NFL Draft sleepers

Tristan Winkelman

Sports Blogger

@tristanwink

 

 

Quarterback: Logan Woodside, Toledo (Projected Late third/Early fourth)

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr

Woodside is an undersized passer who broke out as a junior in 2016. He threw for more than 4,000 yards that year, completed 69 percent of his passes and, most impressively, led the country with 45 touchdown passes. His numbers dropped a bit this past season, but he still had a solid season. Through his final two seasons as Toledo’s signal caller, he threw just 17 interceptions, which shows his ability to make smart decisions. His intangibles and his ability to process information quickly are what make him a sleeper in this year’s draft. Although his size may be a bit of a problem, his ability to find passing windows should encourage teams that his size might not be an issue. Just look at guys such as Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Case Keenum. Their ability to find passing windows despite being undersized is what makes them NFL starters. Woodside can be a steal for a team looking to develop a quarterback for the future because of his accuracy and football IQ.

 

Running back: Rashaad Penny, San Diego State (third round)

How could anyone who led the nation in rushing with 2,248 yards and 23 touchdowns be considered a sleeper? Well, Penny is going in the third round in most mock drafts behind names such as Sony Michel and Ronald Jones II. He finished fifth in Heisman voting and was a first-team All-American this past season. His vision is what could make him a solid running back in the NFL. He isn’t much of a cutter, but rather he loves to run north-south, which helped him lead the nation with 3.32 yards per carry after contact. He is a patient runner who does a great job of dictating blockers. Just because Penny didn’t play Power 5 football doesn’t mean he can’t play. Remember that Kareem Hunt guy who was drafted around the same time as Penny is projected to be drafted? Yeah, don’t sleep on Rashaad Penny.

 

Wide receiver: Michael Gallup, Colorado State (Late second/Early third)

Gallup just made everything look too easy while in college. He does an excellent job of beating press coverage while providing great acceleration and solid hands. Gallup, a CSU star, played only two years of FBS football after starting in junior college, which makes him unknown to the average fan. In two seasons at CSU, Gallup recorded 176 catches, 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns. These are impressive numbers given that he never had decent quarterback play at CSU. His ability to make plays after the catch will make him a dangerous rookie receiver.

 

Defensive lineman: Harrison Phillips, Stanford (Mid to late second round)

Harrison Phillips filled the void Solomon Thomas left in 2017 when Thomas was selected with the third pick in last year’s draft. A knee injury during Phillips’ sophomore year has some teams concerned with his durability, but a solid senior season should leave some teams optimistic. He had 13 tackles with 17 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles his senior season. His strength, quickness and run-stopping ability will allow him to be successful in the NFL. Stanford has proven to develop tough, physical defensive linemen for the NFL, and Phillips will be another solid lineman if he stays healthy.

 

Linebacker: Jack Cichy, Wisconsin (fourth round)

This one will pan out if Cichy can stay healthy. When he was healthy at Wisconsin, Cichy was one of the best linebackers in the country. After tearing his pectoral muscle in 2016 and his ACL in 2017, teams are going to be skeptical about Cichy. He possesses sideline-to-sideline range and can play outside and inside linebacker. His football intelligence is what separates him from the pack. He also has the ability to tackle in open space at an elite level. At his peak in Madison, he was a phenom. His NFL potential all has to do with his health, though.

 

Defensive back: DeShon Elliott, Texas (Late third/Early fourth)

Elliott has good size and is among the most physical defenders in this year’s draft. He burst onto the scene with two interceptions against possible No. 1 overall pick Sam Darnold. He continued to impress throughout the season, making athletic play after athletic play to lead the Horns. Elliott finished tied for fourth in the country with six interceptions on the season. He embraces physicality and could be another solid Longhorn player to make a difference in an NFL secondary.

 

ozone@ocolly.com

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