NFL Draft Sleepers
WR- Ryan Swope, Texas A+M
Tavon Austin might be a top 10 pick in this year’s draft and Ryan Swope might not go until the fourth round or later. Even though both transitioned to WR in college after playing RB/CB in high school and excelled in a pass happy system. Athletically they are similar too. Both ran a 4.34 40, Swope performed better in every other combine drill except for one, and he is much bigger than Austin, 6’0” 205 and 5’8” 174 respectively.
Swope was not showcased much in college because A&M spread the ball around but when he got the chance Swope impressed. He was used on bubble screens because of his shiftiness, proved he can take punishment over the middle, and burned corners on deep balls. He is the perfect addition for any team looking for the trendiest position the NFL, slot receiver.
RB- Jonathan Franklin, UCLA-
The Bruins rode Franklin to 9 wins this season, and there is no reason why he can’t be a workhorse in NFL too. Franklin has speed (4.49 40) and is strong enough to draw comparisons to Frank Gore. He racked up 1734 yards and 13 TD on the ground with a 6.1 yards/carry average this season along with 323 and 2 touchdowns receiving. Against Stanford, who allowed the fifth lowest rushing yards per game, Franklin ripped off 194 yards and 2 TD on just 19 carries.
Teams have intelligently started to shy away from drafting running backs early so Franklin may be obtainable in the third round. He is a total steal because he can come in and be effective immediately.
FS- Bacarri Rambo, Georgia-
This past year Rambo served a suspension for failing two drug tests. His off the field issues may cause him to slip into the fourth round but he plays at a much higher level. As a junior Rambo had 8 interceptions and was an All-American. As a senior, despite only playing in 10 games because of the suspension Rambo did enough to make the SEC second team.
He has great ball skills and while he is not the most intimidating force in the secondary, he rarely misses tackles. If he stays out of trouble he will have a long and productive career.
WR- Keenan Allen, Cal-
It is hard to call a player who is projected to be an early second round pick a sleeper, but you can call him one if he is the best wide receiver in this draft and a future Pro Bowler.
Even with one of the worst quarterbacks in the Pac-12 throwing him the ball Allen made highlight reel plays and managed to amass 1,343 yards and 6 TDs on 98 receptions as a sophomore. Also as a sophomore he faced a Washington defense with projected first round corner Desmond Trufant and embarrassed the Huskies with 191 yards and a TD. He had 737 yards and 6 TDs with 61 receptions in a 9-game injury shortened season last year. The stats are nice but the tape is what helps set him apart.
Far too often scouts get caught up in the combine numbers and forget about the eye test. Look at Allen’s combine numbers and see the 4.7 40 he ran while recovering from a PCL injury. But throughout his career Allen showed the kind of playmaker he is. Allen is fearless. He uses his 6’2” 206 lb frame to go over the middle, hurdle defenders, and catch the ball at it’s highest point. He’s NFL ready and he won’t turn 21 until April 27th.
RB- Knile Davis, Arkansas-
The Razorbacks struggled last season which hurt the draft stock of their star players including Davis. Davis missed all of 2011 with a knee injury and because of his underwhelming performance this season scouts were worried that he would not have the same burst that allowed him to be the SEC’s leading rusher as a sophomore. All of those worries should have been laid to rest after Davis ran the second fastest 40 (4.37) of all the running backs at the combine and lead all half backs in bench press reps (31.)
He is projected to be picked sometime in the last day of this year’s draft but he is good enough to crack a starting lineup somewhere as a rookie.
TE- Matt Furstenburg, Maryland-
In a year when Furstenburg needed to shine the Terps’ quarterback depth chart was so injury depleted that by the end of the year they were forced to start a freshman linebacker under center. So instead of the showing off his athletic ability and ball skills, Furstenburg was stuck blocking.
Blocking is not his strength because Furstenburg is undersized for a tight end at 6’3” 242, but his athleticism (top 3 TE in 40, vertical, 20 and 60 shuttles) creates match-up problems in the passing game and he has the versatility to play H-back.
OT- Luke Marquardt, Azuza Pacific-
He will probably go undrafted, but someone will take a chance on Marquardt because he is the ultimate project. His size (6’8” 315) and toughness will give him a chance in the NFL even though he did not step on the gridiron until he ditched basketball at APU.