that, 12 TDs on 88 carries as a senior (an astounding once every 7.33 carries). There's a very good chance that Michael will bust, but someone may take a risk on him early. I think he'd be a great value pick in the late rounds, when all players are a gamble of some sort, but this one's hard to predict. Also, he's got a girl's name. 2nd-UDFA. Taken 62 overall (2nd round) by the Seahawks. He's backing up Marshawn Lynch.
Honorable Mentions (and reasons for disqualification): Knile Davis (poor agility and acceleration in spite of good top speed and strength), Le'Veon Bell (too tall at 6'1" and doesn't have good vision; also a Big Ten back, who often don't produce in the pros).
TEs: tall, strong, good jumpers, with reliable hands. Ex-college basketball frontcourt players are highly prized. Straight-line speed is helpful, but not the highest priority.
Dion Sims TE Michigan State - 6'5" 262 lbs 4.75 40-yard dash, 4.52 20-yard shuttle, 22 reps, 35" vertical, 7.36 3-cone drill. Supposed to be a devastating blocker who should have stayed for his senior season to improve his stock/game tape in pass catching, but also someone who stood out on film on a team that generally struggled to throw (and catch) the ball. Only one year of starting, so a bit raw. Played 20+ lbs heavier at Michigan State than he weighed in at the combine, so may be more explosive than his film would suggest. 3rd-5th. Taken 106th overall (4th round) by the Dolphins. There was a story about how his first NFL catch was a touchdown, but he is still a backup, blocking TE.
Vance McDonald TE Rice - 6'4" 267 lbs 4.69 40-yard dash, 4.53 20-yard shuttle, 31 reps, 33.5" vertical, 7.08 3-cone drill. Used mostly in the slot by his college team, so has to learn how to block from a spot on the line (but apparently is a good blocker on the open field, and is known for hitting more than one defender on a single play). Has some experience as a long snapper, so could provide utility to a team looking to save a roster spot. Generally has at least one drop per game. 2nd-4th. Taken 55th overall (2nd round) by the 49ers. He's backing up Vernon Davis and hasn't seen much action.
Nick Kasa TE Colorado - 6'6" 269 lbs 4.71 40-yard dash, 22 reps, 31.5" vertical. A player who converted from a DE in his junior season, Kasa is quite raw as a receiver, but has the athletic ability for the role and has displayed an eagerness to block. He's an intriguing developmental prospect. 5th-UDFA. Taken 172nd overall (6th round) by the Raiders. He hasn't made any catches yet so he's a backup.
Demetrius Harris TE University of Wisconsin Milwaukee - 6'7" 230 lbs, 4.52 40-yard dash, 36.5" vertical. Finally I have an example of the ex-basketball frontcourt playing TE with outstanding athleticism, hands, and footwork. I expect this to become more of a trend in the wake of Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, but so far we're only seeing one a year. Harris was a late entry into the NFL Draft. He hasn't played organized football in a while, so should be raw as a blocker and route runner. He also could stand to put on some weight. However, he's intriguing as a late gamble or UDFA. 5th-UDFA. UDFA signed by the Chiefs. He's on the Chiefs' practice squad, which is a good place for him until he learns the position.
Honorable Mentions (and reasons for disqualification): Tyler Eifert (he could easily be a high first-round pick, so he's simply not a sleeper), Levine Toilolo (very tall and a good leaper, but can be jammed at the line due to mediocre strength, and struggles in the short passing game - has potential as a red zone target).
WRs: size-to-speed ratio, an ability to either get open or catch while covered (i.e. height/jumping), and reliable hands are what I want here. If someone is outstanding enough at one thing, I might hope that they'll develop in other ways.
Tyrone Goard WR Eastern Kentucky - 6'7" 205 lbs 4.50 40-yard dash, 4.39 20-yard shuttle, 10 reps, 36" vertical, 6.90 3-cone drill. Granted, he has mediocre acceleration, concentration/hands issues, and a poor showing on weight-lifting (though at 6'7" it's hard to get in too many reps). However, this guy can run pretty fast and he is taller than everyone and can jump so he can make the most of that. With professional quality coaching and avoiding injury, he could be an awesome red zone threat. Definitely worth a gamble. 4th-7th. UDFA signed by the Bengals. It looks like he got cut by the Bengals, so he's a washout, at least for now. To be fair, it turns out he's actually 6'4" and not 6'7" ...while that's still tall, it's not special, and I wouldn't have picked him for this list if I had an accurate number. If he was 6'7" I think he would have gotten more of a chance to prove himself.
Justin Hunter WR Tennesee - 6'4" 196 lbs, 4.44 40-yard dash, 4.33 20-yard shuttle, 39.5" vertical. Prior to tearing an ACL as a sophomore, Hunter had reliable hands and looked to be in the midst of a breakout season. As a juinor, across from likely first-round pick Corradelle Patterson, had 73 catches, 1083 yards and 9 TDs, but dropped some passes due to mental errors. He's still recovering his confidence, but has some elite physical gifts and played well against top competition. 1st-2nd. Taken 34th overall (2nd round) by the Titans. He's a backup for now.
Ryan Swope WR Texas A&M - 6'0" 205 lbs, 4.34 40-yard dash, 4.25 20-yard shuttle, 16 reps, 36" vertical, 6.76 3-cone drill. In a display of reverse racism, this white receiver was looked at as being a slot guy at best before the combine showed that he actually is an excellent athlete with top-tier speed, and he's been productive with two different quarterbacks (Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel). 2nd-4th. Taken 174th overall (6th round) by the Cardinals. I hear that medical concerns pushed down Swope's stock. He retired due to the concussions issue, so he's a washout.
Josh Boyce WR TCU - 5'11" 206 lbs, 4.38 40-yard dash, 4.10 20-yard shuttle, 22 reps, 34" vertical, 6.68 3-cone drill. Boyce, on the other hand, does look like a slot receiver to me, in that he has slightly above average speed, and adequate jumping ability, but is very quick and agile and has good strength and reasonable size, so I think he could be excellent in that role. Supposedly he makes routine catches but nothing spectacular. 4th-7th. Taken 102nd overall (4th round) by the Patriots. He's a backup for the Patriots.
Offensive Linemen: I'm not really distinguishing between the various types of OLs. I look for size, strength, overall athleticism, and short-range explosiveness. 40-times are a non-factor, but 20-yard shuttles (or 10-yard shuttles) are relevant. Also, Big Ten guys are generally the safest picks here. Since I'm lumping them together, I'll pick 6 or so.
Jeff Baca G UCLA - 6'3" 302 lbs, 4.44 20-yard shuttle, 7.26 3-cone drill, 26.5" vertical, didn't participate in lifting. Supposedly this guy needs to develop his strength, but he's got reasonable size and really good movement over a short range, and nimble feet for his girth, so I'm intrigued. 4th-UDFA. Taken 196th overall (6th round) by the Vikings. He's a backup.
Terron Armstead OT Arkansas Pine-Bluff - 6'5" 306 lbs, 4.72 20-yard shuttle (and I know it doesn't matter, but an absurd 4.71 40-yard dash), 31 reps, 34.5" vertical(!), 7.62 3-cone drill. He's a small-school guy, but there have been plenty of small school OLs who have developed into very good players. His outlier measurables (comparable to Lane Johnson, a certain first-round pick) will intrigue plenty of GMs. 2nd-3rd. Taken 76th overall (3rd round) by the Saints. He's their backup LT.
Reid Fragel OT Ohio State - 6'8" 308 lbs, 4.68 20-yard shuttle, 33 reps, 30" vertical, 7.62 3-cone drill. Fragel was converted from a blocking TE to OT, and retained a lot of his athleticism in spite of putting on weight. He'll be particularly interesting to have as an eligible receiver on goal line plays. Kind of raw, due to a lack of experience at the position, but could be very intriguing as a developmental LT, and due to his potential I see teams reaching for him a bit earlier than his likely production on his first contract would warrant, though I could be wrong about that. 3rd-6th. Taken 240th overall (7th round) by the Bengals. He's on their practice squad.
Hugh Thornton G Illinois - 6'3" 320 lbs, 4.63 20-yard shuttle, 27 reps, (didn't jump), 7.45 3-cone drill. Apparently this guy has dealt with some tremendously difficult things in his life, including a nasty divorce between his parents and finding his mother and sister murdered while he visited them in Jamaica. Unsurprisingly, he had a few off-the-field incidents early in his career, but since then has become a dependable team member and versatile lineman. Overcoming that sort of personal tragedy will probably help him keep football in its proper perspective - as a job and an opportunity. 4th-UDFA. Taken 86th overall (3rd round) by the Colts. He's starting at LG for the Colts.
Kyle Long OT Oregon - 6'6" 313 lbs, 4.63 20-yard shuttle, (didn't lift), 28" vertical, 7.83 3-cone drill. He's the son of Howie Long and the brother of Chris Long, came late to football (he was a baseball pitcher) and so is pretty raw. Still, he did well in one year at Oregon, which is a run-heavy school, and his pedigree will intrigue teams. According to Howie and Chris, Kyle is the best athlete in the family, so that counts for something. 2nd-3rd. (Originally I had him at 5th-UDFA but his name has him higher than he should be, so this may be seen as a bad pick due to elevated expectations for early contributions.) Taken 20th overall (1st round) by the Bears. He's starting at RG for the Bears.
Brian Schwenke C Cal-Berkley - 6'3" 314 lbs, 4.74 20-yard shuttle, 26.5" vertical, 31 reps, 7.31 3-cone drill. Has played as guard on both sides and center, so he'll make a good utility lineman early in his career. Not overpoweringly powerful and doesn't kill the look test, but his versatility and his generally good measurables should allow him to hang around for a while, and perhaps start after some time. 4th-UDFA. Taken 107th overall (4th round) by the Titans. He's a backup.
Nose Tackle: Squat, but massive, plays with great leverage and strength, a run stopper who will occupy 2 blockers in order to free up an ILB from being hit. Not someone who has or needs statistics/glory. A team player, first and foremost.
Brandon Williams NT Southeast Missouri State - 6'1" 335 lbs, 4.91 20-yard shuttle, 38 reps, 29.5" vertical, 8.09 3-cone drill. Three-time DII All American who has the right build for the position, and who directed his teammates before the snap regarding their responsibility on plays. He may not have great athleticism or highly developed skills, but I think he could be a steal, all the same. 2nd-3rd. Taken 94th overall (3rd round) by the Ravens. He's a backup, but there's a lot of buzz around him.
Josh Boyd NT Mississippi State - 6'3" 310 lbs, 4.64 20-yard shuttle, 32 reps, 26.5" vertical, 7.16 3-cone drill. Played in the SEC, known as being a high motor guy, and has very nice measurables. He was a lot more productive, statistically, as a junior, next to a first-round talent, which is driving down his stock. 4th-7th. Taken 167th overall (5th round) by the Packers. Backup.
Akeem Spence NT Illinois - 6'1" 307 lbs, 4.72 20-yard shuttle, 37 reps, 30" vertical, 7.82 3-cone drill. Fits the description of a NT, but may not do great against double teams. Since he played in the Big Ten, won't be that much of a sleeper, even if people were mostly watching the opposing teams (and the conference was pretty weak this year). I think he'd also fit in as a 4-3 DT. 3rd-7th. Taken 100th overall (4th round) by the Buccaneers. Starting DT on a 4-3 team.
T.J. Barnes NT Georgia Tech - 6'6" 369 lbs, 4.96 20-yard shuttle, 25 reps, 22" vertical, 8.26 3-cone drill. Enormous, but doesn't seem to be a good athlete or an experienced football player...could develop, but not someone I'd bet on working out. May benefit from actually losing 25 pounds or so. Could eat himself out of the league. I'm mostly adding him because I want to see what happens, not as someone who seems like a good choice, per se, other than as a late gamble. 5th-UDFA. UDFA signed by the Jaguars. He's on the Jets' practice squad.
Honorable Mentions: Kwame Geathers NT Georgia (at 6'5", a bit tall for the position, and doesn't sound like he makes up for it with effort/technique, intriguing because he's massive, but not that great of an athlete in spite of being related to 3 NFL players).
4-3 DT/3-4 DE: These guys should be versatile, able to hold their position against the run, but also to provide pressure when in passing situations going one-on-one against an OL. They don't need as much bulk as NTs, and can be taller so their swim move has more effect, but still need to be able to bull rush with strong quads and buttocks, and quick twitch muscle ability.
Nick Williams DT Samford - 6'4" 309 lbs, 4.65 20-yard shuttle, 28 reps, 33" vertical, 7.55 3-cone drill. Small school guy who was first-team Southern Conference. Not a lot of press about him. Relatively new to the game. 5th-UDFA. Taken 223rd overall (7th round) by the Steelers. Put on the IR after a knee injury. He probably won't recover from that.
Chris Jones DT Bowling Green - 6'2" 302 lbs, 4.44 20-yard shuttle, 30 reps, 7.34 3-cone drill. Very productive in college (12.5 sacks as a senior) albeit against a lower tier of competition. He's supposed to be a high-effort guy. He doesn't have great size, so I see him fitting best as a 4-3 pass-rushing DT. 5th-UDFA. Taken 198th overall (6th round) by the Texans. Waived by the Texans but picked up on waivers by the Bucs.
Jared Smith DT New Hampshire - 6'3" 302 lbs, 4.39 20-yard shuttle, 28 reps, 7.20 3-cone drill. Another small-school guy (in this case, DII) who's a bit undersized, but strong, has awareness, and hustles. "Spends a lot of time in the backfield." 5th-UDFA. Drafted 241st overall (7th round) by the Seahawks. He's on the Injured Reserve now.
Pure DE: The best guys for this role are tall, flexible, and quick. Long distance speed doesn't matter too much, but they need to be able to drop into zone coverage occasionally and deal with flat routes from RBs and TEs. Mostly, they'll be rushing the passer, but they need to hold the edge on rushing plays, too. Height should be between 6'4" and 6'8", and weight between 260 (for REs) and 285 (for LEs in a 4-3 or either end in a 3-4).
Margus Hunt DE SMU - 6'8" 277 lbs, 4.60 40-yard dash, 4.51 20-yard shuttle, 38 reps, 34.5" vertical, 7.07 3-cone drill . He's 25, a gold medal winning track & field athlete for Estonia, and interesting as the biggest boom-or-bust pick I can remember at the position since Jason Pierre-Paul (who certainly boomed). He was late to the game, and at 25 has probably mostly maxed out his physical attributes, but considering that he's an absolute freak of nature (38 reps of 225 with his height is very unusual, but his arms are actually pretty short for 6'8", being 33.6 inches long, equivalent to players about 4 inches shorter), at this point he should be concentrating on developing his skills anyways. 1st-2nd. Taken 53rd overall (2nd round) by the Bengals. He hasn't done anything for them yet but they're very high on his potential.
Joe Kruger DE Utah - 6'6" 269 lbs, 4.83 40-yard dash, 4.46 20-yard shuttle, 24 reps, 34" vertical, 7.17 3-cone drill. Paul Kruger's younger brother. He could stay the same size and play in a 4-3 or put on some weight and play in a 3-4. Is "an effort player," can get advice from his brother, who just got a huge contract after a great season as a pass-rushing specialist, and played in the Pac 12 against quality offensive linemen, so he looks like a fairly safe bet. 3rd-7th (projected all over the place). Taken 212th overall (7th round) by the Eagles. He got injured during the preseason and is now on Injured Reserve.
Datone Jones DE UCLA - 6'4" 282 lbs, 4.80 40-yard dash, 4.32 20-yard shuttle, 29 reps, 31.5" vertical, 7.32 3-cone drill. Jones is seen as a 4-3 LE, exclusively, which could result in his being drafted later than his impact would indicate. Personally, I don't see why he wouldn't be effective as a 3-4 DE, as well. Regardless, he's got the frame, and strength, and was very productive against both the run and the pass. 1st-2nd. Taken 26th overall (1st round) by the Packers. He appears to be a backup for now.
College 4-3 DE converts to professional 3-4 OLB: I like height between 6'0" (though 5'10" can be acceptable a la Elvis Dumervil) and 6'4", and weight can be anywhere between 240 and 275. The important characteristics are explosiveness and desire. These are primarily pass-rushers, so I care more about ferocity and speed than coverage/field awareness.
Corey Lemonier DE Auburn - 6'3" 255 lbs, 4.60 40-yard dash, 4.40 20-yard shuttle, 27 reps, 33" vertical, 7.14 3-cone drill. This guy is known as being a high motor player who makes plays based on effort. He's supposed to be a bit stiff in the hips, but his agility looks pretty good for his size, at least according to the numbers. His body type projects as a rush OLB in a 3-4, but there are questions on whether he can make the transition, but I'm guessing he can. 2nd-3rd. Taken 88th overall (3rd round) by the 49ers. He's a backup at the moment.
Photo by Todd Van Emst
Ty Powell DE Harding- 6'2" 249 lbs, 4.64 40-yard dash, 4.40 20-yard shuttle, 28 reps, 37" vertical, 6.98 3-cone drill. A DII player who was actually a (state champion) quarterback/cornerback 2-way guy in high school. He's got great measurables, and at this position I care more about those than I do about the competition that the player faced in college (as an example of this, please see DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys/Troy State). I can't find anyone talking about him, though, so he could be drafted just about anywhere. 2nd-UDFA. Taken 231 overall (7th round) by the Seahawks. Looks like the Seahawks put him on their practice squad and then cut him mid-September, so he's probably done.
Trevardo Williams DE UConn - 6'1" 241 lbs, 4.57 40-yard dash, (no shuttle numbers but did well on the 10-yard split) 30 reps, 38" vertical (no 3-cone drill numbers). This guy was productive in college (24 sacks in the last 2 seasons) and did well in the field drills during the combine. He clearly should be a 3-4 OLB, with his body type, but there's always the chance a 4-3 team drafts him just to be a passing down DE, a la Bruce Irvin of the Seahawks, last year. 2nd-3rd. Taken 124th overall (4th round) by the Texans. Placed on Injured Reserve, but word is that he's "redshirting."
Cornelius Washington DE Georgia - 6'4" 265 lbs, 4.55 40-yard dash, (no shuttle numbers) 36 reps, 39" vertical (no 3-cone drill numbers). All promise and little production so far, used mostly as a 3rd-down pass-rusher by Georgia, due to their defensive depth, so hasn't developed all of the requisite skills to dominate, as yet. Not known for giving a second effort. However, he's got the perfect build for the position, and displays excellent measurables, so someone will take him and try to train him. 2nd-3rd. Taken 188th overall (6th round) by the Bears. He's on the roster, but not playing, so he's a backup for now.
ILB/4-3 OLB: I don't care about height or bulk here so much as speed, awareness, and sound tackling ability. Height generally should be between 5'10" and 6'4", and weight between 230 lbs and 260 lbs.
Jon Bostic ILB Florida - 6'1" 245 lbs, 4.61 40-yard dash, 4.24 20-yard shuttle, 22 reps, 32.5" vertical, 6.99 3-cone drill. Supposedly doesn't play as quick as his numbers, and is considered to be undersized, but if he can live up to what he showed at the Combine, I really like what I see here, and he's supposed to display an excellent attitdue. To me, Bostic looks like a safe pick due to having prototypical size for a middle linebacker, sideline-to-sideline speed, a good personality for the job, and a multi-year history of production in the SEC. 2nd-4th. Taken 50th overall (2nd round) by the Bears. He's played in every game but hasn't started any, so clearly he's a backup.
Zaviar Gooden OLB Missouri - 6'1" 234 lbs, 4.47 40-yard dash, 4.18 20-yard shuttle, 27 reps, 34" vertical, 6.71 3-cone drill. Gooden has a running back body, and (very good) running back numbers on his measurables. However, he projects as a weakside 4-3 OLB, and a developmental prospect, due to being overly aggressive on plays and dealing with some injuries. He'll be a special teamer and apprentice for several years, but could pan out with a little time and coaching. Might make a very intimidating Strong Safety, if any team is willing to take the time to convert him to the position. 4th-6th. Taken 97th overall (3rd round) by the Titans. He's been dealing with some ankle problems, and is playing on special teams mostly. Backup.
Sio Moore OLB UConn - 6'1" 245 lbs, 4.65 40-yard dash, 4.31 20-yard shuttle, 29 reps, 38" vertical, 7.49 3-cone drill. I don't like that agility number, but he's known to be disciplined, aggressive, and productive. Personally, I see Moore as an ILB, so he doesn't have to change direction too much and can just handle his assignments, but he's projected as an OLB. 3rd-7th. Taken 66th overall (3rd round) by the Raiders. He's a pass-rushing specialist, playing on about a third of snaps, so that qualifies as a backup.
A.J. Klein ILB/OLB Iowa State - 6'1" 250 lbs, 4.66 40-yard dash, 20 reps (no other relevant numbers). Described as a "fiery, intelligent leader of the Iowa State defense," though I wonder how much of that is the fact that he's white. With that said, it sounds like he's a football player who tackles well and follows his assignments. I don't know too much about what he brings other than decent speed and his reputation, but to me he sounds like an ILB who is able to fill in when needed on the outside. 4th-7th. Taken 148th overall (5th round) by the Panthers. He made the roster but is definitely a backup.
Cornerback: Ideally, you want a guy who can match up with anyone, physically, especially with the proliferation of large WRs in the NFL. With that said, there aren't many quality, large CBs that make it out of the first round or so. It's important that they be big enough that it's not simple to throw over their heads, and strong enough that they can be effective jamming a WR at least sometimes, and fast, quick, and agile enough that they won't be burned often (a good vertical helps, too). I look for guys who are at least 5'10", but once you start hitting 6'2" there aren't many that fit the rest of the description. Weight-wise, I don't like guys who are less than 190 lbs.
Robert Alford CB Southeastern Louisiana - 5'10" 188 lbs, 4.39 40-yard dash, 4.23 20-yard shuttle, 17 reps, 40" vertical, 6.89 3-cone drill. While he's a bit on the small side, Alford makes up for it with outstanding athleticism. Since he's a small-school cornerback, my guess is that he'll need a full 2 seasons to acclimate to the players with whom he'll be matching up. With that said, he should contribute early on special teams, and if given the chance I think he can excel as a cover corner. Also of note: he is the brother of NFL player Fred Booker, so that will help his preparation. 2nd-4th. Taken 60th overall (2nd round) by the Falcons. He's playing and contributing, it looks like as their nickelback, but he's a backup for now.
Darius Slay CB Mississippi State - 6'0" 192 lbs, 4.36 40-yard dash, 4.21 20-yard shuttle, 14 reps, 35.5" vertical, 6.90 3-cone drill. A good special teams player and hard worker who could add strength and "doesn't have the quickest feet." He's supposed to be a good tackler, and he also had the fastest time (for a DB) at this year's combine, so someone will take him pretty early. However, I hear he's dealing with injuries so he could drop a due to them. 3rd-5th. Taken 36th overall (2nd round) by the Lions. Starting, but struggling in the role.
Jamar Taylor CB Boise State - 5'11" 192 lbs, 4.39 40-yard dash, 4.06 20-yard shuttle, 22 reps, 35" vertical, 6.82 3-cone drill. A productive player and explosive athlete, Jamar Taylor can be overly aggressive, and needs to learn not to bite on playaction or double moves. Also, he's supposed to have poor technique in the press. With a few years of professional coaching, Taylor could be a good CB2. 1st-2nd. Taken 54th overall (2nd round) by the Dolphins. There was a while that he was held out due to a kidney condition, and operation, but he's playing now, as a backup.
Brandon McGee CB Miami (FL)- 5'11 193 lbs, 4.40 40-yard dash, 4.18 20-yard shuttle, 14 reps, 33.5" vertical, 6.71 3-cone drill. I'm a bit troubled by his mediocre jumping ability for the position, and by the reports of an up-and-down senior season for McGee, but he's supposed to have done well at the Senior Bowl, he's got the other attributes I look for, and everyone else I highlighted is going to go relatively early, so I thought it was worth highlighting a prospect who'd get selected deeper into the draft. 4th-7th. Taken 149th overall (5th round) by the Rams. Playing, but as a backup.
Free Safety/Strong Safety: Generally, here you want a guy who can hit, who sees the field well, and who can catch. I used to care about height at FS and SS, but now I mainly care about instinct, toughness, and speed (agility isn't really relevant, here). As long as a guy is thick enough to absorb the hits he's going to get from RBs and TEs at full speed, I'm okay with them being short.
Shamarko Thomas SS Syracuse- 5'9" 213 lbs, 4.42 40-yard dash, 4.26 20-yard shuttle, 28 reps, 40.5" vertical. The oldest child in his family when his parents passed away, Shamarko Thomas helped raise, and now supports, his five siblings. He stayed in school an extra year to develop his skills and improve his draft position, and was immensely productive and displayed toughness both on and off the field. His height is going to scare some teams away, but Bob Sanders was 5'8". Along with that, Thomas actually fell in one of his 40-yard dash times at the Combine, but picked himself up and ran the best time out of the safeties. He's got his priorities straight, he's got a ton of talent, and he can hit. I would love it if the Ravens took a shot at him at the end of the second round, and would even be pleased if they reached a bit after trading down a few slots from #32. 2nd-3rd. Taken 111th overall (4th round) by the Steelers. It looks like he's getting more snaps at the expense of Ryan Clark, and is now arguably a starter.
Shawn Williams SS Georgia- 6'0" 213 lbs, 4.46 40-yard dash, 4.25 20-yard shuttle, 25 reps, 36" vertical, 7.01 3-cone drill. Was twice awarded Georgia's "True Grit" award for toughest player (at least on the defense). He's a physical, in the box Strong Safety who likes to hit, and displays the athleticism and speed to stay with players in the secondary. There are some more heralded safeties in this draft class, but Williams looks very promising. 2nd-4th. Taken 84th overall (3rd round) by the Bengals. There was a lot of buzz around him beating Taylor Mays for the starting SS role, in the preseason, but it looks like the coaches didn't pull the trigger there, so he's still a backup.
Earl Wolff SS North Carolina State - 5'11" 209 lbs, 4.44 40-yard dash, 4.07 20-yard shuttle, (didn't lift) 39" vertical. As a senior, had 119 tackles, 8 passes broken up, and 2 interceptions. Very athletic, and has "relentless hustle." His hands aren't that great, but he can make easier catches/picks. 3rd-5th. Taken 136th overall (5th round) by the Eagles. It looks like he was just installed as starter for the Eagles, a couple of weeks ago.
(I didn't see any FS sleepers I liked, but the strong safeties above may be able to fill that role.)
Next year, I will indicate the draft range that would be an appropriate investment in a player, instead of trying to predict when he will actually go. Case in point: Cornelius Washington.
Next year, I will indicate the draft range that would be an appropriate investment in a player, instead of trying to predict when he will actually go. Case in point: Cornelius Washington.