Five Draft Sleepers You Should Keep an Eye On

Five Draft Sleepers You Should Keep an Eye On

Leading up to the annual draft, football prospects everywhere are dealing with a unique pre-draft process that we’ve never seen before. Athletes are taking to social media to promote their skill sets and teams around the league will rely on these Instagram workouts to see who is staying in shape and who’s not. This makes life a bit tougher for lesser-known draft hopefuls, so today we’re highlighting five possible sleeper picks that could be undervalued in this year’s draft, but have the potential to make an immediate impact for their future teams on the field.

Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

In just about any other draft, Mims wouldn’t be considered a sleeper because of his experience (three-year starter at Baylor), size (6’3”, 207 lbs), and athleticism (4.38 40-yard dash, 6.66 3-cone drill). However, this year’s wide receiver class is loaded with talent such as CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and many others, meaning Mims could easily fall to the early second round and become a steal for one lucky team. Overall, Mims boasts insane straight-line speed and demonstrates the ability to go up and get the ball when needed. He’s in the perfect scenario to be first-round talent who gets overlooked during the draft process and break out immediately once he enters the league.

Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming

Playing for an undervalued program at Wyoming, Logan Wilson will probably fly under the radar for most teams picking in the first couple rounds. But what the average eye didn’t see during his four years in college is that Wilson is an elite-level tackler with unteachable intangibles that could be a huge help for any team looking for consistent, solid production from down to down. The three-year captain might not have the level of output in the pros because of his lack of athleticism to cover pro-caliber receivers and tight ends, but, if he’s still available in the later rounds, he shouldn’t be overlooked.

K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State

Another late-round wide receiver steal to look at is K.J. Hill out of Ohio State. He predominantly played slot receiver in his last two years in college but made his presence known in almost every single game. Even after having three different starting quarterbacks in his last three years, Hill ended up setting the school record in catches (21), breaking David Boston’s 21-year-old mark. Hill won’t overpower at the pro level, however, he does posses all the traits to continue his slot dominance with a professional team. As stated before, this is an extremely deep wideout class, so if a team can scoop up Hill in the fourth or fifth round, they could be landing themselves a longtime slot starter.

Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma

Hurts isn’t your traditional sleeper pick, since everyone and anyone who’s watched college football knows his name. After playing in the National Championship at Alabama, Hurts transferred to Oklahoma and set the college world ablaze by compiling 3,851 passing yards and 1,298 rushing yards in his lone year as the starter there. Questions continue to pop up about his passing skill set and questionable decision-making, especially at the next level where he’ll face more athletic defenders. Still, Hurts has the potential to be a dangerous, dual-threat option with a low-risk, high-reward pick after the top-tier quarterbacks are off the board.

Troy Dye, LB, Oregon

As a four-year starter for Oregon, Dye will undoubtedly bring his experience and his knowledge of the game to the next level. He was originally a safety recruit out of high school and uses his speed and excellent athleticism to predict and plug up holes in the run game. Scouts have noted his lack of size at the linebacker position and injury history as potential concerns, but if Dye plays with as much ferocity as he did in his four years at Oregon, he’ll definitely be a nice hybrid plugin to any scheme at the professional level.

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Mike Hughes: Returning To The Top

Mike Hughes: Returning To The Top

Mike Hughes

Corner Mike Hughes may now be one of the top players at his position in the 2018 rookie class, but his road to pro football has been anything but easy.  

An all-state high school player in New Bern, North Carolina, Hughes made the decision to stay close to home for college ball and suited up for North Carolina during his freshman year. But his promising career in Chapel Hill was cut short when he got suspended for an incident at a frat house and ended up leaving the team. In 2016, he wound up playing for Garden City Community College at the junior college level. His outstanding play quickly caught the attention of University of Central Florida coach Scott Frost who recruited him to play for his squad in 2017. 

And the rest is history – the corner helped lead UCF to an undefeated record, and, to some, stake a claim as the real national champs. On an individual level, Hughes received first-team conference honors as a defensive back and second-team honors as a returner. All the change he experienced in college didn’t slow him down –  it helped him grow as a player and as a person. 

“When I left UNC, I kind of had to take a step back,” Hughes said. “That taught me to never take anything for granted. It made me work even harder, and I appreciated everyone who was there with me during the struggle. Going to UCF was probably the best decision I’ve ever made, and it’s just a blessing to be in this position.” 

Whoever drafts Hughes is getting more than just a corner, they’re getting a true special teams ace, as well.  

“I’d say my favorite memory in college was my kick return for a touchdown against USF for the win,” he said. “That was probably one of the biggest football moments of my life.” 

Tanner Carew: The Best Long Snapper In The Nation

Tanner Carew: The Best Long Snapper In The Nation

Tanner Carew

Pro football’s biggest scouting event is an opportunity for 336 athletes to showcase their skills in an audition for a spot on a pro team’s roster. Tanner Carew is in a league of his own, however. That’s because he’s the only long snapper that received an invite to this year’s event.  

 You may be wondering how someone becomes so good at such a specialized position. We were, too. So we asked him. As it turns out, Carew got his start in long snapping in a pretty normal way. 

“I was just the center for the team in 5th grade and they were like, ‘Hey, can you long snap, too?’” Carew said.  

He started practicing a little bit and soon became the team’s long snapper. Carew continued to get better and better every year. He even began to participate in special training and camps for long snappers to hone his craft. Carew became the nation’s best long snapping recruit and got invited to the U.S. Army All-American Game. 

Carew played college football at Oregon, where his speed and accuracy as a long snapper began to draw attention from pro scouts. He delivered all 146 snaps accurately as a sophomore and all 134 snaps as a junior. 

The long snapper even racked up a few tackles and downed a punt inside the 5-yard line during his career. The secret to his success? It’s the same as any other football player’s. 

“Just keep working hard,” Carew said. “The key is to just stay consistent.”  

Kickers and punters get most of the glory when it comes to the specialist group, but Carew is the one who starts the whole process. An inaccurate snap can throw off everything, resulting in shanked kicks.  

He snapped about 200 snaps to punters and kickers in front of scouts at this week, in addition to running the 40-yard dash and other drills. As the best long snapper in the nation, Carew will likely find himself in the league next year, and is thought by many experts to be a mid-to-late-round draft pick, which is rare for the position.  

No matter how it happens or where he lands, Carew is confident that he’ll be snapping for a long time to come. 

“Being here in Indy shows I’m doing something right, but there’s more to be done,” Carew said. “I have so much more to work on. I’m not even close to being done.” 

 


Thanks to Tanner Carew for his time and make sure to check out the Eastbay Blog for more exclusive stories on the biggest names of the 2018 rookie class.

Get To Know Ronnie Harrison

Get To Know Ronnie Harrison

Ronnie Harrison

A popular trend in football seems to be that fewer and fewer defensive backs like delivering big hits. Well then, consider safety Ronnie Harrison old-school – he was even itching for contact during his scouting workouts. 

“Yeah, I definitely wish these drills were more physical,” he said. “All this running and jumping, that’s not real football. I want to get some of these guys in pads and see what they can really do.” 

Harrison’s play style is as aggressive as it gets on the gridiron, and when you tack on his considerable size, speed, and range, he was truly a beast unleashed during his three years patrolling the back end of Alabama’s defense. He should be picked pretty early during this year’s draft, and he’s sure to make one team very happy and 31 other offenses very nervous. 

We got a chance to do a round of rapid-fire questions with the playmaking safety before he hits the pro game. Check it out below: 

Q: What’s The Toughest Workout You’ve Done Recently? 

A: “I worked with Tony Villani – he has a workout he calls the SHREDmill. It was hard, but it helped with my speed. 

Q: Would You Rather Match Up Against A Bigger Or Smaller WR? 

A: “I feel like I can cover either one. But I would probably match up better against bigger WRs because of my own size.  

Q: Which WR Can You Not Wait To Face In The Pros?  

A: “Probably Julio Jones since he played at Alabama, too.” 

Q: Which Pro Has Given You The Best Advice? 

A: “I talk to Ha Ha (Clinton-Dix) a lot. He’s like my big brother.” 

Q: Which Player Does Your Game Most Compare To?  

A: “Sean Taylor.” 

Q: Speak Directly To The Fans Of The Team That Drafts You – What Type Of Player Are They Getting?  

A: “They’re getting a leader. I’m going to bring that passion and that attitude. I’m selfless and offer a lot of versatility and I love the game of football.” 

 


Thanks to Ronnie Harrison for his time and make sure to check out the Eastbay Blog for more exclusive stories on the biggest names of the 2018 rookie class.

James Daniels: The King Of Versatility

James Daniels: The King Of Versatility

James Daniels

Iowa’s James Daniels is one of the top centers in… Wait, let’s try that again. Iowa’s James Daniels is one of the top guards in the 2018 rookie class. Or should it be tackle? It’s hard to tell what position to call him yet, but no matter where he winds up playing, the versatile offensive lineman is a major name to watch during this year’s draft. 

Daniels started two games at guard during his 2015 freshman season before switching over to center for his remaining two seasons. He excelled at both positions, and with his impressive athleticism and length, a possible move to tackle isn’t off the table at the next level either. 

How has he been able to be so versatile? “I feel like I have two things that really help me: I’m smart and athletic,” Daniels explained. “You need to be smart so you can learn each position and switch over when something happens, and you need to be athletic so that you don’t have to worry about being beat on the edge.”   

The Iowa football program also played a big role in Daniels’ ability to develop – just look at all the lineman talent they’ve produced for the pro game over the last few years. “(Head) Coach Ferenz and (Strength and Conditioning) Coach Doyle are the biggest reason for that,” he said. “It’s a developmental program, so we take guys who may not be ready to play right away and grow them into the best players that they can become.”  

And as Daniels preps for his own shot at the next level, he’ll have two excellent role models to give him advice. 

“My dad played football at Ohio State and in the pros, so when I was young, he introduced me to the sport and taught me a lot of life lessons. And my brother (LeShun Daniels Jr.) is two years older than me. He’s my best friend and we would play a lot of backyard football together. He’s in the pros now too and his journey – he got cut, picked up, cut again – really made me look at is work ethic and appreciate it.” 

So he’s got the family pedigree, but Daniels is also his own player. And whether he is asked to be a center, guard, tackle, or, heck, even tight end in the pros, it’s clear he has everything he needs to be successful. 

 


Thanks to James Daniels for his time and make sure to check out the Eastbay Blog for more exclusive stories on the biggest names of the 2018 rookie class.