5 Sleepers You Want Your Team Taking on Draft Day

Brett Smith

The NFL Draft is the single most important day on the NFL Calendar. From May 8th through May 10th, NFL teams will (hopefully) find their franchise cornerstones who will lead their teams to a better and brighter tomorrow. Draft picks give teams the opportunity to get young players on cheap rookie contracts that they can mold into their system and culture. Because of their youth, potential, and financial incentive, draft picks are the hottest commodities in the NFL. But not all draft picks are created equal. The further you go in the draft, the greater the reward you find.

Players like Russell Wilson and Nick Foles don’t even make a tenth of the amount of money the Eli Manning’s and Tony Romo’s of the world make. To that end, they don’t even make a fraction of what fellow rookie-wage-earners Andrew Luck and RGIII make. This allows teams to get creative in allocating their resources, testing the waters in free agency, and re-signing their own free agents. Unfortunately, the risk/reward relationship as you go deeper into the draft is a direct one. Steals as extreme as Wilson, Foles, or Tom Brady do not happen every year and relying on them will leave franchises out to dry.  But, more moderate sleepers lie dormant in every draft and in every round. So, without further ado, here are 5 of my favorite sleepers in this year’s draft.

Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming, Projected Draft Range: Round 7 – Undrafted Free Agent (According to CBSsports.com):

No conversation about Brett Smith can be brought up without first talking about his physical traits. Just for fun, here is a chart comparing Brett Smith to a mystery QB.

 

QB A

QB B

Height

5 ft. 11 ¾ inches

6 ft. 1 ¾  inches

Weight

207 lbs.

207 lbs.

Hand Size

9 7/8 inches

10 inches

40 Yard Dash

4.68 seconds

4.51 seconds

Broad Jump

113 inches

128  inches

 

Quarterback A is Johnny Manziel. Quarterback B is Brett Smith. By no means am I trying to argue that Smith is better than Manziel. I, personally am a huge fan of Manziel and he would be the first QB I would take in this draft. Instead, I am trying to prove just how phenomenal of an athlete Smith is. Most quarterbacks with Smith’s kind of athletic ability who slide on draft day fall because they can’t throw the football. Plain and simple. You will most likely see it this year with freak of nature Logan Thomas from Virginia Tech. Yet, Smith can throw the ball. He is incredibly accurate with his short to intermediate passes and he possesses competent arm strength and solid pocket presence. If Smith played in a major conference he would be in the conversation for a day two draft pick. Smith will need a lot of work in reading defenses and fixing his slow-ish throwing motion, he’s a little short and he doesn’t have overwhelming arm-talent. But on day 3, you will be hard pressed to find a quarterback with a higher ceiling and less drawbacks than Brett Smith.

Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor, Projected Draft Range: Rounds 3-4 (According to CBSsports.com):

My favorite running back in the class not named Tre’ Mason is Lache Seastrunk. He’s got it all. Standing 5’9’’, 201 pounds, and running a 4.51 40 yard dash, Seastrunk is a bowling ball with nitrous oxide in the exhaust. With legs resembling tree trunks, Lache is a player that most NFL LBs will not want to meet in the hole. At the NFL Combine, the Baylor product placed first among running backs with a 41.5 inch vertical and a 134 broad jump. These two statistics are great tools in assessing lower body explosion, which are imperative to running backs who need to get to the second level in the blink of an eye. (In case you were wondering, Adrian Peterson registered a 38.5 inch vertical leap and a 127 inch broad jump.)

But Seastrunk’s value goes far beyond what he can do in shells and shorts. Seastrunk is a versatile runner, agile enough to juke a defender and strong enough to lower his shoulder and earn tough yardage. He’s a smooth cutter with a good pair of feet and eyes that work in tandem, a great quality for being able to recognize what holes to hit, and then actually hit them.

Seastrunk needs to improve in the passing game, both as a blocker and a receiver. Right now, Seastrunk is a player that will not be on the field for critical third downs, thus hurting his value. In the long run, if Seastrunk lands in the right system with the right RB coach, he could end up being the best running back of this draft class.

Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma, Projected Draft Range: Round 7 (According to CBSsports.com):

In this entire draft, the sleeper I have the most confidence in is Aaron Colvin. Projected to be a late 1st or early 2nd round pick, Colvin unfortunately tore the ACL in his right knee during Senior Bowl practices. While he should be ready for training camp in 2015, most teams are disinterested because he will have no impact in 2014. This is the kind of insane gap in long-term thinking that gets General Managers fired. The draft is about the future. No team should stack their draft board in a manner that prioritizes the upcoming year over all subsequent seasons. That’s insane. If you ask me if I rather take a corner in round 4 who can be adequate this year and then above average for the rest of his career or a guy who won’t play at all this year but has first round ability I’m taking the latter every day of the week. Assuming his medical evaluations go as expected, teams will be getting a player on day 3 who is physically gifted, can tackle, blitz, press or play off. Colvin, much like Brandon Boykin in 2012, who suffered a similar fate leading up to the NFL draft, will “redshirt” his first year and then be an absolute steal. Consider this a preemptive congrats to whichever fan base is lucky enough to snag him.

Christian Jones, ILB, Florida State, Projected Draft Range: Round 4 (According to CBSsports.com):

As one of the most versatile players in the entire class who helped anchor the best defense in the country and lead his team to a National Championship, Christian Jones does not get enough love. He comes with some warts, a slightly disappointing 4.74 40 yard dash time, below average instincts, and some technique issues, but these all have simple explanations. First, he plays faster than a 4.74 on tape and has a very intriguing height-weight-speed combo. More importantly is Jones’ status is a “jack of all trades, master of none”. Jones, an inside linebacker, has played the Will, Sam, can play the inside in a 3-4 and even played defensive end. Yeah, Jones played D-End… For Florida State… and can play inside linebacker in the NFL… dude’s a freak. Jones has the rare ability to rush the passer from the outside, take on blocks, drop into zone, or cover the tight end. I’m sort of scared to see what he can do when he focus all his energy onto learning one position. With the right Defensive Coordinator, Christian Jones can be a fascinating and destructive chess piece.

Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon, Projected Draft Range: Round 7 (According to CBSsports.com):

Lyerla has the highest boom-or-bust potential of any player I have listed, and maybe of any player in the draft. Lyerla was on pace, provided he dominated at Oregon in his senior year, to be a first round draft pick this May. Instead Lyerla is facing the very real prospect of going undrafted. Why? Because Lyerla has more red flags than the Soviet Union. Between his cocaine addiction, multiple arrests, and the fact that he flat-out quit the Oregon Ducks, it’s easy to see why most teams are scared of Lyerla.

But for all the bad surrounding him, there are a few undeniable truths. He is a freak athlete, gifted football player, and players like him are not normally around in round seven. Standing 6’4” and 232 pounds, Lyerla had the best 40 yard dash (4.61), vertical jump (39 inches), and broad jump (128 inches) of any TE at the combine. The most interesting question, to me at least, is why did his production never match his potential? Lyerla played in an offense at Oregon that is a high-scoring track meet on Heisenberg Blue. Mostly everyone in that offense exceeded expectations with the exception of Lyerla. It will be very telling to see what his former coach, Chip Kelly, does on draft day. Lyerla may be on the board for each one of the Eagles’ six draft picks. If Kelly passes on his former TE and doesn’t sniff around during the undrafted free agency signing period, it will be a sign to the rest of the NFL that Lyerla is damaged beyond repair.

[Photo: Michael Smith/Wyoming Tribune Eagle]