The OK Gent’s 12 NFL Draft Sleepers
At this time of year I always get excited about the possibilities of watching these young players have their futures sat out before them. Regardless of good team, bad team, or horrible team, being drafted into the NFL is life changing. The power the media and sports writers hold in how these kids are perceived is overwhelming at times. Tapping someone to be “the next” or “the best” either makes coal or diamonds. However because some kids who come from small schools are may have been slow developers are often seen in the same light as the kids who are considered as perennial first rounders.
Special thanks to my nephew Jailen K. for helping me piece this article together.
With that being said here are 12 names you need to know that I feel will have an immediate or significant impact in the NFL but are not seen as elite or 1st round talent… (In no particular order)
12. Evan Boehm Center Missouri 6’3 315 lbs
This kid is a player, smart like a center should be, uses wits to outsmart players when possible and not having to maul players with his strength, but strong enough guy that once he get his hands on you, you know it. Good in pass block protection and better in better run blocking but he will make his money pulling and blocking players in space which I believe he may be the best center in the draft at. He will need to get stronger to compete with bullish nose guards in the NFL but with work in weight room he can get better there.
Prediction– 2nd to 3rd rounder who can start for a team with a need and develop into a possible multi-year starter
11. Pharoh Cooper WR, South Carolina 5’11 208 lbs
I turn on the tape and this wideout is electric! Reminds me Randal Cobb catches sweeps out the backfield, throws touchdown passes. He attacks the ball at its highest point and snatches it out of the air, plays physical and makes the catch after absorbing a big hit. He will need to work on his routing running skills and possibly learning a huge NFL playbook, but I believe he will be a valued asset to whoever picks him up.
Prediction– Strong 3rd-4th round prospect, I believe can outside but is an ideal slot. He will make an NFL roster because of his diverse skill set.
10. Jordan Howard RB, Indiana 6’1 225 lbs
The Jordan Howard story has always been about him being hidden gem, so it’s only fitting that it continues to the NFL. Jordan started off at University of Alabama Birmingham because he suffered an injury his junior year of High School and many of the major powers backed off. When UAB’s football program folded he headed north to Indiana university and set himself up as one of the best running back’s in the big 10. A 220 plus pound bruiser with good speed to match the kid will be a good player for years to come. He will have to continue his progress of learning to play at a high level versus the best competition in the world in the
Prediction– Would be great in a backfield rotation with another back, but is sturdy enough to be a feature back in he needs to. I believe he has starter potential maybe even a pro bowl or two.
9. Keyarris Garrett WR, Tulsa 6’4 215
Being a Tulsa native, I watched this young man play all season. I can say he does what a WR needs to do very well and if he can progress and get better at other aspects of his game he can be real threat as a number 2 or 3 in the NFL. Garrett tracks the ball better than most of the other wide outs in this draft and separate when a good QB leads him with a proper throw.
Often called a poor man’s Calvin Johnson you can see why he is compared to him. Standing around 6’4 and close to 220 pounds, he’s a possession receiver in every sense of the word. He needs to work on his yards after catch (YAC), for his size he can be taken down too easy after the catch, almost like he is trying not to get hurt. He needs to add 10 pounds of muscle and the confidence to deliver a blow.
Prediction– If Keyarris can stay healthy he can play in a NFL rotation and be a viable option in the NFL team
8. Yannick Ngakoue DE/OLB, Maryland 6’2 250 lbs
I coached high school football in Washington DC for about 2 years, and had the pleasure to catch this kid play. He had one of the best first steps off the snap of the ball I had ever seen. He translated that to being Gatorade National Defensive Player of the year his senior year of high school. He then went to Maryland and became their all time sack leader and finished this past season tied for second nationally in total sacks for the season. Extremely athletic with good speed and the aforementioned quick first step. I believe he can contribute immediately. The only knock I can see on this young man is the can he cover in space? The NFL knocks his height but as a guy who was an undersized LB/DE in college, I say that the bottom line is he makes plays!
Prediction– They will stand him up as a 3-4 outside linebacker, have him drop 10 pounds and he will start by his 3rd season in the NFL, maybe earlier. I can see double-digit sacks for Yannick as his game transcends superb to the NFL
7 . Christian Hackenburg QB, Penn St. 6’4 225 lbs.
It’s hard to call a QB at one of college football’s traditional blue blood powers a sleeper but to me Hackenburg has been on roller coaster ride that can hopefully end in the NFL. Christian came to Penn St. highly recruited and impressed early earning Freshman All-American honors throwing over 20 touchdowns.
Performance fluctuation and injury made his next 2 years in Nittany Lion land go up and down.
Hackenburg is a gambler and makes throws he shouldn’t at times, he can too antsy in the pocket.
Prediction – Hackenburg has been blessed with a cannon but also has the feet to pick up yardage and get him out of tight situations. With the right QB coach he can go into the NFL as backup and grow into a starter like Brady did under Bledsoe. Perfect team in my opinion… the Dallas Cowboys
6. Javon Hargrave DL, South Carolina State 6’1 310 lbs
As a former Football player from a historically black university, I have seen many extremely talented players get overlooked because of “lack of development” or “being raw” so watching Hargrave perform is a breath of fresh air. At 6’1 300 plus with speed, strength and quickness I see him prototypical 3-technique or outside shoulder Defensive tackle. 16 sacks at any level is spectacular and to see that happen from a player with this size, and athleticism is special.
Hargrave will have to adjust to the speed of the NFL and learn to adjust to NFL playbook.
Prediction – I see Aaron Donald type numbers for this young man, he reminds me of Warren Sapp.
5. KJ Dillon DB/ Hybrid, West Virginia 6’1 210 lbs.
Dillon has been an enigma to me he is more physical than most DBs I’ve seen in quite sometime, but he tends to make mistakes that a player with his talent should not make. Athletically he is one of the best prospects in this draft. As I previously stated he is very physical I believe he can play in the box as a LB type but he has the speed to cover most WR’s one on one. That is gift that many defensive backs wish they had!
Dillon will need to find a team that will utilize his skill set and let him develop as a player, if he can get 2 to 3 years he may be worth it.
Prediction – A contributor early on (1-2 seasons) on special teams, could anchor a defense by season 3, will need time to develop
4. Kentrell Brothers LB, Mizzou 6’0 245 lbs.
Brothers is truest example of what growth and a quality strength and conditioning program can do. An undersized LB out high school in the state of Oklahoma, Brothers had speed and great instincts to tackle anything moving. Because he was not considered ideal size he was shunned by in state powers Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and decided to head north the University of Missouri. Each year he has grown and become more productive and boomed up to 245 pounds. Brothers has produced more than 100 tackles in 3 of his 4 seasons at Mizzou in a run heavy conference like the SEC that shows production and durability.
Kentrell must not rely so heavy on his instincts, become a film student at the next level as most schemes are designed to confuse inside linebackers. He must learn to always deliver an aggressive blow when tackling and stop using body leverage to get down ball carriers.
Prediction – Brothers has the potential to play for a longtime and have a productive and consistent career like another Oklahoma native Curtis Lofton (Falcons, Saints, and Raiders). Brothers has all the tools to be a possible pro bowler for at least a few seasons in the NFL he just needs to become a student of the game, and work everyday at getting better.
3. Beau Sandland TE, Montana State 6’4 250 lbs.
This kid is prototype! A juco kid who is kid athlete, standing at 6’4 and over 250 Sandland can provide as an extra inline blocker takes long strides while running vertical routes, He is a great RAC (run after catch) reciever. He also runs a 4.74 40 which is good speed for a 6’4 250 lb guy. Sandland also has great arm length for the position, which will help him get “jumpballs” against defensive backs which will help him especially in double coverage.
Sandland struggles with making route adjustments against contact which he’ll need to adjust to in order to thrive in a next level offense.
Prediction – Sandland has the tools to become an elite level TE, he just needs to find a system that’ll take the time to develop him into a dominant tight end at the next level.
2. Bronson Kaufusi DE, BYU 6’6 285 lbs.
Kaufusi is raw but his upside is tremendous, keyword upside. Kaufusi had 11 sacks in his amazing senior year which also joined by 20 tackles for a loss. Kaufusi plays low for his height and a forward lean which will give him a boost off the line. Kaufusi is great pressuring and pursuing the QB. Kaufusi is 6’6 285 lbs and runs a 4.87 40 time which is average for a guy at the DL position.
Kaufusi is to struggles in coverage as stand up end, in 2014 tried to transition which was not a success so he moved back to D-line.
Prediction – Bronson has all the skills to develop in a Jason Taylor type but he has work on technique
1. Eric Striker LB, Oklahoma 5’11 230 lbs.
Striker is one of the biggest sleeper’s in this year’s draft he may lack elite NFL LB size he has the skills too make teams overlook that. Striker is a penetrating run stopper and can chase down runners from behind. He has the ability to sniff out plays before the ball is even snapped. Striker also has great hand and feet coördination which will improve positioning after contact. Striker has dynamic hand violence and has the ability to win against larger,longer opponents like offensive tackles and tight ends.
Striker’s slow 40 time may hurt his stock, but in my opinion he plays much faster on game day. Striker is an elite level pass rusher but could be pushed around by tight ends in the NFL if they can get their hands on him because of their size advantage.
Prediction – Striker can make a living being a elite level 3rd down pass rush specialist much like Elvis Dumervil did early in his career. If a team is flexible in their schemes I can see him being used like Deon Buchaneon of the Arizona Cardinals