According to Bleacher Report, “Sleeper” is a euphemism for lesser-known prospects who are usually selected in the later rounds but have the potential to contribute. I think a draft sleeper is simply someone that will do way more than he’s expected to.
Draft season is almost upon us as April creeps up. There is a lot of talk about stars, busts, and surprise picks. I made a quick list of sleeper picks that I think will be productive NFL players, or even great ones.
- J.K. Dobbins – Ohio State – RB
Dobbins should be a consensus first round draft pick at this point. In 2019 alone, he rushed for 2,000 yards and 21 TD. To put that into perspective, Dobbins only rushed for a combined 17 TD’s in his freshman and sophomore years, respectively. Growth is the best word to describe Dobbins at this point in his career, and there is no signs that he won’t continue to get better. He’s as effective in the air as he is on the ground and I think a team will greatly benefit if he falls to the second round. The only downside of Dobbins game is his pass pro. He needs to do a much better job of protecting his QB, especially if he’s a potential third down back.
2. Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina – DT
By now, I’m sure even the casual football fan has heard of Kinlaw’s impressive Senior Bowl week. When I went back and watched his film, mostly from the SEC portion of SC’s schedule, I noticed that it’s been like that all season. Kinlaw measures at 6’5 and 324 LBS, which is a prototypical NFL DT, but the added bonus of height is something NFL GM’s can get excited over. Kinlaw’s strengths are his pure strength. He can get to the QB without using anything but a bull rush. The one downside to to Kinlaw’s game that needs improvement is his motor. He needs to be able to bring it on every down if he wants to be a starting DT in the NFL. I don’t think this kid makes it past day 2, and whoever drafts him is getting a raw athlete that can turn into a great DT. This young man was once homeless, and in April his life will change forever. It’s extremely hard to not root for him.
3. Justin Herbert – Oregon – QB
I will probably get flack for putting a sure-fire first round pick on my sleeper board, but I don’t think Herbert is getting enough attention. When you talk rockets for an arm, you can look no further than Oregons gunslinger. Herbert can make any throw on the football field, and can do so with ease. He’s never thrown over 8 INT’s in a season, he’s thrown for over 3,000 yards twice, and his completion percentage was tremendous in the 2019 season, at 66.8%. Despite being known for his arm strength, Herbert is also extremely elusive in the pocket. He can avoid pass rushers with ease. I don’t think Herbert gets drafted anywhere except in the top 15, but if he does fall, I think he has the opportunity to be a great steal for a team with QB needs.
4. Denzel Mims – Oregon – WR
It’s hard to not love this kid’s game. Despite being limited to a small selection of routes to run at Baylor, Mims tore it up running every route at the combine. He also ran a 4.40 40 yard dash at the 2020 NFL combine, and it was even more impressive when you see his measurables. He stands at 6’3, 207 pounds, which makes him sound like a possession receiver, but he can run a go route like any receiver in college football. I want to compare him to Julio Jones, as he can be a little bit of everything a receiver needs to be. Rumors are circulating that Kyle Shanahan, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, LOVES Mims and wants him at 31. Let the bidding war begin. In a world of Jeffersons, Jeudy’s, and Lamb’s, it’s time we start to talk about Mims.
5. Josh Uche – Michigan – DE
When you talk about impressive Senior Bowls, its tough to talk about anyone other than Uche. Josh Uche went the whole season making play after play, and his work was rewarded as he got lots of attention at the Senior Bowl. He’s as quick as any DE in the draft, besides maybe Chase Young, and he has the NFL measurables at 6’1, 245. Uche represents the very definition of sleeper, and I’m excited as hell to see him perform in the NFL. I expect him to be taken no later than Day 2 at the draft, as his tape and hype is sure to be noticed.