The Oklahoma Gentleman’s Top 10 2017 NFL Draft Sleepers
It’s my favorite time of the year! The time when smart NFL franchises get better, some gambles pay off, and overrated bust will be overpaid. The NFL draft is here! With that in mind this my third annual OK Gent’s top 10 NFL sleepers report! These are the guys who may have gone to a small school, may not have been in the right system in college to fit their skill set, may not have the optimum size NFL scouts like, or just need to get the right coaching at the pro level to be productive players. I have always looked at the drafting of players is like dating, right match, right time, equals great results. Here are my top 10 sleepers for the 2017 NFL draft, in no particular order.
- Greg Ward, Jr. QB/Athlete 5’11 175 lbs. / University of Houston/ Tyler, Texas
At the beginning of the college football season, there was no one player who was as strong a contender for the Heisman as Ward. After beating my beloved Sooners at the beginning of the season he went on an excellent run. A slight injury hampered him along with a couple of hard losses but I believe Ward is the truth.
Strengths– Great middle to short distance passer, some of the best feet I’ve seen in a QB since Mike Vick came out of Virginia Tech, good speed for a QB, normally make the right decision under pressure.
Development Areas- Has an average at best deep ball, at 5’11 will get dinged for his height,
Summary- Ward is a difference maker, but with his lack of size, and QB accuracy issues, he decided to enter the draft as WR. I don’t agree or disagree with his decision but in the end, it may work best for him. I most definitely see Randal Cobb comparisons here and those are well deserved. I believe he will make a roster and contribute automatically. Eventually, could see a pro bowl or two.
- Gerald Everett TE/ 6’3 240 lbs. / University of South Alabama / Atlanta, Georgia
This young man blew up the Senior Bowl! He went from relative unknown to a potential day 2nd-day pick. Everett is former high school wide receiver that put on some size at UAB the school attended before going to U.S.A. because he had good (not great) speed running a 4.62 they moved him to tight end. It paid off well with Gerald posting 8 touchdowns his junior season and over 700 yards his senior season.
Strengths- Gerald is essentially a big receiver so he has soft hands and played his best football with the lights were the brightest. Against Mississippi State, South Alabama’s biggest name competitor of the season Everett posted 8 catches for 95 yards and touchdown.
Development Areas- To be a former wideout Everett’s route running skills are below average; his hands are considered small and can struggle with breaking coverage away from safeties.
Summary- Testing well at the combine helped his stock rise, he has the potential to be a strong backup and contribute to a team with a year or so development.
- Tyler Orlosky C/ 6’3 298 lbs. / West Virginia University/ Cleveland, Ohio
This kid does a lot right! A 3-year starter at center for the mountaineers, Tyler’s film is very stellar. I rarely see him get overpowered by defensive linemen; he normally reads defenses well and picks up blitzes superb. Orlosky was one of the bright spots for a WVU offensive line that struggled a lot this year.
Strengths- Handles nose guards well, powerful enough to play center at the NFL level, a smart center which is a coach’s dream, hardworking no plays off type of player. Has played against some quality defensive linemen in Big 12 and stood his own. Plays with a mean streak!
Development Areas- Can be tight-hipped at times, needs to work getting to the second level for blocking linebackers
Summary- I will be bold with this one, I think Orlosky is good enough to start day one in NFL, but not a center, Guard will be his calling if he can work at guard and slide into center after a few seasons he will do just fine.
- Connor Harris LB/ 5’11 245 lbs./ Lindenwood University/ Kanas City, Missouri
As former small college football player, I know it’s not about what school you come from but about the production. I played with several guys that played in the NFL and they all had the intangibles, size, speed, and serious production at their level of play. Connor Harris checks off just about every box on this list.
Strengths– Connor is all-everything at the division 2 level, he has averaged over 100 tackles every season since his freshman season playing for the Lions. Harris amassed over 633 tackles which make him the all-time leading tackler in NCAA history. Winning every award imaginable Harris is truly the over achiever, he needs to be to catch the eye of NFL scouts coming from such a small school. As a middle linebacker, he is a prototype in my opinion at 5’11 240 plus, the question can he cover?
Development Areas- His combine numbers were pedestrian at 4.73 in the 40 yards and 18 reps of 225, and I still wonder if he can cover, however to his benefit most Mike backers are not asked to provide too much coverage in the NFL.
Summary- I get the feeling the Harris is a boom or bust type here. I think he will boom, starting out providing depth and possibly move into a starting role eventually. One thing I truly stand by is that no matter where you played production is king!
- Keevan Lucas WR/ 5’9 190 lbs. / Tulsa University/ Abilene, Texas
There is not a player on this list that is more deserving of being drafted than Lucas, losing his mother and grandmother in the same week due to illness and stroke. However, Keevan turned his tragedy into treasure by accepting a scholarship to T.U. Lucas was one of TU’s earlier elite recruits in the past couple of years as 4 star WR coming out of High school, he chose Tulsa because he could play early and they did not discriminate on him due to his height.
Strengths- Good route runner, soft hands, plays bigger than his height, reminds me of Sterling Shepard who plays for the Giants. Great instincts saw him make some great plays out of broken plays
Development Areas- overemphasizes on running routes, has had some injuries during his time at T.U. that could scare off some teams.
Summary- Will be a day 3 steal, has to want it takes to play in the NFL, and being overlooked because of height will only make him more hungry, see Wes Welker.
5. Jessamen Dunker OT/ 6’5 290 lbs. / Tennessee State University/ Boynton Beach, Florida
Jessamen is a prototypical NFL offensive linemen, he has excelled at both Tackle and guard earning Ohio Valley Conference honors at both positions. He very athletic running a sub 5 flat forty yard dash at the NFL combine
Strengths- As I said earlier Jessamen is extremely athletic, that is what leaps out on his film! The fact that he played multiple positions will give him value due to some team’s lack of offensive line production. Jessamen’s frame is still slight to me even at 298, which mean he could add another 15 pounds!
Developmental Areas- Had some disciplinary trouble that caused him to leave the University of Florida, and transfer to Tennessee State. The level of competition is considered a step down from them the SEC
Summary- Jessamen’s athleticism and SEC pedigree give him NFL caliber validation, but his past drama issues may hurt his draft stock. But whichever team pick should be happy.
- 4. Jordan Evans MLB / 6’3 235 lbs. / University of Oklahoma/ Norman, Oklahoma
This young man is truly a good example of maximizing your talent. Coming out of high school as 6’2 205 pound running back and safety, Evans was not middle linebacker material. However, he had two intangibles he could run and was not afraid to hit someone. OU brought Evans in bulked him up and turned into a solid inside linebacker.
Strengths- Evans is one of the best pass coverage inside backers I’ve seen in a while. Evans was recruited to OU while they ran a 3-4 defense, he was able to use his coverage skills from his high School years as a safety to excel at inside linebacker. His coverage instincts paid off well for him his senior year yielding him 4 interceptions and 2 ran back for touchdowns. At 6’3 235 he is prototype NFL size and he ran 4.59 at OU’s pro day which is great speed for a Middle Linebacker.
Developmental Areas- Evans is not a physical as some teams in the NFL would like, also needs to read QB’s better. Jordan played one of his worse games against Pat Mahomes (who would have made my list but his stock is quickly rising) of Texas Tech this year because he didn’t trust his instincts.
Summary- Jordan will make a team happy on day 2 of the draft. He has the tools; he just needs to be coached by a pro. He wowed scouts at OU’s pro so I believe he can make a splash in the draft this year. His coverage skills are pretty good and he willed himself to play well by the end of the season.
- Dan Skipper Jr. OT / 6’9 310 lbs. / University of Arkansas/ Arvada, Colorado
Skipper has always been an intriguing prospect due to his size alone; however going to Arkansas may have been the best decision for him. Skipper was a top prospect coming out of high school and chose Arkansas over some great schools. During that time Arkansas hired Bret Bielema from Wisconsin a coach known for his run-heavy offensive lines. Bielema’s run-first offense made Skipper a better player.
Strengths- Long prototypical frame built to play Tackle in the league. Does well with edge run blocking, has a good motor you don’t see him get tired often.
Developmental Areas- You don’t see him bend well in pass blocking, can struggle against shorter defensive ends with quick inside moves.
Summary- Skipper is built to play in the NFL, I think right tackle may be is calling for years to come. He will be a late round pick that blossoms if he goes to the right organization.
- Chidobe Awuzie CB/ 6’0 190 lbs./ Colorado University/ San Jose CA.
Chidobe Awuzie is probably the highest rated draft prospect that you have never heard of. Projected to go in the first two rounds of this year’s draft Awuzie is the archetype of what an NFL corner should be standing 6 feet tall and weighing over two hundred pounds. Chidobe is more than just a big corner he also has some speed running a 4.43 forty yard dash at the NFL combine.
Strengths- Smooth cover corner, who can hit if he has to (as evidenced by the picture above) played against good receivers in the PAC-12, so he is no stranger to good competition.
Developmental Areas– Though he played against good competition he struggled against elite players I watched him play against James Washington (remember that name) of Oklahoma State in last year’s Alamo Bowl and was abused by Washington he simply could not cover him. Also making sure he is recovered from his injuries from last season.
Summary- Chidobe has the measurables NFL scouts drool over and a good film to go with it; he has to recover from his performance in Alamo bowl once he gets into camp if he can do that I see a starting nickel position at least for him.
- Tarik Cohen RB/ 5’6 180 lbs. / North Carolina A&T Univ. / Bunn N.C.
Now I know what I said about this not being a Top Ten list and listing these players in no particular order, but if there was a true number one sleeper it would this guy right here! Tarik Cohen is a monster! A great football player in high school every major program in the state overlooked him except for the North Carolina A&T Aggies, a Historically Black College in Greensboro, N.C. Cohen is lightening in a bottle, a small running back in the mold Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles, and the legendary Barry Saunders. Cohen Cuts on a dime and leaves 2 nickels, his play in National HBCU championship game against Grambling last season made me a believer.
Strengths- As I said before Cohen is cat quick with good speed, catches well out of the backfield, all-time leading rusher in the Middle Eastern Athletic Conference history, put up over 1000 yards all four years at A&T.
Developmental Areas- Can take unnecessary hits fighting for extra yardage, and often is tackled for a loss trying to extend plays. Some may field the competition he played against in the MEAC was less than.
Summary- Cohen is a special player that you don’t see very often, regardless of his size he is magic with the football in his hand. In the right situation, he could contend for rookie of the year honors.